Palazzo Barberini (Barberini Palace): all you need to know to plan a visit. Where it is, how to get tickets, what to expect.
Palazzo Barberini (Barberini Palace) is an elegant, XVI century palace in Rome city center now seat of an important art museum, the National Gallery of Ancient Art.
The palace takes its name from the Barberini family who resided here since the XVI century and it is an architectural gem.
Designed by masters such as Maderno, Bernini and Borromini, Barberini Palace is one of the most stunning examples of baroque residential architecture in Rome and one of the city’s best museums.
There are many reasons to visit Palazzo Barberini: the collection it hosts, the palace itself and the breathtaking Mithraeum in its basement.
This guide has all you need to know to plan a visit.
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Table of Contents
Why visit Palazzo Barberini
Palazzo Barberini in Rome is one of the seats of the Galleria Nazionale di Arte Antica (National Gallery of Ancient Art) and a must-see for art and architecture lovers.
The main reasons to visit are:
- The stunning architecture of the palace, including its beautiful facade
- Admiring the permanent collection, which has masterpieces by many important authors including Guido Reni and Caravaggio
- Seeing the beautiful staircases by Bernini and Borromini
- Visit the impressive Mithraeum, recently open for visits
How to visit Palazzo Barberini
Visiting Palazzo Barberini is easy.
During the week, it is possible to get tickets at the main entrance and access the yard, the palace permanent collection, the temporary exhibition and Borromini’s staircase.
Opening hours: Palazzo Barberini is open from Tuesday to Sunday (10am – 6pm) Last entrance at 5pm. Closed Monday, December 25th, January 1st
Please note: on weekends and public holiday admission is by reservation only.
Where is Palazzo Barberini and how to get there
Palazzo Barberini is on Via Delle Quattro Fontane, in Rome city center.
The palace is on the Quirinal Hill, a short walk from Piazza Barberini.
Buses serving the area are 53, 61, 62, 63, 80, 81, 83, 160, 492, 590. The closest metro station is stop Barberini, Metro line A
Good to know: cloakroom service is temporarily unavailable. It is forbidden to introduce large bags, backpacks or trolleys.
What to see in Palazzo Barberini
Palazzo Barberini is one of the seats of the National Gallery of Antique Art.
Things to see are:
The front courtyard
Palazzo Barberini towers above a large courtyard from where you can admire the palace facade.
Worth noticing here are the large colonnade in front of the palace and the impressive portico by Bernini, with the large Barberini coat of arms with the famous Barberini bees.
The first and second floors of the palace has jaw-dropping baroque windows also worth noticing.
The permanent collection includes pieces from the primary Italian schools of painting from the 1200s to the 1700s, with most works from the 1500 and 1600 century.
The most famous masterpieces in the gallery include Raphael, Piero di Cosimo, Bronzino, Hans Holbein, Lorenzo Lotto, Tintoretto, Caravaggio and his followers.
Later works include Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Guido Reni, Guercino, Nicolas Poussin, Pietro da Cortona
and Canaletto, among others.
Palazzo Barberini is also one of the best places to see Caravaggio paintings in Rome: the palazzo itself houses Caravaggio’s famous Narcissus, Giuditta e Oloferne and St Francis in Prayer.
The palace regularly hosts temporary exhibitions.
At the time of writing, the collection on show is Caravaggio and Artemisia Gentileschi, on display from 25 November 2021 to 27 March 2022
Borromini oval staircase
On the right-hand side of the central portico, you find a large wooden door opening up onto a helicoidal staircase attributed to Borromini.
The staircase serves the south wing of the palace, which now hosts the national numismatic institute (close to the public) and seems to complement Bernini’s staircase on the opposite side of the palace to create symmetry.
The staircase has an oval plan and develops as a spiral: each turn comprises twelve doric double twisted columns and capitals decorated with small bees, Barberinig’s family symbol.
The staircase led to Cardinal Francesco Barberini’s rooms and was therefore intended for private use.
Bernini’s square staircase
Berninis’ staircase is in the northern wing of the palace and was meant to connect the main entrance with preexisting structures leading to the garden level and the first floor.
The staircase has a square plan and is regarded as a beautiful architectural accomplishment considering it had to develop within the constraints of a preexisting structure.
The Barberini Mithraeum
In the early 1930s renovation worked discovered an ancient Mithraeum under Palazzina Savorgnan di Brazzà (Palazzina Savorgnan di Brazzà building) in the back of the Barberini property.
The Mithraeum recently opened to the public and it is a must-see for ancient history lovers.
You access the Mithraeum by a short staircase and you find yourself in a tall underground space decorated with a fantastic fresco in red, white and blue tones.
The fresco represents the God Mithra killing a bull and has several additional decorations and element that helped archaeologists and historians date the Mithraeum to the III century AD, when Mithra became part of Rome’s Gods and Goddesses pantheon.
The Mithraeum is open to visitors by guided tour (Italian only): the visit only takes a few minutes and it is by a set of steps. No accessible path is available.
Read here >>> my complete guide to to the Barberini Mithraeum (Mitreo Barberini)
A brief history of Palazzo Barberini
Palazzo Barberini entered the possessions of the Barberini family in the 17th century.
In 1627, Pope Urban VIII Barberini bought the palace from the Sforza Family and commissioned remodeling and redesign work to architect Carlo Maderno.
Maderno redesigned it, including nearby preexisting buildings, and created a large palace with two wings embracing a large garden.
Bernini succeeded Maderno as a project manager and added several essential interventions such as an elegant entrance we still see, and an impressive staircase leading to the entrance hall.
Borromini also participated in the palace’s design, with the creation of a stunning helicoidal staircase.
Subsequent inhabitants of the palace commissioned the creation of Rococo apartments at the top floor of the building.
Visit Palazzo Barberini with kids
Palazzo Barberini has offers educational activities for kids as well as adults.
For children 0 to 12, the Palazzo offers free guided tours and workshops to help children engage with the space and the art on display. Advance booking is compulsory, activities in Italian only.
An accessible path makes Palazzo Barberini stroller friendly.
The Palace has a nice, large front yard with a fountain and cats, that will keep toddlers busy should you decide to divide and conquer and visit the collection in turns!
What to see nearby
Palazzo Barberini is in Rome City center, close to many attractions and points of interests.
Things you can see near Berberini Palace are:
Santa Maria della Vittoria – stunning baroque church with Bernini’s Masterpiece ‘The Exstasis of St Therese’
San Carlino alle Quattro Fontane – beautiful baroque church by Borromini
Sant’Andrea al Quirinale – church by Bernini, who considered it one of its own most successful achievements
Piazza del Quirinale – stunning piazza on top of Quirinal Hill, with a belvedere, the Quirinale Palace and an obelisk
The Trevi Fountain – quintessential Rome icon
Trinita’ dei Monti – the top of the Spanish Steps
Top tip! You can easily include Palazzo Barberini in a walking itinerary of the main Bernini’s masterpieces in Rome. You can also relax after your visit with an elegant afternoon tea at the St Regis Grand Hotel nearby, one of the best places for high tea in Rome.
I hope you enjoyed this quick overview of Palazzo Barberini and how to visit. Safe travel planning!