Guide to San Francisco Bay Area Museums

San Francisco Museum Guide - A to Z

Go to: San Francisco Entertainment Venues | Events and Attractions

The San Francisco Bay Area has a lot of museums, so here's an alphabetical directory of them, including a location map, to help you find the one that piques your interest. 

See the calendar of Free Museum Days in San Francisco, for free admission and discounts throughout the month.

For gallery shows and exhibits, see the list of San Francisco Art Galleries.

A listing of current museum exhibits is available on the San Francisco Main Event Calendar.

  • 01 of 25

    1. San Francisco Museum Map

    Click here for the San Francisco museum map. Clicking the image on the left will not link you to the map.

    This map shows the locations of San Francisco museums, from the large cluster of venues near Yerba Buena Gardens (including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) to museums farther afield such as the Legion of Honor in the Outer Richmond.

  • 02 of 25

    Asian Art Museum

    Asian Art Museum in San Francico's Civic Center Area
    ••• Photo © Ingrid Taylar

    2. Asian Art Museum

    Location: Civic Center

    200 Larkin Street (at Civic Center Plaza)
    San Francisco, CA 94102
    Telephone: (415) 581-3500
    See: San Francisco Museum Map

    Housed in the former public library building, the San Francisco Asian Art Museum is devoted exclusively to Asian art, with more than 16,000 works and covering a time span of 6,000 years. The museum offers classes and special events, such as tea ceremonies and artist talks. From May 29 until September 29, 2016, the museum keeps its doors open until 9 p.m. on Thursdays for their late-night series, which includes cocktails, musical performances, and lectures from visiting artists.

    FREE on the first Sunday of the month.

  • 03 of 25
    Beat Museum in North Beach San Francisco
    ••• © Ingrid Taylar

    3. Beat Museum

    Location: North Beach

    540 Broadway (at Columbus)
    San Francisco, CA 94133
    Telephone: (800) KER-OUAC
    See: San Francisco Museum Map

    A small, one-room museum with artifacts from the Beat era. The Beat Museum's collection includes photos, letters, a signed copy of Ginsberg's Howl, and Neal Cassady's striped referee-style shirt.

    Photo © Ingrid Taylar

  • 04 of 25
    Berkeley Art Museum Pacific Film Archive
    ••• Photo © Ingrid Taylar

    4. Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive

    Location: Berkeley, CA

    2155 Center Street
    Berkeley, CA 
    Telephone: (510) 642-0808
    See Berkeley Map

    Moving out of its structurally unsound Mario Ciampi building and into the state-of-the-art digs on Center Street in January 2016, the BMAPFA got a major upgrade. Not only is the museum just mere blocks from a Bart station (meaning easy access to and from the city). it also now has room to showcase its nearly 19,000 works while the Pacific Film Archive, which is home to one of the largest collections of Japanese cinema outside Japan, now has a beautiful theater and Meyer Sound System on which to display their collection. Check the calendar for rotating exhibitions as well as film series and festivals. 

    FREE first Thursday of the month

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  • 05 of 25

    Cable Car Museum

    Cable Car Museum in San Francisco
    ••• © Ingrid Taylar

    5. Cable Car Museum

    Location: Nob Hill - FREE

    1201 Mason Street (at Washington)
    San Francisco, CA 94108
    Telephone: (415) 474-1887
    See Museum on Map

    See the actual working cables and sheaves of the San Francisco cable car system. The museum also has historic displays, information about the operation of cable cars, informational video, and gift shop. Exhibits are free.

  • 06 of 25
    ••• Photo © Ingrid Taylar

    6. California Academy of Sciences

    Location: Golden Gate Park

    55 Music Concourse Drive
    San Francisco, CA 94118
    Telephone: (415) 379-8000

    A penguin colony, a 90-foot tall rainforest dome, an albino alligator, and one of the country's most advanced planetariums? What's not to love about this oasis of science and learning? Don't miss their Thursday night Nightlife program, where the age is 21+, a DJ spins beats, and you can sip a cocktail while communing with the fish in the Steinhart Aquarium. For the younger crowd, there's also sleepovers where you can roll out your sleeping bag next to Claude's tank—that's the albino alligator.

    See location on San Francisco Museum Map and also on the Map of Golden Gate Park.

  • 07 of 25

    Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University (South Bay)

    Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University
    ••• Photo © Kevin/Flickr

    7. Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University

    Location: Palo Alto, CA - FREE

    328 Lomita Drive at Museum Way
    Stanford, CA 94305
    Tel: (650) 723-4177

    Collections at the Cantor Arts Center include 4,000 years of art history and span a variety of cultures. The Center has the largest gathering of Rodin bronzes outside of Paris, with its stunning Rodin Sculpture Garden poised just outside Cantor Arts Center on the Stanford campus. The Center's cafe has an outdoor view to the sculpture garden.

    The Center hosts special exhibitions throughout the year and also offers free public docent-guided tours.

  • 08 of 25
    ••• Photo © Ingrid Taylar

    8. Contemporary Jewish Museum

    Location: SoMa

    736 Mission Street
    San Francisco, CA 94103
    Telephone: (415) 665-7800

    This Daniel Libeskind-designed building opened in 2008, across from Yerba Buena Gardens and has since hosted an array of retrospectives on important Jewish figures both local and international (from Amy Winehouse to Allen Ginsberg). 

    See Museum Location on Map

    FREE on the first Tuesday of every month. 

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  • 09 of 25

    Chabot Space and Science Center (East Bay)

    9. Chabot Space and Science Center 

    Location: Oakland, CA
    10000 Skyline Boulevard
    Oakland, CA
    Telephone: (510) 336-7300

    For anyone interested in looking into galaxies beyond our, visit the Chabot Space and Science Center. Their three telescopes are the largest on the west coast that are continuously available to the general public on a weekly basis. Come for the day to view the digital planetarium, but stay once the sun goes down to check out the observatory.

  • 10 of 25
    de Young Museum in San Francisco
    ••• Photo © Ingrid Taylar

    10. de Young Museum

    Location: Golden Gate Park 

    50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive
    San Francisco, CA 94118
    Telehone: (415) 750-6300
    See Museum on Map

    Home to an extensive American art collection, as well as permanent installations from Andy Goldsworthy and James Turrell, the de Young is a San Francisco museum through and through. Make sure to check the roster for visiting exhibitions (past ones have included a Keith Haring retrospective and a showcase of the work of Jean Paul Gaultier), and don't forget to stop by the observation deck for 360-degree views of the park and its surroundings. 

    FREE on the first Tuesday of the month.

  • 11 of 25
    Palace of Fine Arts and Exploratorium in San Francisco
    ••• Photo © Ingrid Taylar

    11. Exploratorium

    Location: Embarcadero

    Pier 15
    San Francisco, CA 94111
    Telephone: (415) 528-4444

    Having relocated from the Palace of Fine Arts to Pier 15 in 2013, the Exploratorium remains a hands-on, interactive museum of science and arts—now it's just more centrally located. The diverse installations have broad appeal for both children and adults, with more than 650 permanent exhibits as well as rotating exhibits, activities, lectures, films and other special events The Exploratorium's Tactile Dome is an interactive tour through the darkness – an education in using only touch as a sensory guide.

    FREE on September 18, 2016 for Fall Free Day. Check website for details

  • 12 of 25

     12. GLBT Historical Society Museum

    Location: Castro 

    4127 18th Street
    San Francisco, CA 
    Telephone: (415) 621-1107
     

    The words "historical society" may sound boring, but this museum is anything but. With rotating exhibits that showcase their archive collection, this museum has showcased bathhouse murals, Harvey Milk memorabilia, and costumes of drags queens from the 80s. 

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  • 13 of 25

    13. Lawrence Hall of Science

    Location: Berkeley, CA

    On Centennial Drive in the Berkeley hills
    East of main UC Berkeley campus and above the UC Botanical Gardens
    Berkeley, CA
    Tel: 510-642-5132
    See Berkeley Map

    The exhibitions at Lawrence Hall of Science are geared toward students, from pre-school to high school age. The museum has ongoing exhibits and hosts a rotation exhibitions, workshops and special events. There's a planetarium, museum store, and bay view Cafe.

  • 14 of 25
    Thinker at the Legion of Honor - San Francisco
    ••• Photo © Ingrid Taylar

    14. Legion of Honor

    Location: Outer Richmond

    34th Avenue & Clement Street
    San Francisco, CA 94121
    Telephone: (415) 750-3600
    See Museum on Map

    The Legion of Honor is a fine arts museum in the gorgeous location of Lands End. Renovated in the 90s, the Legion added square footage, skylights and environmental upgrades, and houses an art collection spanning the centuries – including Near East antiquities, European painting, and a Rodin sculptures (including the prominent cast of Rodin's Thinker in the Legion's courtyard). The Legion has rotating exhibits, ongoing tours and special events, and also a café.

    FREE on the first Tuesday of the month.

  • 15 of 25
    Musee Mecanique
    ••• Photo © Ingrid Taylar

    15. Musee Mecanique

    Location: Pier 45/Fisherman's Wharf - FREE

    Pier 45 at the end of Taylor Street
    San Francisco, CA 94133
    Telephone: (415) 346-2000
    See Museum on Map

    The Musee Mecanique is a unique arcade at Pier 45, filled with antique musical instruments, arcade games and posted stories covering some of San Francisco's history. Link to a full profile below.

     

  • 16 of 25
    Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD)
    ••• Photo © Ingrid Taylar

    16. Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD)

    Location: SoMa/South of Market

    685 Mission Street
    San Francisco, CA 94105
    Telephone: (415) 358-7200
    See: San Francisco Museum Map

    Remodeled in 2014, MoAD is a beautiful and modern museum, with multi-media installations and traditional exhibit spaces. Visitors learn about the African Diaspora: "The scattering of people from Africa and the sowing of their cultures globally." Since the remodel, the museum has also made an effort to support more local artists in their exhibition space as well. 

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  • 17 of 25
    Oakland Museum of California
    ••• Photo © Ingorrr/Flickr

    17. Oakland Museum of California 

    Location: Downtown Oakland

    1000 Oak Street (at 10th)
    Oakland, CA 94607
    Telephone: (510) 238-2022

    The Oakland museum is devoted to the history, art and natural landscape of California. The Cowell Hall houses an extensive collection of materials relating to California history, and the Natural Sciences Gallery covers the diverse ecosystems that comprise our beautiful state. The space itself is a combination of indoor exhibit space, and outdoor gardens, terraces and ponds, as well as a cafe. The museum hosts special events, films, and lectures.

    FREE on the second Sunday of each month

  • 18 of 25

    18. San Francisco Fire Department Museum

    Location: Pacific Heights - FREE

    655 Presidio Avenue
    San Francisco, CA 94115
    Telephone: (415) 563-4630
    See Museum on Map

    Through a collection of documents and other memorabilia, the museum records and preserves the history of the San Francisco Fire Department. The exhibits include fire-fighting equipment and artifacts from the 1800s and the 1906 earthquake.

  • 19 of 25
    San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park
    ••• Photo © Ingrid Taylar

    19. San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

    Location: Fisherman's Wharf

    Hyde Street Pier at Aquatic Park
    2905 Hyde Street (at the foot of Hyde)
    Telephone: (415) 447-5000
    See: See San Francisco Museum Map

    Check out the historical ships at Hyde Pier, special events, and guided tours through the Maritime museum. The Visitors Center (free) also offers informative exhibits on maritime history in San Francisco.

    Free entrance to Hyde Pier, with fees for boarding various ships at the pier.

  • 20 of 25

    20. San Francisco Museum of Craft & Design

    Location: Dogpatch

    2569 Third Street
    San Francisco, CA
    Telephone: (415) 773-0303

    See Museum on Map

    In 2013, the Museum of Craft and Design moved out of their Union Square digs and into a state-of-the-art Dogpatch building in a neighborhood that's now flourishing with the arts. With a focus on crafts and objects of design, and their integration in our lives, the museum features artists whose work is highly technical (like a hobby on steroids).

    FREE first Thursday of the month

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  • 21 of 25
    San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
    ••• Photo © Ingrid Taylar

    21. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

    Location: SoMa

    151 Third Street
    San Francisco, CA 94103
    Telephone: (415) 357-4000
    See: San Francisco Museum Map

    The biggest news of the San Francisco art scene in 2016? That the SFMOMA has finally reopened its doors after a major remodel that gave nearly three times the exhibition space. Seven stories tall and brimming with new works from the Fisher Collection, the museum focuses on modern works in photography, painting, sculpture, design and media arts. SFMOMA also hosts special events, screenings and lectures. 

    FREE first Tuesday of each month

  • 22 of 25
    ••• Photo © Ingrid Taylar

    22. San Francisco Railway Museum

    Location: SoMa | Embarcadero - FREE

    77 Steuart Street (near Ferry Building)
    San Francisco, CA 94105
    Telephone: (415) 974-1948
    See: San Francisco Museum Map

    The Railway Museum features artifacts related to San Francisco's history of rail transit. The small museum space houses a photographic collection and audio-visual displays. You can also purchase interesting railway-related memorabilia and gifts, including books, DVDs and posters.

  • 23 of 25
    san mateo county history museum
    ••• Photo © Ingrid Taylar

    23. San Mateo County History Museum (Redwood City)

    Location: Redwood City, CA

    2200 Broadway
    Redwood City, CA
    Tel: (650) 299-0104
    See: Map of San Mateo Attractions

    San Mateo County History Museum is in the 1910 Old County Courthouse -- which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The exhibits focus on the historical legacy of San Mateo County and include items from the permanent collection as well as changing exhibitions.

     

  • 24 of 25
    Wells Fargo Museum in San Francisco
    ••• Photo © Ingrid Taylar

    24. Wells Fargo History Museum

    Location: Financial District - FREE

    420 Montgomery Street
    San Francisco, CA 94163
    Tel: (415) 396-2619
    See: San Francisco Museum Map

    The San Francisco branch of the Wells Fargo History Museum is one of several throughout the U.S. Exhibits inside relate to the history of Wells Fargo, to Gold Rush finances, and stage coaches and robbers.

    You'll find an 1860s Concord Coach (visible through the window from Montgomery Street). Exhibits are accompanied by descriptions and other visual artifacts. If you're interested in the early express companies and Gold Rush era correspondence, the museum has a selection of items from this period in history.

     

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  • 25 of 25
    Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
    ••• Photo © Ingrid Taylar

    25. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

    Location: SoMa/South of Market

    Yerba Buena Gardens
    Between 3rd & 4th/Mission & Howard
    San Francisco, CA 94103
    Telephone: (415) 978-2787
    See: San Francisco Museum Map

    The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts is a multi-disciplinary venue offering exhibits, art galleries, performance space, film and video presentations, as well as public programs.

    Galleries FREE on first Tuesday of the month