New York is a great city with fun and interesting things to do and see waiting at every corner. It has become one of the great cultural centers of the planet thanks to its museums of all kinds for all tastes. But what are the best museums in New York?
1. 9/11 Museum
For all of us who in one way or another witnessed the events of September 11, 2001, visiting the National September 11 Memorial & Museum is a very emotional moment during a trip to New York. The world was paralyzed by the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers and the Manhattan skyline changed forever that morning.
Through this ticket with an audio guide to the 9/11 Museum, you will have direct access to the museum itself and the 9/11 memorial where you can learn more about this episode in the history of the United States and the heroic response of New York City to the terrible event.
A visit to remember: what is the 9/11 Museum like?
This museum documents the history and significance of the attacks against the World Trade Center in New York, through an extensive collection of more than 10,000 objects that bear witness to this tragic event.
I started my visit at the Memorial Plaza, two huge water fountains with waterfalls located in the exact spot where the towers once stood. The sight is absolutely breathtaking and carries an enormous emotional significance. On the edges of the fountains, you can read engraved on bronze plaques the names of the people who lost their lives in the attacks.
Visiting the living history of 9/11
The museum is located underneath the Memorial Plaza, inside the remains of the original World Trade Center structure. After passing through the security arch, nothing will prepare you for what you will see inside the 9/11 Museum as it stirs up many emotions and it is impossible not to have your throat in a knot throughout the tour.
It is very impressive to see the remains of the original columns of the Twin Towers, the stairs by which hundreds of people tried to flee for their lives, as well as the objects of the victims recovered from the rubble and the testimonies of the survivors.
Many people sacrificed their lives that day to save the lives of others and thanks to all those anonymous heroes, hundreds of people managed to survive.
- Where is the 9/11 Museum?: 180 Greenwich Street in the World Trade Center, south of Manhattan
- How long does it take to see it?: Because of the significance of this museum, it is a place to take your time to see. My advice is to set aside a minimum of 2 hours to see it
- Opening hours: The 9/11 Museum is open on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- How to get there: Bus lines M5, M20, M22 / Subway station Chambers Street (lines A, C, 1, 2 and 3), Park Place (lines 2 and 3), World Trade Center (line E), and Fulton Street (lines A, C, J, Z, 2, 3, 4 and 5)
- Extra information: you can check our article on 9/11 Memorial Tickets and Tours
2. Natural History Museum
Another of the best museums in New York is the Museum of Natural History. You may recognize it from the Ben Stiller movie "Night at the Museum". However, even if this museum does not come to life in the real world, visiting it is completely worth it for the importance of its collections and how well structured they are for an enjoyable and exciting tour.
In fact, it is one of the must-see museums in the city and one of the most visited, so to skip the queues at the ticket office and start exploring it as soon as you get there, you should get online your ticket to the Natural History Museum of New York.
What to see at the Museum of Natural History?
It was created in 1869 for the study of the universe, the Earth, the human being, and the diffusion of scientific knowledge thanks to the efforts of the naturalist Albert S. Bickmore, so here you can see many interesting things: from fossils and dinosaur bones to meteorites and the origins of the human being.
Given the size of the Natural History Museum and the large number of exhibits it has, the visit can be overwhelming, especially if it is the first time. With this ticket you will have access to nearly 50 permanent and special exhibits, including the Rose Center for Earth and Space.
How to plan your visit
The Natural History Museum is made up of 28 interconnected buildings that house its popular library, research labs, and dozens of permanent exhibit halls.
Some of the most famous are the Biodiversity and Environmental Halls (where a 91-feet long blue whale specimen is on display), the Earth and Planetary Sciences Halls (where the Ahnighito meteorite that crashed in Greenland is on display) and my favorite Fossil Halls, the room that exhibits the largest collection of dinosaur fossils and features life-size reproductions.
My advice is to plan your visit well and budget at least 3 hours to explore the museum at your leisure, either to discover its most relevant rooms or to go at your own pace stopping at whatever exhibition you find more interesting.
Visit with children
If you go to the New York History Museum with children, I recommend you spend some time at the Discovery Room, a room where kids from 5 to 12 years old can learn about nature and science by experimenting interactively with puzzles and scientific challenges (with a little help from you). They will love it!
- Where is the Museum of Natural History? It is located on 79th Street west of Central Park
- How long does it take to see it?: Its collection is considered the largest on the planet with more than 35 million pieces of all kinds. If you don't have much time it is best to see the most popular rooms or the ones you want to see the most
- How to get there: Bus (lines M7, M10, M11, M79, M86, and M104) / Subway (81st St. Museum of Natural History Station, lines B and C).
- Opening hours: Open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
- Extra info: You can read more details in my article on Museum of Natural History Tickets
If we talk about modern and contemporary art, the MoMA is the most important museum in the world and one of the essential visits to do in New York. Its popularity lies not only in the incalculable value of its collections but also in offering a complete experience suitable for all ages, which is why there are often long lines at the entrance.
However, with this skip-the-line MoMA ticket, you will get immediate access to the MoMA Museum and its vast collection of 200,000 works signed by famous artists such as Dalí, Picasso, Andy Warhol or Van Gogh among many others. Trust me, you will love it so much that you will find it hard to leave.
What to see at MoMA?
It's amazing to discover that from the eight paintings and one drawing that formed the MoMA collection back in 1929, its repertoire is now composed of hundreds of thousands of pieces between painting, sculpture, drawings, prints, design, photography, film, architecture and prints, all spread over 6 floors!
If you like art as much as I do, I'm sure you won't mind wandering for hours around its halls to enjoy every detail but if what you want is to make a short visit to MoMA, I advise you to focus on floors 4 and 5, which is where the works of the most famous artists such as Warhol, Pollock, Matisse or Cézanne are located.
But its stimulating repertoire goes beyond that. The great thing about this skip-the-line MoMA ticket is that includes access to MoMA PS1, Long Island City's contemporary art center, for 14 days following your visit to the Manhattan venue. Letting you discover a different side of art, this cultural space hosts exhibitions that address both artist retrospectives and site-specific shows.
Before you leave MoMA...
When you're done, before heading out to the streets of New York I suggest you take a break at the MoMA Sculpture Garden, an oasis in the middle of the city where you can enjoy a coffee in a very unique setting designed by Philip Johnson in the 1950s.
- Where is MoMA?: It is located on 53rd Street between 5th and 6th Avenue
- How long does it take to see it?: It depends on how passionate you are about modern and contemporary art. For a quick visit, you will need to spend a minimum of 90 minutes
- How to get there?: Bus lines M1, M2, M3, M4, and M5 / Subway 5th Avenue - 53rd Street (lines E and V)
- Opening hours: Open from Saturday to Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 17:30 p.m. and Fridays from 10:30 a.m. to 20 p.m.
- Extra info: I tell you more details about my visit to MoMA in this article on MoMA Tickets
Isabel's Traveller Tip
Go up to the 6th floor to take in the amazing views of Midtown Manhattan from MoMA's expansive windows. You'll see Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick's Cathedral, and Grand Central Station.
4. MET Museum
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, popularly known as the MET, is the largest museum in the city and one of the best museums in New York. Its collection brings together works of art from around the world with more than 5,000 years of history. If you count Indiana Jones films among your favorites, this place is for you!
As one of the most visited museums in NYC, the queues to access the MET can sometimes be very long. However, this skip-the-line ticket to the MET is valid for 3 consecutive days and you'll be able to enter directly into the three venues that make up the museum (The Met Fifth Avenue, The Met Breuer and The Met Cloisters) to enjoy all the amazing works of art it houses.
What to see at the MET?
The question could perfectly be what not to see at the MET Museum? Everything here is absolutely fascinating. If you are passionate about history and art, this museum will be your playground and you should not miss it during your trip to New York. This ticket includes all exhibitions and free public guided tours, which are available in 10 languages.
Since the MET opened in February 1872 when Robert Lee Jenkins donated his private collection, the museum has continued to grow and attract visitors. Each year more than 6 million people visit its halls filled with treasures from ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, and Rome, the Middle Ages, Islamic art, art from the Americas, Africa, Oceania, and much more.
To bring art education to the public, the MET hosts dozens of exhibitions annually as well as events and programs including films, lectures, performances, guided tours, and family activities.
Speaking of visiting the MET with your family, did you know that children under 12 get in free when accompanied by an adult?
How to plan your visit
A good start is to take a look at the MET map to locate the permanent collections and leave the areas that don't interest you that much out of your itinerary. This might be particularly difficult once there, after all, you will want to see as much as possible. But to not spend more time than you would like to on this visit, the best idea is to only see the essentials.
What I like most about this skip-the-line ticket to the MET is that is valid for 3 consecutive days, so you can return to any of the museum's locations to continue the visit right where you left off the day before. So, if you're staying in NYC for a week or two, you can take it easy!
All of the pieces housed at the MET are fascinating but, in my opinion, the Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Medieval art rooms are a must-see treasure trove along with the European painting room.
If you have some time left, don't forget to stop by the other locations of the MET Museum: The MET Breuer (dedicated to modern and contemporary art) and The MET Cloisters (dedicated to medieval art and architecture).
- Where is the Met: It is located at 82nd Street and 5th Avenue
- How long does it take to see it?: You will need a minimum of 3 hours for a short visit knowing in advance what you want to see. Ideally, you should spend a whole morning or afternoon touring the museum but as this is a three-day ticket you can take your time to organize the visit as you see fit
- How to get there: Bus lines M1, M2, M3, and M4 / Subway 86th Street (lines 4, 5, and 6)
- Opening hours: Open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays open until 9:00 p.m. Closed every Monday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day
5. Whitney Museum of American Art
After a pleasant stroll through High Line Park you can continue the sightseeing route by entering the Whitney Museum, a space specializing in 20th-century American art.
With this skip-the-line admission ticket to the Whitney Museum of American Art:, you'll have direct access to the best of modern and contemporary American art in one place with breathtaking scenery from the museum's outdoor terraces. Plus, there are free daily tours to get the inside scoop on all its secrets.
What to see at the Whitney Museum of American Art?
There are many interesting museums in New York. The thing that makes this one special is that it was born out of failure. Its founder, sculptor Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, created it in 1930 after the MET refused to exhibit its collection.
Today, its collection is made up of works of art by renowned 20th century American artists such as Jackson Pollock, Edward Hopper, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Andy Warhol and, what I find most interesting, by living contemporary artists who find in this museum a place to present their works in public for the first time.
How to plan a visit?
The Whitney Museum consists of several floors among which are distributed the temporary exhibitions and the permanent collection, which has 21,000 pieces created by more than 3,000 artists. Here, you will also find the personal collection of founder Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney arranged in different historical periods.
The atmosphere at the Whitney Museum is relaxed and quite appealing to a young-spirited audience. If you don't have much time for this visit, my advice is to look for the works and artists you like the most and go up the rooftop of the museum. As interesting is its interior (with the largest column-free gallery in the city), the outdoor terraces on floors 5, 6, 7, and 8 that serve as art galleries and viewpoints of the city at the same time.
Why I love this unique museum
In addition to its own theme, contemporary art, I love the Whitney Museum because it is not crowded like the other museums of the city. Also, the architecture of the building is impressive and boasts a spectacular façade. And from its terraces, you will have wonderful views of the Hudson River, the Meatpacking District, and even New Jersey and southern Manhattan.
- Where is the Whitney Museum? It is located at 99 Gansevoort St, New York
- How long does it take to see it?: Schedule at least a couple of hours. It is a very large museum, with hundreds of permanent works spread over nine floors
- Opening hours: The Whitney Museum is open Sunday through Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays until 10 p.m. Closed on Tuesdays, Thanksgiving Day, December 25, and January 1
- How to get there: M1, M2, M3, and M4 bus / 77th Street Subway (line 6)
6. Madame Tussauds
Are the wax figures at Madame Tussauds as spectacular as they say they are? Well, yes! The truth is that this New York museum has well-deserved fame, not only because of how much the wax sculptures look like the people they represent (it would be a bit underwhelming if this wasn't the case, I guess), but also because you can interact with them in different settings and take home an incredible photo album of your visit as a souvenir.
With this ticket to the Madame Tussauds Museum in New York, you will have full access to its more than five floors of exhibits with all kinds of themed backgrounds in which to take pictures with your favorite actors, musicians, and athletes. For example, imagine posing on Oprah Winfrey's interview couch or in the Oval Office with the President of the United States. Sounds fun to me!
What to see at Madame Tussauds?
The Madame Tussauds Museum welcomes you with the Opening Night Party room set as a big party where you can mingle with different celebrities. The visit continues with other themed rooms such as the Sports Zone or Pop Culture, where you will meet athletes, musicians, and other famous personalities.
One of the areas I was most excited about was the Star On Broadway exhibit, an interactive experience where you get to step into the role of a real Broadway star. It was hilarious to play a tune on a giant floor piano, just like in the movies! And singing at the top of your lungs one of the songs from "Phantom of the Opera" along with the rest of your cast.
The Marvel 4-D Cinema Experience is also highly recommended if superheroes and comic books are your thing. This is a 4-D movie that incorporates 3-D movie technology with special effects that include wind, water, and even smell. This movie truly puts you in the middle of the battle between good and evil for a fantastic experience.
Perfect to go with kids
If you are traveling with children or teenagers this is one of the best museums in New York to visit as a family because they will be guaranteed to have a blast. They will be able to tour Madame Tussauds from top to bottom, taking pictures with the figures (after all, these celebrities are used to the camera flashes) and pose with E.T., the Ghostbusters, and many other characters.
- Where is it? It is located at 232 West 42nd Street (in Times Square)
- How long does it take to see it?: 90 minutes will be enough to see the highlights of Madame Tussauds although it all depends on how much time you want to spend taking pictures
- Opening hours: The Madame Tussauds Museum is open Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. while on Fridays and Saturdays it is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- How to get there: Bus lines M6, M7, M10 M20, M27, M42, and M104. / Subway 42nd Street & 8th Avenue (lines A, C, and E), 42nd Street & 6th Avenue (lines B, D, F and V) or 42nd Street-Times Square (lines 1, 2, 3, 7, N, Q, R, W and S)
7. Guggenheim Museum
While touring the Upper East Side, an essential visit you must include in your itinerary is the Guggenheim Museum, one of the best museums in New York. Not only for the magnificent collection of modern art including works by Marc Chagall, Vasily Kandinsky, Edouard Manet, and Vincent van Gogh but also for its spectacular architecture. the Guggenheim is a modernist building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, an icon of the twentieth century.
That is why you won't be disappointed by the Guggenheim Museum. As you walk through its corridors and discover the interior design of the building, shaped in a spiral, you will move from one space to another in what Wright himself called an "uninterrupted symphony".
It's no wonder it's one of the most popular museums in the city with long lines at the doors. To save time you can spend on your visit, with this skip-the-line ticket to the Guggenheim Museum, you'll have direct access to one of the world's finest collections of modern and contemporary art.
What to see at the Guggenheim Museum?
Upon arrival, the impressive building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, his last major project before his death, is sure to leave you in awe. The exterior is designed as a large white cylindrical structure that seems to spin like a whirlwind towards the sky.
As you walk through the entrance, the first thing you notice is a great sense of amplitude and openness. On either side of it is a very long ramp that goes up to six floors and rises towards a glass dome that lets in natural light. The slope creates the illusion of experiencing the art on display as you ascend upward in a very natural, organic way.
Among the criticisms the building received, some people believed that its design would overshadow the artwork displayed on its walls but nothing could be further from the truth. Architecture and painting merged into one to become a true emblem of New York.
As for painting, its collection is spectacular: Kandinsky, Toulouse-Lautrec, Magritte, Chagall, Picasso, or Miró, among others. All this together with very interesting temporary exhibitions and a collection of photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe, famous for his large images in black and white.
Why I like it
What makes this ticket so fantastic is that you can explore the museum with a guide for free every day at 2 p.m., which gives you a complete and different view of the Guggenheim.
- Where is it:: 89th Street and 5th Avenue
- How long does it take to see the Guggenheim Museum?: For a quick visit to enjoy the building's architecture and collection, you will need at least 2 hours minimum.
- Opening hours: The Guggenheim Museum is open Friday through Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Saturdays are open until 7:45 p.m.
- How to get there: 86th Street Subway (lines 4, 5, and 6) / Bus lines M1, M2, M3 and M4
8. Museum of the City of New York
If you're going to spend several days in the Big Apple and want to learn the history of the city in-depth, discover what life was like for the first New Yorkers, and how it became one of the most important cities on the planet you have to go to the Museum of the City of New York, just south of East Harlem.
What to see at the Museum of the City of New York
Located in a beautiful building of colonial and Georgian style, throughout its four floors you will find objects, paintings, photographs, and recreations that flesh out the history of New York from its origins and imagine its future.
In addition, with this Museum of the City of New York tickets including access to the documentary "Timescapes", you will see a half-hour multimedia narration that takes a trip back in time through 400 years of the city's history. Totally recommended!
Why I love the Museum of the City of New York
Along with the documentary, I loved the exhibit of antique toys and full-scale models.
- Where is it: The Museum of the City of New York is located at 1220 Fifth Avenue and 103rd Street
- How long does it take to see it?: At most, it takes approximately 2 hours to see the entire museum
- Opening hours: Open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- How to get there: Subway 103rd Street (line 6) or 110th Street (lines 2 and 3) / Bus lines M1, M2, M3 and M4
9. KGB Espionage Museum
Do you like stories about spies during the Cold War? Then you must include this one in your list of the best New York museums to visit. It is an amazing exhibit of objects used by Soviet agents in their missions against the United States to try to get their secrets.
The funny thing is that the KGB Espionage Museum is the work of just one person, Julius Urbatis, a Lithuanian historian who has spent decades collecting original pieces such as iconographies of Lenin or Stalin, cameras and microphones hidden in books, rings, or belts, gas masks, guns shaped as everyday objects... some objects have almost a century of history!
Why visit this museum
If you are a history buff and particularly love spy anecdotes, with this ticket to the KGB Espionage Museum, you will have direct, skip-the-line access to the world's largest collection of KGB items, some of them never seen before!
In addition, you will discover the secret activities, strategies, and methods the Soviets employed in many of the most important top-secret espionage operations in history.
- Where is it: This museum is located at 245 West 14th Street.
- How long does it take to see it:: About 90 minutes is enough for a quick visit
- Opening hours: Open Monday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
10. Brooklyn Museum
During a visit to the borough of Brooklyn, a good idea is to visit the Brooklyn Museum, one of the largest in the country and among New York's finest museums. It was founded in 1895 with the ambition of becoming the largest museum in the world and although it could not achieve its purpose, its collections of antiquities and American art are of great value and a true delight for history and art buffs.
Why visit the Brooklyn Museum
I loved the permanent collection, which I was able to access with this ticket to the Brooklyn Museum, and discover art from all corners of the world from ancient Egypt to the present day on a free guided tour.
One of my favorite exhibits was the Spanish colonial and Native American art although its collection of African, Pacific Islander, or Islamic art also deserves a special mention because it is simply spectacular. In this museum, you will also find an American art collection with works by Edward Hopper, Norman Rockwell, or Winslow Homer.
In addition, with this ticket to the Brooklyn Museum, you will get a 10% discount in the gift store, which never hurts. Take advantage of your visit to the museum to tour the Brooklyn area, one of my favorites in the city. Find out more details in my article on Things to do in Brooklyn.
- Where is it: The Brooklyn Museum is at 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn
- How long does it take to see the museum?: My advice is to plan your visit well and schedule at least 2 hours to explore the museum at your leisure. If you do not have much time, it is best to prioritize the two or three rooms that interest you the most and leave the rest for another time
- Opening hours: Open Wednesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays
- How to get there: Metro lines B, D, Q, N, R. / Bus lines B41, B45 and B69
11. Fotografiska New York
Fotografiska New York is anything but a museum. On the outside, the building is astonishingly beautiful, but inside it never ceases to amaze because there is no permanent collection —every exhibition is unique! It is a mix of photography, art, music, and nightlife.
An alive artistic space in constant change capable of adapting and showing the latest movements and social issues throughout the work of both emerging and established artists in a vibrant cultural program.
Why I like Fotografiska New York
It is not just another museum. The atmosphere created by the lighting of the rooms, the elegant interior design, and the soothing music is a novel approach to photography that, together with an ever-changing collection, makes the experience totally different every time and a reason to visit Fotografiska New York on every trip to the city.
- Where is it? It is located at 281 Park Avenue South
- How long does it take to see Fotografiska New York?: At least 2 hours to fully enjoy the atmosphere and the collection
- Opening hours: Fotografiska New York is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays closed
- How to get there: Bus M1, M2, M3
Isabel's Traveller Tip
Fotografiska New York often hosts events with live music and special exhibitions — it's worth dropping by on New York nights!
12. Spyscape Museum and Experience
Have you ever imagined being a spy on a secret mission? Think you could pass a lie detector? Then put on your hat and trench coat because the Spyscape Museum and Experience in New York City will teach you how to think like a spy and put the tricks of the trade into practice.
With this ticket to Spyscape you'll experience those mysterious spy stories in an immersive environment, as well as participating in a real spy challenge to test your own skills.
At the end of the test, you will find out what kind of spy you would be: will it be 007, Mata Hari, Alan Turing, or Joan Clarke?
Why I like Spyscape Museum and Experience
I had a blast since it's not just another museum about espionage but a mix between a museum and an interactive experience. Spyscape Museum is divided into seven sections that are dedicated to different facets of espionage such as intelligence operations, deception or cyber-attacks.
Before starting the adventure, a video is shown explaining the missions to complete and each participant receives a wristband, which is scanned in each section so that the details of the next job are loaded.
For example, in "Deception" you have to tell which subject is lying or telling the truth after watching various interviews while in "Surveillance" you can test your talent for finding suspects on security cameras. The tests are so well done that you really get immersed into the role and the time in the museum flies by.
The best part comes at the end though, when all the tests have been completed, the results are analyzed to determine what kind of spy you are and what branch of military intelligence you would be instrumental in to make the mission successful.
When you leave Spyscape Museum and Experience you will feel ready to go on any incognito mission, like a real spy.
- Where is it located at: 928 8th Ave Between 54th-55th Street
- How long does it take to tour the Spyscape Museum? It will take approximately 90 minutes
- Is it suitable for children?: The Spyscape Museum and Experience is best for children ages 10 or 12 and up as some of the trials can be a bit challenging
- How to get there: 50th Street Subway (C, E lines), 59th Street Columbus Circle (A, B, C, D lines), 57th Street (N, Q, R, o, W lines) / M7, M20, M104 bus
Tourist cards that include some of New York's best museums
Have you thought about buying a New York Pass to get the most out of your trip to New York? It is a tourist card that gives access to major museums, monuments, and points of interest in the city. These are the tourist passes that exist in New York:
Getting one of these passes has several advantages but the primary one is that if you use it correctly you will save money and time by not having to buy individual tickets for each place you visit. Even in some cases, with a New York Pass, you won't have to wait in the boring entrance lines, and having all the tickets in one place is very convenient.
Which pass to buy?
The million-dollar question that every traveler asks! In this sense, the most important thing is to take into consideration that there are two kinds of New York Pass: by the number of days and by the number of attractions.
Finding the perfect pass depends on the type of trip you are going to make in New York and your budget. In our post about New York tourist cards we help you choose the right one for you. Check it out!