Museums in San Francisco: An Ultimate Guide for Art Lovers (Save Up to 57% Off on Tickets)

West Coast = best coast! San Francisco has long charmed visitors, tourists, and artists alike with her sparkling bay, charming wharf, and abundance of culinary talent.

A hotbed of multicultural diversity and creative expression. It’s no wonder that some of the best museums in California call the Golden Gate City home. San Francisco Museums are treasure chests loaded with everything from artifacts of the African diaspora to fine artworks from Matisse and Van Gogh. Follow along to discover the best museums in San Francisco.

Dive into the history of Disney after your Golden Gate Park picnic. You can also observe Korean American stories on paper at the Asian Art Museum.

Let yourself get swept away in the magic of seaweed, coral reefs, and curious underwater critters at the Aquarium. Next, try feasting on pastrami at the deli outpost of the Contemporary Jewish Museum.

No matter if you are interested in international history, culture, art, or science, museums in San Francisco California do it all.

Don’t feel like reading the whole article? Jump to one of these helpful sections:

Best San Francisco Museums

Golden Gate Park Museums

A vibrant hub of the city, Golden Gate Park’s over 1000 acres include meadows, lakes, groves, and, of course, museums! Some of our favorite Golden Gate Park museums include spots to see Mickey, a four-story rainforest, and waddling penguins:

  • Walt Disney Family Museum – Explore the fascinating life and legacy of Disney at this family-oriented museum. From the idea that sparked the inception of Mickey Mouse to executing his fantasy of Disneyland, there’s lots to discover. The museum also hosts frequent special events ranging from movie screenings to after-school animation classes.
  • de Young Museum San Francisco – The de Young Museum coupled with the Legion of Honor make up the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Hightail it to de Young for textiles, costumes, oceanic art, and more. Or, make a beeline to the Legion to enjoy Boticelli drawings, Japanese prints, and kimono designs.

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  • California Academy of Sciences – A strong contender for our top science museum in San Francisco, the Academy is home to the world’s only planetarium, rainforest, and Steinhart Aquarium, all under one roof. Spend hours observing life-size dinosaurs and fossils. Or visit the living roof to admire the beauty of California wildflowers in spring. Don’t forget to say hi to Methuselah, the world’s oldest aquarium fish!

Exterior of deYoung Museum - San Francisco, California, USA

The Contemporary Jewish Museum

736 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Developed with the mission to make the Jewish experience relevant for a 21st-century audience the Contemporary Jewish Museum is a non-collecting museum. Visitors here can come face to face with timely exhibitions that aim to shed light on all facets of Jewish life.

Gaze in wonder at glowing works fashioned from neon, glass, and light. Or, step back in time to the groovy days of Bay Area rock and roll with RetroBlakesberg: The Music Never Stopped.

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Viewers will be swept away in the story of San Fran’s music evolution as told through photos of the Grateful Dead, Joni Mitchell, Tracy Chapman, Neil Young, and many more. After your artistic endeavors, stay put for a nosh at the Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen.

Madame Tussauds

145 Jefferson St, Suite 600, San Francisco, CA 94133

Who says the rich and famous only live in La La land? Rub elbows with your favorite musicians, actors, and athletes at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, one of the most popular museums in SF.

Have that phone fully charged, as you’ll want to snap selfie after selfie with everyone from Stephen Curry to Zendaya. Practice your powerful Single Ladies pose with Beyonce.

Or channel your inner flower child when you check out the Spirit of San Francisco section. Here, visitors can schmooze everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Jerry Garcia.

Marilyn monroe in a red dress holding a clapperboard surrounded by two girls at madame tussauds san francisco
Photo Credit: Madame Tussauds San Francisco via Facebook

Cable Car Museum San Francisco

1201 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94108

What’s more cinematic than a foggy morning cable car ride? Become your very own film noir heroine, and uncover the story behind this iconic public transit when you stop by 1201 Mason Street, home to one of the most unique SF museums.

The Cable Car Museum offers an intriguing look behind the history of this ever-present form of San Francisco transportation.

In addition to uncovering the mechanics behind grips, breaks, and tracks, visitors will also be privy to a collection of historic cable cars, photographs, and mechanical displays.

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Just one of the many museums in San Francisco that is free to visit. Cable Car enthusiasts will be able to peek at three antique cars from the 1870s and the only surviving car from the city’s first cable car company.

Arts Museums of San Francisco

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art SFMOMA

151 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Paint splatters, Living Plant walls, and works by Frida Kahlo are all lucky enough to call the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) home. True contemporary art lovers will be in heaven as they meander through an ever-expanding collection of over 33,000 works.

Let your mind wander as you discern the stunning LEED-certified space and soak in masterpieces of Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, and Diego Rivera.

Feast your eyes on more modern classic paintings by Matisse and Georgia O’Keefe to limited-time mirror installations from the ingenious mind of Yayoi Kusama. The SFMOMA simply overflows with inspiration.

people standing around the gallery at the san francisco museum of modern art

Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD)

685 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94105

Celebrate Black culture and ignite your own creative spark when you pay a visit to the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD).

One of the few museums of its kind in the U.S. MoAD is a contemporary exploration of Black heritage and culture as seen through the global lens of the African Diaspora.

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Soak in mixed media works. Or tap into empathy with a look at the Women Exposing Prison Through Art and Poetry Virtual Exhibition.

Asian Art Museum San Francisco

200 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102

Ready to travel east? Explore works of staggering cultural beauty and significance without ever leaving the Bay Area when you swing by the Asian Art Museum. Conveniently located across the plaza from City Hall. The museum houses a collection of more than 18,000 works.

Their extensive collection of Chinese art is considered to be the best outside of China itself. Discover masterpieces over 6,000 years old, or admire Hindu deities sheathed in bronze.

From exhibits that explore art inspired by Bollywood to treasured Japanese ceramics and the oldest known Chinese Buddha, there are diverse collections to admire.

eclectic Asian art with a pink background and white creature with a long tongue
Photo Credit: Asian Art Museum via Facebook

The Cartoon Art Museum

781 Beach St, San Francisco, CA 94109

Feeling looney? Fan the flames of childhood nostalgia when you make a pilgrimage to the only museum in the Western United States dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of cartoon art. The Cartoon Art Museum has an ever-changing exhibition calendar.

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So, depending on when you visit, you could be treated to kooky family comics about Thor and Loki or movie props and costumes from the Batman Armory. Fans of the Peanuts gang? Make sure to take a minute to swing by their collection of art from Charles and Jean Schulz.

San Francisco Hotels

Now that we’ve jumped into the top museums in San Francisco, it’s time to reserve those Golden Gate City accommodations.

From misty mornings spent strolling through Ghirardelli Square to the seemingly endless museums in San Francisco, you’ll be vying for a little more time by the Bay.

Enjoy even more of this cosmopolitan California city when you reserve any of our San Francisco Hotels today.

Kick back in comfort in boutique offerings by Union Square, or delight in high-tech appliances and luxurious bedding downtown. Wherever you rest your head, make your booking stress-free, knowing you are always guaranteed our lowest rate online.

Psst..thinking about making Los Angeles or San Diego part of your California getaway? Be sure to check out our Los Angeles Things to Do and pencil in time to tour both the Getty Villa, the Getty Center, and the Broad.

Whether you visit San Fran under the cover of fog or sunshine. There’s no reason not to include a visit to the cool museums San Francisco offers with your Golden City itinerary.

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San Francisco museums offer countless opportunities to learn, create, and engage with the world around you. Find your passion while studying the calculatedly chaotic brushstrokes of Picasso. Or, get curious about the flora and fauna in your own backyard at the California Academy of Sciences.

Spy concert tickets and iconic rock and roll photos of Joni Mitchell at the Jewish Museum. Or sneak into Disney’s lair for a spooktacular screening of The Nightmare Before Christmas.

No matter if you seek education, enlightenment, inspiration, or just some wholesome entertainment, there’s nothing better than a day at the museums in San Francisco!

a wide photo of a guest room
photo credit: Hotel Nikko San Francisco via Facebook

San Francisco Museums FAQs

Absolutely! San Francisco boasts plenty of cool and unique museums. The Walt Disney Family Museum offers a look into the life and legacy of the famous animator.

The Museum of Craft and Design showcases contemporary crafts and design objects. And for something truly quirky, check out the Musée Mécanique, a collection of vintage arcade games and mechanical wonders.

San Francisco has a wide range of museums, estimated to be over 80! These museums cover various topics, from art and history to science and technology, ensuring there's something for everyone.

Yes, San Francisco offers several free museums. The Cable Car Museum, which showcases the history of the city's iconic cable cars, is a popular choice.

The Asian Art Museum offers free admission on the first Sunday of every month. Additionally, some museums, like the de Young and Legion of Honor, offer free general admission on specific days or times.

Tell us, Did we Skip Any of Your Favorite Museums San Francisco?

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Written by Isis Maya Nissman

A New York native, Isis-Maya spent most of her professional life working in TV production until a vacation whisked her away to Central...

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