15 must-see museums in Rome that are worth your time

From the Vatican’s priceless collections to relics of Ancient Rome and quirky hidden gems, these 15 amazing museums will enrich your trip to Rome

Ah, Rome. The Eternal City is famous for its stunning landmarks and lip-smacking cuisine. Rome has one of the longest and most interesting cultural heritages of any city in Europe, so for most visitors, museums are also high on the to-do list.

Some of our famous museums in Rome will take you all the way back to the days of Julius Caesar and the gladiators, while others immerse you in the spectacular artwork of the Renaissance. You'll find some on the list that are ideal for kids and others that are perfect for cultured adults. Enjoy some of the finest museums in the world on your trip to Rome.

Best history museums in Rome

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1. Discover the history of gladiators at the Colosseum

The Colosseum simply has to be top of the list. You'll find the Colosseum Museum on the second floor of the complex. Here you can discover the fascinating history of gladiators, circuses, and entertainment in Ancient Rome.

Highlights:

We recommend a guided tour of the Colosseum, which includes access to special zones like the arena and the underground area. Let your guide help you visualize the ferocious world of gladiatorial combat.

Address and opening hours:

Piazza del Colosseo 1, 00184 Rome. Open Monday-Sunday, 9:00 AM-7:15 PM.

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2. Discover the ancient world at the Capitoline Museums

The Capitoline Museums contain the oldest public collection of antiquities in Europe. Visitors have been coming here to admire the ancient ruins, statues, and artifacts since the 15th century.

Highlights:

A private tour means you won't miss anything. Be sure to admire the famous statue of the She-Wolf, the ancient symbol of Rome.

Address and opening hours:

Piazza del Campidoglio 1, 00186 Rome. Open seven days per week. Times vary.

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3. Wander through ancient Rome at the Imperial Forums Museum

With ancient ruins everywhere you look, a lot of Rome feels like a living museum. This is particularly true at the Imperial Forums Museum, where you'll pass through the old forums and learn the stories of different emperors.

Highlights:

The best way to learn about the forums is with an expert guide. They'll show you some of the most fascinating parts of these ancient sites.

Address and opening hours:

Via Quattro Novembre 94, 00187 Rome. Open Monday-Sunday, 8:30 AM-7:00 PM.

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4. Take a stroll through history in the old bathhouse

The Museo Nazionale Romano Palazzo Massimo is set in an ancient Roman bathhouse. Today, this hidden gem is home to a number of fascinating sights, including ancient mosaics, spooky tombs, and a remarkable planetary sundial.

Highlights:

Your professional guide will show you the most interesting sights in the museum, including the courtyard which was restored by the one and only Michelangelo.

Address and opening hours:

Largo di Villa Peretti 2, 00185 Rome. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 11:00 AM-6:00 PM.

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5. Go on a hi-tech voyage through history at the Heritage Museum

The Welcome to Rome show at the Heritage Museum is the perfect way to start your trip. This half-hour presentation uses the latest technology to bring Roman history to life.

Highlights:

This stunning multimedia presentation is perfect for families. You'll feel like you're flying over the historic city.

Address and opening hours:

Corso Vittorio Emanuele II 203, 00186 Rome. Open Monday-Thursday, 9:00 AM-7:00 PM, and Friday-Sunday, 10:00 AM-8:00 PM.

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6. Spend a creepy evening at the spine-tingling Bone Chapel

This is, without a doubt, the strangest museum in Rome and probably one of the strangest ones in the world. The Bone Chapel, part of the Catacombs Museum, features thousands of skulls and bones. These are the remains of the Capuchin monks who once lived here.

Highlights:

If you want to spend a shiver down your spine, take an after-dark tour of this macabre museum with an expert guide who'll answer all your questions.

Address and opening hours:

Via Vittorio Veneto 27, 00187 Rome. Open Monday-Sunday, 10:00 AM-7:00 PM.

Best art museums in Rome

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7. See the world's most famous artworks at the Vatican Museums

Let yourself drift away into a Renaissance daydream with the spectacular art of the Vatican Museums, without a doubt the most famous museums in Rome. With works by great masters like Michelangelo and Raphael, this is an art lover's paradise.

Highlights:

Take a full day for a tour of the Vatican, including the museums and St Peter's Basilica. As well as the artwork, don't forget to check out the Gallery of Maps, the largest geographical museum in the world.

Address and opening hours:

00120 Vatican City. Open Monday-Thursday, 8:30 AM-6:30 PM, and Friday-Saturday, 8:30 AM-10:30 PM. Closed Sundays.

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8. Admire Caravaggio's best works at the Borghese Gallery

The Borghese Gallery has paintings by many of the greatest Italian artists. Caravaggio's masterpieces like Young Sick Bacchus will take your breath away, and you can also see exquisite paintings by Raphael.

Highlights:

Take a guided tour to learn more about Caravaggio, Raphael, and the other artists on display. With small group sizes, these intimate tours are the best way to see the gallery.

Address and opening hours:

Piazzale Scipione Borghese 5, 00197 Rome. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 9:00 AM-7:00 PM. Closed Mondays.

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9. Discover the secrets of the Renaissance at the Doria Pamphilj Gallery

There are so many Renaissance galleries in Rome you won't know where to look. High on the list of unmissable art museums is the Doria Pamphilj, with works by Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, and more.

Highlights:

Your expert guide will give you the lowdown on the works and the history of the gallery itself. Don't miss some of Caravaggio's earliest paintings, showing his evolution as an artist.

Address and opening hours:

Via del Corso 305, 00186 Rome. Open Thursday-Tuesday, 10:00 AM-7:00 PM. Closed Wednesdays.

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10. See the Pope's art collection at Castel Gandolfo

Just outside Rome, Castel Gandolfo is the Pope's very own summer getaway. Today, part of the building is a museum, housing yet more exquisite Italian artworks.

Highlights:

Take a full day tour of Castel Gandolfo. You'll see the museum, the summer house, and the gorgeous, manicured Barberini Gardens.

Address and opening hours:

Piazza della Libertà, 00073 RM. Open Monday-Saturday, 8:30 AM-1:00 PM.

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11. Take a day trip to see Michelangelo's David

The most famous statue in history is just 90 minutes away in the city of Florence. Escape the Roman heat and take a day trip to the Accademia Museum, which contains some of the finest examples of Renaissance art in the world.

Highlights:

Your day trip will also take you to the nearby Leaning Tower of Pisa. While Michelangelo's David is the major highlight, don't miss works by masters like Da Vinci and Botticelli.

Address and opening hours:

Via Ricasoli 58/60, 50129 Florence. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 8:15 AM-6:20 PM. Closed Mondays.

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12. See van Gogh and Monet at the National Gallery of Modern Art

Don't let the name fool you. The art in this gallery is modern when compared to Rome's ancient history, but you won't see anything cutting-edge here. Instead, it houses works by masters like Cezanne, Monet, and van Gogh.

Highlights:

This is one of the only art galleries in Rome where you'll see works by non-Italian artists. If you're getting tired of the Renaissance, add it to your list.

Address and opening hours:

Viale delle Belle Arti 131, 00197 Rome. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 8:30 AM-7:30 PM. Closed Mondays.

Alternative museums in Rome

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13. Let the House of the Owls enchant you

Hidden away in the grounds of the Villa Torlonia, the Casina delle Civette is like something from a fairytale. Inside, you'll find a beautiful collection of Art Nouveau-inspired owls, swans, and peacocks.

Highlights:

This magical museum is ideal for kids. Visit as part of a tour of the Villa Torlonia with a guide to show you around.

Address and opening hours:

Via Nomentana 70, 00161 Rome. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 9:00 AM-7:00 PM. Closed Mondays.

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14. Show off your geeky side at the video game museum

For something completely different, head to VIGAMUS for the day. Play some classic Street Fighter or Tekken, and see how gaming has evolved over the last few decades.

Highlights:

In the VR room of VIGAMUS, you'll don a headset and be transported inside a classic game.

Address and opening hours:

Via Sabotino 4, 00195 Rome. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10:00 AM-8:00 PM. Closed Mondays.

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15. Discover another side of Italian life at the Police Car Museum

In Italy, even the police cars are stylish. At this off-beat museum, you'll see vehicles by Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, and more.

Highlights:

If you love cars, then the Police Car Museum is for you. Marvel at these impressive jet-black vehicles and the stories behind them. Local legend says that one of the Ferraris on display was once driven up the Spanish Steps.

Address and opening hours:

Via dell'Arcadia 20, 00147 Rome. Open Monday-Saturday, 9:00 AM-1:00 PM. Closed Sundays.

FAQs

What are the best museums in Rome?

The Colosseum, the Vatican Museums, and the Capitoline Museums are considered among the best museums in Rome, but there are many other great museums to see.

Are there any free museums in Rome?

Many of the smaller museums in Rome are free. You can also get free entry to the Colosseum and Roman Forum on the first Sunday of the month and free entry to the Vatican Museums on the last Sunday of the month.

Are there any museums in Rome that are suitable for children and families?

Yes. Children will enjoy the immersive Welcome to Rome exhibit at the Heritage Museum. The fairytale magic of the Casina delle Civette will also appeal to young kids.

For which museums in Rome are guided tours recommended?

Guided tours are available at most of the famous museums in Rome and at major art galleries. They're a good idea, as you won't miss any of the masterpieces on display.

Are there any museum passes or discount cards available for visiting multiple museums in Rome?

The Roma Pass gives you access to many of the most popular museums. Choose either a 48- or 72-hour pass.