The electronic spectroscopy of various polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) molecules has been studied in the laboratory at low temperatures using both molecular beam and matrix isolation spectroscopy techniques. While molecular beam spectra can be readily compared to astronomical observations, the band positions measured in Ne and Ar matrices are extrapolated to obtain rather good estimates for the same transitions in the gas phase. Absolute absorption cross sections are determined for gas-phase and matrix spectra by comparing them with calibrated solution spectra. All laboratory results are analyzed and discussed in view of the role that PAHs can play as carriers of the diffuse interstellar bands (DIBs). Our studies suggest that regular neutral PAHs are not responsible for any of the known strong DIBs.