Experience the De Young Museum & Legion of Honor
San Francisco is known for many things: the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and sourdough bread, to name a few. But did you know it’s also home to two of the most impressive art museums in the United States? The Legion of Honor and de Young Museum offer visitors a breathtaking collection of artwork spanning multiple centuries and originating from all over the world. Whether you’re an art lover or are just looking for a fun cultural activity, you can’t go wrong with either of these museums.
Legion of Honor Exhibits
The Legion of Honor, a grand beaux-arts building designed to resemble the Legion d’Honneur in Paris, was built as a commemoration for Californian soldiers who perished in World War I. Spacious galleries with soaring ceilings provide an incredibly elegant atmosphere in which to contemplate the artwork.
The Legion of Honor has six permanent collection exhibits that span a wide range of cultures and mediums:
- European Art: Fans of classic art will be thrilled to admire over 200 paintings on view (out of over 800 owned by the museum) that include works from well-known artists like Fra Angelico, Claude Monet, Peter Paul Rubens, Edgar Degas, and more.
- Ancient Art: Explore a wealth of antiquities created thousands of years ago by the ancient peoples of Greece, Rome, the Aegean Islands, Egypt, and other early human civilizations.
- Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts: Both the de Young Museum and the Legion of Honor feature a variety of works of art on paper, like prints, drawings, and even artists’ original sketchbooks.
- European Decorative Arts: The Legion of Honor’s benefactors, the Spreckels, were particularly fond of European decorative arts, and it shows in this sprawling collection of everything from a circa-1500’s Spanish ceiling to a settee made for Marie Antoinette.
- European Sculpture: It’s hard to find a better selection of European sculptures anywhere in America. Visitors will be delighted with a collection of over 90 masterworks by August Rodin, including his inimitable The Thinker, as well as other European pieces dating back several centuries.
de Young Museum Exhibits
While it was founded in 1895, the de Young Museum has new digs for today’s visitors: a state-of-the-art complex that broke ground in 2005. Contained inside this architectural marvel is a priceless collection of works from all over the globe. The de Young Museum exhibits encompass a range of styles and mediums, from 12th-century Asian silks to royal African chairs to ancient Mexican mural fragments. Read more about the permanent collections below:
- Arts of the Americas: You won’t want to miss this assortment of elaborate artifacts created by indigenous artists who called the Americas home for centuries before the European explorers claimed it as their own.
- American Art: Beginning with art created in the 1600s, this United States top 10 collection of non-indigenous American art showcases works originating from over four centuries.
- Costume and Textile Arts: This stunning collection comprises over 14,000 textiles and costumes from every corner of the world. Fashionistas: don’t miss the post World War II era pieces from fashion icons like Coco Chanel and Christian Dior.
- Oceanic Art: A staple since the museum’s opening in 1895, this exhibit includes rare Maori woodcarvings from New Zealand and artfully woven Indonesian textiles, each with its own story to tell.
- African Art: This organically grown collection of artifacts from the great civilizations of Africa to the more modern 20th century will astound visitors with its diversity.
- Photography: Shutterbugs should make a beeline for the expansive exhibits at both the Legion of Honor and the de Young Museum, which boast photographs taken when the medium was in its nascency through contemporary times.
Legion of Honor and de Young Museum Hours
Legion of Honor and de Young Museum Parking
JFK Drive offers free parking for the de Young Museum; garage parking is accessible from Fulton and 10th Avenue. When visiting the Legion of Honor, guests can park for free in front of the museum or along El Camino Del Mar.
Tickets and Membership for de Young Museum and Legion of Honor
There’s more to the de Young Museum and Legion of Honor than their expansive art collections. Check their calendars to learn about a variety of events like film screenings, lectures, and docent tours galore.
With all the ongoing activities and enough rotating art to keep visitors busy for several hours, local residents may want to consider snagging a de Young Museum/Legion of Honor membership. Members get perks like free general admission on Saturdays (Bay Area residents only) and discounted general admission every day to both the de Young Museum and the Legion of Honor.
You can either purchase tickets to the Legion of Honor and the de Young Museum online from the official site or call a hotline to purchase by phone. Note that you can use a ticket purchased at one museum to visit the other on the same day.
Legion of Honor and de Young Museum Discounts
If you’re looking for discounted Legion of Honor and de Young Museum tickets, look no further than San Francisco CityPASS. You’ll save up to on San Francisco’s top tourist attractions, including both these world-class museums. As with the tickets purchased on the official museum site, your CityPASS ticket affords you admission to both the de Young Museum and the Legion of Honor as long as you visit each one on the same day.
Whether you’re an art aficionado or simply looking to learn something new, there’s no better place to spend a day than at the Legion of Honor or de Young Museum. You’ll leave with a newfound appreciation for artists both world-renowned and esoteric, as well as a sense of awe for the cultural differences that become readily apparent when viewing such vast collections of art.
To get the most out of your stay in San Francisco, we recommend finding lodging near San Francisco's top attractions like the de Young Museum and Legion of Honor. Use this map to find the right lodging for you:
Experience Both Museums for Less With CityPASS
Not sure which museum to visit during your time in San Francisco? You don’t have to choose just one! Enjoy an art-filled day in the Bay with CityPASS, which gives you admission to both the Legion of Honor and the De Young Museum. Admire world-class artwork and take in the spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay from the Legion of Honor. You can also discover savings on other attractions such as the Exploratorium & Aquarium of the Bay! Grab your San Francisco CityPASS and plan a trip you will never forget!
Header Image ©Henrik Kam