Like any great city, the Big Apple offers a wealth of cultural delights. However, while its opera houses, Broadway theatres, and renowned ballet companies deserve all the plaudits they receive, its museums are chief among New York’s cultural attractions.
New York City has everything from art galleries hailed the whole world over to inimitable institutions devoted to the natural world. In fact, this famous destination’s so chock-full of impressive museums – Wikipedia lists a staggering 198 of them – that picking one to peruse can be challenging. So here’s a comprehensive list of 14 of the best museums in NYC (New York City) to help you decide where to visit first.
14 Best Museums in NYC to Visit
1. MoMA (The Museum of Modern Art)
Welcome to one of the planet’s most popular collections of modern art. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) boasts 630,000 square feet of gallery space and displays work from infamous artists, including Monet, Picasso, Matisse, and Salvador Dali. Oh, and the gift shop is a must-visit, too! Prefer contemporary art? Visit MoMA’s sister institution in Long Island City, MoMA PS1 – another of the best art museums in NYC.
2. Metropolitan Museum of Art
A central feature of NYC’s cultural scene, the Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art) first opened in 1880. It continues to delight the countless visitors that peruse its unparalleled collection of two million objects, making it one of the best art museums in America too. The Met’s too large to see everything in a single visit. But don’t miss the famous period rooms or the 2,000-year-old Egyptian Temple of Dendur.
3. Brooklyn Museum
Talking of enormous NYC museums, Brooklyn Museum houses 1.5 million works within 560,000 square feet of space. That makes it the Big Apple’s third-largest museum! Visit Prospect Park to see everything from contemporary paintings and modern sculptures to period rooms and Ancient Egyptian art.
4. Frick Collection
Displaying masterpieces from the early 20th century to the Renaissance, the Frick Collection is a perfect art museum in NYC for lovers of Old Master paintings. Elegant furniture and other decorative arts are also on show. It’s usually housed in Henry Clay Frick’s former mansion on Fifth Avenue. However, while that’s being renovated, you can see the collection today at Frick Madison on Madison Avenue.
5. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
No list of the best museums in NYC is complete without the Guggenheim. If you’re tired of typical museum layouts, pay it a visit! Expect a circular concrete building with a central ramp that spirals from one modern art exhibit to the next. Works by Picasso, Klee, and Kandinsky add to the appeal.
6. American Museum of Natural History
Offering a deep and dazzling dive into the annals of history, the vast American Museum of Natural History is undoubtedly one of the best museums in NYC – if not the world. Fun for the entire family, you’ll see a life-sized model of a blue whale, the famed Hayden Planetarium, a whole floor of dinosaur skeletons, and much more.
7. Whitney Museum of American Art
For U.S. art in all its glory, housed within 50,000 square feet of exquisite galleries, don’t miss the Whitney Museum of American Art. Now situated in the Meatpacking district near Chelsea, NYC, you’ll enjoy glorious views of the Hudson as you explore works by George Bellows, Edward Hopper, Alice Neel, and many others. Outdoor sculpture spaces, as do restaurateur Danny Meyer’s top-floor bar and ground-floor restaurant, add to the appeal.
8. Merchant’s House Museum
Have you ever wanted to step back in time? The intimate Merchant’s House Museum is as close as you can get to doing so. Dating back to 1832, this five-story building was home to the wealthy Tredwell family for almost a century. You can now explore it, seeing the original furnishings, clothes, books, and decorations.
9. Noguchi Museum
Long Island City is home to an intimate museum conceived and curated by artist Isamu Noguchi – one of the 20th Century’s most critically acclaimed sculptors. It’s a meditative space with 12 galleries and an ivy-covered garden full of Noguchi’s works. Top tip: go on a Friday for free entry; just remember to reserve a ticket!
10. National September 11 Memorial and Museum
Don’t miss the sublime and emotionally charged National September 11 Memorial and Museum in lower Manhattan. Built to commemorate the victims of the terrorist attacks that occurred here on 9/11 and February 26, 1993, the space – complete with its twin waterfalls and reflecting pools – is as emotive as it is beautiful.
11. The Cloisters
Head to Upper Manhattan’s Fort Tryon Park to visit the much-loved Met Cloisters. With five medievalesque cloisters and a view of the Hudson River, the building alone is worth seeing. Inside, you’ll explore an impressive collection of art and architectural sculptures from the Middle Ages.
12. Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Head to the Upper East Side for another beautiful building and staple of the NYC museum scene. One of two Smithsonian museums in the city, the Cooper Hewitt is devoted to design. Expect a range of exhibits that showcase over 200,000 pieces within a grand 1902 Gregorian mansion.
13. Tenement Museum
The Tenement Museum is one of the best museums in NYC as well as one of its most unique. Located on the Lower East Side, it offers fascinating guided tours of two tenement buildings that housed immigrants between the 1860s and 1930s.
14. New Museum
Founded in 1977 and located on the Bowery, the iconic New Museum is downright unmissable – literally. The building stands out from a mile away and looks like a series of stacked white-gray boxes! Inside you’ll find an eclectic and ever-changing collection of contemporary and modern works, generally from lesser-known artists.
Time to Visit the Best Museums in NYC
New York City’s museums are some of its most impressive cultural pursuits. As you can tell, though, there are almost too many to choose from – and this list only scratches the surface of what’s available! From art to history and everything in between, the best museums in NYC have something for everyone. With any luck, this article will help you choose which one to visit first.
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