New York is a treasure chest when it comes to museums and cultural institutions. With well over 80 museums dedicated to history, culture, art, immigration, military, science, natural history and cinema; museum choices in New York are abundant. With so many options, narrowing them down to fit your travel itinerary can be difficult. In this guide, we will look at the 10 Best Museums in New York City. This guide focuses on museums which are home to some of the most exquisite collections and exhibits in New York. Among the horde of museums in New York, these are also the largest and most popular.
We have arranged the 10 Best Museums in New York in order of popularity based on Tripadvisor ratings and Headout customer reviews; so choose your pick and go museum ambling in New York. Make sure you don't plan more than 2 museums a day as it becomes hard to really absorb what the museum has to offer if you're rushed.
5 Must-See Works of Art in New York City
1Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘Wheatfield with Cypresses’
Painted by the renowned Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh in 1889, the ‘Wheatfield with Cypresses’, is one of three similar paintings made by the artist. Displayed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Van Gogh created this masterpiece during his time at a mental asylum in France. The painting depicts the view from his window which looked out upon the Alpilles Mountains in France. Illustrated in reed pen, Van Gogh believed his ‘Wheatfield with Cypresses’ to be one of the best summer landscapes created by him.
2Jacques Louis David’s ‘The Death of Socrates’
Housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Jacques Louis David’s neoclassical painting ‘The Death of Socrates’ is a must-visit! Created in 1787, a few years before the French Revolution, David’s painting depicts the last moments of Socrates’ life as described by Plato in his ancient text ‘Phaedo’. Made with oil on canvas, David’s ‘The Death of Socrates’ is often compared to Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling and his Raphael rooms. This masterpiece of Jacques Louis David is also believed to be perfect in every sense.
4Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘The Starry Night’
One of Vincent Van Gogh’s most famous artworks-’The Starry Night,’ is housed in the Museum of Modern Art New York. Inspired by the view from his room at a mental asylum in Southern France, ‘The Starry Night’ depicts the night sky dominated by a bright moon on the right and the planet Venus on the center left. With this painting, Van Gogh heralded the modern painting’s new embrace of mood, expression, symbol and sentiment. If you plan on visiting the Museum of Modern Art in New York, you must stop to admire this wonderful masterpiece created by Vincent Van Gogh.
5Claude Monet’s ‘Water Lilies’
The Museum of Modern Art New York is home to another masterpiece-Claude Monet’s ‘Water Lilies’. Though not a single painting, the ‘Water Lilies’ are a part of a series of 250 paintings that revolved around the singular theme of these flowers. Monet’s ‘Water Lilies’ are the most iconic paintings of the Impressionist era in art. Before painting this masterpiece, Monet actually planted water lilies in his garden at Giverny. In fact, if you observe carefully, all his paintings in the ‘Water Lilies’ series focus only on the surface of the pond and the water lilies floating on it.
#1 Metropolitan Museum of Art
Best Museums in the World
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the country’s largest art museum and the fourth largest museum in the world. With seventeen permanent curatorial departments housing over 2 million works, and exhibits spanning 5000 years from across the world, this museum tells the history of civilization through its art. Popular exhibits include Vincent Van Gogh’s Wheatfield with Cypresses, a bronze cast of Rodin’s Thinker, and Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux’s Ugolino and His Sons. The Museum doesn’t just contain art - you can also find armory, weapons, costumes, and musical instruments. The MET also displays its exhibits based on their geographic history. In the Egyptian Art section, you will find the Temple of Dendur, an entire Egyptian temple transplanted right into the museum. With exhibits from around the world, you can explore Greek and Roman art, European paintings and sculptures, Modern art, and Arts of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas.
Metropolitan Museum of Art Highlights
- Antioch Chalice
- Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘Wheatfield with Cypresses’
- Fragment of a Queen’s Face
- Head of a Queen Mother (lyoba) from Nigeria
- Jacques Louis David’s ‘The Death of Socrates’
Recommended Metropolitan Museum of Art Tickets
#2 National 9/11 Memorial and Museum
Memorial in New York City
Visiting the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum is an emotionally heavy experience, guaranteed to stir emotions among the visitors. A tribute to the victims of the deadly twin towers tragedy, the 9/11 Memorial Museum allows you to explore the events before, during and after the day. Featuring a collection of over 11,000 artifacts, ranging from ephemera, textiles, artwork, books and more, the museum’s exhibitions attract over a million visitors each year. The Memorial's twin reflecting pools, located within the foundation of the twin peaks, is nearly an acre in size each and feature the largest manmade waterfalls in North America. The names of every person who died in the attacks are inscribed into bronze panels edging the Memorial pools and serve as a powerful reminder of the horrific events. At the 9/11 Memorial be sure to keep an eye out for the Survivor Tree. This Callery Pear tree was badly damaged after attacks of September 11th and was nursed back to health before being returned in 2010. Another important element in the 9/11 Memorial & Museum are the white oak trees which surround the pools. These trees serve as a reminder of the individuals who lost their lives.
National 9/11 Memorial and Museum Highlights
- Historical Exhibition
- Memorial Exhibition
- ‘The Survivor Tree'
- Ground Zero Memorial
Recommended National 9/11 Memorial and Museum Tickets
9/11 Museum & Memorial Reviews
Very moving. The interactive experience recreated that tragic day. I was with my son who was 10 in 2001. His patrtner is from Brazil. Same age. We relived that day via our own experience, and grieved along with those who experienced and lost so much... we will never forget!
- Claudia, Headout, December 2022
This is my 2nd visit to the museum and my husbands first. It's always an emotional experience. Could not help but shed tears. This is definitely a must do when visiting NY. Walk across the street to the Hudson shopping mall & grab a bite at the upper level in Hudson Eats. You have a view of the river. We also walked outside and you'll see the Statue of Liberty from a distance. NJ state at the other side of the river. The mall is beautifully decorated for Xmas. High end stores are there LV, Gucci etc. if you're interested.
- Olive, Headout, November 2022
#3 Museum of Modern Art
Best Museums in the World
One of the largest and most influential museums on modern art, Museum of Modern Art or MoMA (as the museum is fondly known), is situated in Midtown Manhattan and is home to a comprehensive collection that includes paintings, drawings, works of architecture and design, sculpture, photography, prints, books, film, and electronic media. MoMA's art collection alone consists of more than 150,000 individual pieces, 22,000 films and 4 million film stills. MoMA brings contemporary art to the forefront of the art scene and houses art from some of the best known artists from across the world, like Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, Salvador Dali, Ai Weiwei and others. The museum also includes an attached cinema, a sculpture garden with works by Picasso and Rodin, and the Modern, a restaurant run by Danny Meyer.
Museum of Modern Art Highlights
- Andy Warhol’s ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans’
- Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘The Starry Night’
- Claude Monet’s ‘Water Lilies’
- Salvador Dali’s ‘The Persistence of Memory’
- Henri Rousseau’s ‘The Sleeping Gypsy’
Recommended Museum of Modern Art Tickets
Museum of Modern Art Reviews
Everything was perfect. We got to the museum and entered. The museum is really worth the visit! Go with time because it has many floors and a lot of things to see.
- Maia, Headout, October 2022
The experience was awesome and easy. I simply bought tickets to MoMA and they were ready to go in my inbox so we slid right on through into the museum. Would recommend.
- Daria, Headout, April 2022
#4 American Museum of Natural History
Must-see Museum in New York City
One of the largest museums in the world, the American Museum of Natural History consists of a complex of 28 interconnected buildings that are home to 45 permanent exhibition halls, a planetarium and a library. The museum collections contain over 33 million specimens of animals, plants, fossils, rocks, meteorites, human remains, and cultural artifacts. Established in 1869, the American Museum of Natural History has the largest collection of dinosaur fossils in the world, making it a must-visit for children and adults alike. Through its 45 halls of permanent collection and exhibitions, the museum gives visitors the chance to engage, discover, and learn about the past, present, and the future of the natural world, human culture, and the universe. It is also home to the Rose Center for Earth and Space, which houses the Hayden Planetarium, and has exhibitions on history of the universe and our journey through space.
American Museum of Natural History Highlights
- Tyrannosaurus Rex in the Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs
- Dynamic Earth Globe in Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth
- The Blue Whale in Milstein Hall of Ocean Life
- Giant Sequoia in North American Forests
Recommended American Museum of Natural History Tickets
American Museum of Natural History Reviews
For me the best part has to be the exhibitions. Supremely informative about the cultures around the world, prehistoric fossils, as well as the ocean and space
- Nicole, Headout, October 2018
The museum is spectacular and displays collections that are amazing examples of astronomy, planetary galaxies and many more. Highly recommended for all!
- Robbi, Headout, November 2017
The Morgan Library and Museum is a museum and research library that was founded in 1906 to house the private library of J. P. Morgan. The museum's collection consists of old manuscripts and printed books in rare bindings and a vast collection of prints and drawings. The Morgan Library and Museum will take you on a journey of literary excellence; the rarity and quality of the collections here are quite elevating. These include prints and drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Rembrandt, Rubens and Picasso; three Gutenberg Bibles, ancient Egypt and medieval literature, autographed scores from Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, and Verdi as well as hundreds of other valuable pieces of our culture.
Highlights of Morgan Library and Museum
- Mozart’s handwritten score of the Haffner Symphony
- Gutenberg Bibles
- Albert Einstein’s manuscript article describing how he developed his General Theory of Relativity
- Manuscript of ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens
- scraps of paper on which Bob Dylan wrote ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ and ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’
Opened in 2004, with Donald and Shelley Rubin’s private collection of Himalayan art at its core, the Rubin Museum of Art is a one-of-a-kind museum experience with immersive exhibits which encourage a path of personal discovery and a feeling of unity in diversity. A unique space to sit back and contemplate ideas that are beyond history and culture, the museum also offers a diverse range of exhibitions and programs, like films and concerts. While the museum displays art and artifacts from India and its neighbouring regions, its main focus is on Tibetan art, including a Tibetan Shrine Room. The Rubin Museum's collection of Himalayan art includes over 3,800 objects ranging from more than 1,500 years to the present day.
Highlights of Rubin Museum of Art
- Hammer from fifteenth century Ming Dynasty
- Nineteenth century Tibetan Prayer Beads
- Fifteenth century Drenpa Namkha Statue, Nineteenth century Amulet Box
- Early eighteenth century portrait of Terdak Lingpa Gyurme Dorje
A collection of museum ships, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is an American military and maritime history museum in New York City. The main highlights of the museum consist of the aircraft carrier the submarine USS Growler, a Concorde SST, a Lockheed A-12 supersonic plane, and the Space Shuttle Enterprise. The museum also includes exhibits from around the world like an Israeli Kfir and a Polish Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-17. However, the most popular exhibit is the eponymous carrier, the USS Intrepid which played a massive role in the Pacific theater of the Second World War and is hailed historically for surviving five kamikaze attacks and a torpedo strike. Through its exhibitions and educational programs, the museum aims at showcasing the best of America's maritime and military history.
Highlights of Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum
- General Dynamics F-16 Fighter Falcon that was flown in Operation Desert Storm
- USS Growler diesel electric submarine, Bell AH-IJ Sea Cobra Gunship
- Space Shuttle Enterprise
- Exploreum-an interactive hall showing life on an aircraft carrier
Founded in 1923 by Henry Collins Brown, The Museum of the City of New York aims to preserve and display the history of New York City. The museum's collection consists of over 1.5 million items from the 19th and early 20th centuries and includes paintings, drawings and photographs featuring New York City. The collection also consists of costumes, furniture and antique toys. Other New York related artifacts on exhibit at the museum include ship models, books, military, police and fire collections. The museum is home to some very rare and unique items, like a number of Eugene O’Neill’s handwritten manuscripts, a room full of Duncan Phyfe furniture, a suit worn by a man to George Washington’s Inaugural Ball, and the Carrie Walter Stettheimer dollhouse, containing miniature works by Alexander, Archipenko, George Bellows, Gaston Lachaise, Marcel Duchamp, and Marguerite Zorach.
Highlights of Museum of the City of New York
- Depression-era Federal Art Project Photographs
- Still photography by director Stanley Kulrick
- Furnished rooms from John D. Rockefeller’s House
- Samuel Waugh’s ‘The Bay and the Harbour of New York’
#9 Whitney Museum of American Art
Must-visit Museums in New York City
The Whitney Museum was established in 1931 as a museum dedicated exclusively to American art, with a special focus on living artists. The museum was located in the Upper East Side for 50 years before moving to its current location. The building, spread over 220,000 square feet and distributed through 9 floors, was designed by the renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano and is a work of art in itself. The museum consists of exhibition spaces, an education center, a reading room, a theater and a conservation lab. The museum's collection has helped define what is innovative and influential in American art since the beginning of the twentieth century. The permanent collection at the Whitney consists of works by artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Man Ray, Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol, Peggy Bacon, Charles Demuth, Edward Hopper, Reginald Marsh, and more.
Whitney Museum of American Art Highlights
- Theodore Robinson’s ‘Etude’
- Maurice Prendergast’s ‘Central Park’
- Robert Henri’s ‘Laughing Child’
- Thomas Hart Benton’s ‘House in Cubist Landscape’
- George Bellows’ ‘Drupay and Firpo’
Recommended Whitney Museum of American Art Tickets
Whitney Museum of American Art Reviews
While visiting in October, we went on the last day of the Calder Exhibit. It was very well done and gave an iteresting retrospective of his work
- Evelia, Headout, November 2017
Do check out the rooftop of the museum , its got some breathtaking views of the Hudson
- Georgeanna, Headout, November 2017
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is the home to an ever-expanding collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, early Modern and contemporary art. Its collection spans mid-19th century Realism to Postmodern artwork, sculptures, and installations. Designed by the genius Frank Lloyd Wright, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is now known as the youngest New York City landmark. Following the architect's vision behind "one continuous floor" for the art exhibits, the exhibits are lined along a spiral walkway that goes up all the way to the glass dome at the top. Founded in 1937, the museum was known for its display of the most vibrant and dynamic styles of European modernism artworks, including over 150 works by Vasily Kandinsky. At this museum, you can view works by artists from the 19th Century through the 20th Century, such as Brancusi, Braque, Calder, Chagall, Robert Delaunay, Giacometti, Klee, Leger, Miro, Picasso, and Van Gogh.
Highlights of Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
- Edgar Degas’ ‘Spanish Dance’
- Pablo Picasso’s ‘Woman Ironing’
- Paul Czanne’s ‘Bibmus’
- Paul Ganguin’s ‘In the Vanilla Grove, Man and Horse,’
- Georges Seurat’s ‘Farm Women at Work’
Tips For Visiting Museums In New York
Keep these tips in mind when visiting and exploring some of the best museums in New York.
- Wear comfortable footwear when visiting the museums in New York.
- Book your tickets to the museums in New York in advance and online. By booking tickets online, you can get good deals on tickets such as combo deals and skip-the-line tickets.
- Where available, try and opt for guided tours for the museums of New York.
- If you want to go for a self-guided tour, you can use the multilingual audio guides that are readily available in the museums of New York.
- Skip-the-line tickets for the museums in New York give you priority access to the museums and help you skip the waiting queues at the entrance.
- Try to plan your visit to the museums in New York during the off-peak season to get better deals and avoid the crowds.
The best museums in New York include the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museums, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Most museums in New York do charge an entrance fee, but on certain days of the year they offer discounted rates and free admission.
The Whitney Museum of American Art was refurbished as recently as 2015.
There are no restrictions for entering museums in New York. However, it is always a good idea to wear comfortable clothes and footwear when visiting the museums in New York.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the most visited museum in New York.