Legion of Honor Museum - Reasons You Must See It

Here's What You Need to Know

Legion of Honor Museum, San Francisco
••• Legion of Honor Museum, San Francisco. ©Betsy Malloy Photography

The Legion of Honor in San Francisco is one of the city's two major art museums. You might think "how boring," but this gorgeous place has some pretty good reasons why you would want to go.

What you need to know first is that it's in one of the city's most breathtaking locations in Lincoln Park, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Golden Gate Bridge and all of San Francisco.  But there's more.

5 Reasons to See the Legion of Honor Museum

It occupies an elegant, Beaux-Arts building inspired by the Palais de la Légion d’Honneur in Paris.

That's Reason #1 why you should go, just to see it even if you don't go inside.

In its entry courtyard is the sculpture simply called The Thinker. You know - the famous one that everyone has seen pictures of. It's a larger-than-life bronze cast, one of several commissioned during artist Auguste Rodin's lifetime. That's Reason #2. Who wouldn't want to be seen with a "thinker?"

Reason #3 is its collection, which spans 4,000 years of ancient and European art. There's gotta be something in there that almost anyone would like. 

If you - like me - are a fan of sculptor Auguste Rodin, there's plenty more of his work inside, one of the largest collections I've seen outside of Paris.That's Reason #4. Even if you don't think you like his work, you might change your mind after seeing this collection.

Reason #5. There's a lot more to enjoy, including an entire (and original) 19th Century room created for King Louis XVI of France to entertain guests at the Hôtel de La Trémoille in Paris.

You'll find paintings and drawings, ancient objects, costumes and textile art, furniture, photographs and graphic arts dating from the fifteenth century to the present day. 

They also have a fun gift shop and an on-premises cafe at the Legion of Honor is in a lovely setting, offering a Sunday brunch menu.

The gift shop is also worth a look.

If you're a film buff, you may recognize the Legion of Honor from the Alfred Hitchcock film Vertigo as the place where the character Carlotta viewed the painting. That's why it's also on our Vertigo Movie Tour of San Francisco.

3 Reasons Not to Go

If you're someone who hates art museums and aren't going to change your mind no matter what, see the outside of the museum anyway. Skip the inside if you want. 

If you're only in San Francisco for a short time, it has many things to see instead that you can't find anywhere else. Take a look if you happen to drive by, but spend the rest of your time doing something else.

If you have been to the world's big, famous art museums, you might find the Legion of Honor a little too small - or its collections not as great as you can find in the other places. If you're a fan of Rodin, you may want to go just to see that collection, though.

What People Think of the Legion of Honor Museum

I love the beautiful building at the Legion of Honor - and the extensive collection of Rodin sculptures. And it's fun to walk into the museum's entry courtyard to see The Thinker, even if you don't go into the museum itself.

Reviewers online often mention the jaw-dropping views and the architecture.

In fact, some of them say it's the most beautiful place in San Francisco. They also say that it's less crowded than the DeYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park. A few people complain that it wasn't open when they visited. Don't be like them: check their hours before you go. 

Like almost every other museum, the cafe often gets lower ratings than the collections, with most complaints being about the price.

What You Need to Know Before You Go to the Legion of Honor

They will search your bags - and you won't be allowed to carry big backpacks into the galleries (for the safety of the artwork).

The museum is closed one day a week and on some holidaysCheck current hours, exhibit and prices at the Legion of Honor Website before you go.

The cafe is expensive, and the museum's surroundings are beautiful. If you plan to be there long enough that you'll get hungry, bring a picnic and eat outside.

Parking in front of the museum is limited - and often full. There's another parking lot beside it, or you can park on the street on Lincoln Blvd. Like anywhere else in a big city, it's best to secure your valuables, leave them out of sight or take them inside and check them.

If you fall in love with those Rodin sculptures, you can find more them at the Cantor Arts Center on the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto.

Getting to the Legion of Honor Museum

Legion of Honor Museum
100 34th Avenue
Check current hours, exhibit and prices at the Legion of Honor Website

By car, take Geary Blvd. west, turn right on 34th Avenue and follow the road through the golf course to the Legion of Honor.

By public transport, you can find several options outlined at the Legion of Honor website