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World-class art in San Francisco

  • San Francisco, California, United States of America (USA)

Last updated: 28 April, 2024

From its myriad of art museums to its on-the-rise-again street art, there’s no shortage of stand-out artwork in San Francisco.

Nearly everything about the city has an artistic edge. There’s the exquisite Art Deco beauty of the Golden Gate Bridge, and the colourful heart sculptures – which debuted in 2004 – that still dot the streets in spots like the Lyon Street Steps and SOMA’s Moscone Center.

The city is home to several world-class art museums, including the Museum of Modern Art and the De Young Museum for fine art.

For showcasing local artistic talent, there are top-quality independent art galleries and special events such as SF Open Studios, the spring Art Market and the DIY Renegade Craft Fair.

Who to go with: tour operators

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Asian Art Museum

  • San Francisco, California, United States of America (USA)

Long line on free Museum day to the Asian Art Museum

Experience

Home to one of the most comprehensive collections of Asian art on the planet, this Civic Center locale exhibits everything from future fantasy animations to Chinese jade carvings from more than 6,000 years ago.

Adult price: £15

Good for age: 18+

  • San Francisco, California, United States of America (USA)

Sculpture and paintings in the De Young Museum of Fine Arts, San francisco

Bucket List Experience

De Young Museum

Set in a striking new building clad entirely in copper (designed to oxidise so that it eventually blends in with the surrounding eucalyptus trees), De Young’s highly regarded collection showcases American art from the 17th-21st centuries, as well as international contemporary art, costumes and textiles.

Together with SF’s Legion of Honor, which focuses more on ancient artworks, the two make up the largest public arts institution in the city.

Look for works by renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly, Surrealist painter Salvador Dali, and fabric sculptor, Nick Cave.

Adult price: £12

Good for age: 18+

Contemporary Jewish Museum

  • San Francisco, California, United States of America (USA)

exterior entrance to Contemporary Jewish-Museum, San francisco

Experience

With no permanent collection, San Francisco’s CJM offers ever-changing exhibits highlighting the Jewish culture and its complexities. It’s housed in a historic Pacific Gas & Electric substation that’s been modernly redesigned with elements of Jewish symbolism.

Adult price: £12

Good for age: 18+

  • San Francisco, California, United States of America (USA)

With seven floors and more than 33,000 works of modern and contemporary art, including design, photography, and media arts, the SF MoMA boasts one of the largest holdings of 20th- and 21st-century works on the planet.

The Mario Botta-designed building is a sight in itself, but inside you’ll find Picassos and Pollocks galore, as well as works by Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol’s self-portraits, and photography by Ansel Adams. Also look out for artwork by abstract painter Mark Rothko, and master of 20th Century Realism, Edward Hopper, as well as the 30-foot-tall Living Wall made up of over 19,000 plants.

The museum’s store features everything from sunburst clocks to Warhol ‘Soup Can’ skateboards, and a gourmet cafe serves up tasty seasonal eats.

 

Adult price: £20

Good for age: 18+

Legion of Honor

  • San Francisco, California, United States of America (USA)

Interior of Legion of Honor Museum

Experience

A Beaux Arts replica of Paris’ Legion of Honor Palace of all things, this art museum houses a collection of European and ancient art that spans over 6,000 years of artistic creation. The sister museum to the De Young.

Adult price: £10

Good for age: 18+

Museum of the African Diaspora

  • San Francisco, California, United States of America (USA)

exterior entrance of the Museum of African Diaspora

Experience

Celebrating black cultures around the world through a global lens, MoAD remains one of the few museums in the U.S. dedicated exclusively to the artworks of the African Diaspora. Artist discussions, literary events, and film screenings take place here regularly.

Adult price: £8

Good for age: 18+

  • San Francisco, California, United States of America (USA)

Female artists painting on a canvas

Experience

SF Open Studios

Creative, trend-setting, colourful San Francisco is renowned for its exceptional visual arts community, and for four weekends in the fall (October and/or November), over 400 of the city’s best and emerging artists throw open the doors to their workspaces.

Visitors can get up close with the artists and their works, and learn more about their creative processes and life as a working artist.

Each weekend highlights studios in different neighbourhoods, so it’s easy to create your own self-guided, art-focused walking tour.

Good for age: 13+

Duration: 4 weekends

When: Oct & Nov

Freq: annually

Logistics

Price: Free
Minimum age: 0
Age suitable: 18+
When: All year around

Getting there & doing it

The city’s South of Market (SOMA) neighbourhood is the main art museum hub, with the SF Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), the Contemporary Jewish Museum, Museum of the African Diaspora, and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, all within several easy-to-walk blocks.

Although spread out, the bulk of San Francisco’s art galleries are also located in SOMA, and between, Union Square and the Tenderloin. See the Art Collection website for comprehensive listings. The San Francisco Art Dealers Association is another good resource.

Who to go with: organised tours

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this attraction or activity

  • San Francisco

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the United States and a thriving cultural center for the Bay Area. Our remarkable collection of painting, sculpture, photography, architecture, design, and media arts is housed over seven gallery floors in an LEED Gold-certified building designed by the global architects Snøhetta and Mario Botta. SFMOMA believes the art of our time is vital and shares it with passion and purpose, and that art and the creative process can open minds and help build a better world. For that reason, we assemble unparalleled collections, create exhilarating exhibitions, and develop engaging public programs that connect with our community. Welcome!

Price $30

Min age 0

Rating 4.28 / 5 [118 ratings]

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  • San Francisco

Street Art? Latin Food? Hipster Vibes? Dive into a journey that's bursting with flavor, culture, and stories. Our Mission street food tour is a delightful blend of San Francisco's rich history and gastronomic wonders. HIGHLIGHTS: + Full Meal Included + Small Groups + Experience the flavor at the town's top-rated taqueria + Witness the city's most historic church + Discover the captivating murals that grace the neighborhood + Step into a lesser-known pupuseria for an authentic treat + Learn & taste bean-to-bar chocolate + See the Mission's best shopping street + Try hipster pizza + Walk Clarion Alley and see the famed Street Art

Price $99

Min age 6

Rating 5 / 5 [24 ratings]

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  • San Francisco

We actually go INSIDE 16 different venues including select art galleries with mosaics, sculpture and iconic photographs. Explore Renaissance Baroque architecture with décor in several hotel lobbies in the bustling Union Square area. Then discover Chinatown with its exotic unique shops, Buddhist monastery, Old St. Mary's church, local art and alleyways ending in the movie "Joy Luck Club " and "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom' s" Ross Alley. See where fortune cookies are made and have a taste. This is an easy 2 hour 30 minute walking tour with a local expert guide. Tea tasting included or optional.

Price $35

Min age 8

Rating 4.65 / 5 [20 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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