Guggenheim Museum

Museum in Upper East Side

Image by Ninoslav Vrana Getty Images

A New York icon, architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s conical white spiral is probably more famous than the artworks inside, which include works by Kandinsky, Picasso and Pollock. Other key additions, often exhibited in the more recent adjoining tower (1992), include paintings by Monet, Van Gogh and Degas, photographs by Mapplethorpe, and important surrealist works. But temporary exhibitions climbing the much-photographed central rotunda are the real draw. Pick up the free audioguide or download the Guggenheim app for information about the exhibits and architecture.

Completed in 1959, the inverted ziggurat structure was derided by some critics but hailed by others, who welcomed it as a beloved architectural icon – indeed, since it first opened, this unusual structure has appeared on countless postcards, TV programs and films. The initial collection was bequeathed by Solomon R Guggenheim, a New York mining magnate who – with the help of his art adviser, a German baroness named Hilla Rebay – started collecting abstract art in his later life. The museum has since opened other notable branches in Bilbao, Venice and Abu Dhabi.

The museum’s ascending ramp (known as the Rotunda) is occupied by rotating exhibitions of modern and contemporary art. Though Wright intended visitors to go to the top and wind their way down, the cramped single elevator makes this difficult on busy days. Exhibitions, therefore, are installed from bottom to top.

There are two good on-site food options: the Wright, at ground level, a space-age eatery serving steamy risotto and classic cocktails, and Cafe 3, on the 3rd floor, which offers views of Central Park, coffee and light snacks. Both venues are components of the original building design and worth a look in their own right for their splendid aesthetics.