National Museum


Asmara's strong point are its buildings, rather than its museums, but it's also worth popping your head into the National Museum, west of the former Ghidei (Governor's) Palace. Cameras and cell phones must be left with the front-desk attendant.

The exhibition space, about half of which is currently utilised, is dedicated to a collection of archaeological finds, taxidermy, medieval artefacts, ethnography exhibits and national artwork. The latter two will be of greatest interest to most travellers, showcasing a collection of household objects from some of the country's nine major ethnic groups, alongside paintings that explore Eritrean history from the tribal and colonial periods through to the war and independence.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Asmara attractions

1. Asmara Piscina

0.22 MILES

The 1940s Asmara Piscina is currently closed to swimmers, but there's nothing stopping you from badgering the attendant for a peek inside the modernist…

2. Former Governor's Palace

0.34 MILES

The best place to start exploring the city is at the Former Governor's Palace, which stands majestically at the western end of Harnet Ave. Built in 1897…

3. Fiat Tagliero Building

0.35 MILES

A futurist departure from the art deco standard that defines most of the notable Italian-era buildings in Asmara, this former petrol station was…

4. Capitol Cinema

0.37 MILES

This cinema building, now abandoned except for a few pool tables in a gallery off the lobby, was constructed in 1932.

5. Italian Cemetery

0.43 MILES

Final resting place to generations of Italians, this lovely little cemetery is still used by the few immigrant families that remain. It's uphill off…

6. Odeon Cinema

0.48 MILES

Just off Harnet Ave near the EriTel building, the quirky Odeon Cinema and its attractive art deco exterior from the late 1930s is all but closed, so you…

7. Villa Roma

0.59 MILES

Opposite the Africa Pension Hotel, the gleaming Villa Roma is reminiscent of a Roman villa with its marble staircases, louvred shutters, curving…

8. Opera House

0.59 MILES

The Opera House, completed around 1920, is one of Asmara's most elegant early–20th-century buildings. It's free to have a look around during the resident…