Top 5 Must-See Art Museums in Boston

Photo by Linda Tran, Graphic by Briggy Jones

Photo by Linda Tran, Graphic by Briggy Jones

By Linda Tran

Boston is one of the oldest cities in the US. It was founded in 1630 so they’re rich in history, culture and arts. Whether you’re visiting Boston for the first time or want to do something interesting with your friends, one of the best things to do is check out one of Boston’s museums. Boston has a ton of museums for you to choose from, many of them art museums. These are the top 5 must-see art museums Boston has to offer. 

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Photo by Linda Tran

Photo by Linda Tran

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, also known as MFA Boston, is the fifth largest museum in the United States. It was first founded in 1870 and the doors later opened to the public on July 4,1876. Art lovers and enthusiasts love visiting the MFA Boston because it is so comprehensive. With nearly 500,000 works of art, you could spend a month there. Whether you’re interested in contemporary art, ancient world art, European Art, Asian Art or even Fashion Art, there will be an exhibit to fit your interests and curiosity. 

Many visitors like how they are always updating their collection and curating new exhibits every couple of months. Currently they have “Kay Nielsen’s Enchanted Vision - The Kendra and Allan Daniel Collection,” which runs from July 20th-January 2020. This exhibit is all about Nielsen’s interpretations of classic fairy tales. So if you visited this museum a year ago, or even six months ago, you can already expect something fresh and extraordinary when you walk through the door!  

Photo by Linda Tran

Photo by Linda Tran

If you plan on visiting the museum, it is open everyday at 10AM and there is great news for families! Children six and under are admitted for free. Youths aged 7–17 are admitted free on the weekends, weekdays after 3 pm, and Boston Public School holidays. Any other day and time, admission for youths is $10. Admission for adults is $25 but if you’re a student, admission is $23. And if you have seniors in your family, admission is also $23. The cost of this ticket includes all-day access to galleries and special exhibitions, so if you want to stay a few hours or from open to close, you have that option. 

Admission also includes one free repeat visit within ten days (applies to full-price adult, senior, and student tickets only), for those who need more time to see all the galleries. And lastly, admission includes free Gallery Activities and Tours. If you don’t know where to start, a tour will be your best choice. Gallery activities change from time to time but can include art workshops for you and the kids. 

The Institute of Contemporary Art

Photo by Linda Tran

Photo by Linda Tran

For those of you who may not know exactly what contemporary art is, it is art consisting of paintings, sculptures, photography, installations, performances, and video art.

For anyone with a love of contemporary art (like myself), or anyone who is curious and wants to know more, The Institute of Contemporary Art, also known as The ICA Boston, is the perfect place!

The ICA Boston was originally called the Boston Museum of Modern Art when it was founded in 1936. It was known as the sister institution to New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, or MoMA, and started off as a laboratory where innovative approaches to art could be championed. This museum became a safe place for new and rising artists to showcase their artwork. Because of their dedication to discovering and supporting new artists, it helped pave the way for other art institutes and museums of “contemporary art”, as well as artists’ spaces and alternative venues.

This museum is perfect for visitors and artists who enjoy art in all types of media. You will find visual arts, performance, film, video, and literature. The best part is that the museum also created educational programs that encourage appreciation for contemporary culture. Throughout the years, because of their reputation and increased popularity  the ICA has expanded the scope and size of its exhibitions and programs. It is now the most popular museum for contemporary art in Boston.

Photo by Linda Tran

Photo by Linda Tran

With the expansion and all of the new exhibits, this museum is a great place to spark inspiration and motivation. The artwork and exhibits will inspire artists to think outside the box and to be more creative. If you are a struggling artist, this is the museum for you!

If you’re planning to visit, they are open every day except Mondays and holidays, starting at 10AM. It’s free for students seventeen and under, adults pay $15, college students pay $10, 60+ pay only $13. For those on a budget, be sure to plan a Thursday evening visit when  Admission is FREE for everyone!

Whether you’re curious, need inspiration, love contemporary art, or want something to do, this museum is highly recommended.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Photo by Linda Tran

Photo by Linda Tran

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is my favorite art museum in Boston, but regardless of my opinion, it’s still a must-see! Named after Isabella Stewart Gardner in honor of her and her family, Garnder created her museum to be, “for the education and enjoyment of the public forever.” She wanted visitors to be able to learn something whenever they visited while also enjoying themselves. This museum has a collection of paintings, sculptures, tapestries and decorative arts from Europe, Asia, and America.

What most visitors love about this museum is that it not only offers a collection of beautiful art, but there’s a small garden full of beautiful flowers, plants, textiles, furniture, and architecture you can enjoy as well. The garden is indoors so if you visit during the wintertime, you don’t have to worry about freezing! Security says photoshoots are forbidden, but you’re still allowed to take photos (without flash, of course), of the artwork or get your photo taken!  Other than that, you are all set and good to go for a fun day filled with art!

This museum has three floors of artwork and exhibits so you can spend the whole day! If you plan on visiting, be aware that they are closed on Tuesdays but are open the rest of the week  beginning at 11 AM. If you plan on bringing your whole family, admission is free for those seventeen and younger, while 18+ is $15, seniors 65 and up costs $12, and college students with current IDs pay $10. Not bad for a day out!  

Photo by Linda Tran

Photo by Linda Tran

MIT List Visual Arts Center

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology List Visual Arts Center is a contemporary art gallery, so it isn’t a museum, per se, but it is still a center where you can visit and see amazing art. The List Visual Arts Center is a creative place that artists can visit freely, experiment, push existing boundaries, and create art that they’re proud of. If you’re an artist that needs a safe place to create, this center could be for you. The List Visual Arts Center  collects, commissions, and presents rigorous, provocative, and artist-centric projects that engage MIT and the global art community. It’s a place to bring MIT artists and global art together.

One of my favorite things about this center is that the artwork has no rules, so you can see that these artists pushed themselves to create artwork outside of certain comfort levels. The MIT List Visual Arts Center is located at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the heart of Kendall Square. You do not need to be a student to visit; it is open for all. What visitors love most about this center is that they’re able to see a dynamic, changing program of temporary exhibitions, so there’s always something new to see. Along with temporary and changing exhibitions, visitors are able to see permanent and public art collections located across the Institute.

One of the best things about this center is that it has free admission. The center is closed on Mondays but they are open from Tuesday–Sunday 12 to 6 PM, and until 8 PM on Thursdays. Admission and programs are FREE and open to the public.

Harvard Art Museums

One of the greatest things about Harvard Art Museums is that there are three for you to choose from: The Fogg Museum, the Busch-Reisinger Museum, and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum. In general, the Harvard Art Museums are all about advancing the knowledge and appreciation of art. Whether you visit one museum or all three, there is bound to be something for you.

These museums are committed and dedicated to preserving, documenting, presenting, interpreting, and strengthening the collections and resources in their care and sharing that with the world. The purpose is to bring to light the intrinsic power of art and promote critical looking and thinking for students, faculty, and the public. They want to challenge their visitors  to feel something when they look at the artwork and to appreciate what they see. “Through research, teaching, professional training, and public education, the museums encourage the close study of original works of art, enhance access to the collections, support the production of original scholarship, and foster university-wide collaboration across disciplines.”

Let’s start off with The Fogg Museum. It was founded in 1895 on the northern edge of Harvard Yard by Richard Morris Hunt. This museum is a joint art museum and teaching facility designed by architects Coolidge, Shepley, Bulfinch, and Abbott, of Boston, where it became the first purpose-built structure for the specialized training of art scholars, conservators, and museum professionals in North America. When you visit the Fogg Museum, you’ll be able to view its holdings of Western paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, photographs, prints, and drawings dating from the Middle Ages to the present.

Next up is the Busch-Reisinger Museum. It was founded in 1901 as the Germanic Museum. Many visitors love this museum because it is dedicated to the study of all modes and periods of art from central and northern Europe, with an emphasis on German-speaking countries. This includes late-medieval sculpture, eighteenth-century art, noteworthy postwar, and contemporary art from German-speaking Europe.

Finally, the third museum is the Arthur M. Sackler Museum. It was a new museum building at 485 Broadway, designed by James Stirling, and opened in 1985. This structure remains the home of the History of Art and Architecture Department and the Media Slide Library.

Whether you plan on visiting all three or just one, you’ll be sure to enjoy. They are open daily from 10-5. Tickets are $15 for adults and $13 for Seniors (65+). However, it is free for all students with a valid ID and youth under eighteen.

You’ll have a great time no matter which museum you go to! These art museums in Boston are often the most popular and the ones you absolutely must-see. They are accessible to the public and encourage all to take a look, learn a few things, be inspired and to feel something. So if you’re in the area or if you’re visiting Boston for the first time, they are not to be missed!


Linda Tran sitting on bench at museum

Linda tran

Linda Tran is the Marketing Executive at the Quiet Nonsense. She’s currently from the Boston area with goals of relocating to New York City within the next few years to hopefully pursue a marketing career in the fashion industry. She graduated from Southern New Hampshire with a Bachelor’s in Marketing with a concentration in Social Media. She’s currently in graduate school and should graduate with an MBA in Marketing by December 2020. In her free time, she has a fashion blog that she’s committed and dedicated to and she loves traveling from time to time. Her favorite things to do for self-care is getting her nails, hair and lashes done. She’s also a supporter of women empowerment and aims to uplift women.