The 7 Best Museums in Rome
Italy is a country steeped in history and culture that dates back thousands of years. While there are so many ancient sites and exhibitions to explore across Italy, there is no place better than Rome for travelers eager to visit museums on an Italian holiday.
From hallowed institutions that house a wealth of Roman artifacts to modern museums which showcase the country’s progress, the capital city has so many museums to explore. Hopping between fascinating museums is one of the best things to do in Rome and offers a welcome break from sightseeing and cafe culture. It’s one of the best ways to sink your teeth into Rome’s extensive history and gain a deeper understanding of its mythical past.
This article will highlight the best museums in Rome that you don’t want to miss on your visit. From the best museums for ancient history to more modern exhibition spaces with a very chic offering, there is so much to learn.
Also included are some of the best art galleries in Rome, which will delight visitors who enjoy all things creative and want to see some of the best classic and contemporary art in Rome. So if you’re headed to Rome any time soon and want to know which museums to visit on your trip, read on for some excellent inspiration from Italy4Real’s travel experts.
The Best Historical Museums in Rome
Rome is a hotspot for history and constantly amazes visitors with its ancient temples and historical sites which have been impeccably preserved. While sightseeing tours of these ancient wonders are insightful in their own right, Rome’s extensive collection of historical museums can shed more light on its ancient origins and allow travelers to truly immerse themselves in the distant past.
Museo Nazionale Romano
One of the most significant museums in Rome is the Museo Nazionale Romano, the National Museum of Rome. It is not just one museum, but 4 split into different venues across the city. The Museum was established in the 19th century to preserve Rome’s ancient heritage and provide a space for visitors and locals alike to connect with the fascinating artifacts.
The four venues of the National Museum of Rome are Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Palazzo Altemps, Crypta Balbi and Terme di Diocleziano (Baths of Diocletian). They each offer a unique experience, telling the story of Rome’s distant past, and are some of the best things to do in Rome for any curious traveler.
Palazzo Massimo alle Terme is situated within a 19th-century palace and has some of the finest collections of Roman art and sculptures. The exhibits also include ancient jewelry and mosaics which offer insight into the daily lives of Romans during the classical period. Likewise, Crypta Balbi allows visitors to explore the remains of ancient buildings and medieval structures which gives a more holistic view of the city’s history.
Located in one of the best Piazzas in Rome, Piazza Navona, Palazzo Altemps is a museum housed in a Renaissance palace and is one of the best museums for sculptures. Its hallowed halls include the Ludovisi collection, which features iconic statues like the Ludovisi Gaul, and the archaeological collections of Evan Gorga.
The final venue, The Baths of Diocletian, is a sweeping complex of imperial baths which features incredible examples of Roman architecture. It was constructed over a period of 8 years which is an astonishing achievement, but was left abandoned for nearly a millennium after the Gothic War in the 6th Century. Today, part of the ancient structure houses the National Museum of Rome, which includes an impressive display of artifacts and sculptures like the famous Farnese collection.
The Capitoline Museums
Considered some of the oldest public museums in the world, the Capitoline Museums are home to an impressive display of ancient artifacts and Renaissance art which makes them a must-see museum in Rome. They can be found on Capitoline Hill, which is a great place to visit in Rome as it offers panoramic views of the city and its landmarks like the Roman Forum.
The museums are located within 2 interconnected buildings, Palazzo dei Conservatori and Palazzo Nuovo, and contain a mesmerizing assortment of sculptures like the Capitoline Wolf which is an important symbol of Rome. Upon your arrival, you will enter through Piazza del Campidoglio which was designed by Michelangelo and enhances the visitor experience with its exceptional beauty.
The Vatican Museums
Some of the most renowned historical institutions in Rome are the Vatican Museums, located within the eponymous independent city-state. They are one of the most popular tourist attractions in Rome and offer tremendous insight into the history of Christianity and the classical world.
A main feature of the museums is the Sistine Chapel, which is characterized by its iconic frescos which depict scenes from the bible like the creation of Adam and the Last Judgment. Also found in the museums are the Raphael Rooms, which include beautiful frescoes by the artist as well as his workshop spread over 4 suites.
Another impressive section of the Vatican Museums which is not to be missed on your visit is the Gregorian Egyptian Museum. This part of the museum is dedicated to Egyptian antiquities and includes archaeological finds as well as exceptionally preserved mummies.
There is so much to see at the Vatican Museums and visitors can spend hours exploring the different halls and exhibits which perfectly capture the history of Rome and wider Italy. From historical paintings to 16th-century maps and manuscripts, it’s a history lover’s paradise.
The Best Modern Museums in Rome
Aside from historical museums, Rome also has some excellent options for travelers seeking insights into modern developments. Unique institutions like the Museum of Police Cars are an excellent choice for visitors who want to explore off the beaten path. If you’re eager to jump into the modern museums of Rome, be sure to visit our suggestions below.
A great museum for architecture aficionados is MAXXI, short for Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo. It is a contemporary art and architecture museum in the northern part of the city, just off the banks of the River Tiber.
MAXXI is famous for its innovative architectural design made up of curving lines and sharp angles which provides a unique environment for visitors. It is a prominent cultural institution and one of the best museums to visit in Rome for any traveler.
The museum hosts a variety of exhibitions that are very versatile, ranging from performance art to multimedia installations. One of the museum’s main focuses is architecture and it often hosts exhibitions and lectures about urban planning and modern design trends.
If you are interested in visiting MAXXI, be warned that it is closed on Mondays, so you should plan accordingly. You will also need a ticket to enter the museum and the prices can vary depending on factors such as age and student status so be sure to do your research before purchasing.
One of the best museums for families in Rome is Explora, an exciting interactive space that is perfect for little ones. It was designed with children in mind and aims to educate young ones through interactive exhibits and play.
The exhibits at Explore are extremely diverse, ranging from science and technology to art and history. The museum encourages a hands-on experience, you won’t find glass display cases and placards but rather an active learning environment featuring puzzles and creative workshops.
The museum is aimed at children aged 0-12, but parents are sure to have a thrilling educational experience as well. There are a variety of demonstrations which take place at Explora like art classes and science experiments, which are rather different from the other museums on this list. Activities at Explora are managed by skilled educators and promise a fascinating visit that will entertain anyone traveling to Rome with children.
The Best Art Galleries in Rome
While Rome has some exceptional museums, it is also a hub for arts and culture which is evidenced by its wonderful array of art galleries. As you wander exhibits you can observe both classical and contemporary art and discover iconic pieces that are truly inspiring.
Hopping between art galleries in Rome is a fantastic activity for creative travelers and allows you to connect with the city’s immense artistic offering.
One of the most prominent art galleries in Rome is Galleria Borghese, housed within a stunning 17th-century villa. It is a highly prestigious gallery and art museum in Rome that boasts an impressive collection of paintings and antiquities, making it an absolute must-see for travelers who love all things art.
Galleria Borghese is celebrated for its exquisite collection of art and sculptures which offer tremendous insight into Rome’s artistic history. On your visit, you can see famous statues like ‘Apollo and Daphne’ and ‘David’, as well as works by renowned artists such as Caravaggio, Raphael and Titian.
The museum is located in Villa Borghese Gardens, which is one of the most famous parks in Rome. After you’ve explored the different exhibits, take some time to wander the idyllic gardens and reflect on everything you’ve learned from your visit. The gardens make Galleria Borghese a fabulous experience and are best visited during a trip to Italy in the summer.
Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna
The National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art is one of the most important art museums in Rome. The gallery has an impressive collection of art from the 19th to 20th centuries, which has made it one of the most prominent cultural institutions in Italy. The Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna provides visitors with an in-depth view of modern Italian art and is a great place to see famous art in Rome.
The collection at the gallery includes works by renowned Italian artists such as Giorgio de Chirico, Giorgio Morandi and Amedeo Modigliani. The pieces cover a range of different art movements such as Futurism and Arte Povera, which will intrigue fans of art history. While the gallery mainly focuses on Italian art, some pieces from famous international artists make this art museum an absolute must-visit in Rome.
This global perspective is seen through works by Picasso, van Gogh and other influential artists. Alongside these permanent exhibitions, the gallery also hosts temporary installations which highlight works by other modern artists.
There are so many incredible museums in Rome that will add immense value to your Italian vacation. From the historic institutions of Museo Nazionale Romano to the modern perspectives of MAXXI, there is so much to dive into and discover.
Fans of ancient history will be delighted by the offerings of the Capitoline and Vatican Museums and families visiting Rome are sure to have an unforgettable experience at Explora. Art enthusiasts are also catered for by the breathtaking collections at Galleria Borghese and Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna which are hands down the best art museums in Rome.
The museums in Rome provide breathtaking spaces where you can learn more about the city’s intriguing history and gain more context about the historical sites you visit. No matter how much you know about Rome’s history and culture, these museums are guaranteed to teach you something new.