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35 Best Museums in Manhattan

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This post lists 35 of the best museums in Manhattan, including the top 15 museums, other great art and historical and cultural museums and museums that kids will love.

We mention which museums are free, offer free hours or are free with a tourist discount pass.

MoMA (Manhattan, New York, USA) by t-mizo CC BY 2.0

Top 16 Museums in Manhattan

1. Metropolitan Museum of Art

1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street

The Metropolitan Museum of Art on Manhattan’s Upper East Side is one of the most prestigious museums in the world. 

Its sheer number of items (nearly 2 million) in its permanent collection is staggering. 

Sculpture garden at the metropolitan museum of art

But what makes The Met worth a visit is the depth of its collection. It spans 5,000 years of world culture, from prehistory to the present. 

It’s just not possible to see all of The Met in one day given that more than a million objects are on view! 

Their permanent exhibitions include European sculpture and decorative arts, medieval and Renaissance art, antiquities from the ancient world, Asian art, armor, costumes, musical instruments, drawings, and prints. 

They have a relatively small, but excellent, modern and contemporary art collection. If you are a glutton for modern art, head to the Museum of Modern Art.

Highlights are the Egyptian Temple of Dendur, ancient Roman frescoes, Emanuel Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware, Jacques-Louis David’s Death of Socrates and the European Sculpture Hall. See our post on highlights of the Met collection.

Your ticket includes admission to The Cloisters, America’s only museum dedicated entirely to the art and architecture of the Middle Ages.

This museum is included for free with most tourist discount passes.


2. Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

11 West 53rd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues

Located in Midtown Manhattan, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is widely regarded as the world’s most impressive modern art museum. 

Its permanent collection is vast, with over 150,000 paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, sculptures, architectural models and drawings, and design objects.

Highlights among the permanent collection are Van Gogh’s Starry Night, Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Monet’s Water Lilies, Andy Warhol’s Gold Marilyn Monroe and Dali’s Persistence of Time.

This museum is included for free with most tourist discount passes.


3. American Museum of Natural History

Central Park West between West 77th and West 81st streets

With five floors housing 45 permanent installations and special exhibitions, you have a lot of ground to cover in the American Museum of Natural History! 

Its most famous inhabitants are the dinosaurs! You can see reassembled dinosaur fossils, such as the Titanosaur, one of the largest dinosaurs that ever lived.

The Rose Center for Earth and Space has the spectacular Big Bang Theater and Hayden Planetarium as well as the sixth-largest meteorite in the world. 

The Wall of Biodiversity is designed beautifully and highly educational. The mineral and gems collection is fantastic. 

Last but not least is the iconic Blue Whale. This 94-foot long, 21,000-point model of a blue whale, hangs over the entire hall. You cannot miss it!

When you’ve worn your feet out and need a rest, cross the street into Central Park to relax!

This museum is included for free with most tourist discount passes.


4. National September 11th Museum (9/11 Museum)

180 Greenwich Street at the World Trade Center

This one-of-a-kind museum has several exhibits that detail the history of 9/11 and the World Trade Center. 

The Historical Exhibition is filled with artifacts and historic details of the World Trade Center.

The Memorial Exhibition contains pictures of the 2,983 victims of both 9/11 and the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. 

Witness at Ground Zero includes more than 500 photographs of the site in the days after the tragic attack.

This Lower Manhattan museum is situated next to the contemplative 9/11 Memorial. Be sure to set aside time to gaze at the twin cascading fountains.

Admission is free on Mondays 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm. Find out more about visiting National September 11th Museum.

Also, this museum is included for free with most tourist discount passes.


5. National Museum of the American Indian

1 Bowling Green (across from Battery Park)

This distinguished museum in Lower Manhattan has a permanent collection of 700 Native American art & artifacts, some going back as long as 12,000 years! 

In addition to permanent and temporary exhibits, the museum hosts public programs including music and dance performances that display the culture and diversity of the Native people of the Americas.

The museum is housed in the former Alexander Hamilton Customs House, a stunning Beaux-Arts building designed by Cass Gilbert, who also designed the Woolworth Building a few blocks north on Broadway.

The museum is always free to visit.


6. Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

Pier 86 at 46th Street

Housed on a former aircraft carrier, the USS Intrepid, this unique museum in Midtown Manhattan offers an immersive experience for its visitors of all ages. 

The museum includes the space shuttle Enterprise, a Concorde, and a guided-missile submarine. 

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

Those who are interested in space, maritime and aeronautical history and technology will love this museum. It is very popular with children due to its interactive exhibits.

Note that the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is free to visit on select Fridays every month from April through September from 5:00 pm-9:00 pm.

Also, this museum is included for free with most tourist discount passes.


7. The Tenement Museum

103 Orchard Street at the corner of Delancey Street

The museum is housed in an actual tenement building located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. 

The tenement was built in 1863 and from that year through the 1930s, approximately 7,000 immigrants were residents in the cramped, poorly constructed and unsafe apartments.

The Tenement Museum seeks to educate its visitors about the families who lived in the tenement over the years and by telling their stories with reenactments in the actual building, the museum tells the tale of America.

A visit to the Tenement Museum is a memorable experience. 


8. Guggenheim Museum

1071 5th Avenue 

The Guggenheim Museum’s collection contains masterpieces of Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, and early modern and contemporary art. 

Highlights include Wassily Kandinsky's Composition 8, René Magritte’s Empire of Light, Marc Chagall’s Paris through the Window and Paul Klee, Red Balloon.

The museum building itself is one of the most recognizable buildings in the world, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

The Guggenheim has a "Pay What You Wish" policy (essentially free) every Saturday from 6 pm–8 pm.

Also, this museum is included for free with most tourist discount passes.


9. The Frick Collection

1 East 70th Street (closed for renovation) * Temporary location 945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street

The Frick is an often overlooked museum in New York City, perhaps because it is a smaller museum tucked away in an elegant 18th-century mansion on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. 

Its collection has some stunning pieces of art and decor including acclaimed Old Master paintings and excellent examples of European sculpture and decorative arts. 

Highlights are Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait, Johannes Vermeer’s Officer and Laughing Girl, and Sir Thomas Moore by Hans Holbein.


10. New-York Historical Society Museum and Library

170 Central Park West at 77th Street

Located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, this is the oldest museum in New York City.

The society was founded in 1804 but it did not move into its current building until 1908. 

Upper West Side, Manhattan, New York City

The museum’s mission is to educate visitors about the city’s rich history.

Their collection of artifacts and objects, some as old as four centuries, is impressive.

This museum offers free admission Fridays from 6 pm-8 pm.

Also, this museum is included for free with most tourist discount passes.


11. Whitney Museum of American Art

99 Gansevoort Street between Washington Street and 10th Avenue

This museum focuses entirely on contemporary American art from 20th and 21st Century artists.

The Whitney is known worldwide for its prestigious Biennial Exhibit.

The museum is located at the entrance to the High Line park, so why not combine a visit?

Admission is free on Fridays from 7 pm-10 pm.


12. Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum

2 East 91st Street between 5th and Madison Avenues

This unique and beautiful museum is dedicated to ancient and contemporary design. Its collection has over 210,000 design objects spanning thirty centuries.

band box at Cooper Hewitt

It is housed in a spectacular mansion formerly belonging to Andrew Carnegie.


13. Neue Galerie

1048 5th Avenue at 86th Street

This art gallery is dedicated exclusively to German and Austrian art and design including paintings, furniture, sculpture, photography, and more.

One major highlight not to be missed is Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I.

Through November 10, 2022, the Neue Galerie is offering Pay-What-You-Wish admission.


14. Rubin Museum of Art

150 West 17th Street at 7th Avenue

The Rubin is a rare find, with a collection dedicated solely to Himalayan art and artifacts. It hosts a very popular event called K2 Friday Nights. 

Chelsea, Manhattan, NYC

On K2 Nights, you can explore all the galleries for free, and after, head to Cafe Serai, which is turned into a lounge with a live DJ and a special cocktail menu.

Museum admission is free with a ticket reservation every Friday night from 6-10 pm.


15. American Folk Art Museum 

This museum on the Upper West Side across from Lincoln Center highlights the work of Folk artists, people who are self-taught and have not received any formal artistic training.

American Folk Art Museum's Entrance

Its collection has over 8,000 objects from the 18th century to the present.

Admission is always free.


16. Madame Tussauds Wax Museum

Here you can hob-knob with celebrities and historical figures - well, actually, their wax versions. The wax figures are incredibly lifelike and you will see them in their 'natural habitat'!

As you walk in, you'll join the "Opening Night Party" and mingle with Hollywood A-Listers like Brad Pitt & Johnny Depp. That's just the beginning of the fun!


Additional Art Museums In Manhattan

17. El Museo del Barrio

1230 Fifth Avenue at 104th Street

Dedicated entirely to Latino arts, you can see works by artists of Puerto Rican, Caribbean, and Latin American heritage. 

painting at el museo del barrio

It is free with suggested admission.


18. The New Museum

235 Bowery between Stanton & Rivington Streets

This is Manhattan’s only museum dedicated entirely to new contemporary art.

It is renowned around the world for its innovative exhibitions. Even the building itself, located on the Lower East Side, is cutting edge!

Pay what you wish admission from 7 pm to 9 pm every Thursday.


19. International Center of Photography

79 Essex Street between Delancey and Broome Streets

Dedicated to photography and visual culture, the ICP is a preeminent institution around the world. It features a multi-level gallery and free public space.

Its exhibitions are widely acclaimed and include early daguerreotypes, documentary images, and contemporary photography.

Admission is pay-by-donation on Thursdays from 6 pm-9 pm.

This museum is included for free with most tourist discount passes.


20. Studio Museum in Harlem 

144 West 125th Street

This contemporary museum in Harlem is devoted to African-American artists of the 19th and 20th centuries.

It is temporarily closed, but continue to check their website for reopening dates.


Additional Historical And Cultural Museums In Manhattan

21. Fraunces Tavern Museum

54 Pearl Street at Broad Street

This NYC small gem of a museum provides a rich history of colonial life in New York and the history of the early days of this nation.

They even have a recreation of the dining room in which George Washington’s Farewell Dinner took place!


22. Federal Hall National Memorial

Intersection of Wall Street and Broad Street

Located on Wall Street, this was George Washington’s inauguration and the place where the Bill of Rights was officially passed.

You can see the actual bible that Washington took his oath on at his inauguration.

One very interesting display is about the trial of John Peter Zenger in 1735 which established the notion of freedom of the press, now codified in the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Always free.


23. Museum of Chinese in America (MoCA)

215 Centre Street between Howard & Grand Sts

This unique museum is located in Chinatown and showcases the history and heritage of Chinese-Americans.

SoHo, NYC

24. South Street Seaport Museum

12 Fulton Street at Front Street

This museum was founded to preserve many of the buildings, ships, monuments, and the overall historic area of the South Street Seaport dating back to the Revolutionary War era.

south street seaport walk

The Museum includes its exhibits building and two ships you can board and tour, the 1885 cargo ship Wavertree and the 1907 Lightship Ambrose.

Admission is always free.


25. The Museum of Jewish Heritage

36 Battery Place at West street

Located in Battery Park City, this museum honors the victims of the Holocaust by examining Jewish traditions, achievements, and faith.

Their exhibitions are highly enlightening.

Admission is free on Thursdays between 4 pm-8 pm. Also, this museum is included for free with most tourist discount passes.


26. Morgan Library & Museum

225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street

This library consists of J.Pierpont Morgan’s exquisite collection of rare books and manuscripts, drawings, and artifacts.

It is housed in one of the finest examples of Neoclassical buildings in America.

Admission on Fridays from 7 pm-9 pm.


27. Museum of the City of New York

1220 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street

The museum’s mission is to preserve and exhibit New York City's history through its permanent collection and unique exhibits. 

Free entry with suggested admission.


28. National Jazz Museum in Harlem

58 W. 129th Street

At this small but excellent museum in Harlem, you can listen to hundreds of historical recordings of early jazz pioneers.

The museum also offers lectures, discussions, and live performances.

Admission is free but they appreciate donations.


29. The Jewish Museum

1109 5th Avenue at E. 92nd Street

In addition to a superb collection of Judaica, the Jewish Museum also hosts significant exhibitions of modern and contemporary art. More than 28,000 works of art, artifacts and more. 

Free on Saturdays.


30. Skyscraper Museum

39 Battery Place at the corner of First Place

This small but interesting museum showcases the history of the skyscraper and its place in New York City.

You can see small-scale replicas of some of the city’s iconic skyscrapers. There are also changing exhibits.

Admission is free through July 2022. Also, this museum is included for free with most tourist discount passes.


Best Museums For Kids

31. Castle Clinton National Monument

Located in Battery Park

In 1811, this fort was built to defend New York against the British aggression that led to the war of 1812.

America won the war and after being used for several activities.

The fort became a historic site in 1946. It was restored to its original appearance complete with replica cannons.

There is also a very small but quite interesting exhibit room. 

Always free.


32. New York Transit Museum Annex

Located inside Grand Central Terminal

This small annex of the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn will give you a taste of the fabulous exhibits you’ll see if you head out to the museum itself. It also doubles as a gift shop. 

It’s not just kids who love the museum in Brooklyn. Adults find it fascinating too! We highly recommend you check it out! 

The Annex is always free, but the museum in Brooklyn charges admission.


33. National Museum of Mathematics

11 East 26th Street between Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue

This museum strives to educate the public - and especially kids - about the patterns and mathematics in the world around us. It does so in a fun and interactive way that kids enjoy!

Its dynamic exhibits were created to spark curiosity and get visitors excited about the wonders of mathematics.

It’s in the Flatiron District, just down the block from Madison Square Park which is very popular with families.


34. Museum of Ice Cream

558 Broadway at Prince Street

Each of the installations here is hands-on and fun! One of the most popular exhibits is the Sprinkle Pool – a swimming pool filled with colored sprinkles!

In addition to all the interactive exhibits, there is a lot of ice cream to eat! The museum holds special events throughout the year.


35. New York City Fire Museum

278 Spring Street between Varick and Hudson Streets

Located in SoHo, this small museum is in a 1904 Beaux-Arts-style former firehouse.

It houses one of the nation’s most significant collections of fire-related artifacts and art dating back to the late 1700s.

There is also a gallery dedicated to 343 fire department members who gave their lives on September 11th.

New York City Fire Museum

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About The Author

Courtney

Courtney is a lifelong New Yorker fascinated with the city’s history, culture and cuisine. She loves exploring the world, as well as sharing her travel expertise with others. She joined the Free Tours by Foot team in 2011, first as a guide and then as a writer. She has a law degree, a teaching degree and a worn-out passport. Her motto is “Have backpack, will travel”.
Updated: August 10th, 2022
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