Skip to content

Ready to travel NOW? Check out our Travel Advisory Page for the latest updates.

Image courtesy of “Creation of Adam” by Michelangelo

Rome Museums, top things to do in Rome, the sightseeing & museums guide for 2016

Rome’s rich artistic heritage goes back 3,000 years. The city is flooded with almost all kinds of art from Ancient art that have its roots from the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Germans, and the Celtics, to Byzantine, Renaissance, all the way to the Modern and Contemporary art.
These vast collection of priceless art, sculpture and other treasures are all stored in Rome’s museums — about 57 of them that dot the city.
Below are the top 10 of the most interesting museums in Rome in alphabetical order.

Ara Pacis Museum – Lesser known of Rome attractions, but very impressive

Lungotevere in Augusta,
00186 Roma
The Ara Pacis museum which was formerly situated on the bank of the Tiber River is now located on the western edge of the Piazza Augusto Imperatore. It was designed as a setting for the Ara Pacis, a sacrificial altar dating to 9 B.C. The museum is located between the Tiber and the circular perimeter of the mausoleum of Augustus, built in 28 B.C. Augustus was the founder of the Roman Empire and its first Emperor, who ruled from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.
Although the ancient altar is the main focus of the museum, the building is also used for temporary exhibitions and installations usually with archaeological themes. It also houses a state-of-the-art digital library of Augustan culture and an outdoor roof terrace with a bar and cafe that offers a view of the Mausoleum of Augustus and the Tiber River.

The Capitoline Museums – A visit is voted as one of the best things to do in Rome

Piazza del Campidoglio,
1, 00186 Roma
Owned and operated by the municipality of Rome, The Capitoline Museums is a group of art and archaeological museums in Piazza del Campidoglio, on the Capitoline Hill in Rome, Italy. The museums can be traced to 1471, when Pope Sixtus IV donated a set of ancient bronzes to the people of Rome. Since then, the museums’ collection has expanded to include art pieces from ancient Egypt, Rome, and Greece; a collection of medieval and Renaissance art such as by Titian, Tintoretto, Rubens and Caravaggio; inscriptions, collections of jewels, coins, and other artifacts.
One of the famous works that can be seen in this museum is the the bronze she-wolf nursing Romulus and Remus, which has become the emblem of Rome. Other famous works are the bust of Augustus, the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius and Bernini’s Medusa.

Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant’Angelo – Popular place for tourist visits in Rome

Lungotevere Castello,
50, 00193 Roma

The Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant’Angelo is a tall cylindrical 2nd-century castle housing furniture & painting collections in Renaissance apartments located in Parco Adriano, Rome, Italy. Initially built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian who ruled from 117 to 138 as a personal mausoleum for him and his family, the castle was later used by the popes as a fortress and castle, and is now a museum. Since the 1930s, it has showcased ancient military weapons and 16th Century art.

Centrale Montemartini – Home of the ancient things to see in Rome

Lungotevere Castello,
50, 00193 Roma
The Giovanni Montemartini Thermoelectric Centre was built in 1912 as a supplier of energy in the surrounding area.
In 1997 the abandoned station was chosen as a temporary site for the Capitoline Museums collection which was then under construction. The marble statues set against the industrial architecture created an interesting contrast encouraged the museum officials to make Centrale Montemartini a permanent exhibition site for the Capitoline Museum’s latest acquisitions.
On view at the Giovanni Montemartini are statues of heroic gods and emperors dating from Republican Rome to the Late Imperial age. Other interesting pieces to see are the huge head of a goddess which was found near Largo Argentina, a painting of Cleopatra, and an impressive mosaic that depict hunting scenes from Santa Bibiana.

Doria Pamphilj Gallery – Impressive art collection

Via del Corso,
305, 00186 Roma
The Palazzo Doria Pamphilj is likely the largest privately-owned building in Rome and its gallery, the Doria Pamphilj Gallery, has is a vast art collection.
The vast collection of art, furniture, and statues has been assembled by the Doria, Pamphilj, Landi and Aldobrandini families since the 16th century. The families, grown through marriage and descent now refer to themselves simply under the surname Doria Pamphilj. The collection also includes paintings and furnishings from Innocent X’s Palazzo Pamphilj (in Piazza Navona).
The main collection is displayed in the state rooms, the ceilings of which were frescoed by late-baroque artists such as Crescenzio Onofri, Aureliano Milani, and Stefano Pozzi in 1767. The chapel contains the mummified corpse of Innocent X. The rest of the art pieces are displayed in four painted gold galleries surrounding a courtyard. Additional rooms have also been converted into galleries that feature medieval and Byzantine art.
A portrait of Innocent X by Velazquez is considered the collection’s masterpiece. Since 1927, Velázquez’s portrait was placed in a specially designated room where a Bernini sculptured bust of the same pope is also located by Bernini.

Galleria Borghese – One of the most popular places to visit in Rome

Piazzale del Museo Borghese,
5, 00197 Roma
The Galleria Borghese houses a great number of the Borghese collection of paintings, sculpture and antiquities. Cardinal Scipione Borghese, the nephew of Pope Paul V who reigned from 1605 to 1621 was the one who started the collection.
Scipione Borghese, who was an early patron of Bernini was also an avid collector of the works by Caravaggio. In this gallery you will see Caravaggio’s Boy with a Basket of Fruit, St Jerome Writing, Sick Bacchus and others. Other famous works include Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love, Raphael’s Entombment of Christ and works by Peter Paul Rubens and Federico Barocci.
The Galleria Borghese has twenty rooms in two floors. The main floor exhibits classical antiquities of the 1st–3rd centuries AD such as the Venus Victrix. Its ceiling fresco is designed with decorative trompe l’oeil in the first room done by the Sicilian artist Mariano Rossi.

Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna (GNAM) – The Modern Art Museum in Rome

Viale delle Belle Arti,
131, 00196 Roma
The Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna (GNAM), or National Gallery of Modern Art founded in 1883, is dedicated to modern and contemporary art.
The collection in its 75 rooms include neoclassical and Romantic paintings and sculptures, including the largest collection of works by 19th- and 20th-century Italian artists such as Giacomo Balla, Giuseppe Ferrari, Giorgio de Chirico, Umberto Boccioni, Amedeo Modigliani, Giovanni Fattori, Giacomo Manzù,Giorgio Morandi, Antonio Canova, Alberto Burri, Lucio Fontana, and Felice Casorati.
The collection also include works by well-known foreign artists, such as Rodin, Calder, Giacometti, Degas, Cézanne, Monet, Van Gogh, Braque, Klein, Kandinsky, Mondrian Jackson Pollock, Kostabi, and Duchamp.

MAXXI – National Museum of the 21st Century Arts

Viale delle Belle Arti,
131, 00196 Roma

The MAXXI (Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo) or the National Museum of the 21st Century Arts, is a national museum that promotes contemporary art and architecture in the Flaminio quartiere of Rome. The museum is managed by a foundation created by the Italian ministry of cultural heritage.

The museum, which was conceived as a venue for artistic experimentation and innovation took over 10 years to complete. MAXXI’s permanent collections come from direct acquisitions, commissions, competitions, awards for young artists, permanent loans and donations.

The collection includes works by contemporary artists such as Alighiero Boetti, William Kentridge, Ed Ruscha, Kara Walker, Gino De Dominicis, Gilbert & George, Anish Kapoor, Michael Raedecker, Francesco Clemente, Gerhard Richter, Lara Favaretto, Maurizio Cattelan, Marlene Dumas, Gabriele Basilico, Thomas Ruff, Kiki Smith, Luigi Ghirri, Vanessa Beecroft, Manfredi Beninati,Stefano Arienti, Ugo Rondinone, Francis Alys, Francesco Gostoli, and Thomas Schutte. Also on view are the archives of architects Carlo Scarpa, Pier Luigi Nervi, and Aldo Rossi.

Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome

Via Nizza,
138, Roma

The Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome or in Italian, Museo d’Arte Contemporanea di Roma, usually referred to as MACRO, is a municipal museum houses in two separate venues — a former brewery in the Salario quartiere and a former slaughterhouse in the quartiere of Testaccio.
Officially opened in October 11, 2002, the MACRO’s permanent collection includes some of the most significant Italian art since the 1960s. This includes the group Forma 1 with works by Antonio Sanfilippo, Carla Accardi, Piero Dorazio, Leoncillo, Achille Perilli, and Ettore Colla; the Arte Povera with Pino Pascali and Mario Ceroli; the Scuola di Piazza del Popolo with Mario Schifano,Tano Festa, Mimmo Rotella, and Titina Maselli.
The gallery also collect works by other Italian artists such as Andrea Aquilanti, Giovanni Albanese, Domenico Bianchi,Gianni Asdrubali, Sarah Ciracì, Bruno Ceccobelli, Fabrice de Nola, Enzo Cucchi, Daniele Galliano, Gianni Dessì, Federico Guida, Fabio Mauri, Felice Levini, Luigi Ontani, Piero Pizzi Cannella, Cristiano Pintaldi, Marco Tirelli, Gioacchino Pontrelli, and Sissi.

The Vatican Museums – #1 of Rome Tourist Attractions

 Viale Vaticano,
00165 Roma

The Vatican Museums, the museums of the Vatican City holds an immense collection from Popes throughout the centuries that include some of the world’s most important masterpieces of Renaissance art such as the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel decorated by Michelangelo w and Raphael’s Stanze della Segnatura.
The museums were founded by Pope Julius II in the early 16th century. Today, the Vatican Museums, which contain 54 galleries, is the 5th most visited art museum in the world.
The art gallery which is housed in the Borgia Apartment houses famous Rennaisance paintings that include: Raphael’s Madonna of Foligno, Transfiguration, and Oddi Altarpiece; Leonardo da Vinci’s St. Jerome in the Wilderness; Caravaggio’s Entombment; Francesco al Prato Resurrection; Perugino’s Madonna and Child with Saints and San; and Filippo Lippi’s Marsuppini Coronatio.
Other galleries within the Vatican are: the Collection of Modern Religious Art with paintings and sculptures by artists such as Giorgio de Chirico and Carlo Carrà; sculpture museums; Museo Pio-Clementino, a photo gallery; The New Wing, Braccio Nuovo built by Raffaele Stern; The Prima Porta Augustus; the Pio-Clementino museum; Greek Cross Gallery; Sala Rotonda; Gallery of the Statues; Gallery of the Busts; Cabinet of the Masks; Sala delle Muse; Sala degli Animali; Museo Chiaramonti; Galeria Lapidaria; Museo Gregoriano Etrusco; Museo Gregoriano Egiziano; and the Vatican Historical Museum.
Other highlights of the Museum are frescoes of large maps on the wall; Gallery of Mapse; Roman sculpture, tombstones, inscriptions, and the Early Christian Sarcophagus; The Raphael Rooms; The Niccoline Chapel; The Sistine Chapel; and the double spiral staircase, designed by Giuseppe Momo in 1932.

Vatican museum tickets and ticket reservations

You can normally purchase tickets on arrival – however the following links should be of use if you are searching for a specific type of ticket, group access or pilgrimage access etc all of the information and ticket reservations can be made on the Vatican website.  VISIT THE VATICAN WEBSITE

Helpful articles and blog posts – Things to do and see in Rome, Artistic and museum tourist attractions

We only recommend writers and blogs that we read regularly and believe will deliver substantial value to our readers. The following is our top picks of current articles we think that are worth reading for more reviews and information on Rome’s museums.

Do you have an awesome link to a relevant well written article that should be included here? If so, hit us up on Twitter by following and messaging us the link.  Looking for the best budget stays in Rome? Check out our guide to Rome for further information.

How Did We Do?

Is  the article “Rome museums, sightseeing and attractions guide 2016” useful? If so, please share and like this post, as it helps other travelers find information. Many thanks! You can follow us on Twitter or Facebook for further updates!

About the Author

Mad Monkey is Southeast Asia’s leading hostel operator — born in Cambodia with more properties in Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, Laos, and the Philippines. We pride ourselves in creating meaningful and sustainable travel experiences for our guests, whilst promoting socially responsible tourism.