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From the ancient ruins of the Roman empire to the rise of the artistic Renaissance movement, Rome is a city steeped in history and culture. Known for its expansive culture, gastronomic dishes, and grandiose monuments, Rome has continued to enchant visitors from all over the world.
However, the eternal city is more than just a destination for tourists and holidaymakers. Rome is considered one of the oldest civilizations in history, spanning over 28 centuries.
With such a vast and intricate past, It’s easy to see how this Rome is bursting with museums, galleries, and exhibits. Whether you’re interested in art, archeological sites, or natural history, you’re sure to find something that calls your name in Rome.
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With some of the most elaborate frescos and grandiose bronze statues, the Capitoline Museums is a glimpse into ancient Roman history. It’s also considered the oldest museum in the world and dates back to the 15th century.
Besides paintings and artwork, you’ll also find rare jewels, ancient coins, and impressive medals found in Rome. Cover three individual buildings, you could easily spend the better part of a day admiring everything the museums have to offer!
Editor’s Note – If you are going to stay in Rome, you should check out our article about where to Stay in Rome.
Nestled in the Villa Borghese Gardens lies the museum Galleria Borghese. The museum spread across two floors and contains paintings and sculptures curated by the Borghese family over the past 350 years. With stunning Bernini sculptures and paintings by Raphael and Caravaggio, the Galleria Borghese has some of the most important works from Italian artists.
The villa itself is a tremendous work of art and was designed by Scipione Borghese and built by Italian architect Flaminio Ponzio.
In order to learn more about the Italian masterpieces at Galleria Borghese, enhance your visit with a 3-hour guided tour!
Although technically not in Italy, the Vatican Museums should not be missed during your trip to Rome. Considered one of the most important museums to visit in the world, the Vatican Museums houses the famous Roman sculptures, artworks, and paintings collected by reigning popes over the last few centuries.
The Vatican Museum contains 54 galleries with over 20,000 pieces of art (with an additional 50,000 archived works). Of course, no visit would be complete without seeing Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, which is located at the end of the museum tour.
During peak times, the wait for the Vatican Museums can be hours long. Make sure to book your skip the line tickets ahead of time!
Further reading – Check out the 31 AMAZING facts about the history of Rome!
Tucked away on the bustling Via del Corso shopping street, Palazzo Doria Pamphili is a hidden gem worth exploring while in Rome. It has remained the largest private collection of art in all of Rome and dates back to the 16th century.
Of course, you’ll find masterpieces from famous Italian artists such as Raphael, Caravaggio and Domenichino displayed here at Palazzo Doria Pamphili. However, you can’t miss the Portrait of Innocent X, the popular realist painting finished by Diego Velázquez.
Check this out – The 17 BEST Hotels in Rome, Italy.
The Colosseum may be the most iconic landmark in all of Rome! Built in 72 AD and considered the largest amphitheater in the entire world, the Colosseum is rich with history.
Throughout history, it has hosted a variety of events from gladiator battle to wild animal hunts. Now, you can tour the interior of the stadium as well as the underground passageways where the gladiators and animals were held.
If you want to soak in most of the Colosseum, make sure to go with an educated guide! They can tell you the history and stories behind each arch, column, and passageway within the Colosseum.
If you’re interested in diving into the history of Roman life than check out Crypta Balbi! You’ll find plenty of objects between the 5th and 10th-century showing how the Romans carried on with daily life.
The museum is housed in the basement of the Theater of Balbus, where spectators would mingle in between intermissions of different plays. With your ticket to Crypta Balbi, you can still visit the remains and ruins of the ancient theater halls and auditorium.
The modern building of MAXXI is a stark contrast to the cobblestone alleys and ivy-lined buildings often found in Rome. However, the museum houses some of the top pieces of contemporary art and architecture in the world.
International artists such as Boetti, Rossi, Scarpa, and Raedecker have pieces on display here at MAXXI. If art is not your thing, you can still gawk at the tremendous award-winning building designed by Zaha Hadid.
History buffs and art lovers alike will enjoy a quick visit to the Museo di Roma in Trastevere. Situated across the Tiber in the picturesque neighborhood of Trastevere, Museo di Roma in Trastevere shows what life was like in Rome for the past 300 years.
Through paintings, drawings, and even interactive multimedia installations, visitors will see different representations of true Roman life. Check out the cast moldings of Rome’s three talking statues, Bocca della Verita, Pasquino, and Abbot Luigi.
It might come as a surprise, but Rome is known as the Hollywood of Europe! Take a tour of CineCittà Studios, where over 3,000 movies (including 47 Oscar winners) have been filmed. First, visit the museum which contains costumes, set pieces, and equipment that was used for some of the movies.
Then, take a tour of the backlot studios and see where the actual movies where filmed themselves! Just close your eyes and imagine talented filmmakers like Roberto Rossellini, Francis Ford Coppola, and Martin Scorsese working their magic!
Walk through one of modern Rome’s architectural masterpieces by booking a guided tour of Auditorium Parco della Musica. Designed by the world famous Renzo Piano, Auditorium Parco della Musica consists of three different halls and is the most visited musical complex in all of Europe.
Though the 60-minute tour, you’ll learn all about the history and structure of his gorgeous auditorium. The acoustics of the main hall is something you need to see (and hear!) for yourself!
The Musei di Villa Torlonia is a breathtaking villa and gardens right in the middle of the city. Built for the Torlonia family, it soon became the residence of Benito Mussolini. After it was abandoned in 1945, Musei di Villa Torlonia transformed into a museum and art gallery.
Not only can you see the antique pieces of furniture that was used by Mussolini, but you’ll also be able to see art collections, statues, and treasures curated by the Torlonia family.
If you’re interested in learning more about Rome’s impact on the middle ages, then don’t miss the Museo Nazionale dell’Alto Medioevo. You’ll find thousands of artifacts from the 4th to the 8th century as you wander through 8 rooms of history.
Make sure to stop by room 2 and room 3, where excavated Lombard weapons, jewelry, and armor line the walls. You can also find ceramics and mosaics from medieval Roman settlements of Santa Rufina and Santa Cornelia.
Romans were one of the first civilizations to use public bathhouses, and the Terme di Diocleziano is one of the oldest locations. Built by Diocletian in 298 AD, the Terme di Diocleziano takes up over 130,000 square meters and contains a frigidarium and two octagonal caldarium halls.
They were expected to hold up to 3,000 bathers at one time! Besides wandering through the ruins of the baths, you can see buildings that once contained libraries, reading rooms, and even a gymnasium.
Combine the Terme di Diocleziano with the Museo Nazionale Romano Palazzo Massimo with an educational half day guided tour!
For a harrowing look back on World War II, visit The Historical Museum of the Liberation of Rome. The museum is located in the actual building that was used as a prison when it was occupied by German Nazis.
Over 2,000 citizens were detained, tortured, and even deported directly from this building. The museum contains memorials, photographs, and artworks from 1943-1944. There is also a Jewish deportation hall where you can view interviews with survivors who walked the same halls and streets where you stand today.
Although it was originally built as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian, the Castel Sant’Angelo is now an iconic Roman landmark. In 401 AD, it was converted into a castle and military fortress, and used by the Vatican State as a prison.
Castel Sant’Angelo was soon transformed into a museum in 1925, and you can walk through its hallways and rooms viewing Italian paintings, sculptures, and artifacts. Of course, you can’t miss climbing to the top of the castle for panoramic views of the entire city!
While most museums in Rome are located in historic, grandiose buildings, Centrale Montemartini can be found in a decommissioned power plant! The museum now houses over 400 marble sculptures and statues inside the power plant and outdoor in the gardened terrace.
The statues have been excavated from ruins throughout the city, including Circus Flaminius, Largo Argentina, and Horti Sallustiani. The Centrale Montemartini beautifully mixes ancient Roman history with the contrasted industrialized machines of modern day.
For a quick break from Roman fine arts, step into a different world at Pigorini National Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography. Sculptures and artifacts from Asia, America’s and the Middle East are all on display, which makes for a refreshing break from the usual Italian and European museums.
The museum is also a research center and aims to promote an understanding of cross-cultural heritage. The research center and produced a virtual tour, where you can use your smart photo to learn more about the fascinating objects in the museum.
Although Villa Medici is located within the larger Borghese Gardens, it’s equally as impressive and lavish on the inside. Villa Medici is the home of the French Academy of Rome, which began in the early 1800s. It continues to be used for young students and artists who receive grants and scholarships to study in the eternal city.
However, the villa also functions as an art gallery for rotating exhibitions. Visitors can also book tours to catch a glimpse of what the inside of the village looks like.
English poets John Keats and Percy Shelley made Rome their final stomping grounds. Keat’s Piazza di Spagna apartment was converted to the Keats-Shelley Memorial House, where you can find all sorts of artifacts and objects from the poet’s life.
Read through his handwritten letters, flip through his leather-bound books, and even take a peek at a lock of Shelley’s hair! After the museum, you can stop by the Protestant Cemetery to see both Keats and Shelley’s tombstone.
Located just a short drive from Rome’s city center, Ostia Antica is an excavated archaeological site scattered with stunning frescoes and mosaics, ancient ruins, and breathtaking statues. You could easily spend the better half of a day wandering through the remains of apartment buildings, theaters, and tombs that date as far back as 7th century BC.
You’ll also find Europe’s oldest synagogue and even a grand open-air amphitheater, which is still used for concerts and performances today.
Tucked away from the mass crowds of tourists stands the Museo Hendrik Christian Andersen. Andersen was a Norwegian-American sculpture who lived in Rome and died in 1940. His house was converted in a public museum, where many of his statues are on display.
Unlike marble Roman statues found all throughout the city, Andersen created his masterpieces out of stucco. With dozens of massive, colossal sculptures, Museo Hendrik Christian Andersen is a hidden gem that can’t be missed while in Rome.
How many museums are in Rome?
There are upwards of 90 museums in Rome’s city center alone. Art galleries, historic churches, and excavated ruins can be found on every corner. Luckily for you, walking the cobblestone streets of Rome is just like walking through a big museum on its own!
How many free museums are in Rome?
You can find a handful of museums that have a free entry every day of the year. However, most paid museums also offer free days throughout the month. They don’t take place on the same day, so consult the museum’s website to see when you can sneak in free of charge.
What are the hours of museums in Rome?
Museums in Rome usually open around 9 am and close anywhere between 5 – 7 pm depending on the time of the year. Most museums stop allowing visitors one hour prior to closing, so make sure you give yourself enough time to view everything!
What can I bring in Rome museums?
While cameras are allowed inside most museums, flash, tripods, and selfie sticks are usually prohibited. Some exhibits might also prohibit photography altogether. It’s also required to wear long sleeve shirts and pants when entering religious sites such as the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, and other churches.
The above list is just a small sliver of what Rome has to offer. Of course, it’s important to visit the main, iconic sites such as the Vatican and the Colosseum. Remember that these museums can have excruciatingly long waits, especially during the high season. We recommended purchasing skip the line tickets so you can spend less time in the sun and more time enjoying the beauty of Rome!
Besides the main attractions, Rome is overflowing with dozens of smaller, off-the-beaten-path galleries and museums. These museums are worth searching for, as they are often just as rich and interesting as the bigger tourist sites.
Whichever museums you choose to visit, we’re sure that you’ll come away with a better appreciating for the eternal city of Rome!
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Gin lover. Coffee addict. Nicola has traveled the world for 7 years and is a staff writer for Hotel Jules. Born in London, Nicola first got the taste of travel studying abroad in Barcelona. Since then she's been hooked - traveling the world non-stop. Passionate about green travel and vegan lifestyle, Nicola spends more of her free time staring at maps wondering where she will head to next!