Explore These 10 Museums During Your Stay in NYC
New York City is home to some of the greatest collections of artwork and culture in the world. The museums in the area are monuments—inside and out—with their dignified, historic architecture and spectacular displays. From the well-known Metropolitan Museum of Art to the more niche but no less fascinating American Folk Art Museum, the sheer amount of cultural enrichment available in the city is awe-inspiring.
Some sources count more than 100 museums in Manhattan alone. With this number, it may be difficult to determine which museums to see—so continue reading to discover our recommendations.
70 words per museum
1. American Museum of Natural History
Located on the lush Upper West Side of New York City, the Museum of Natural History is home to more than 34 million specimens, which range from fossils to human artifacts to meteorites. It was founded in 1869 as a hub of scientific, anthropologic, and cultural information from across the universe. The museum has over 40 permanent exhibits, but some of the most notable include a 94-foot blue whale model and Lucy, one of the earliest hominid skeletons.
2. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Also known as the Met, this museum is the largest collection of art in North America. With over two million works, the Met is the fourth most-visited art museum in the world. Though the main museum is on Fifth Avenue, the Met also operates a museum called The Cloisters in Upper Manhattan, which is known for its collection of medieval artwork and its picturesque atmosphere. The Met’s most famous pieces include paintings by van Gogh, Degas, Monet, Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Picasso.
3. New York Historical Society Museum & Library
Founded in 1804, the New York Historical Society Museum & Library is New York City’s very first museum. Its collection, made up of art, photographs, newspapers, manuscripts, etc., focuses on the history of the city, as well as the rest of the United States. It exhibits a wide range of subjects from Alexander Hamilton and the Hudson River School of art to the history of the Constitution and Tiffany jewelry designer Clara Driscoll.
4. Museum of Modern Art
An extraordinary selection of the best contemporary art, the Museum of Modern Art is considered one of the most influential institutions in the genre. Its notable works include Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory, Paul Cézanne’s The Bather, Frida Kahlo’s Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair, Réné Magritte’s False Mirror, and many more, including those by de Chirico, Gauguin, and Matisse. MoMa is also known for its collection of film, architecture, and photography.
5. Frick Collection
Discover the European Old Masters during a perusal of the Frick Collection. Founded by Henry Clay Frick, a prominent American industrialist, the Frick, though relatively small, owns some of the most famous European paintings. Usually located at the early 20th-century Henry Clay Frick House (temporarily relocated to the Frick Madison), the collection includes works by Fragonard, Bellini, Goya, Rembrandt, Holbein, Titian, and many more.
6. The Morgan Library & Museum
Intricately crafted and home to a repository of rare manuscripts, the Morgan Library & Museum is a fascinating and culturally significant place to explore. It started out as the personal library of Pierpont Morgan—father of J.P. Morgan—designed in the early 1900s as an Italian Renaissance palazzo. Exhibitions here change often, but it is famous for acquisitions such as an original copy of the Declaration of Independence, a handwritten score by Mozart, the only surviving manuscript of Paradise Lost, and extensive archives of letters and American literature.
7. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the iconic American architect, the Guggenheim is known for its cylindrical architecture and its collection of Impressionist and early Modern art. The Guggenheim exhibits and educational opportunities are dynamic, exploratory, and culturally distinct, making a visit to the museum uniquely experiential.
8. National Immigration Museum at Ellis Island
Though most of the other museums on this list are art-focused, the National Immigration Museum makes it onto the list for its role as a testament to the diverse history of the American people. Ellis Island, formerly the busiest immigration complex in the country, processed over 12 million immigrants. The museum breathes life into the stories of these immigrants through its countless interactive exhibits, creating a snapshot of those working towards the American Dream.
9. American Folk Art Museum
A celebration of autodidactic artists, the American Folk Art Museum’s thousands-strong collection spans nearly four centuries. Folk art leans into the unconventional, the authentic, and the marginalized; this museum brings that work to the forefront. This institution—part of Lincoln Square, on the Upper West Side—is home to exhibits, lectures, and workshops. The folk artists whose work graces its halls include Ammi Phillips, Judith Scott, Thornton Dial, and many more.
10. Neue Galerie
A captivating assortment of German and Austrian art, Neue Galerie is a recent addition to New York’s famous Museum Mile. Most of its works are from the early 20th century, including those by Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, and Otto Dix, as well as movements such as the Bauhaus. The building Neue Galerie is housed in is also notable—it was a Beaux Arts mansion from the Gilded Age.