The Best Art Museums in San Francisco

Feed your eyes and mind at these top spots

April 23, 2024 7:38 am
A museum visitor admires a neon sculpture by Dan Flavin at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, California
A visitor admires a fluorescent light sculpture by Dan Flavin at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Getty Images

For a relatively small city, San Francisco boasts a surprisingly high count of world-class art museums, catering to modernity lovers, antiquity enthusiasts and classic appreciators alike. While there are certainly more than what we covered on this list, we think these six have the best collections and exhibitions of all. From the Golden Gate Park to the Dogpatch, here are the top art museums the city has to offer.

two people sitting on a bench in a museum talking and admiring a gold-framed painting
Legion of Honor
Michael O’Neal

The deYoung + Legion of Honor

Located at Golden Gate Park, the de Young is its own little universe — architecturally curious, atmospheric, expansive and calming. The rotating exhibitions often offer star-studded moments (Kehindle Whiley! Ansel Adams!) and, if you’re lucky, some fashion extravaganza (currently on display, Fashioning Sam Francisco is a stunning exhibition full of couture gowns). The Legion of Honor, the second member of the Fine Art Museums of San Francisco family, has a distinct historic vibe and is often home to exhibitions of timeless icons like Botticelli and Tissot. 

The deYoung: 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr

Legion of Honor: 100 34th Ave, San Francisco

Asian Art Museum

Come for the impressive architecture (the museum recently added new, stunning spaces to its floor plan), stay for the impressive Asian art and artifact collections and exhibitions by renowned artists like Takashi Murakami. Some of the best exhibits at the beautiful museum, which is easy to get lost in, are thematic groupings dedicated to gender, power and religion.

200 Larkin St

The 10 Best Clubs, Bars and Venues for Dancing in San Francisco
If the normal club scene isn’t your style, we’ve got recommendations for you, too

Minnesota Street Project

While not technically a museum — this innovative Dogpatch project houses several art galleries under one roof — this a great destination for culture lovers who want to be in the know about up-and-coming artists and innovative curators. Two floors of independent galleries are guaranteed to keep you busy on an afternoon, and if hunger strikes, the adjacent Indian restaurant Besharam is a great option. Check the event calendar for experimental parties and upcoming events.

1275 Minnesota St

people standing and walking in the lobby of SFMOMA
Matthew Millman


Ever since its reopening post-renovation, San Francisco’s premiere modern art museum has been serving non-stop hits — think a captivating Magritte exhibition, a comprehensive Diego Rivera retrospective and the extremely popular Kusama installation. In addition to rotating exhibits, the museum has multiple floors or excellent, not-to-be-missed permanent collections, a top-notch gift store and plenty of photo op and noshing opportunities. 

151 3rd St

The Contemporary Jewish Museum

The strength of this compact museum is in its curatorial team. Exhibitions always tackle interesting topics from unexpected angles, be it a Hanukkah-timed neon exhibit curated by a female-owned collective, or exhibitions spotlighting Jewish figures like The Muppets creator Frank Oz or Leonard Cohen. Naturally, there’s a deli on site serving pastrami sandwiches and matzo ball soup, if intellectual stimulation makes you hungry. 

 736 Mission St

The MoAd

Located downtown on a commercial-looking stretch, the MoAd is easy to miss, but that would be a mistake. The Museum of the African Diaspora might be relatively small, but there’s never a dull moment during a visit. Past exhibitions have leaned on contemporary photography, fashion and activism, and there are always intriguing events on the agenda, from movie screenings to open mic nights. 

685 Mission St

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.