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11 Absolute Best Museums in Bologna, Italy (2024)

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Bologna, Italy is often celebrated for its incredible cuisine, Medieval architecture, and vibrant university. Yet, beyond its food and porticoes, the city boasts an impressive array of museums.

From contemporary art at the Modern Art Museum (MAMbo) to ancient artifacts at the Archaeological Civic Museum, it’s worth adding a few of these Bologna museums to your itinerary.

We have spent over 2 months in Bologna visiting the best historic sites, museums, and restaurants. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the 11 best museums in Bologna, including practical information like opening times and ticket prices.

Best Museums in Bologna, Italy

1. National Art Gallery

The National Art Gallery, or Pinacoteca Nazionale, is a fantastic art museum with an extensive collection of Italian art from the 14th to 18th centuries. Located in the university district, this museum houses an impressive array of works by notable artists such as Giotto, Raphael, and Parmigianino.

The most famous artwork is Raphael’s “The Ecstasy of St. Cecilia”, a masterpiece that depicts the patron saint of music, St. Cecilia, listening to a choir of angels.

Among the museum’s other highlights are “The Last Supper” by El Greco, “Madonna di Santa Margherita” by Parmigianino, and “Bologna Polyptych” by Giotto.

If you have to choose one museum to visit in Bologna, then we recommend the Pinacoteca Nazionale, as it’s home to the most significant and important art in the city.

Practical Info: The Pinacoteca Nazionale is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00am-7:00pm and closed on Mondays.

Tickets: Full price tickets cost €8, with cheaper tickets available for students and children.Your ticket also includes a visit to Palazzo Pepoli Campogrande, which is located in a separate building and is only open on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

2. Medieval Civic Museum

The Medieval Civic Museum, or Museo Civico Medievale, is a wonderful museum to visit for those interested in learning about Bologna during the Middle Ages.

Located in the historic center inside of the Palazzo Ghisilardi, the museum’s collection includes artifacts from the 7th-9th centuries, weaponry, bronze sculptures, glassware, and manuscripts.

Noteworthy highlights include Bernini’s “Bust of Gregory XV Ludovisi” and the bronze model of Neptune (the statue in Piazza Maggiore) by Giambologna.

Practical Info: The Museo Civico Medieval is open Tuesday and Thursday from 10:00am-2:00pm. Wednesday and Friday from 2:00pm-7:00pm. Saturday and Sunday from 10:00am-7:00pm. It’s closed on Mondays.

Tickets: Full price tickets cost €6. Discounts available for students and children. Tickets can be purchased at the museum. This museum is included in the Bologna Welcome Card.

3. MAMbo

Bologna’s Modern Art Museum, MAMbo, is a unique space dedicated to contemporary art from the second half of the 20th century to the present day. Throughout the year, the museum also hosts several temporary exhibitions.

One of the highlights of the museum is the Museo Morandi (Morandi Museum), which is dedicated to the Bolognese artist Giorgio Morandi.

Morandi is famous for his simplistic still life paintings of everyday objects, such as water glasses and pitchers. The collection of his artworks at the MAMbo is the most comprehensive I’ve seen and is worth visiting if you are a fan of his work.

Practical Info: The Modern Art Museum is open Tuesday and Wednesday from 2:00pm-7:00pm. Thursday from 2:00pm-8:00pm. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10:00am-7:00pm. It’s closed on Mondays.

Tickets: Full price tickets to the permanent collections are €6 with reduced tickets available for students and children. This museum is included in the Bologna Welcome Card.

4. Palazzo d’Accursio

Located in the heart of Bologna, in Piazza Maggiore, the Palazzo d’Accursio has been the home of the local government since the 14th century.

This historic building is easily recognizable by its 15th century clock tower. You can climb to the top of the clock tower for fantastic views overlooking Bologna’s central piazza.

Today, the palace not only houses the city’s town hall but also the Municipal Art Collections on the top floor. This wonderful collection of artworks, porcelain, and religious artifacts is hosted in a series of grand rooms with frescoed ceilings and painted walls.

We recommend visiting both the Municipal Art Collections and the Clock Tower for a unique perspective into Bologna’s past.

Practical Info: You can purchase a combined ticket for both the Clock Tower and art collection on the official website. We recommend reserving in advance, since you need a specific time slot to climb the tower.

Tickets:Full price tickets cost €8. Hours vary throughout the year, so it’s best to check up to date opening times here. This is included in the Bologna Welcome Card.

5. Carpigiani Gelato Museum

Carpigiani is an esteemed ice cream and gelato machine producer located just outside of Bologna. Not only do they produce machines, but they also host classes at Gelato University, where they teach aspiring gelato makers how to make this delicious Italian treat.

Inside of the same building is the Carpigiani Gelato Museum. You can book guided tours of the museum and learn about the history of gelato.

Since we are major gelato enthusiasts, we booked both a tour of the museum and a gelato masterclass after our tour. We loved our experience and highly recommend it!

Practical Info: The Gelato Museum offers several different experiences. You can book a combined tour and tasting, or a combined tour and workshop. We booked the Gelato Masterclass, which is €50 per person, but you can also checkout their other offerings here.

How to get here: The best way to get to the Gelato Museum is by bus. From Bologna’s bus station (autostazione) in Piazza XX Settembre, take bus #87 to the Anzola E. Magli stop (across from the museum). The journey takes around 45-50 minutes each way depending on traffic.

You can use contactless payment to pay on the bus, or purchase a ticket at a tobacco shop in the city.

READ ALSO: 8 Best Gelato Shops in Bologna

6. Palazzo Poggi Museum

The Palazzo Poggi Museum, or Museo di Palazzo Poggi, was originally the home of the Institute of Sciences and Arts at the University of Bologna. The interiors are decorated with beautiful frescoes by Pellegrino Tibaldi who was also the architect of this 16th century palace.

The museum displays an array of collections that span the fields of natural history, anatomy, physics, and astronomy and provides an in depth looking into the teachings of these different subjects during the 18th century.

One of its most fascinating exhibits is the the Human Anatomy Museum, which displays a unique collection of anatomical waxworks by sculptor Clementine Ercole Lelli from the 18th century.

Additionally, the Natural History Room displays Aldrovandiana’s collection of natural specimens, including fossils, rocks, and other natural materials.

Practical Info: Palazzo Poggi Museum is open Tuesday to Friday from 10:00am-4:00pm and Saturday and Sunday from 10:00am-6:00pm.

Tickets: Full price tickets cost €7. You may reserve your tickets online in advance or purchase them at the museum.

7. International Museum and Library of Music

The International Museum and Library of Music, or Museo Internazionale e Biblioteca della Musica di Bologna, is housed in the stunning Palazzo Sanguinetti. The palace’s rooms are adorned with 19th century frescoes, which are considered masterpieces.

The museum hosts an exceptional library of musical instruments, manuscripts, and musical scores from the 16th to 18th centuries. A highlight is an early 17th-century harpsichord that was made for Camillo Gonzaga and other unique instruments from the time.

Practical Info: The museum is open Tuesday to Thursday from 11:00am-1:30pm and 2:30pm-6:30pm. Friday from 10:00am-1:30pm and 2:30pm-7:00pm. Saturday and Sunday from 10:00am-7:00pm. It’s closed on Mondays.

Tickets: Full price tickets cost €5. You can either reserve your tickets online or in person upon arrival. This is included in the Bologna Welcome Card.

8. Museum of the History of Bologna

The Museum of the History of Bologna, or Museo della Storia di Bologna, is housed in the splendid Palazzo Pepoli in central Bologna. This museum takes you through Bologna’s past, from the period of the Etruscans all the way to present day.

The museum offers a variety of immersive activities and life-size exhibits, such as a re-make of a Medieval street in Bologna. We personally loved the Back to BO activity, which is a virtual reality experience that takes you back to a certain period of Bologna’s past.

We chose the “Medieval Bologna” option and spent 25 minutes walking through Bologna during the Middle Ages. It was a fun way to feel like you are stepping into the past.

Practical Info: The Museum of History is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00am-7:00pm.

Tickets: Full price tickets for the museum cost €13. The virtual realty add on called “Back to BO” costs an additional €12-€18 per person. This museum is included in the Bologna Welcome Card.

Interested in learning more about the history of Bologna? Book this 2-hour walking tour with an expert guide!

9. Archaeological Museum

Located just a few steps from the Piazza Maggiore, the Archaeological Museum, or Museo Civico Archeologico, has an incredible collection of ancient artifacts dating all the way back to Egyptian and Etruscan times.

The museum is famous for its Egyptian collection, which is the third largest of its kind in Italy (behind Turin). Here you can view more than 3,000 items consisting of coffins, ancient texts, statues, and ceramic objects.

Additionally, you can discover the Roman, Greek, Gallic, and Etruscan sections which all host a plethora of unique artworks, stoneworks, and pottery.

Practical Info: The Archaeological Museum is open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9:00am-6:00pm. Saturday and Sunday from 10:00am-7:00pm. It’s closed on Tuesdays.

Tickets: Full price tickets cost €6 per person. You can reserve tickets online in advance or upon arrival. This museum is included in the Bologna Welcome Card.

10. St. Colombano Oratory and Tagliavini Collection

Set inside the 7th century Church of San Colombano, the Tagliavini Collection is named after its collector and maestro Luigi Ferdinando Tagliavini.

The collection comprises of over 90 ancient musical instruments, from harpsichords and pianos to organs and wind instruments. This is one of the most unique museums in Bologna that’s worth visiting if you are interested in the history of music.

Practical Info: The Tagliavini Collection is open Wednesday to Sunday from 11:00am-6:00pm.

Tickets: Tickets cost €7 per person and can be purchased either online or in person. This museum is included in the Bologna Welcome Card.

11. Museo Ducati

Photo sourced via Canva Pro

The Museo Ducati, or Ducati Museum, is a mecca for motorcycle enthusiasts. Located at the company’s headquarters just outside of Bologna’s city center, the museum provides a look into the history, technology, and design of Ducati motorcycles since its founding in 1926.

Whether you’re interesting in learning more about Ducati’s manufacturing process or simply want to get an up close look at their vast collection of historic models, then this museum is for you.

Practical Info: The Ducati Museum is open daily from 9:00am-6:00pm. Full price tickets cost €18 per person. Additionally, once a month (except August and December) you can book a tour with the museum curator to gain a deeper insight into the company’s history. The tour is offered in both English and Italian.

How to get here: To get to the Ducati Museum, take bus #576 from the Bologna Bus Station to Borgo Panigale – Museo Ducati. It takes about 35 minutes each way. You can purchase tickets on board via contactless payment or cash, or purchase a physical ticket a tobacco shop in the city.

Our Top 5 Bologna Museums

Whether you have one, two, or three days in Bologna, you probably need to narrow down your museum list to just a few.

To help you decide which ones to pick, here are our top 5 museums in Bologna:

  • Pinacoteca Nazionale (National Art Gallery)
  • Palazzo d’Accursio (Municipal Art Collections & Clock Tower)
  • Museo di Palazzo Poggi (Palazzo Poggi Museum)
  • MAMbo (Modern Art Museum)
  • Museo Civico Archeologico (Archaeological Museum)

Bologna Welcome Card

View of the Palazzo d'Accursio from the main square in Bologna

If you plan on visiting more than 4 museums, we recommend getting the Bologna Welcome Card to save money on tickets.

This is a tourist card that is valid for 15 days from the first date of use, and offers a discounted rate for many attractions and museums in Bologna.

Here are some Bologna museums included in the card:

  • Museo Archeologico
  • Museo Medievale
  • MAMbo
  • Municipal Art Collections
  • Museo Internazionale and Biblioteca della Musica
  • Museo della Storia di Bologna
  • Tagliavini Collection
  • Clock Tower in Piazza Maggiore
  • Church of Santa Maria della Vita

There are two types of cards:

The main difference between the two is that the PLUS card includes tickets on the San Luca Express train that takes you up to the San Luca Basilica and the City Red Bus.

Both cards include access to the museums listed above. We think this card is worth it if you visit more than 4 more museums, since you will save money at that point.

More Information for your Trip to Italy

ITALY TRAVEL PLANNING GUIDE

Italy Travel Insurance – Should you get travel insurance for Italy? YES! We always get travel insurance before all of our trips for peace of mind. Check out Safety Wing to find the best plan for you.

Italy Rental Cars – Is it safe to rent a car in Italy? Yes! We’ve rented a car in Italy too many times to count, and it’s definitely the most convenient way to get around the countryside. We rented our car through Discover Cars (our go-to rental agency), which helps you find the best rates no matter where you are traveling.

Italy Phone Plans – If your phone plan does not offer free coverage in Italy, then we suggest getting an eSIM. We used Airalo during our trip to Italy, and we had fantastic coverage the entire time. It’s easy to download and you can even top up via the app if needed.

Italy Hotels – Wondering where to book your accommodations for Italy? We’ve been reserving all of our hotels through Booking for years. Their messaging tool makes it easy to communicate with the hotels, and there are endless options to choose from.

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