National Gallery of Art | Art Museums in DC

The National Gallery of Art is one of the top art museums in DC, but it isn’t the only one. There are contemporary art galleries, art museums focused on women, African art, Asian art and much more. Our DC expert guides have compiled the top 10 art museums in DC, how to visit them and what to see while you’re there. Some art museums in DC are free, while others are ticketed but look below for advice for how to get discounts or visit with no admission.

Top 10 Art Museums in DCart museums in dc

Art is subjective, so there are in no particular order. While some of these museums are free, others have ticketed admission – and they are all worth it, but in case its not in your budget, we’ve included some ways to experience the museums at a discounted rate where possible.

National Gallery of Art (free)

The National Gallery of Art is the largest and most visited art museum in DC and the top rated. While its not technically a Smithsonian, it is free and open to the public with no tickets required. The NGA is separated in two buildings, the East Wing, which is contemporary and modern art, and the West Wing, where you’ll find more traditional artwork.

National Gallery of Art Hours

Monday-Saturday 10am-5pm | Sunday 11am-6pm (Closed on December 25 and January 01)

How to get to the National Gallery of Art

The National Gallery of Art is located on the National Mall, between the Natural History Museum and United States Capitol, and across from the Air and Space Museum.

There is an entrance on Constitution Ave NW around 5th Street NW and one on the National Mall side. The closest Metro to the National Gallery of Art is Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter Station on the Green and Yellow lines. The station on Pennsylvania Ave and 7th Street, just so make your way toward the Capitol and you’ll find the NGA on your right.

Tours of the National Gallery of Art

If you’re interested in guided tours of the National Gallery of Art, there are daily docent led tours to focus on specific galleries or themes. You can find out about the schedule on their website.

For specific pieces, there are Gallery Talks scheduled on a daily basis. These are usually about 50 minutes long.

If you can’t find a tour time that works for you, they also offer free Self Guided tours of the National Gallery of Art. There are also audio tours. You can borrow a free audio player at the information desk, download the free Your Art app for iOS and Android to access these tours.

National Gallery of Art Artworks

The most well known artwork is Ginevra de’ Benci, the only Leonardo Da Vinci on permanent display in the Americas. You’ll also be able to view Van Gogh’s self portrait and Monet’s Japaense Footbridge. In the contemporary art wing, there is a giant Alexander Calder mobile and a Jackson Pollock.

For more on the National Gallery of Art…

art museums in dc


Kreeger Museum (suggested donation)

A personal favorite, the Kreeger Museum is a small gallery and out of the way enough that you won’t have to deal with the crowds. This was the home of David and Carmen Kreeger, commissioned by architect/artist Phillip Johnson (one of a few residences he designed). During their life, as patrons and musical director of the Kennedy Center, they amassed a vast collection of art and their home has now been turned into a museum to display this work.

Hours & Tickets

art museums in dcTuesday-Saturday 10am-4pm (Closed Sunday/ Monday)

Hour long guided tours are available:

Tuesday to Friday: 10:30 am and 1:30 pm
Saturdays: 10:30 am, noon, and 2:00 pm

There is a $10 suggested donation to visit the Kreeger Museum.

How to get to the Kreeger Museum

The Kreeger Museum is a bit out of the way and public transportation options are limited. There is some free parking on the museum grounds, but it is a lovely drive through a wealthy residential neighborhood if you choose to take Uber/Lyft.

Artwork & Exhibitions

The Kreeger Museum has some big names such as Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, as well as a unique outdoor sculpture garden. In addition to the artwork, a visit to see the architecture of the house is a must. There are rotating exhibits in the lower level.

For more on the Kreeger Museum…


Phillips Collection (ticketed)

The Phillips Collection is America’s first modern art museum and, like the Kreeger, started out as a private collection in someone’s home. Today, the red brick row house in Dupont Circle has been expanded to fit the collection of contemporary artwork. The Phillips Collection is a stop on our Embassy Row tour.

Hours, Tickets & Tours

Tuesday-Saturday 10am-5pm / Sunday 12pm-630pm / Thursdays extended hours until 830pm

There is an admission price to see the Exhibitions: Adults $12 / Students & Seniors $10 / Under 18 Free

To visit the Phillips Collection for free, there is only a suggestion donation to visit the Museum Collection Tuesday-Friday. (On weekends, it is $8-10)

While there are no docent tours, there are a number of ways to learn more during your visit, including a cell phone tour, an app, and a Discovery Pack for kids. Find more on their website.

How to get to the Phillips Collection

The Phillips Collection is a short walk from the Dupont Circle Metro Station (red line) North entrance. You can enter the museum on 21st St NW at Q St NW.

Artwork & Exhibitions

The best known piece in the collection is Renior’s Luncheon of the Boating Party, but you’ll also find an entire room dedicated to Mark Rothko, and Jacob Lawrence’s The Migration Series. These popular pieces are part of the Museum Collection and can be visited by donation Tuesday-Friday.

art museums in dc

For more on the Phillips Collection.


Hirshhorn Museum (free)

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden are part of the Smithsonian Institution and are filled with international contemporary art pieces. Outside is a sunken sculpture garden that parallels the National Gallery of Art sculpture garden, which is on the opposite side of the National Mall.

Hours, Tickets, & Tours

Daily 10am-530pm (except December 25). There is no admission price to visit the Hirshhorn.

Like most Smithsonian Museums, there are docent led tours on a daily basis. They run at 1230pm and 330pm every day and last about 45 minutes.

How to get to the Hirshhorn?

The Hirshhorn Museum is located on the National Mall between the Air and Space Museum and the Smithsonian Castle on the Independence Ave side. The building is shaped like a donut so it is pretty easy to find! The closest Metro to the Hirshhorn is L’Enfant Plaza (Green, Yellow, Blue, Orange, Silver)

art museums in dc

Artwork & Exhibitions

The exhibits at the Hirshhorn are continuously rotating featuring well known international artists and lesser known works. The collection highlights include works from Picasso, Matisse, Gorky, de Kooning, among others.

The Sculpture Garden features two pieces by Rodin (known for The Thinker) and Yoko Ono’s Wish Tree for Washington.

For more on the Hirshhorn.


Freer | Sackler Galleries (free)

These two galleries focus on Asian Art from the Near and Far East, to ancient works and Islamic art. The art includes paintings but also sculpture, pottery and jewelry which provides an historical view of the culture. In addition to Asian Art, the Freer Gallery has a collection of American Art, especially works by James Whistler.

Hours, Tickets & Tours

Daily 10am-530pm (except December 25). There is no admission price to visit the galleries.

Docent Led tours are offered most days at 1215pm and 215pm. View their calendar.

How to get to the Freer | Sackler Galleries?

The Freer Sackler Galleries are located on the National Mall on the Independence Ave side, just behind the Smithsonian Castle. The closest Metro to the Freer Sackler Galleries is L’Enfant Plaza (Green, Yellow, Blue, Orange, Silver)art museums in dc

Artwork & Exhibitions

The highlight of the Freer Gallery is the Peacock Room, a London dining room that was painted by James Whistler in an opulant Peacock motif.

In the Sackler Gallery, you’ll find a large collection of Chinese jade and bronze, as well as a renown grouping of Persian books.

For more on the Freer | Sackler Galleries..


National Museum of Women in the Arts

An art museum dedicated specifically to the work of female artists, the NMWA has works from as early as 1580 to present day. It has over 5,000 items from more than 1,000 women artists over the centuries.

Hours, Tickets & Tours

Monday–Saturday 10 am–5 pm / Sundays 12pm–5 pm

There is an admission price to see the Exhibitions: Adults $10 / Students & Seniors $8 / Under 18 Free

To visit the National Museum of Women in the Arts for free, it is open at no cost on the first Sunday of every month.

There are 30 minute docent led talks that highlight two pieces offered on most days at 2pm.

How to get to NMWA

The National Museum of Women in the Arts is located on New York Ave NW at H St NW. The closest Metro station is Metro Center (Blue, Orange, Silver).

Artwork & Exhibitions

Collection highlights of the NMWA include Frida Kahlo, Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, Elaine de Kooning, Rosa Bonheur among others.

For more on the National Museum of Women in the Arts…


National Portrait Gallery  (free)

The National Portrait Gallery is a favorite among tour guides. The beautiful Old Patent Office building has been turned into a Smithsonian Art Museum. This particular art museum is the only place to find all the presidential portraits outside the White House. It’s a glimpse into what lesser known presidents looked like, or even some more well known ones. See if you can find out which president looked like Tommy Lee Jones. You’ll also find portraits or sports stars, musicians, artists and more.

Hours, Tickets, & Tours

Daily, 1130am-7pm (closed December 25). There is no admission to visit the National Portrait Gallery.

Docent led tours are offered at Monday–Friday: noon and 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday: 11:45 a.m. and 1:30, 3:15, and 4:30 p.m. Please visit our calendar to verify times.

How to get to the NPG

The National Portrait Gallery is located in Chinatown, with entrances on F and G Streets NW between 7th and 9th St NW. The closest Metro is Gallery Place-Chinatown (Red, Green, Yellow).

Artwork & Exhibitions

The most well known piece is the Lansdowne Portrait of George Washington. You’ll also find self portraits of Paul Cezanne and John Singleton Copely, a daguerreotype of Frederick Douglass, and recent portraits of Spike Lee and Madeline Albright.

For more on the National Portrait Gallery…


American Art Museum (free)

Located in the same building, the Old Patent Office, as the National Portrait Gallery, the American Art Museum is an arm of the Smithsonian Institution. This is one of two buildings that focus on American art, with collections from colonial America to present day.

Hours, Tickets, & Tours

Daily, 1130am-7pm (closed December 25). There is no admission to visit the National Portrait Gallery.

Collection Highlights tours are offered daily at 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. (except the second Tuesdays of each month and all federal holidays). Special themed tours, including tours of selected special exhibitions, also are offered. Please see Calendar: Ongoing Tours and Activities for upcoming tours.

How to get to the American Art Museum

The SAAM is located in Chinatown, with entrances on F and G Streets NW between 7th and 9th St NW. The closest Metro is Gallery Place-Chinatown (Red, Green, Yellow)

Artwork & Exhibitions

The collection at the American Art Museum is broad in scope – paintings, video art, photography, spanning centuries and locations across the country. The museum has the largest New Deal murals and artwork in the country. There are exhibits dedicated to Latino, African American artists as well as folk art.

art museums in dc

Nam June Paik, Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii

For more on the museum…

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Renwick Gallery (free)

The Renwick Gallery is an extension of the Smithsonian American Art Museum housed in a majestic red brick building just across the street from the White House. The Renwick focuses on contemporary craft work.

Hours, Tickets & Tours

Daily 10am-530pm (closed 530pm). There is no admission to enter the Renwick Gallery.

art museums in dcCollection Highlights tours are offered Monday thru Saturday at 12pm (except the second Tuesdays of each month and all federal holidays). Please see the Calendar for upcoming tours.

How to get to the Renwick Gallery

The Renwick Gallery is at the corner of Pennsylvania Ave NW and 17th Street NW, just across the street from the White House. The closest Metro station is Farragut West (Blue, Orange, Silver)

Artwork & Exhibitions

The main exhibits at the Renwick rotate every few months and focus on unique crafts rather than framed paintings. Sometimes the work takes up the entire room or is an immersive experience and others it is a work in minute detail.

For more information about the Renwick Gallery…


National Museum of African Art (free)

Another Smithsonian museum, the National Museum of African Art spans historic and contemporary art from sub0-saharan and Arab North Africa. It is the largest (and first) collection of African Art in the United States.

Hours, Tickets & Tours

Daily 10am-530pm (closed 530pm). There is no admission to enter the Renwick Gallery.

Docent led tours are offered most days at 1030am, 12pm and 2pm. For the current schedule, visit their website.

How to get to the National Museum of African Art

The museum located on the National Mall on the Independence Ave side, just behind the Smithsonian Castle. The closest Metro to the National Museum of African Art is L’Enfant Plaza (Green, Yellow, Blue, Orange, Silver)

Artwork & Exhibitions

The Museum currently has 11,861 objects. 10,746 are traditional and 1,115 contemporary. There is a rare Akan gold pendant and African masks from the 1400s, as well as modern photographs from South Africa.

For more on the museum…


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Free Art Museums in DC


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Modern Art Museum in DC

art museums in dcThere is no official Modern Art Museum in Washington, DC (like the MoMa in NYC). However, with the number of contemporary art galleries, there are a number of options that will satisfy your hunt for modern art in DC. Some of the art museums above in our Top 10 are focused on contemporary and modern art, while there are some unique galleries to visit as well.


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Lesser Known & Underrated Art Galleries you should visit

  • Dupont Underground

Dupont Underground repurposes old underground trolley station underneath Dupont Circle into an art space and gallery. It is open Tuesday to Friday 10am-5pm with a $5 suggested donation.

For more information about Dupont Underground…

  • Blind Whino

The SouthWest Arts Club opens their gallery on Saturdays and Sundays 12pm-5pm. In addition to unique and incredible exhibits, the building is a must see. The historic 1886 Friendship Baptist Church retains it Victorian architecture but is painted with vibrant colors and scenes.

For more information about Blind Whino…

  • First Friday Dupont Circle

The First Friday of each month, select galleries and museums plus historic homes and embassies coordinate to open late (usually 6pm-8pm). This is a self guided tour that allows you to peek into some often inaccessible places.

For more information on First Friday…


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