Art Museum San Francisco You Must Visit

rodin sculpture in the legion of honor art museum in san francisco

Without a doubt, you should definitely explore art museum in San Francisco. San Francisco is known as the U.S. hub for art and creativity. This city is THE place to find artistic inspiration.

There are so many fun museums in San Francisco. Read on to see our recommendations for the best ones to visit during your SFO adventure.

Join us for sizzling 2+ lb Dungeness crab, mussels, and shrimp skillets with stunning bay views from every seat at Crab House at Pier 39. Walk-ins welcome!

Must See Art Museum San Francisco

Two stick out as the top must-see art museums in San Francisco: the de Young and the Legion of Honor. These sister museums make up San Francisco’s largest public arts institution. Together they are known as the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

The architecture of both museums are different, which signifies the differences inside. The Legion of Honor is in a French neoclassical style and holds a large collection of European paintings. The de Young is in an ultra modern style and holds a larger American art collection. You really must see these two museums in SF together.

The Legion of Honor

The Legion of Honor is located at Lincoln Park, 100 34th Avenue (at Clement Street), San Francisco, CA 94121. It is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30 AM to 5:15 PM. The museum recommends that you buy tickets online in advance.

Legion of Honor History

The Legion of Honor art museum in San Francisco was a gift to the city of Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, a socialite and philanthropist popularly known as the “great grandmother of San Francisco.” Funded by her husband, the owner of the Spreckels Sugar Company, Alma acquired permission from the French government to create a permanent replica of the Palais de la Légion d’Honneur for this SF museum.

The museum opened in 1924 and was dedicated to the 3,600 Californian men who died in France’s battlefields during World War I. The veteran’s names were inscribed in the Book of Gold, which was on display at the Legion’s entrance until 1941. It has since been archived for safekeeping, but it is still shown annually every November.

To learn more about the history of the incredible Legion of Honor, visit the Fine Arts of San Francisco website.

Art at the Legion of Honor

Alma de Bretteville Spreckels built the museum primarily to house French art, especially the art of French sculptor Auguste Rodin. During the museum’s construction, Alma purchased copious amounts of French art and Rodin’s sculptures to be showcased at the Legion of Honor.

Today, this art museum in San Francisco still highlights European and French classical art. The upper level is primarily European art, from medieval to neoclassical to post-impressionism. The lower level holds a gallery with ancient art and other special exhibitions.

The de Young Museum

The de Young Museum is located in Golden Gate Park at 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco, CA 94118. It is open Tuesday through Sunday 9:30 AM to 5:15 PM. The museum encourages you to buy tickets online in advance.

de Young Museum History

The de Young museum was originally constructed in 1894 as the only permanent building built for the California Midwinter International Exposition. Michael H. de Young, the San Francisco Chronicle publisher, was the creator of the fair. The designers built the museum (then called the Fine Arts Building) in an Egyptian Revivalist style and covered it with hieroglyphs, typical of the Orientalist fair. Additionally, they expanded the building in 1919 in a Spanish Plateresque style.

The museum renamed itself the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum to honor his efforts in 1921. The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake caused significant damage to the museum. It was completely redesigned and rebuilt in 2005 by Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron to achieve the modern aesthetic we see today.

Art at the de Young Museum

The museum acquired its original collection during the Exposition and from de Young’s personal collection of historical artifacts. This San Francisco museum now concentrates on American art, international textile arts and costumes, African art, Oceanic art, and arts of the Americas.

The museum is large and divided into three levels, the upper, main, and lower levels. Be sure to grab a copy of the map on your way in, and don’t forget to check out the special exhibitions!

Together, the Legion of Art and the de Young make up some of the best museums in San Francisco. Indeed, anyone visiting SFO who likes art should check out these two museums San Francisco proudly offers.

art museum in san francisco gallery wall

More SF Museums + Art Museum San Francisco

Visiting San Francisco and want to check out some more Bay Area museums? Here’s where to go:

Cartoon Art Museum

Visiting San Francisco and want to check out the museums around Fisherman’s Wharf? Check out the Cartoon Art Museum, located at 781 Beach Street, San Francisco, CA 94109. This is one of the cool museums San Francisco uniquely offers. From comic strips to graphic novels, this museum honors all forms of comic art! Suitable for all ages.

Aquarium of the Bay

Not far from the Cartoon Art Museum and close to Crab House at Pier 39, the Aquarium of the Bay is the perfect stop. Explore the animals of the San Francisco Bay is a convenient (and dry!) location. This aquarium is home to more than 24,000 marine animals, including sharks, rays, octopus, river otters, and more!

Skillet with crab mussels and shrimp with a view of SF Bay

Crab House at Pier 39

Make sure to visit one of the best San Francisco restaurants on the water, Crab House at Pier 39, before or after you check out these Fisherman’s Wharf museums!

Make a reservation(walk-ins welcome!)

View our menu

Crab House at Pier 39 is known for serving the best Dungeness crab in town. Try our Killer Crab skillets which feature 2+ lb whole crab roasted in our secret garlic sauce.

We source all of our seafood sustainably because we care about the ocean and the future of our planet! When you dine at Crab House, you can feel confident that you are supporting the environment with your dining choices.

Crab House at Pier 39 is also loved for its crab dishes like Crab Fried Rice, Garlic Noodles with Crab, Crab Chowder in a Sourdough Bread Bowl, Crab Topped NY Steak, and so much more! Don’t forget to try one of our cocktails from our full service bar.