Museums in Rome you say? Let’s start with the city itself.
Merely walking its streets is enough to satisfy any art and history enthusiast. But remember that Rome’s true gems are scattered all over the city’s over 200 museums.
In this article I’m gonna help you visit the best museums in Rome so you’ve got plenty of exhibits to add to the museum of your mind when all that pizza has digested and you’re back at work.
1. Capitoline Museums
2. Centrale Montemartini
3. Galleria Borghese
4. National Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia
5. MAXXI- National Museum of 20th Century Arts
6. National Roman Museum
7. Gnam – National Gallery of Modern Art
8. Barberini + Corsini National Galleries
9. Museum of Rome in Trastevere
10. Museo Leonardo da Vinci
11. Rome museums map
12. Free museum days
The Best Museums in Rome
Many consider this Rome itinerary staple as the first ever public museum in the world.
It was founded in 1471 by Pope Sixtus IV with a donation to the Roman people of a group of ancient bronze sculptures and findings from local excavations.
Here you’ll definitely get a grasp of Rome’s ancient spirit: iconic works like the imposing sculpture of Marcus Aurelius, the Capitoline Wolf, and the Tabularium still clearly reflect the city’s past grandeur.
Most tourists see it with the Capitolini Card: (Musei Capitolini + Centrale Montemartini) at €12.50 or €16.00 with temporary exhibition; reduced €10.50 or €14.00 with temporary exhibition.
Hours: Daily 9:30 am to 7:30 pm (24th/31st of Dec 9:30 am to 2:00 pm).
This old thermoelectric station in the Testaccio district serves as a second branch the Capitoline Museum and it’s home to a collection of monumental sculptures previously stored in the Capitoline Museums depots.
This redeveloped industrial space a stone’s throw from the metro offers a fascinating and unique example of the merging of classic and industrial architecture.
Wanna combine it with the Capitoline Museums? Grab the Capitolini Card and visit both for €12.50 (€17.00 with temporary exhibitions).
Hours: Tues-Sun 9:00 am to 7:00 pm (24th/31st of Dec 9:00 am to 2:00 pm).
I’d put this right after the Colosseum and the Pantheon on my list of things to see in Rome.
This 17th century villa located inside the Villa Borghese park was built for famous Cardinal and art collector Scipione Borghese: to store and display his personal art collection.
Whenever I visit I can’t help but be moved by the four Bernini masterpieces: the most mesmerizing of them being the statue Apollo and Daphne.
This museum also houses masterpieces of legendary artists like Raphael and Tiziano and has an entire room dedicated to Caravaggio.
For reasons of safety and conservation there’s a cap of 360 people per visit. Visits are regulated by specific times with entry every two hours and a maximum duration of two hours.
Book your visit in advance via the official website to ensure you get in.
Time slots run every two hours (eg 9-11) from opening to closing time.
Guided tours: €19.50 + €2.00 booking fee.
Hours: Tues-Sun 9:00 am to 7:00 pm, Thurs 9:00 am to 9:00 pm.
NATIONAL ETRUSCAN MUSEUM OF VILLA GIULIA
Villa Giulia is a magnificent Renaissance palace surrounded by a gorgeous garden.
It’s home to the most extensive collection of works from the Etruscan civilization: an ancient population that settled in Lazio and central Italy well before the Romans.
Among the museum’s most valuable works is the Sarcophagus of the Spouses, a terracotta sculpture from 520 BC that’s considered one of the greatest Etruscan masterpieces.
Here you will also see many impressive terracotta figures like the Apollo of Veii and the image of Hercules and Apollo vying for the deer.
Villa Giulia also harbours a great collection of precious objects from antiquity to the 19th century.
Hours: Tues-Sun 9:00 am to 8:00 pm
MAXXI – NATIONAL MUSEUM OF XXI CENTURY ARTS
Rome is definitely not just about antiquity.
These days the city is a hub of outstanding creative ideas and contemporary art. That’s why you should visit MAXXI, which is the first Italian national institution devoted to contemporary creativity.
It was originally conceived as a venue for exhibitions and events, and it stands out among Roman buildings for its incredible modern architecture.
This very original and innovative building created by Zaha Hadid is as powerful is as much a work of art as the works it contains. This is a true bubble of tranquility in the city.
Hours: Tues- Sun 9:00 am to 7:00pm, Sat 9:00 am to 10:00 pm
NATIONAL ROMAN MUSEUM
This old museum founded in 1889 encapsulates Rome better than any other place.
The vast collection of artwork here dates back to the protohistory of the Latin people and is spread out into 4 branches: the Terme di Diocleziano, Palazzo Massimo, Palazzo Altemps and the Crypta Balbi.
What do you get? Ancient Roman history through archaeological findings – and a fantastic occasion to explore the city as you will move from one location to the other.
If you’re a big history buff it’s recommended to buy a combined ticket (€12.00) which can be used over the course of 3 days.
Hours: Tues-Sun 9:00 am to 7:45 pm (to 7:30 at Terme di Diocleziano)
If you are visiting the Diocletian Baths and want to take the virtual reality tour, you are strongly advised to book your tickets in advance on this link Coopculture.
GNAM – NATIONAL GALLERY OF MODERN ART
This gallery was created shortly after the unification of Italy as a place to gather and house the young state’s contemporary art.
Today the gallery’s collection counts over 5,000 paintings and sculptures dating from the neoclassical period to the 1960s touching upon a wide range of movements.
The truly impressive permanent exhibitions are spread out throughout 55 halls and include works of art by renowned artists like Paul Cezanne, Antonio Canova, Monet, Van Gogh, Giacomo Balla, and Umberto Boccioni.
Hours: Tues-Sun: 8:30 am to 7:30 pm (closed Monday)
This breathtaking palace is one of the best museums in Rome for its decor. It was created by Borromini and Bernini in the 17th century and remains to this day one of the most noteworthy estates in the city because of its marvellous facade, halls, and decor.
And we haven’t even started on the collection.
One of the most outstanding halls in the palace is the Oval Salon. Its ceiling hosts an amazing fresco by Pietro da Cortona depicting the Allegory of Divine Providence and Barberini Power.
Today Palazzo Barberini houses part of The National Gallery of Ancient Art with 1,400+ works of art by Tiziano, El Greco, Caravaggio, Tintoretto or Raphael.
Hours: Tues-Sun: 8:30 am to 7:00 pm (closed Monday)
Located within the Trastevere district is this ancient noble palace sold to the Italian State in 1883 that would later on become the National Gallery of Ancient Art.
Besides hosting a collection of very important works from the 16th to 18th centuries, it is also the headquarter of the Italian science institution the Lincean Academy.
Palazzo Corsini is a symbol of Renaissance and Baroque art and still preserves and reflects the memory of one of Rome’s most glorious moments in history.
Hours: Tues-Sun: 8:30 am to 7:00 pm (closed Monday)
PALAZZO DELLA FARNESINA
Right in front of the Palazzo Corsini we find this small 16th century gem.
A villa built by the great architect Baldassarre Peruzzi at the behest of Tuscan banker Agostino Chigi, who asked Raphael to take care of the pictorial decoration.
He created one of his most beautiful and grandiose frescoes: the Loggia of Love and Psyche. This is a marvel that certainly cannot to be missed. The included audioguide is super educational.
Hours: Mon-Sat and 2nd Sun of each month: 9:00 am to 2:00 pm.
The Museo di Roma in Trastevere
Right in a delightful square in the heart of one of Rome’s most popular district Trastevere.
It’s hosted in a former monastery and since the 1970’s has featured a collection of paintings dedicated to Roman folklore and Roman poets.
Unlike most top Rome museums there are no masterpieces here but it’s still worth a visit because you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of the most authentic Roman life.
The Museum of Rome in Trastevere regularly hosts interesting and unusual exhibitions so keep an eye out if you happen to be in the area as you might stumble upon something really cool.
Hours: Tues-Sun: 10:00 am to 8:00 pm (Dec 24th and 31st 10:00 am to 2:00 pm)
MUSEO LEONARDO DA VINCI
This Rome museum is a favorite among children and science and engineering lovers.
This museum stands out for its life-sized machines based on Da Vinci’s codices. The multimedia rooms here also bring his genius to life.
Whether it’s city plans, warfare, or engineering this is a fantastic way to appreciate a genius who was well before his time.
Hours: daily 10:00 am to 7:00 pm (winter), 10:00 am to 8:00 pm (summer)
Rome Museums Map
Free Museum Days and Discounts
Before planning anything you should take a look at the free entrance days.
The golden day for museums in Rome is the first Sunday of each month but do check beforehand because every museum can actually select its own free days so there are variations.
Useful information on opening hours and free entrance days are found with this link.
Also stay tuned for Rome Museum Night – this evening, usually in late spring, is a night when most museums are open till 2:00 am and entrance is free of charge. I’ll update with the date ASAP.
If you happen to be visiting a museum on a Wednesday afternoon you should also know that for the last two hours before closing, entrance will cost you half price.
There’s also good news for young visitors or those travelling with children: most museums will have reduced rates for visitors aged between 6 and 25.
It’s even better for EU teachers and students of Fine Arts, Architecture, Conservation of Cultural Heritage, Educational Science and related : most museums are free with valid documentation.
More information on free admission and reduced prices check out this link.
Not eligible for discounts? The Roma Pass is a great money saving option as it gives admission to two museums of your choice and discounts to all the rest – with free rides on the Rome transport network.
One warning though: the Vatican Museums are not part of Rome’s museum network so none of the discounts listed above apply.
Need More Rome Museum info?
I may have finished with my post on museums in Rome but it doesn’t have to stop here.
If you have any question about this, any other museum, or anything else related to visiting Rome then get at me in the comments below!
And don’t be afraid to join the Rome holiday discussion by first giving me a like on Facebook and then joining my group I’m Off to Rome – here you can ask any questions, air out grievances, and chat with fellow travellers.
Ciao for now 🙂