The best museums in New York

New York City has a museum for all tastes, budgets, and creative inspirations. It is, after all, the city that gave the world the Met and the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art.

Whether you’re looking for a bustling institution with an overview of art history, or a small niche museum dedicated to a specific century, region, or genre, the Big Apple has you covered. As the famous romantic poet John Keats once said, “a thing of beauty is an eternal joy” – read on to discover the beautiful things that make New York’s museums shine.

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art: the best for all-day entertainment

With a permanent collection of over 2 million objects and works of art, spanning 5,000 years of art history, and multiple traveling exhibitions showcasing works from around the world, it would take a week to read constant to explore this wonderful museum in its entirety. This makes it the perfect place to spend a day immersing yourself in art from morning to night.

The museum opens early and has long evening hours on Fridays and Saturdays for those who want to maximize navigation. In fact, there is little need to leave the premises until the guards call the time – the museum is well appointed with comfortable benches, dozens of phone charging stations, information kiosks and more. tasty coffee with seasonal delicacies to help fuel your artistic marathon.

The Frick Collection: the best for classical art

This inspired collection is typically on display in a magnificent Upper East Side mansion, the former home of the late art and decorative arts collector, Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919). In addition to the highlights of Goya, Renoir, and Titian, there are paintings, sculptures, furniture, ceramics, works on paper, textiles, clocks, medals, and enamels to explore.

It is refreshing to see these delicate, rare and renowned works in a more intimate setting as opposed to large public museums and this elegant house does not disappoint. For now, however, the mansion is undergoing renovations and the collection has been temporarily relocated to a modern building at Madison Ave and 75th St (the former home of the Whitney Museum). It must return to its original premises once the work is completed but it is still a very impressive collection.

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Art everywhere at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) © Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA): the best indoor-outdoor experience

Recognized as one of the most important modern art museums on the planet, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is a must visit. The galleries span multiple levels and the five-story central atrium offers a bird’s eye view of the balcony from each floor. Sound installations in the atrium can be heard throughout the museum, creating a cacophonous and immersive experience.

Best of all is the open-air sculpture garden, accessible only from inside the museum, with polished marble floors and a rotating ensemble of sculptures by greats like Aristide Maillol, Rachel Whiteread, Henri Mattise, and Pablo Picasso.

The Rubin Museum of Art: the best for Asian and Eurasian art

This museum in the Chelsea district of Manhattan is a true original. Come and live an experience dedicated exclusively to the art of Eurasia, Central Asia, India and the Himalayas. The Rubin’s Himalayan collection has a strong focus on Tibetan culture and includes thank you (fabric paintings), votive objects, statues and more.

The museum is free every Friday evening until 10 p.m. with a ticket reserved in advance. Even if you’ve been there before, it’s worth going back to see the immersive installations that are periodically on display. The recent highlight is the Tibetan Shrine Hall, perfect for contemplation, with flickering candles and the soothing lull of chants from Tibetan nuns and monks.

Museum enthusiast observes black-and-white photographs at the Whitney Museum of American Art
Contemporary art in a cool, contemporary space at the Whitney Museum Of American Art © Robert Nickelsberg / Contributor / Getty Images

The Whitney Museum of American Art: bis for a downtown adventure

This excellent museum is perfectly located for a dose of culture while exploring the areas of West Village, Meatpacking District, High Line and Hudson River Park. Known as “The Whitney” for New York for short, this museum’s phenomenal permanent art collection covers American creativity from the late 19th century to the present day.

Here you’ll find everything from painting and sculpture to photos and video, as well as eclectic multimedia installations. The museum prides itself on showcasing living artists, giving the galleries a fresh and ultra-contemporary feel. On Friday nights, their “pay what you want” ticket option is a great, inexpensive way to start a fun night out.

The cloisters of the Met: the best for medieval art

For lovers of medieval history, the Met Cloisters – affectionately referred to simply as “The Cloisters” – is a unique treat. The museum displays a wonderful assortment of antiques, including hand-carved wooden panels, perfectly preserved stone sepulchres, and elegantly woven tapestries that come to life on every wall.

While you’re here, make your way to nearby Fort Tryon Park for wonderful river views from one of the highest points in town.

Leslie Lohman Museum of Art: best LGBTQIA + art museum

This cozy neighborhood gallery in Manhattan’s Soho is less well known, but it has an impressive cultural impact. Covering over 22,000 works by historical and contemporary LGBTQIA + artists, its collection is simply legendary.

The articles include contributions from iconic queer artists ranging from Andy Warhol and Robert Mapplethorpe to David Hockney and Berenice Abbott, and hundreds more in between. Located on a quiet cobblestone street, this modest-looking museum is both an important community builder and an exceptional collection.

Children watching dinosaurs at the American Museum of Natural History
Dinosaurs on the lookout at the American Museum of Natural History © ItzaVU / Shutterstock

The American Museum of Natural History: ideal for families

This captivating museum has something for anyone interested in the natural world, but it’s especially good for family fun. Adults will marvel alongside teens and toddlers at displays of skeletal dinosaurs and other natural wonders at this massive 2 million square foot museum, which also includes a stellar planetarium and expansive library.

The impressive manifesto of the museum says it all: “To discover, interpret, disseminate, through scientific research and education, knowledge about human cultures, the natural world and the universe. Admission is ‘pay as you want’, making the tour affordable for families on a budget. A team of 200 scientists is behind the informative exhibitions.

Nicola Vassel Gallery: best new gallery

This contemporary art gallery opened in early 2021 and houses a fascinating collection of works by talented contemporary artists. The gallery is committed to starting fresh and imaginative conversations about the history and future of art, so there is always something interesting on display.

Nicola Vassell herself is a longtime art dealer, seasoned curator and global speaker who has held exhibitions all over London and Berlin to Shanghai and beyond. If there is one gallery to visit to take the pulse of the New York art scene, it is this one!

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