People from all over the world travel to visit the Mediterranean, all throughout the year, year after year. And it’s no surprise.
The Mediterranean is an area in which you will find many different countries and cultures, all of them linked by the presence of beautiful beaches, and the crystal clear blue Mediterranean sea. From Mediterranean cuisine to Mediterranean lifestyle, you can find a blend of beautiful places with plenty to do.
But here’s the thing, although the Mediterranean is best known for its beaches and food, it is also an area full of culture and history, and learning about these can be an enriching experience that is just as fun!
You’ll likely be surprised at the vast amount of museums that you can go to, all of them full of wonders.
Of course, since most people instantly think of the sun and sea when it comes to this part of Europe, you might not find as many guides for the top museums in the Mediterranean. But not to worry, because we’ve got you covered!
We have compiled a list of the ten best museums in the Mediterranean, with some information about each. That way you can browse through them, pick your favorites, and plan your trip!
Acropolis Museum (Athens)
The Acropolis Museum in Athens (Greece), is by far one of the most popular and impressive museums within the Mediterranean, and for very good reason. Greece is often referred to as the birth of civilization, and it does not lack history and art.
The Acropolis Museum, in particular, is an archeological museum that focuses on the Acropolis of Athens, and everything that was recovered from this site. From the Bronze Age of Greece to the Byzantine, to early Roman times, there is a lot to discover!
The museum itself was founded in 2003, but the Organization of the Museum wasn’t established until 2008, and it wasn’t open to the public until 2009. So it is fairly recent, all things considered!
Encompassing an area of 14,000 square meters, you will find over 4250 artifacts and objects, along with all sorts of educational materials and explanations that shed a light on the history of Athens, and its importance.
Also, the Acropolis Museum is located only 280 meters away from the Parthenon, and it is the largest modern building to have been built so close to the ancient site! And the best thing is that there are plenty of other things to see within walking distance, so it can be a packed full day out!
Hagia Sophia Museum (Istanbul)
The Hagia Sophia Museum, located in Istanbul (Turkey), is actually officially known as the Holy Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque. And as the name very well suggests, it is a church turned mosque and then a museum. It was first built in the year 537 as the patriarchal cathedral of Constantinople, and it was the largest Christian Church of the entire Eastern Roman Empire at the time.
During the Latin Empire (1204 to 1261) it became a Catholic Cathedral, and after the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire (1453), it was converted to a mosque. Later on, in 1935, the Republic of Turkey decided to turn it into a museum, although it has recently been re-opened as a working mosque in 2020.
Not only is this museum-mosque a place full of history and culture, it is also the epitome of Byzantine architecture, which played a large role in the appearance of churches back in that time period.
Basically, it is an icon for all Christian churches, and a remnant of impressive Byzantine design and construction, that harbors remnants of different cultures and historical events. Definitely, something to visit, if only to admire its beauty and grandeur.
Benaki Museum (Athens)
Another great museum that can be found in Athens (Greece) is the lesser-known Benaki Museum, which we absolutely recommend for its extensive collection of art and exhibitions. The name of the museum comes from the family’s mansion that it is set in, the Benakis family mansion, in downtown Athens.
It was established as a museum by one of the family members, Antonis Benakis, in 1930, to honor the memory of his father Emmanuel Benakis.
Amongst the many exhibitions and art pieces, you will find in this museum, you can expect to see elements that range from as far as prehistoric times, to as close as modern-day. Particularly, this museum is known for its Asian art collection and the many exhibitions on Greek culture and Greek history.
Not to mention that this museum also houses a restoration and conservation workshop that is considered to be one of the best within the Mediterranean, and you can get tours to learn about what that work entails!
It is also worth mentioning that the Benaki Museum isn’t limited to a single building, and instead can become a tour of various different places, all of them a part of the Benaki collection. This is thanks to the initiative of the Benaki family, which was followed by many other donors throughout the years.
Galleria Borghese (Rome)
Just as Greece is full of archeological and historical remnants, Italy is well-known for its vast number of museums and art collections, and we will start by recommending the Galleria Borghese, located in Rome. Originally integrated with the Borghese gardens, nowadays it is just the building, used as an art gallery.
One of the main highlights is the Borghese collection of paintings, sculptures, and antiquities, which was started by the Cardinal Scipione Borghese (nephew of Pope Paul V!) There are even paintings by Caravaggio, Bernini, Titian, Raphael, and more!
The building itself is also worth the visit, as it is a traditional villa, with two whole floors full of the different art collections and exhibitions, with a full 20 rooms to discover.
It is full of class and grandeur, and all in all, it’s almost like taking a step back in time, to admire the art in a place worthy of its presence. We highly recommend this museum if you have some time to spare while in Rome!
Musei Capitolini (Rome)
One of the most iconic and popular museums that you will find in Rome (Italy), is the Musei Capitolini, located at the top of Capitoline Hill. Owned and managed by the municipality of Rome itself, this museum has a lot to offer, and plenty to see.
From ancient bronze collections to ancient Roman statues and artifacts, to medieval and Renaissance art, to jewels, and coins, and plenty of other historical wonders…it truly has a bit of everything.
The site of the museum was planned by Michelangelo in 1536, and then took over 400 years to be complete, so there is also plenty of history in the buildings themselves.
The museum is full of various collections that hold great significance, and it is a full day of cultural enrichment. It is also worth mentioning that the Capitoline Museum, opened to the public in 1734, was considered to be the first museum in the world! Its aim: for art to be enjoyed by all, and not just those that owned it.
Museo Nazionale Romano (Rome)
If you want a museum that is going to keep you busy for an entire day (maybe even more), then we recommend going to the Museo Nazionale Romano, in Rome (Italy).
The first thing you need to know about this museum is that it isn’t a single building. It has many different branches in different buildings all throughout the city, with a large variety of different exhibits and collections that all focus on the pre and early history of Rome, including archeological findings of Ancient Rome. And if you plan this visit right, it can turn into a lovely tour around the city too!
Founded in 1889, the primary aim of this museum was to collect and exhibit archeological findings, to shed light on Ancient Rome, for the education and enjoyment of the general public. Since then, however, many more collections have been added, and it is now a rich experience that teaches you all sorts of things about Ancient Rome, and what it signified.
Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations (Marseille)
In a list of museums in the Mediterranean, we simply had to include the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations located in Marseille (France), mainly because it sheds a light on the things that unite the different places of the Mediterranean, due to their shared history and interchanged cultures.
Inaugurated in 2013, this museum was actually designed to be the European Capital of Culture, and in 2015 it won the Council of Europe Museum Prize! So definitely worth a visit, as you will not be disappointed.
The primary focus of this museum is the civilizations within the Mediterranean and Europe, with a permanent collection that is all about the historical and cultural crossovers within the Mediterranean. It features two levels of exhibitions, and an underground auditorium, as well as boasting beautiful views of Marseille city. Plus, it is within walking distance of many other sites and activities!
National Archeological Museum (Athens)
We couldn’t compile a list of the best museums in the Mediterranean without including the highly praised National Archeological Museum of Athens (Greece), mainly because it is one of the most important museums in the world.
In this museum, you will find some of the most significant archeological artifacts from Greece, dating from as far back as prehistoric times, late antiquity. An enriching insight into Ancient Greece and its history, as well as its ancient culture.
To be more precise, this museum is located in central Athens, in the area known as Exarcheia. The building is large and impressive, with a neo-classical design, and it is one of the most iconic landmarks of Athens city. And that’s saying something since most of Athens is iconic and picture-perfect!
This is a museum that will take you most of the day to explore, so make sure to get there early, and don’t forget to walk around the outside to admire its beauty and exterior elements!
Parc de Montjuic (Barcelona)
Spain is full of incredible and significant museums, and as a staple of the Mediterranean, we would honestly recommend all of them. However, in this list, we will recommend just one, which often gets forgotten because it’s not exactly a traditional museum, but more of an open-space museum…or rather, a park with historical elements that you can visit. Located in Barcelona, the Parc de Montjuic is, as the name suggests, a park, situated on Montjuic hill (the most famous hill in the city!)
The park itself is beautiful, and it is surrounded by many different buildings and exhibitions that can all be visited, due to their historical importance, or art. From the Olympic Sports stadiums to the botanical gardens and Gaudi art exhibitions, this park is a peaceful space full of things to see and experience, and it will feel like a more casual museum trip, as it is not traditionally a museum.
You might want to also check the activity timetable, as Montjuic park features a beautiful fountain, and every night they put on a colorful show of lights in it!
The Egyptian Museum (Cairo)
There are far too many museums in the Mediterranean to make an accurate list, but one that we wouldn’t want you to miss out on, or forget about, is the Egyptian Museum located in Cairo (Egypt).
Better known as the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, it is a museum that houses extensive collections of archeological finds and antiquities belonging to ancient Egypt, with over 120,000 items on display. Built in the year 1901, it is by far one of the largest museums in Egypt, and arguably, the most important.
If you are in Egypt, and you want to learn about its history, culture, and past, then you absolutely need to give this museum a visit. It is an enriching experience, with much to learn and to discover, and they offer plenty of guided tours and special events and activities, for those that have a special interest in the matter.
Best Museums in the Mediterranean – Summary
There are many more amazing and incredible museums in the Mediterranean that we would love to recommend and talk about, but we wanted to keep this list short and sweet so that it wouldn’t be overwhelming.
Our main piece of advice is to research the place that you are going to within the Mediterranean and to look for museums that will contain the most significant exhibits and items relating to your main interests. And just remember, museums offer a lot, and it can take all day to get through them if you want a decent experience!