Philadelphia is known as one of the best museum cities in the US. From spacious galleries like the Philadelphia Museum of Art to interactive science foundations like the Franklin Institute, there is no shortage of options when it comes to brain-building in Philadelphia. Get lost in some museums rich with history and pleasant surprises.
Here’s our guide to the best – along with local tips to make the most of your visit.
The observatory at the Franklin Institute is a must see © J. Fusco / VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
The Franklin Institute
The Franklin Institute Science Museum combines the educational aspects of a science center with the refreshing surprises of an entertaining museum experience. Founded in 1824, it’s one of the oldest science centers in the US and has several monthly events that showcase its resources as a research center.
Don’t Miss: Night Skies at the Observatory is a monthly event that allows guests to look at the stars through an industrial-strength telescope, and Science After Dark is a monthly event that blends playful themes like “Party Like a Rockstar” with demonstrations explaining the science behind music, video games and more.
Local Tip: Relax in front of one of the city’s most beautiful (and largest) fountains. Swann Memorial Fountain is the centerpiece of the beautiful Logan Square neighborhood and just steps away from the museum.
Meet masterworks at the Barnes Foundation © R. Kennedy / GPTMC
The Barnes Foundation
The current Barnes Foundation has a sleek, modern exterior that pays homage to the museum’s rich history as an art education center and place to appreciate lush horticulture. Opened in 2012, the Barnes Foundation is the home of paintings from icons like Pablo Picasso and Vincent Van Gogh and regularly opens exhibitions that push the boundaries of contemporary art.
Don’t Miss: The Barnes Foundation is famous for its unique curation. Check out masterpieces from prominent artists like Henri Matisse next to everyday objects like a spatula.
Local Tip: The museum hosts lively First Friday! parties monthly, featuring live music, dancing and opportunities for guests to explore the museum’s comprehensive collection of artwork from the world over. First Sundays of every month also feature free admission.
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Tallying 793,000 visitors in 2017, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is one of the most visited museums in the world. Famous for its comprehensive art collection (comprising 240,000+ objects), this museum is a staple of the City of Brotherly Love. With new exhibitions featuring artwork like classic pop art and vivid international photography opening throughout the year, there is always a great reason to visit.
Don’t Miss: The Philadelphia Museum of Art features works from celebrated artists like Salvador Dali and Cy Twombly. Be prepared to see some iconic paintings up close!
Local Tip: Wednesday evenings feature pay-what-you-wish admission, one of the best-kept secrets in Philly for residents and tourists alike.
Don't miss one of the world’s finest collections of American painting and sculpture © B. Krist for GPTMC
The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
Located right off Broad and Cherry streets, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is the oldest art museum and school in the US and boasts an internationally renowned collection of 19th- and 20th-century paintings. Get lost in the museum's chronologically curated collection of pieces from the 1760s to the present.
Don’t Miss: The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is home to the Thomas Eakins Collection, a must-see assortment of drawings, photographs and other artwork from the celebrated artist.
Local Tip: Hungry after a fun museum visit? Reading Terminal Market is brisk walk away from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Enjoy delicious food ranging from Creole cooking to famous roast pork sandwiches at this Philly food staple.
The African American Museum in Philadelphia was founded in 1976 © VISIT PHILADELPHIA ®
The African American Museum in Philadelphia
Opened in 1976 as part of the United States’ Bicentennial celebration, the African American Museum in Philadelphia was the first museum built by a municipality in the US to celebrate African American culture. The museum explores the story of the African Diaspora, African Americans in Philadelphia and the contemporary narrative that connects African Americans nationwide. A cultural hub for African American events in Philadelphia, the museum regularly hosts workshops and panel discussions on African American history and culture.
Don’t Miss: Free monthly programming like Macy’s Family Fun Day bring visitors to the museum for a day of learning through interactive projects and activities.
Local Tip: The African American Museum in Philadelphia is blocks away from Chinatown. After your museum visit, plan on sipping tasty bubble tea with fresh fruit and getting pictures with the gorgeous Chinatown Friendship Gate.
Medical mysteries abound at the Mütter Museum – including a slice of Einstein's brain © J. Fusco / VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
The Mütter Museum
Full of medical oddities, the Mütter Museum is one of the weirdest museums you will ever visit. Named after physician Dr Thomas Dent Mütter, it was originally a center for biomedical research and now has attractions on display like The Mütter American Giant, a 7’6” skeleton – the largest on display in North America. From organs to cysts that have been preserved for decades, the Mütter simply has no limits in documenting the human body.
Don’t Miss: The Mütter Museum is one of only two places worldwide where you can see slides of Albert Einstein’s brain.
Local Tip: The museum is two blocks away from the Schuylkill Banks, so you can process what you've learned with a stroll around Philly’s most well-known river.
The Museum of the American Revolution
The Museum of the American Revolution tells the story of the the nation's fight for independence in great detail. Located in Philadelphia’s Old City neighborhood, the museum showcases a life-sized replica of a privateer ship used by American soldiers in the war. Each visit to this museum is both a reminder of the US’ rich history and opportunity to learn about key figures from the American Revolution that have often been forgotten.
Don’t Miss: Be sure to check out George Washington’s Headquarters Tent, an iconic surviving relic from the American Revolution that George Washington lived and worked in.
Local Tip: The Museum of American Revolution is conveniently located near the Liberty Bell. Be sure to get a picture or two of one of America’s enduring symbols of freedom.
Understand the Jewish experience at the National Museum of Jewish American History © G. Widman for GPTMC
National Museum of American Jewish History
The National Museum of American Jewish History is also located in Philadelphia’s Old City neighborhood and highlights the experience of Jewish immigrants to the US. From preserving religious traditions to working towards acceptance in a new country, the National Museum of American Jewish History captures the Jewish American experience in an authentic way – it's a bright example of Philadelphia’s commitment to inclusive attractions and programming.
Don’t Miss: Check out the interactive Only in America Gallery/Hall of Fame, showcasing the legacies of celebrated Jewish Americans like Albert Einstein, Steven Spielberg and Barbra Streisand.
Local Tip: Save yourself time looking for parking by taking the Market Frankford Line subway to 5th street. The National Museum of American Jewish History is directly above this stop, making it one of the most accessible museums in the city.
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