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9 World-Class Museums in Rome You'll Regret Skipping This Year

Rome Museums
by Matador Creators Mar 24, 2023

Rome, often called “the Eternal City,” is home to some of the most magnificent museums in the world. That’s partially because Rome is one of the world’s oldest cities, with a history spanning more than 2,500 years.

It was founded in 753 BCE and originally ruled by monarchs before becoming a republic in 509 BCE. In 27 BCE, Augustus became the first emperor of Rome and established the Roman Empire, which eventually became one of the largest and most powerful empires in world history. Over the centuries, Rome has been sacked, rebuilt, and reinvented, and it continues to influence the world today through its art, architecture, and cultural legacy.

museums in rome - ruins in the italian city

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Fortunately, a lot of that art, architecture, and cultural legacy is in the form of museums. Some of the best museums in Rome are preserved historical sites or preserve findings from historical sites, such as the Capitoline Museum, while others are museums with works collected over the centuries, such as the Vatican Museum.

While there are literally hundreds of museums around Rome, the nine listed below should definitely make it onto your must-visit list.

Where to find the best museums in Rome

Rome is a big city and while some museums are walkable from top sights like the Trevi Fountain, you’ll need to use a rideshare (or, better yet, public transportation) to get around. Visitors can use the ATAC website to plan their routes and find the nearest public transportation stop to the museums.

By the way: if you’re a European student or are under age 25 and live in Europe, you may be eligible for reduced entry fees at many of the museums below. Check their websites in advance as the details of who gets in at a reduced (or free) rate varies from site to site. And make time to stop at unique places while moving between museums, like this peephole with amazing views and one or two of the city’s top pizza restaurants.

The Vatican Museum(s)

people in the halls of teh vatican museum, considered one of the best museums in rome

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The Vatican Museums are a group of museums within the Vatican Palace (technically called the “Apostolic Palace”) in Vatican City, which is actually a distinct country and not technically part of Italy. They are some of the largest art collections in the world, with thousands of pieces spread across 54 galleries.

One of the most famous rooms in the museum is, of course, the Sistine Chapel, known for “The Creation of Adam,” the famous fresco by Michelangelo on the chapel’s ceiling. The museums also include the Raphael Rooms, the Pinacoteca, the Gregorian Etruscan Museum, and the Museum of Christian Art.

Visitors to the Vatican Museum can stop by The Vatican Post Office, which offers stamps and other collectible items unique to the Vatican. It is one of the oldest post offices in the world, in operation since the 16th century.

  • Address: Viale Vaticano, 00165 Vatican City State, Rome, Italy
  • Hours of operation: Mon – Sat, 9 AM – 6 PM (last entry at 4 PM). Every last Sunday 9 AM – 2 PM (last entry at 12:30 PM).
  • Cost: Adults are 17 Euro (about $18.20). Extra costs for audio guides, special exhibitions and guided tours.

Galleria Borghese

museums in rome - art at the borghese gallery

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Galleria Borghese, or the Borghese Gallery, is housed in the beautiful Borghese Palace, a 17th-century villa that was once the residence of the Borghese family. The Borgheses were a noble family deeply involved in Roman politics for many centuries, and also commissioned some of the most famous art to come out of the city.

The villa, which was designed by the architect Flaminio Ponzio, was intended as a summer residence for Cardinal Scipione Borghese, who wielded power in the Catholic Church in the 16th century. The park, designed by the artist and architect Giovanni Vasanzio, was filled with a variety of flora and fauna, as well as several large sculptures and fountains.

Eventually, the family was forced to sell the estate and it finally became the property of the Italian government. Today, the famous Borghese Gardens are free to visit, but there’s a fee to visit the Boghese Gallery. It covers two massive floors and includes an impressive collection of sculptures and paintings by some of the greatest artists of the Renaissance and Baroque periods, including Bernini, Caravaggio, Raphael, and Titian.

You’ll want to buy tickets in advance as Galleria Borghese has a limited number of tickets available each day to ensure the museum isn’t overcrowded.

  • Address Piazzale del Museo Borghese 5, 00197 Rome, Italy
  • Hours of operation Tue – Sun, 9 AM – 7 PM. Closed Mondays.
  • Cost: Adults are 16 Euro, or about $17

Maxxi National Museum of 21st Century Arts

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Photo: DFLC Prints/Shutterstock

The MAXXI National Museum of 21st Century Arts, also known simply as the MAXXI, is a modern art museum established in 2010. It’s focused on showcasing contemporary and modern art, architecture, and design from 2000 and later.

The MAXXI was designed by the famous Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, one of the most famous starchitects in the world; the building itself is considered a work of art. The museum complex includes not only exhibition spaces, but also a stage venue, a movie theater, a library, and a restaurant, making it a hub of cultural activity in Rome. There are frequent events throughout the year ranging from lectures to interpretive dance.

The museum has a strong focus on architecture and design, and its exhibitions and collections both display that work and explore the role of these fields in shaping the current world. You’ll want to buy tickets in advance online if possible, though it’s big enough that you can usually buy them at the window when you arrive (though there may be a slight wait on weekends).

  • Address Via Guido Reni 4A, 00196 Rome, Italy
  • Hours of operation Tue – Sun, 11 AM – 7 PM. Closed Mondays.
  • Cost: Adults are €14, or about $15. Students and retirees are €12. Extra fees for special exhibits.

Capitoline Museums

Capitoline museum sculptures and hall, rome, italy

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The Capitoline Museums, on Rome’s Capitoline Hill, are among the oldest public museums in the world. The museums consist of Palazzo dei Conservatori, Palazzo Nuovo, Palazzo Senatorio, and Museo Centrale Montemartini.

The museums have a rich collection of Roman art and artifacts, including sculptures, mosaics, and other works of art from the city of Rome. Visitors can see a range of artifacts from everyday life, including coins, jewelry, and pottery, as well as monumental works of art that once adorned the city’s public spaces.

The Capitoline Museums also have an impressive collection of Renaissance art, including works by famous artists such as Raphael, Caravaggio, and Bernini. One of the most famous sculptures that anyone who’s studied art history will recognize is the “Capitoline Wolf,” a bronze statue of the she-wolf that is said to have nursed the legendary founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus.

  • Address: Piazza del Campidoglio 1, 00186 Rome, Italy
  • Hours of operation: Mon – Sun, 9:30 AM – 7:30 PM (last admission at 6:30 PM)
  • Cost: Adults are €16 for adults (about $17)

Museo Nazionale Romano

exterior of the roman museums in Italy

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The National Roman Museum, also known as Museo Nazionale Romano, is a complex of museums with one of the largest collections of Roman artifacts and art in the world. The museum is divided into four main sites: the Baths of Diocletian, the Crypta Balbi, the Palazzo Massimo, and the Palazzo Altemps.

The Baths of Diocletian were ancient Roman public baths, built in the early fourth century CE and named after the Roman emperor Diocletian. It could accommodate up to 3,000 bathers at once and included hot and cold baths, exercise rooms, saunas, and massage rooms. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the baths were used as a church, a palace, and a fortress, and today, some of the space is now the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli.

The Crypta Balbi is an ancient Roman site with the remains of a theater, a portico, and an ancient street. The Crypta Balbi Museum has the remains of the ancient theater and other structures, as well as Roman artifacts, including sculptures, frescoes, and mosaics that shed light on daily life in ancient Rome.

The Palazzo Massimo is in a historic palace and contains one of the largest collections of Roman art and artifacts in the world, including sculptures, frescoes, mosaics, and coins. Equally impressive is the Palazzo Altemps’s collection of Roman sculptures and other works of art, including marble portraits, reliefs, and statues. Especially nice are the recreations of sculptures scattered throughout the courtyard.

Collectively, the National Roman Museum is one of the best museums in Rome and visiting all the sites could easily fill a few days. You’ll save money if you buy a combined ticket to all four sites.


  • Palazzo Altemps: Piazza S. Apollinare, Rome
  • Palazzo Massimo: Largo di Villa Peretti, 2, Rome
  • Terme di Diocleziano: Via Enrico de Nicola, 78, Rome
  • Crypta Balbi: Via delle Botteghe Oscure, 31, Rome
  • Hours of operation: Mon – Sun, 9:30 AM – 7:30 PM (last admission at 6:30 PM)
  • Cost: Adults are €16 (about $17)

Castel Sant’Angelo Museum

castel st angelo - museums in rome

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Castel Sant’Angelo Museum, also known as the Mausoleum of Hadrian, is a former tomb and fortification initially built as a mausoleum for Roman Emperor Hadrian and his family; he ruled from 117 to 138 CE. It was later repurposed and expanded into a papal fortress and castle. The on-site museum showcases the building’s history, including its use as a papal retreat, prison, and military stronghold. In addition to architecture and history, it has plenty of displays with sculptures, frescoes, and other Roman art and artifacts.

One of the highlights of the museum is the terrace, which offers panoramic views of the city of Rome, the Tiber River, and St. Peter’s Basilica. Visitors can also see the famous Passetto di Borgo, a secret passageway used by popes to escape from the Vatican to Castel Sant’Angelo in times of danger. You can actually walk through the 2,600-foot-long passage and imagine what it must have been like for popes to escape through it while they fled to safety.

  • Address: Lungotevere Castello, 50, Rome, Italy
  • Hours of operation: Daily, 9 AM – 7 PM
  • Cost:  €12.00 (about $12.50)

La Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea

exterior of modern art museum in rome

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La Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea (the national gallery of modern and contemporary art, or GNAM) is an art museum housed in a beautiful 19th-century building that once served as the city’s “Royal Horse Riding School.” It’s one of the largest contemporary art museums in Italy, showcasing work from the late 19th century through the present day. The museum’s collection features a rich array of Italian and international artists, including masterpieces by Monet, Degas, Cézanne, and Modigliani.

Media range from painting and sculpture to photographs and video installations. It’s just across the street from the Borghese Gardens, so it makes an excellent afternoon stop after a morning spent admiring historical and older works at the Borghese Gallery. It’s also within walking distance of the two museums listed below.

  • Address: Viale delle Belle Arti 131, 00197 Rome, Italy
  • Hours of operation: Tue – Sun, 9 AM – 7 PM. Last admission at 6:15 PM. Closed Mondays.
  • Cost: €10 (about $10.50)

The Goethe House

Goethe house - one of the best literature museums in rome

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Lovers of literature should visit the Goethe House in Rome. The museum is the former home of German poet and philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who lived in Rome in the late 18th century. The house was originally built in the 16th century and was restored in the mid-20th century to serve as a memorial to Goethe and his time in Rome.

Goethe lived in the house from 1786 to 1788 and again from 1790 to 1794. During this time, he wrote some of his most famous works, including “Italian Journey” and the first part of “Faust.” Today, the Goethe House in Rome is a cultural center that hosts exhibitions, concerts, and other cultural events. The museum portion is open the public, and visitors can see his study, bedroom, and other rooms that are more or less accurate to the time period.

  • Address: Via del Corso 18 (Piazza del Popolo) 00186, Rome, Italy
  • Hours of operation: Tue – Sun, 9 AM – 6 PM
  • Cost: €6 (about $6.25). The audio tour is an additional €5.

Museo Civico di Zoologia

museums in rome - zoological museum

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If you (or your kids) need a break from fine art, check out the Museo Civico di Zoologia. It’s a natural history museum founded in 1932 inside the grounds of the Villa Borghese. The museum is dedicated to the study of zoology and the natural world with a large collection of specimens and displays related to biology and ecology.

The Museo Civico di Zoologia has a wide-ranging collection that includes plants, animals, and fossils from all over the world, as well as a collection of scientific instruments and equipment used for research and study. It’s one of the larger science museums in Rome (or all of Italy, really) and is worthy of a visit for anyone interested in evolution, biology, geology, paleontology, and any of the natural sciences.

  • Address: Via Ulisse Aldrovandi, 18, 00197 Rome, Italy
  • Hours of operation: Tue – Sun, 9 AM – 7 PM
  • Cost: €7 (about $7.25)

Where to stay in Rome

museums in rome - piaza navona

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Rome is big and getting around can take a while, though much of it is very walkable. If you want to be close to the city’s famous landmarks and attractions, consider staying in the historic center, such as around the Vatican City, Piazza Navona, or the Campo de’ Fiori. For a more laid-back, residential atmosphere, consider staying in the trendy neighborhoods of Trastevere or Monteverde. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option, consider staying in the areas around Termini Station or near the university district of San Lorenzo.

We hope you love the spaces and stays we recommend! Just so you know, Matador may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you decide to book a stay. Listed prices are accurate as of the time of publication.

Hotel Roma Vaticano

Hotel Roma Vaticano is an elegant boutique hotel in the Prati neighborhood, one of the most elegant area of ​​Rome. This hotel is close to the Vatican Museums and the subway, so it’s easy to move between all the museums in Rome. Rooms are small but hip and modern, and you’ll be within walking distance to plenty of great restaurants. And the rate is hard to beat: prices start around $90 a night, plus taxes and fees.

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Unicum Vite


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Unicum Vite is a modern and luxurious bed and breakfast on the third floor of a historic building (with an elevator). It’s on Via della Vite, in the heart of the historic center of Rome. Most rooms have steam showers, and you can easily walk to non-museum sights like the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain. Rooms start around $120 per night.

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Residenza dell’Angelo

There’s a lot to like about the high-end La Residenza dell’Angelo, including the location: it’s less than 10 minutes on foot to Castel Sant’Angelo Museum, the Parthenon, and Via del Corso, the hippiest shopping area in Rome. Rooms are posh and comfortable, breakfast at a restaurant across the street is included each morning, and the family suite is ideal for a small family or friends traveling together. Rooms start around $100 a night.

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