Whether you know the capital like the back of your hand or are planning your first trip to the city, discover 12 museums in Rome that are well worth a visit.
A trip to Rome is not complete without visiting one or more of its splendid museums. The city, in fact, has a wide and rich artistic heritage. From Roman artifacts to contemporary art, discover what’s on offer at 12 of the best museums in Rome.
1. Vatican Museums
The Vatican Museums are truly amazing. This art collection (actually made up of several collections housed in a single museum) is so extensive it’s arguably the largest in the world. Here you can admire Raphael’s Rooms, four rooms frescoed by the master of the Renaissance, and be awe-struck as you walk into the Sistine Chapel.
To better organize your visit to the Vatican Museums, we’ve prepared a small guide.
2. Galleria Borghese
Inside the splendid setting of Villa Borghese, a city park that stretches for about 80 hectares, you’ll find the Galleria Borghese. In addition to being one of the city’s most famous museums, the art collection is one of a kind. It includes numerous sculptures by Bernini and priceless paintings by Caravaggio. Here you can admire must-see works such as the Rape of Proserpina and Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne. Other works include David with the Head of Goliath by Caravaggio, Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love, and Raphael’s The Deposition.
On the international scene, the National Museum of XXI Century Arts (MAXXI) has quickly established itself as one of the most important museums of contemporary art and architecture. Established in 2010 and designed by the famous architect Zaha Hadid, MAXXI is divided into two sections: art and architecture. Although the collections have an international scope, the intention is to promote Italian art, particularly if it’s new, avant-garde and experimental.
4. Palatine Museum and Colosseum Museum
If a stop at the Colosseum is a must on your Rome itinerary, it’s worth noting that there are two museums that will perfectly complement your visit. Both the Colosseum Museum and the Palatine Museum house collections of ancient art that trace the birth of the Roman city. The Colosseum Museum, on the second floor of the Flavian Amphitheater, tells the story of this iconic structure. The Palatine Museum, on the other hand, houses the mosaics and paintings of Nero’s Domus Transitoria, as well as other valuable artifacts.
5. Ara Pacis Museum
Established in 2006, this archaeological museum houses the famous Ara Pacis Augustae. Its altar was dedicated to the Pax, the Roman goddess of Peace, and was built by Augustus in 9 BC. The building was constructed by Richard Meier and recalls the greatness of the Roman Empire. The use of light and shadow creates an almost mystical atmosphere inside the museum, which adds to the experience for those visiting this extraordinary blast from the past.
6. Jewish Museum of Rome
If Rome’s Jewish ghetto is one of the top areas to visit, then it comes as no surprise that the Jewish Museum is a must see. Located within the complex of the Great Synagogue of Rome, the collection is divided into seven rooms and a Gallery of Ancient Marbles. Among the most important works are 900 fabrics and 400 pieces of silverware for sacred use. A visit to the synagogue completes the experience.
7. National Museum of Castel Sant’Angelo
This museum tells its story through its structure, which includes a monumental complex and an archaeological area that shows off an impressive collection of ancient and Renaissance art. Between the mausoleum, the fortified castle, and the Papal apartments, there are a total of seven levels and routes to explore. Masterpieces such as the Bust of Emperor Hadrian and the San Girolamo Penitente by Lorenzo Lotto are all housed in Castel Sant’Angelo.
8. National Gallery of Ancient Art
The National Gallery of Ancient Art is divided between Palazzo Barberini and Palazzo Corsini. In addition to being housed in two perfectly preserved historic buildings, the collection offers several works of art by famous artists. Among them, you can admire the art of Bernini, Caravaggio, El Greco, Raphael, Titian and many others.
9. Capitoline Museums
On the list of museums to see in Rome, the Capitoline Museums are not to be missed. In fact, they are often considered to be the first museums in the world open to the public. Established in the 18th century by Pope Clement XII, the museums consist of a collection of ancient sculptures. Among the most famous works on display here is the original equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius (the one in the square is a reproduction).
10. Doria Pamphilj Gallery
This splendid 16th-century palazzo has expanded and transformed over the course of 500 years. The vastness of the artistic collection is so large that it completely covers the walls of the Saloni. The Doria Pamphilj Palace and Gallery are truly an unmissable stop for those who love art and beauty. Numerous works by the masters of Italian art, such as Raphael, Carracci and Titian, but also of the great Flemish artists such as Lorrain and Velázquez are housed here.
11. The National Gallery
A large collection of art from the 19th century to the present day is housed here. It traces modern art movements, from neoclassicism to surrealism, passing through impressionism and the avant-garde. The gallery boasts about 20,000 works, including sculptures by Canova, paintings by Hayez and Giovanni Fattori, as well as avant-garde artists such as Modigliani, Braque and Boccioni.
12. National Roman Museum
This museum offers collections that trace the ancient history of the city. It’s divided into four different locations, organized by themes and time periods: the Renaissance archaeological collection is on display at Palazzo Altemps, an aristocratic palace from the 15th century; at the Baths of Diocletian, the epigraphic section is dedicated to the great public and funerary monuments; at the Crypta Balbi, the collection of medieval history to modern times, while at Palazzo Massimo, you’ll find one of the world’s largest collections of ancient art.