Whether you are visiting Bologna to taste some of the best food in Italy, or you want to go sightseeing and explore the landmarks of the town, don't miss out on checking Bologna's popular museums too. Some of the most famous paintings and treasures of the past can be found right in the central area of the city.
But before you go on and admire centuries-old works of art, don't forget to drop off your luggage at a Bologna bag storage service. This way, you will be able to enjoy your museum trips better and appreciate the hidden gems scattered all across Bologna without having to drag your belongings everywhere you go.
The Museum of the Palazzo Poggi
This 16th-century palazzo, headquarters of the University of Bologna is not just a single museum. In the astronomic tower, you will discover the Museum of Specola (the Astronomy Museum of the University of Bologna) showcasing tools and instruments past astronomers used. In the Palazzo Poggi, there are a variety of rooms containing even more unusual collections like the animals, various tools, and anatomical wax statues. The museum is dedicated to the sciences with great displays on natural history, anatomy, physics, chemistry, and geography.
If you are not into sciences and prefer your art, the Museum of the Palazzo Poggi holds something for you too. You will find frescoes and two art collections here: the Eastern Art Collection and 700 portraits from the Middle Ages to the early 20th century. All this amazing science and art is contained within the walls of the 16th century exquisite palazzo (palace) of Alessandro and Cardinal Giovanni Poggi.
Hours: Tuesday to Friday 10 am - 4 pm, Saturday & Sunday 10 am - 6 pm
Museum of San Colombano
Located on Via Parini in between Piazza Maggiore and Piazza VIII Agosto near Mercato delle Erbe, is the Museum of San Colombano. For those that love and are fascinated by music, this is a perfect museum. The building is a series of complexes that date as early as the 7th century and today house an amazing collection of musical instruments belonging to different centuries. Pianos, harpsichords, spinets, and wind & folk instruments plus automated instruments are just a few of the treasures to be found here.
The instruments are not just cool to look at, a lot of them are still in working condition. In fact, the museum puts on impressive baroque music concerts using the musical instruments from the collections.
Hours: Wednesday to Sunday 11 am - 6 pm
The Ducati Museum
Most people think of Harley Davidson, Yamaha, or Suzuki when they think of motorcycles, but Ducati has been a world leader in motorcycles since WWII. If you know anything about motorbikes you know that the Ducati name is culturally significant to the motoring world just as Lamborghini, Ferrari, and Maseratti are. And all that history is on display in the Ducati Museum of racing motorcycles, near Bologna Airport.
Going fast seems to be in the Italian blood. There are several race tracks in Italy but none are more famous than Imola and Misano in the Emilia Romagna region. If you want to see some of the world's fastest and most beautiful bikes, from the past to the present day, then the Ducati Museum is a must-see. And even if you are not into motorbikes, a visit to this museum might inspire you to see a race while in Bologna.
Hours: Monday-Friday 9 am - 12 pm & 2:30 pm - 6pm, Saturday-Sunday 9 am - 6 pm
Museo d'Arte Moderna di Bologna
Situated near Porta Mascarella, just a short walk from Bologna's main train station is the Museum of Modern Art Bologna better known as MAMbo. The Museum is spacious, built in a former industrial bakery, and is constantly being upgraded. MAMbo offers exploring through interactive displays making it fun for all age groups. People who love Italian contemporary art, in particular, will find the museum really interesting, especially the permanent exhibit of Morandi, a locally born early 20th century contemporary artist.
Besides the Morandi exhibitions, visitors can see temporary exhibitions of other modern Italian artists from the 1950s to the present day. You will notice that the exhibits are of high quality and offer a great variation in themes and genres of art. If you want to see more modern art like the one in MAMbo, check out Villa delle Rose, a beautiful 18th century resort, a subsidiary of MAMBo. When you are done admiring, stop by the gallery cafe known for the many different types of coffee.
Hours: Tuesday & Wednesday 2 pm - 7 pm, Thursday 2 pm - 7 pm, Friday to Sunday & Holidays 10 am - 7 pm
Gelato Museum Carpigiani
Now here is a museum that everyone wants to go to, especially children! Situated within Carpigiani headquarters just a 20 minutes ride from Piazza Maggiore, the Gelato Museum is the only museum in Bologna dedicated to the history of artisan gelato and the first ice cream museum in the world. It is also home to the international Gelato University, offering on-site courses for students, professionals and beginners on how to make gelato ice cream since 2003.
Walking around the museum you will come across 20 original ice cream machines, around ten thousand photos, historical documents, tools and accessories every ice cream lover will admire. Whether you are traveling alone or with children, there are so many tours designed for you to have fun, learn about the history of artisan gelato and taste some too! Make sure to book your tour in advance. Finish your gelato experience in the on-site gelateria and you are set for the day. This is a wonderful activity for the kids!
Hours: Wednesday & Saturday 9 am - 5. 30 pm
Museum of the History of Bologna (Museo della Storia di Bologna)
Just a 3 minute walk from the Two Towers of Bologna is a museum dedicated to the history of Bologna from the Etruscans Felsina and the Roman Bononia, to the Bologna of the Popes, up to the Bologna of today. That is 2500 years of history, wonderfully presented in this innovative and modern museum. While the museum itself is modern, it is housed in a gorgeous Medieval palace known as the Palazzo Pepoli Vecchio.
Visitors get to know the history of Bologna through various multimedia displays, 3D animation, interactive panels, making it fun for almost all age groups. There are 30 rooms to discover, all arranged in chronological order, some of which are fully dedicated to the evolution of Bologna food, including mortadella sausage and ragù. There is a free audio guide service and the staff is ready to answer your questions. You can easily spend three hours in this museum.
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10 am - 7 pm
Magnani-Rocca Foundation (Fondazione Magnani Rocca)
This museum makes for a great day trip to the province of Parma. There, housed in the Villa Magnani, set in a beautiful large park, is a wonderful private collection of Old Masters and modern art, founded in 1978 by Luigi Magnani, an art collector and critic.
But it wasn't until 1983 that he started displaying his fascinating art collection to the public. You will see works of Titian, Rubens, Giorgio Morandi, Francisco Goya, Claude Monet as well as sculptures by Antonio Canova and Lorenzo Bartolini.
Hours: Hours vary, so make sure to check the timetables on their website.
Museum for the Memory of Ustica (Museo per la Memoria di Ustica)
Located near Parco della Zucca in the Navile neighborhood is a museum that tells the tragic story behind the airplane crash Itavia Flight 870 in 1980, a tragedy that rocked Italy and created a political upheaval. You will see an amazing reconstruction of the crashed plane, watch an introductory video explaining the history of the tragic crash (in Italian) and browse through other material that will help you learn a lot about the tragedy.
The visit shouldn't take more than an hour, but be warned, it is not for the faint of heart. The museum is constructed in a way to evoke feelings of sadness and visitors who are not familiar nor prepared for what they will see, often leave the place sad and depressed. Although free to enter, make sure to book your ticket online in advance.
Hours: Saturday&Sunday 10 am - 6 pm
Museo Civico Mediavale
If you want to know everything about Bologna in the Middle Ages, head down to Museo Civico Medievale. Housed in the 15th century Palazzo Fava Ghisilardi, one of the most important buildings from the rule of the Bentivoglio family (1446 – 1506), the museum holds exhibits from all over the world, spread across 3 floors. Some of the most popular exhibits include Murano glass, frescoes representing tales from Homer and Virgil, Byzantine Ivory, Pre-Colombian, Asiatic, African art, and many more!
While the upstairs floors are where you will see medieval objects like glassware, armory, swords and guns, the downstairs floor offers a remarkable display of stone carvings from tombs. The Museum is also home to the bronze sculptures from the Renaissance and Baroque period including a bronze piece made by Giambologna in 1567 for the creation of the Fountain of Neptune. Keep in mind that not all exhibits have English descriptions, but you can rent an audio guide.
Hours: Tuesday 10 am - 2 pm; Wednesday 2 pm - 7 pm; Thursday 10 am - 2 pm; Friday 2 pm - 7 pm; Saturday-Sunday 10 am - 7 pm
Archaeological Civic Museum (Museo Civico Archeologico)
Just beside the Cathedral of St. Petronio on Piazza Maggiore, is a museum that will take you back to the Etruscan, Roman and Egyptian periods. The museum is housed in the 15th century old Palazzo Galvani. Spread across three floors, the museum holds valuable collections, ancient artifacts and sculptures.
Among the most famous ones is the Egyptian collection, the third largest in Italy and one of the most important ones in Europe. Bilingual panels and an audio guide are available for easier navigation.
Hours: Monday-Wednesday 9 am - 2 pm; Thursday-Friday 3 pm - 7 pm; Saturday - Sunday 10 am - 7 pm; Closed: Tuesday
What are the best free museums in Bologna?
Almost all the museums in Bologna charge an entry fee but there are some that offer free entry, including the Museo Civico Medievale and Museo per la Memoria di Ustica. However, there are ways to get into museums and other attractions with great discounts. Tour companies and the Bologna Tourist Information Office sell cards that will get you access to many of the great attractions in Bologna.
Which are the best museums in central Bologna?
Most museums can be found in central Bologna (conveniently near Bologna Centrale Station), two of which are very important to Bolognese history: the Archeological Civic Museum and the Museum of the History of Bologna. These are also considered the best museums in central Bologna.
Are there any cheap museums in Bologna?
National Picture Gallery (Pinacoteca Nazionale) is one of the best cheapest museums in Bologna. It is home to church and monastery paintings and sculptures which were abolished by Napoleon at the end of the 18th century. The entrance fee is only $5. Another museum that offers a cheap entry fee (about $7) is the Archeological Civic Museum. Museum Civio Mediavale also has an entry fee of about $6. They are all located in central Bologna.
There are so many museums in and near Bologna that will certainly make your trip worthwhile. Whether you are looking for art museums or galleries, history museums and famous exhibitions, you will find it all in Bologna. But don't forget to get your Bologna Welcome Card, it's the only way to make the most out of your trip. Be sure to learn how to get around Bologna in our guide, so you can see every inch of the city!