Rome is an ancient metropolis, so it’s no surprise that much of the priceless artwork found here dates back some 600+ years. The downside—if you can call it that—is that it can be hard to know just where to begin. Luckily, we've done the legwork for you and compiled a shortlist of required viewing. Below, our list of the best museums and galleries in Rome.
Doria Pamphili Gallery
Set in a palace still inhabited by the papal Doria Pamphili family, this museum houses Rome’s largest private collection. Highly regarded among 16th and 17th-century art scholars, the collection is known mainly for its sculptures and oil paintings (including three by Caravaggio), and also features 17th-century furnishings and frescoes, as well as the spectacular Gallery of Mirrors. An audio guide narrated by Prince Jonathan Doria Pamphili is included in the price of admission and features a mix of personal anecdotes and information about the art. Pro tip: the museum is open on Mondays when most of Rome’s other museums are closed.
Hands down, these are the most important museums to see in Rome: a vast complex containing precious art that the popes have accumulated over the centuries, including sculptures, paintings, tapestries, and frescoes. The highlight is, of course, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, which depicts the Catholic Church’s doctrine and the creation of humankind in a magnificent fresco on the ceiling. Purchase tickets in advance to skip the legendary lines, and note that the museums are closed on Sundays.
Close to the Roman Forum and the Colosseum at the grand Piazza del Campidoglio (which was laid out by Michelangelo), the Capitoline Museums are (amazingly) hardly ever crowded. They are considered the first museums to be opened to the public, dating back to 1471 when Pope Sixtus IV donated a collection of significant bronze statues to the Roman people. The museums host one of the best collections of ancient sculpture in the world, including the “Capitoline Wolf,” a famous bronze sculpture that depicts a mythical “she-wolf,” suckling the twins Romulus and Remus. It has been housed in the museum since the very beginning.
This garden villa was commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese in 1613 in order to house his collection of Roman, Renaissance, and Baroque art. The museum, which is fairly small compared to other Roman museums, includes Bernini sculptures and numerous paintings by Caravaggio, Raphael, and Titian. The museum tends to run out of walk-in tickets, so buy them online beforehand.
Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna
Rome’s national modern art gallery was founded in 1883 and houses the largest collection of 19th and 20th-century art in Italy. The impressive neoclassical building, the Palace of Fine Arts, was designed by Italian architect Cesare Bazzani and is located next to the Villa Borghese Park. Naturally, many of the 1,000-plus works are by Italian modernists, such as Amedeo Modigliani and Giorgio de Chirico, but there are also a number of international artists like Van Gogh, Man Ray, and Cy Twombly.