Top 12 Best Museums in New York City

Top 12 Best Museums in New York City

New York City is home to some of the world’s most renowned museums. With prestigious institutions like The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History, New York has an unparalleled selection of museums dedicated to art, history, science and more.

Trying to decide which museums to visit in New York City can be an overwhelming task. To help narrow down the options, here is a list of the top 12 best museums in New York City.

No.MuseumHighlights and Features
1American Museum of Natural HistoryLarge collection of natural world exhibits
2Brooklyn MuseumExtensive collections of art and cultural objects
3The Bronx Museum of the ArtsContemporary and 20th-century art from diverse artists
4Brooklyn Botanic GardenOver 10,000 species of plants, seasonal landscapes
5The Frick CollectionEuropean paintings and sculptures
6The Guggenheim MuseumIconic architecture, modern and contemporary art
7The Metropolitan Museum of ArtOne of the world’s largest art collections
8MoMA (Museum of Modern Art)Influential modern art museum
9Museum of the City of New YorkHistory and evolution of New York City
10National Museum of the American IndianCelebrates Native American culture and history
11New MuseumContemporary art from 1977 onwards
12Rubin Museum of ArtLargest collection of Himalayan art outside Tibet

New York City’s museums hold some of the most extensive collections of artifacts, art and scientific specimens. As one of the major global cities in the world, New York is home to world-class institutions that attract millions of visitors each year.

The city’s leading museums cover a vast range of interests. From Modern and Contemporary art to natural history and space exploration, there is a museum to feed every curiosity. Several museums are also dedicated entirely to specific artists, allowing you to immerse yourself fully into their body of work.

When visiting New York City, you could easily spend weeks museum-hopping. To help you get the most out of your time, here is a list of the 12 best museums in New York City. For convenient planning, they are listed in alphabetical order rather than ranked.

The list covers top museums across Manhattan as well as Brooklyn and the Bronx. It includes both large-scale institutions as well as boutique museums dedicated to niche interests. No matter what fascinates you, you’re sure to find a museum to match your passion in New York.

1. American Museum of Natural History

Name and Location: American Museum of Natural History, located on Central Park West between West 77th and 81st Streets in Manhattan.

Collections and Exhibits: Massive collection of dinosaurs, fossils, human cultures, mammals, minerals, and more. Famous exhibits include giant blue whale model, dinosaur fossils, Rose Center for Earth and Space.

What to Expect: Sprawling museum with large crowds, especially on weekends. Plan for a full day to see the highlights.

Visitor Information: Open daily 10am-5:45pm, with extended hours on some Fridays. Recommended admission is $28 for adults, $18 for children.

The American Museum of Natural History is one of the largest museums in the world. With an astonishing collection of over 34 million specimens and artifacts, it offers an immersive experience through its anthropological, zoological, biological, and geological exhibits.

Founded in 1869, the museum contains famous permanent exhibits like the Rose Center for Earth and Space and the dinosaur fossils. The museum includes 45 exhibition halls to explore, housing diverse collections covering human origins, mammal diversity, a massive fossil collection, and the history of human technology.

With so many vast collections to take in, you’ll need to spend a full day at this museum. You can also watch informative live presentations at the LeFrak Theater. Outside of the exhibits, other museum highlights include origami workshops, “sleepovers” for kids, and fine dining at restaurants like the Blue Hill and Cafe on One.

2. Brooklyn Museum

Name and Location: Brooklyn Museum, located at 200 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn.

Collections and Exhibits: Encyclopedic collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts, American art, African art, and more. Don’t miss Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party.

What to Expect: Large museum located in a residential area. Galleries are spacious and diverse.

Visitor Information: Open Wed-Sun 11am-6pm, closed Mon-Tues. Suggested admission $16 for adults, free for children under 12.

Located in Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Museum contains one of the United States’ most comprehensive collections of artifacts, artwork, and other cultural objects. Here you can view an extensive collection of Egyptian artifacts, admire contemporary art, and see traditional African art and artifacts.

Founded in 1823, the museum today houses over 1.5 million works of art ranging from ancient art to contemporary paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, photographs, and installations. Highlights include Judy Chicago’s installation The Dinner Party, its Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, one of the world’s biggest collections of Egyptian artifacts, and a designated space called the Connections Gallery that explores relationships between historical and contemporary art.

With so many galleries to explore, you’ll need several hours here to soak it all in. Grab lunch at the Museum’s Court Restaurant or Terrace Café, both of which feature floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on the Sculpture Garden and Plaza.

3. The Bronx Museum of the Arts

Name and Location: The Bronx Museum of the Arts, located at 1040 Grand Concourse in the Bronx.

Collections and Exhibits: Focuses on contemporary and 20th century works by American artists, with a special emphasis on artists from Latin America, Asia, and Africa.

What to Expect: Intimate galleries displaying a wide range of modern art. Less crowded than larger NYC museums.

Visitor Information: Open Thurs-Sun 11am-6pm, closed Mon-Wed. Suggested admission is $8 for adults, free for children under 12 and seniors.

Situated in the Bronx, this museum focuses on contemporary and 20th-century works created by diverse artists from Africa, Asia and Latin America. Founded in 1971, The Bronx Museum of the Arts champions “art that reflects our society – who we are and how we live.”

The museum’s diverse collection ranges from paintings and sculptures to photos and textiles. There is also a substantial archive of sketches, prints, and artists’ books. Ongoing exhibitions focus on the socio-political issues examined through art while also fostering cross-cultural conversations.

Some highlights at the museum are its atrium galleries displaying outdoor sculptures, and workshops allowing visitors to engage further with exhibits through art-making. Due to its niche focus and smaller size, you can leisurely explore the entire museum in 2-3 hours.

4. Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Name and Location: Brooklyn Botanic Garden, located at 990 Washington Avenue in Brooklyn.

Collections and Exhibits: Sprawling urban botanic garden with numerous specialty gardens like Japanese garden, rose garden, water lily ponds, and more.

What to Expect: Outdoor botanical oasis in the city. Seasonal blooms, relaxing vibe.

Visitor Information: Open Tuesday-Sunday from 8am-6pm. Admission is $15 for adults, free for children under 12.

Home to more than 10,000 species of plants, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden takes you through diverse habitats across nearly 100 acres of land. As a living museum, the Botanic Garden comes to life in different ways across the changing seasons.

Cherry blossoms in spring give way to summer roses before autumn foliage creates a colorful fall landscape. Wintertime reveals the structural beauty of plants and trees in their dormant state. Don’t miss the Cranford Rose Garden which contains over 5,000 roses of nearly 1,200 varieties.

Other highlights are the Shakespeare Garden, the Overlook with views of the Cherry Esplanade, the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, the Native Flora Garden, and the Steinhardt Conservatory greenhouses. Give yourself 2-3 hours to fully explore the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s diverse collections and landscapes.

5. The Frick Collection

Name and Location: The Frick Collection, located at 1 East 70th Street in Manhattan.

Collections and Exhibits: Premier collection of European paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts. Artists include Rembrandt, Vermeer, Goya, and more.

What to Expect: Small but excellent art museum housed in a former mansion. Intimate galleries, fewer crowds.

Visitor Information: Open Tues-Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 11am-5pm, closed Mondays. Admission $22 for adults, free for children under 10. Timed tickets required.

This former mansion of industrialist Henry Clay Frick houses a collection of exquisite European paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts from the early Renaissance to the late 19th century. Masterpieces by artists like Rembrandt, Vermeer, Goya, and Whistler are part of the museum’s collection.

The museum was once Frick’s private residence, allowing you to view art in the context of beautifully furnished rooms, just as connoisseur Frick intended. Major works here include Vermeer’s Mistress and Maid, three paintings by Rembrandt including a famous self-portrait from 1658, and Ingres’ 1815 masterpiece Comtesse d’Haussonville.

The collection’s intimacy, quality and uniqueness make this an essential New York museum. You can leisurely view the entire collection in a 2-3 hour visit. Don’t miss the tranquil indoor Garden Court, and also peruse the gift shop which offers museum replicas and upscale jewelry.

6. The Guggenheim Museum

Name and Location: The Guggenheim Museum, located at 1071 5th Avenue in Manhattan.

Collections and Exhibits: Renowned modern and contemporary art museum. The famous spiral building design is an exhibit in itself.

What to Expect: Unique viewing experience walking the spiral ramp galleries. Can be crowded on weekends.

Visitor Information: Open 10am-5:45pm Fri-Wed, closed Thurs. Admission $25 adults, free for children under 12.

With its iconic spiral architecture standing out on Fifth Avenue, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum houses an illustrious collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, early Modern, and contemporary art. Designed by acclaimed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the museum building itself is an architectural marvel worth exploring.

Artworks are exhibited chronologically from the bottom upwards, giving you a historical overview as you walk the ramp spiraling upwards. Artists represented include the Abstract Expressionists, Surrealists like René Magritte and Salvador Dalí, as well as more contemporary work by Jeff Koons and Gerhard Richter.

Be sure to admire modern masterpieces like Vincent van Gogh’s The Olive Trees and Claude Monet’s The Basin at Argenteuil before ending your visit taking in 360-degree city views from the museum’s top floor. Allow 2-3 hours to fully experience this iconic New York museum.

7. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Name and Location: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, located at 1000 5th Avenue in Manhattan.

Collections and Exhibits: One of the world’s largest art museums, with expansive collections of antiquities, armor, paintings, musical instruments, costumes, and more.

What to Expect: Large crowds and vast galleries. Be prepared for a full day visit.

Visitor Information: Open 7 days a week. Suggested admission $25 for adults, free for children under 12.

With one of the most expansive art collections in the world, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, colloquially known as The Met, is the largest art museum in the United States. Its permanent collection contains over 2 million works across its 17 curatorial departments.

The Met’s main building draws visitors with iconic collections covering 5000 years of art from around the world. Here you can view Egyptian temples, European masterpieces, and halls of American sculpture, modern art, and musical instruments. Don’t miss masterworks like Rembrandt’s Aristotle With a Bust of Homer and Vermeer’s Young Woman with a Water Pitcher.

Other highlights are the Temple of Dendur, glasswork by Dale Chihuly, costumes from the Costume Institute, rooftop views, and dining options like The Great Hall Balcony Bar. You’ll need multiple lengthy visits to fully experience the Met’s vast collections and rotating special exhibitions.

8. MoMA (Museum of Modern Art)

Name and Location: MoMA (Museum of Modern Art), located at 11 West 53rd Street in Manhattan.

Collections and Exhibits: World-renowned collection of modern and contemporary art, including works by Van Gogh, Picasso, Warhol, and more.

What to Expect: See iconic artworks in a crowded atmosphere. Advanced tickets recommended.

Visitor Information: Open daily 10:30am-5:30pm. Admission is $25 for adults, free for children under 16. Timed tickets required.

As one of the world’s most influential museums dedicated to modern art, MoMA is one New York City’s most popular museums. Its remarkable collection houses nearly 200,000 works covering painting, sculpture, drawings, prints, photography, architecture, design, films and electronic media.

Artworks on display give you a chronological overview of modern art and all its movements. Masterpieces here include Dalí’s The Persistence of Memory, Van Gogh’s The Starry Night, Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, and Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans.

Be sure to browse different mediums across MoMA’s 5 floors of galleries. Other highlights include outdoor sculpture displays, the Architecture and Design collection, special exhibitions, films, and dining at The Modern Restaurant. You’ll need 2-3 hours to check off MoMA’s highlights, and repeat visits to fully immerse in its vast holdings.

9. Museum of the City of New York

Name and Location: Museum of the City of New York, located at 1220 5th Avenue in Manhattan.

Collections and Exhibits: Celebrates the history and culture of New York City. Permanent exhibits on various NYC history topics.

What to Expect: Learn about the development of New York City. Less crowded than other major NYC museums.

Visitor Information: Open daily 10am-6pm. Suggested admission $20 adults, free for children under 18.

This museum offers fascinating insights into New York City’s history and evolution across centuries. Its collection contains over 1.5 million objects including prints, photographs, decorative arts, costumes, toys, theater memorabilia, and more.

Rotating and permanent exhibits cover major eras in New York’s growth from the late 17th century to today. Highlights include seeing artistic depictions of 19th century New York, exhibits on major events and social movements, preserved historical interiors, and costumes worn by New York theater productions over the decades.

The museum also offers fun activities for kids like scavenger hunts and craft workshops. After exploring the exhibits, head up to the roof terrace for panoramic city views. You can leisurely visit the entire museum in 2-3 hours.

10. National Museum of the American Indian

Name and Location: National Museum of the American Indian, located at 1 Bowling Green in Lower Manhattan.

Collections and Exhibits: Celebrates the cultures and histories of Native peoples of the Americas. Permanent and temporary exhibits related to art, history, and language.

What to Expect: An enriching and educational experience focused on Native cultures. Typically not crowded.

Visitor Information: Free general admission. Open daily 10am-5pm. Closed December 25.

This Smithsonian museum in downtown Manhattan celebrates the culture, history and accomplishments of Native Americans. It has one of the world’s largest and most expansive collections related to Native peoples, with over a million artworks and artifacts.

The museum’s core permanent exhibition Infinity of Nations insightfully presents Native American history and culture region-by-region. Other galleries showcase art, photography, foods, clothing and other cultural touchpoints. You can also attend storytelling sessions, watch dance performances, and browse the gift shop’s authentic handicrafts.

While compact in size, the thoughtful curation helps you meaningfully engage with America’s indigenous communities and history within a 2 hour visit. The museum’s lower Manhattan location is also convenient to pair with visits to other downtown attractions.

11. New Museum

Name and Location: New Museum, located at 235 Bowery in Manhattan.

Collections and Exhibits: Cutting-edge contemporary art museum with a focus on new exhibitions and emerging artists.

What to Expect: Avant-garde art in a modern building. Galleries on 7 floors.

Visitor Information: Open Wed-Sun 11am-6pm. Admission is $18 for adults, free for children under 18. Timed tickets required.

Located on the Lower East Side, this contemporary art museum exclusively focuses on new works created after 1977. As New York’s only museum devoted solely to contemporary pieces, it provides a pulse-check on the latest trends and talents emerging in the art world.

The 7-floor space designed by architect SANAA displays a rotating series of exhibits showcasing painting, sculpture, photography, performance art, and new media works. Immersive special exhibitions allow you to dive deeper into themes or the work of specific contemporary artists.

The intimate environment also makes it easy to make connections between different contemporary works and artists displayed side-by-side. You can take your time exploring the hyper-contemporary collections across 2-3 leisurely hours. The gift shop also lets you take home specially commissioned products connected to exhibits.

12. Rubin Museum of Art

Name and Location: Rubin Museum of Art, located at 150 West 17th Street in Manhattan.

Collections and Exhibits: Museum dedicated to art and cultures of the Himalayas region. Tibetan Buddhist art and artifacts.

What to Expect: Intimate galleries displaying rare Tibetan artworks. Quiet, contemplative atmosphere.

Visitor Information: Open Mon 11am–5pm, Wed 11am–9pm, Thurs–Sun 11am–6pm. Admission $19 for adults, free on Fridays 6-10pm.

The Rubin Museum of Art contains the largest collection of Himalayan art outside of Tibet. Spanning from the Bronze age to the present, the museum holds paintings, sculptures, textiles, and more representing diverse Himalayan ethnic groups and art styles.

This niche museum provides rare perspectives into the art and cultures of Tibet, Nepal, India, Pakistan, and Bhutan. Prayer wheels, Buddhist statues, and Tibetan paintings give you insight into spiritual life and aesthetics. You can also gain interactive context through activities like meditation, listening to Buddhist chants, and watching traditional dance performances.

Block out at least 2 hours to view the core galleries representing major Himalayan regions and art forms. Don’t miss the tranquil galleries housing Buddhist shrines and the shop selling handicrafts made by Himalayan artisans.


New York City’s world-class museums let you immerse in human history, diverse cultures, scientific discovery and artistic innovation. Across varied collections and eras, the city’s museums reveal new ways of understanding our societies and the world at large.

Beyond expanding your knowledge, museums also offer rejuvenating experiences whether through imaginative art encounters, glimpses into history or communion with nature. As cultural treasure troves, New York’s museums promise endless inspiration regardless of your interests.

Use this list as a starting guide when planning your own New York museum adventure. Keep in mind opening days and hours, as many museums are closed on Mondays and have evening hours on certain days. Several museums also offer free or discounted admission a few evenings per week.

With such a stellar array of museums to pick from, you’ll find engaging exhibits awaiting at every turn. All you need is curiosity, and New York’s museums will happily feed your imagination during your visit.

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