The Kyoto National Museum is Kyoto premier art museum and plays host to the highest level exhibitions in the city. It was founded in 1895 as an imperial repository for art and treasures from local temples and shrines. In the original main hall there are 17 rooms with displays of over 1000 artworks, historical artefacts and handicrafts. The new Heisei Chishinkan, designed by Taniguchi Yoshio, opened in 2014, is a brilliant modern counterpoint to the original building.
While the permanent collection is worth a visit, the special exhibitions are the real highlights. Check with the Tourist Information Center (TIC) or the Kyoto Visitor's Guide to see what's on while you're in town.