San Francisco Top Museums

There are so many great San Francisco museums and there is something for everyone in this great City by the Bay. Spend a little time on this section of the site and you can make the next time you travel to San Francisco especially memorable. Let’s take a closer look:

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art 
151 3rd Street, San Francisco, CA 94103-3159, Phone: (415) 357.4000


The San Francisco Museum of Art was the first museum on the Calofornisá West Coast that was devoted exclusively to 20th-century art. It opened its doors in 1935 and became a world-class and prominent museum under the guidance of Henry T. Hopkins in the 1970 and 80s.

The word “Modern” was actually added to the name in 1975 for the purpose of more accurately describing its purview. The museum has played a prominent role in active special exhibitions programs and the podium it offered to traveling exhibitions.

In early 1995, the SF Museum of Modern Art opened another facility in the City’s Market district which was designed by Mario Botta, the world-famous Swiss architect. The Museum has over 44,000 members and its permanent collection includes more than 23,000 objects of art.

Asian Art Museum 
200 Larkin Street, San Francisco, CA 94102-4734, Phone: (415) 581-3500

The Asian Art Museum has reopened in a new home, a reconfiguration by architect Gae Aulenti, whose previous projects include Paris ‘ Musee d’Orsay, of the former main library. The Asian’s impressive, compared to many San Francisco museums, holdings include more than 13,000 sculptures, paintings, and ceramics from 40 countries, illustrating major periods of Asian art.

Though the bulk of the art and artifacts come from China, the collection includes treasures from Korea, Iran, Turkey, Syria, India, Tibet, Nepal, Pakistan, India, Japan, Afghanistan, and Southeast Asia. If you want to learn more about California Outsider Art, check out this post.

California’s Palace of the Legion of Honor 
34th Ave at Clement Street, San Francisco, CA 94121, Phone: (415) 863-3330

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The Palace of Legion of Honor is situated on cliffs and overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the Marin Headlands, and the Golden Gate Bridge. This spectacular building is a landmark and an impressive repository of European art. A phenomenal glass entrance is illuminating the museum’s lower level galleries where prints and drawings, European and English porcelain, and ancient Greek,  Assyrian, Egyptian, and Roman art is exhibited.

The museum’s upper-level galleries are displaying the museum’s permanent European Art collection that includes sculpture, paintings, tapestries, and decorative arts from the early 14th century up to the present day. The museum is particularly known for its Rodin collection which includes two galleries that are entirely devoted to Rodin as well as a third gallery that exhibits more works by Rodin and some more 19th-century artists and sculptors. It would help if you visit the Palace when the weather is good. SF is known for its often harsh conditions, especially in wintertime.

California Academy of Sciences 
Music Concourse Drive (off South Drive), San Francisco, Phone: (415) 750-7145

This is a renowned San Francisco museum. It is actually a three-in-one attraction with an aquarium, numerous science and natural-history exhibits, and a planetarium.

The multimedia earthquake exhibit in the Earth and Space Hall at the Natural History Museum simulates quakes, complete with special effects. Videos and displays in the Wild California Hall describe the state’s wildlife, and there’s a re-creation of the environment of the rocky Farallon Islands. Dinosaur bones and a brontosaurus skull draw dinophiles to the Hall of Fossils.

The African Hall contains animals (real, but stuffed) specific to Africa in their native vegetation; don’t miss the sights and sounds of the African watering hole at the end of the room. The natural-history wing’s other attractions include the gem and mineral hall, an insect room, Far Side of Science cartoons by Gary Larson, and an open play and learning space for small children.

There is a modest charge for Morrison Planetarium shows which you enter through the Natural History Museum. Daily multimedia shows are showcasing the night sky through the ages under a 55-ft dome, complete with special effects and music. A cafeteria is open daily until one hour before the museum closes.

The Legion Cafe, on the lower level, has a garden terrace and a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. North of the museum (across Camino del Mar) is George Segal’s The Holocaust, a sculpture that evokes life in concentration camps during World War II. It is hauntingly eloquent at night when backlit by lights in the Legion’s parking lot.

Musee Mecanique 
Pier 45, Shed A, Embarcardero at Taylor Street, San Francisco, Phone: (415) 346-2000

The splendid Musee Mecanique is a time-warped arcade with antique mechanical contrivances, including peep shows and nickelodeons. Some favorites are the giant, rather creepy “Laughing Sal,” an arm-wrestling machine, and mechanical fortune-telling figures who speak from their curtained boxes.

A disturbing display is the “Opium-Den,” a tiny diorama with Chinese figures clearly depicting the effects of heavy drug use. Admission is free, but bring change to play the games. See also this post about how strange The City can be at times.