5 Best Museums in Rome

December 7, 2022  |  By Peg Kern
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A view of Rome at night during a culinary vacation in Rome with The International Kitchen.Whether you’re planning a winter getaway to Rome or a summer vacation, you undoubtedly know that there are a plethora of monuments, archeological sites, and museums in the Eternal City. How do you prioritize if you have a limited amount of time?

We’re highlighting our top five museums in Rome to help you out. Whether you are able to hit them all or only make the highlights, you’ll be glad you carved time out for any of these stellar options.

Top Museums in Rome

Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, the museum houses the ancient art in Rome, Italy1. Il Museo Nazionale Romano

This might seem a cheat on a list of five museums, since the National Roman Museum is actually a consortium of several different sites:

  • Palazzo Massimo alle Terme
  • Palazzo Altemps
  • Crypta Balbi
  • Baths of Diocletian

The famed Gaul statue in Palazzo Altemps.

Each features statuary, frescoes, art, and artefacts from pre-Roman and Ancient Roman times. You may not have time to visit each of them, but any that you pick will have something to offer. I am particularly fond of the Palazzo Altemps, although the Palazzo Massimo is also fabulous.

Highlights: at Palazzo Massimo the frescos from the Villa of Livia, the Via Labicana Augustus and Sleeping Hermaphroditus statues, the Torlonia Vase, and the ancient Roman coin collection. At Palazzo Altemps: the Ludovisi Gaul and the Ludovisi Throne, the bronze Seleucid Prince. At the Crypa Balbi: an exhibit on the transition from Ancient Rome to Medieval Rome. At the Baths of Diocletian: the cloister of Michelangelo.
Cost: 117-27 Euros – which gives you access to all 4 sites
Location: Palazzo Massimo: Palazzo Altemps: Piazza di Sant’Apollinare, 46. Crypta Balbi: Via delle Botteghe Oscure, 31. Baths of Diocletian: Viale Enrico de Nicola, 78.
Tips: If you can only visit one, pick the Palazzo Massimo or the Palazzo Altemps.

The entrance to the Vatican Museums.2. I Musei Vaticani

I know, it might seem strange not to list this one as number one. It’s not because it’s not technically in Rome (the Vatican is its own sovereign state). Rather, it’s because the Vatican Museums can be difficult to enjoy if you don’t plan properly. It is glorious to see the Sistine Chapel, but seeing it shoulder to shoulder with a room full of other visitors… not fun. We strongly recommend that you go with a guide and get early access tickets. This does not mean you will be alone in the museum, just that it will be a bit less crowded! Another option is the Friday evening tour, which is offered April through October.

The grand spiral staircase at the Vatican.Highlights: The Sistine Chapel, Raphael’s Rooms (Stanze), the Map Room, and the great spiral staircase.
Cost: from 17 Euros (student fares also available)
Location: Vatican City
How to Get There: Ottaviano metro stop; bus 49.
Tips: book a private tour with early entry passes. Avoid going on Saturday.

The Galleria Borghese museum in Rome.3. Galleria Borghese

This is perhaps the best museum of the Italian Baroque in all of Italy. It is located in the beautiful Villa Borghese gardens, and it boasts two floors of incredible art. It is also a very pleasant museum to visit. Its size is quite manageable, it tends not to be too crowded, and it is off the beaten path in the middle of a park. What could be better?

Bernini's statue of David at the Galleria Borghese.Highlights: Berini’s statues of David, Apollo and Daphne, and the Rape of Proserpina; Titian’s painting “Sacred and Profane Love”; Caravaggio’s paintings “David with the Head of Goliath” and “Saint Jerome Writing”; Raphael’s “Deposition.”
Cost: 15 Euros
Location: Villa Borghese, Piazzale Scipione Borghese, 5
How to get there: metro stop Spagna; buses 52, 53, 63, 83, 92, 360, or 910.
Tips: take time to visit the park as well.

The courtyard of Villa Giulia in Rome city4. Museo Nazionale Etrusco (Villa Giulia)

As one of the premier museums specializing in Etruscan art and artefacts, this gem of a museum is a must-see for anyone interested in pre-Roman times. I have fond memories of my father dragging me to it some thirty years ago when I barely knew who the Etruscans were. Like the Galleria Borghese, it’s size if manageable and its collection unparalleled.

Etruscan sarcophagusHighlights: a terracotta funerary monument, the Sarcofago degli Sposi.
Cost: 10 Euros
Location: Piazzale di Villa Giulia 9
How to get there: metro stop Flaminio; buses 150F, 628, 982.
Tips: While you are there, hit #5 on our list as well, they are quite near each other.

National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome5. Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea

I had a little trouble deciding what to put at number five, but I love the Galleria Nazionale. Rome is most known for its ancient, medieval, and baroque art, but the collection of Italian modern and contemporary art in the Galleria Nazionale is the largest in Italy. It also has art by foreign artists, but the real masterpieces are all by Italians.

The Terrace by Eduardo Dalbono, 1865-1867 - Galleria nazionale d'arte moderna - Rome, Italy - DSC05444Highlights: Works by Giacomo Balla, Domenico Morelli, Umberto Boccioni, Antonio Canova, Amedeo Modigliani, Giorgio de Chirico, Giorgio Morandi, and Giacomo Manzù.
Cost: 10 Euros
Location: Viale delle Belle Arti, 131
How to get there: metro stop Flaminio; buses 150F, 19Nav, 3Bus, 490, C3.
Tip: Make sure to check out the art of the Macchiaioli, which are my favorites at the museum. And take a look at the facade as well – it should be obvious why the building is sometimes called “i denti” (“the teeth”).

What are your favorite museums in Rome? Do you agree with my selections?

By Peg Kern

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