The 36 Absolute Best Museums in New York

Which New York Museum is the Best?

New York has many museums in which you can explore everything from the beginning of time, dinosaurs, art history, to an aircraft carrier. The key is, however, to find out which ones are worth visiting during your time in NYC. So which one is the best?

Especially when the good weather of the summer starts to fade, many New York City visitors decide to visit the city’s famous museums. On your next trip to NYC, do you know which museums you want to visit? We’ve compiled a list of the 37 best museums you must see in the list below.

These are our 36 Favorite Museums in New York

  1. 01

    Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

    Museum in Midtown Manhattan
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    The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) was founded in 1929 and was the first museum that completely focused its collection on modern art. The huge museum went through an impressive renovation and reopened in 2004 by architect, Yoshio Taniguchi. Then in MoMa went through another round of renovations and reopened in October of 2019. It is definitely one of the most impressive museums in NYC. It’s one of the largest and most influential museums with its collection of modern art.

  2. 02

    Metropolitan Museum of Art (The MET)

    Museum in Upper East Side
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    A visit to the Metropolitan Museum in New York (The MET) is more than just an ordinary visit to an art museum. With more than 2 million artworks that span from more than 5,000 years, visitors will soon realize this institution is very special. Exhibits are spread out over 2,000,000 square feet of floor space. That makes it the largest art museum in the United States. The museum is a must-visit and is perfect for families with kids. The Metropolitan Museum of Art presents the best of art history from around the world.

  3. 03

    Guggenheim Museum

    Museum in Upper East Side
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    First off, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is an architectural masterpiece. Second, but most importantly, it is the permanent home of a large collection of art named after its founder. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright the bizarrely shaped building is one of the most famous in NYC. Not only is the outside spectacular, but it is constantly expanding its permanent collection. Also, many special exhibitions are showcased here throughout the years. It is definitely worth a visit!

  4. 04

    9/11 Memorial and Museum

    Museum in Financial District
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    The 9/11 Memorial Museum is located at the 9/11 National Memorial and is probably one of the most emotional museums in New York. It is mostly located underground and displays debris from the former Twin Towers in addition to many of the personal belongings of those buried. Among them are fire trucks deformed by heat, a part of the antenna of the North Tower, a scorched elevator motor, the saving stone staircase (Survivor’s Staircase) as well as remains of sidewalks, street signs, bicycles and baby carriages that were in front of the World Trade Center.

  5. 05

    American Museum of Natural History

    Museum in Upper West Side
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    The American Museum of Natural History is one of the more popular museums in NYC. If the name sounds recognizable it’s because the museum was the center of attention in the movie, Night at the Museum featuring Ben Stiller. Regardless of it’s Hollywood fame, the Natural History Museum is a huge institution that features numerous exhibits. This is a great place for families with kids so they can learn about the world’s geography, plants, different animal species and many other things.

    The American Museum of Natural History is located in the Upper West Side in Manhattan and is the largest natural history museum in the world.

  6. 06

    Statue of Liberty Museum

    Museum in Lower Manhattan
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    Auf Liberty Island hat das neue Statue of Liberty Museum eröffnet. Es bringt einige Neuheiten nach Liberty Island, um das Erlebnis rund um die Freiheitsstatue für die Besucher noch spannender und interessanter zu gestalten.

  7. 07

    Whitney Museum

    Museum in Meatpacking District
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    Newly opened in 2015, the Whitney Museum in New York shines in a whole new light. The Whitney Museum has one of the most spectacular collections of contemporary art that focuses on American art of the 20th and 21st centuries. Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Edward Hopper, Jackson Pollock, and Robert Rauschenberg are just a few of the names whose paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, and installations are part of the exhibits at the Whitney Museum. More than 21,000 works of art are permanently showcased here. The museum is located in The Meatpacking District in Manhattan.

  8. 08

    Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum

    Museum in Upper East Side
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    The Smithsonian has one of the largest collections for design and art worldwide. For art and design lovers alike this musuem is an excellent choice! It is NYC’s answer to the Victoria and Albert Musuem in London, UK.

  9. 09

    The Frick Collection

    Museum in Upper East Side
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    Beautifully situated at the southern end of the Museum Mile is the art museum: “The Frick Collection”. The villa in Central Park was once the home of Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919), a wealthy industrialist and art collector who, after his death, opened his prestigious residence to the public as a museum.

  10. 10

    Museum of Mathematics

    Museum in Midtown Manhattan
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    In New York, a museum has been set up for every area and every topic – so there is also one about our “favourite school subject”. The Museum of Mathematics (MoMAth) deals with mathematics (obviously) and shows its visitors that math is very much all around us. And it shows its visitors that mathematics can also be fun (really!). From algebra to geometry, everything is covered.

  11. 11

    Fotografiska New York

    Museum in Gramercy
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    Fotografiska New York is a wonderful museum in NYC for all art and especially photo art enthusiasts. Originally founded in Stockholm in 2010, the museum also exists in Tallinn (Estonia) and since 2019 in New York. 

    It is located in a beautiful building from 1892 and extends over 6 floors. In addition to changing exhibitions, there is a restaurant and cocktail bar to round out your visit.

  12. 12

    Brooklyn Historical Society Museum

    Museum in Dumbo
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    Founded in the year 1863 and recently renovated, the Brooklyn Historical Society Museum allows you to learn about the rich history of Brooklyn. The library, interesting photographs, very old landscape maps, old newspapers and excerpts from family stories give you a very good overview the history and past events in Brooklyn.

  13. 13

    Brooklyn Museum

    Museum in Park Slope
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    The Brooklyn Museum opened its doors to the public in 1897. Measuring around 560,000 square feet, the Brooklyn Museum, located in Park Slope is the second-largest art museum in the United States. You’ll have plenty of space to explore during your visit and the museum features a massive collection of over 1.5 million objects displayed throughout the five floors. 

    Many events are held at the Brooklyn Museum as well such as fashion shows.

  14. 14

    El Museo del Barrio

    Museum in Harlem & Washington Heights
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    El Museo del Barrio NYC is right at the north end of the Museum Mile and exhibits everything to do with art and culture from Latin America. After its expensive renovation in 2009, the museum is better than ever and offers its visitors a collection of over 6500 artifacts, as well as many permanent and special exhibitions alike.

  15. 15

    Ellis Island Immigration Museum

    Museum in Lower Manhattan
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    The world-famous Immigration Museum is part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument and tells the story of immigrants to the USA and what happened to them after their arrival. The museum is a very impressive place, as this is where the immigrants used to arrive when they wanted to immigrate to the USA.

  16. 16

    Fraunces Tavern Museum

    Museum in Financial District
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    Fraunces Tavern Museum is a complex of five buildings with nine galleries, including the famous Long Room. The museum houses an extensive collection of artifacts. On the weekend you can take part on one of the free guided tours.

  17. 17

    Fotografiska New York

    Museum in Gramercy
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    Fotografiska New York is a wonderful museum in NYC for all art and especially photo art enthusiasts. Originally founded in Stockholm in 2010, the museum also exists in Tallinn (Estonia) and since 2019 in New York. 

    It is located in a beautiful building from 1892 and extends over 6 floors. In addition to changing exhibitions, there is a restaurant and cocktail bar to round out your visit.

  18. 18

    Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

    Museum in Hell's Kitchen
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    The Intrepid Sea Air & Space Museum is the only floating museum in NYC. You will find a wide array of historically significant military and maritime vehicles as well as a collection of museum ships on this aircraft carrier which is docked on the Hudson River. This is great for kids and adults alike as it discusses and shows a wide variety of artifacts regarding the US military and maritime history.

  19. 19

    Jewish Museum

    Museum in Upper East Side
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    The Jewish Museum is more than 100 years old and contains an impressive collection of art and religious exhibits from the past 4,000 years. With 27,000 exhibits, the museum’s significance is the most unique in the United States for the Jewish community and people of all cultural backgrounds.

  20. 20

    Mmuseumm

    Museum in Tribeca
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    New York’s smallest museum and an absolute insider tip: Here a freight elevator was converted into a museum. The exhibits are treasures from all over the world that present their view of life. In short: Small miracles – more really doesn’t fit in the elevator. A view through the window is possible at any time of the day or night – but this museum is only open on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 to 6 pm.

  21. 21

    MoMa PS1

    Museum in Long Island City
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    Everyone knows about the Museum of Modern Art, which is also known as MoMa, but very few have heard of MoMa PS1. This institution is located in Long Island City in Queens and is often overlooked at by locals and tourists alike. It’s one of the largest art institutions in the US and heavily focuses on contemporary art. It was founded in 1971 and attracts over 200,000 people per year. Also, during warmer months, the this museum sets up Sunday sessions with a live DJ and is known as the PS1 Warm Up.

  22. 22

    Morgan Library & Museum

    Museum in Murray Hill
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    The museum is famous for its collections of European masters, such as Dürer, Picasso, Rubens and Leonardo. But also drawings by Michelangelo, original handwritten music pieces by Beethoven and Mozart are part of the collection.

  23. 23

    Museum of Ice Cream

    Museum in SoHo
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    The Museum of Ice Cream is located in SoHo and features 13 all-new interactive art installations across 25,000 square feet over 3 floors. Besides multi-sensory installations, it boasts the biggest sprinkle pool to date. With exhibits like these, the Museum of Ice Cream NYC is not a traditional museum. It’s more of an experience and is great for kids. Photo opportunities are everywhere and each installation is set for the perfect Instagram photo. The Museum of Ice Cream aims to connect, create moments of joy and stimulate your imagination.

  24. 24

    Museum of Jewish Heritage

    Museum in Battery Park City
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    Another highlight located in the beautiful Battery Park, is the Museum of Jewish Heritage. “A living memorial to the Holocaust” is the slogan of the museum and aptly reflects what this museum is all about. The star-shaped granite building tells the story of the Jewish heritage but above all a detailed depiction of life in concentration camps.

  25. 25

    Museum of Sex

    Museum in Midtown Manhattan
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    The Museum of Sex is filled with pieces describing the history, culture and acceptance of sex. With a large shop downstairs this museum is a fun and different way to spend an afternoon in NYC.

  26. 26

    Museum of the Moving Image

    Museum in Astoria
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    In Astoria you should definitely check out the Kaufman Astoria Film Studios, which was declared a National Historic Landmark in the late 1970s due to their importance to New York City. This complex also includes the Museum of the Moving Image and the Astor Room restaurant.

    The Museum of the Moving Image opened in 1988 and is the only museum in the United States that is dedicated to exploring media art, history and technology. It’s recognized as a major internationally known institution as well.

  27. 27

    National Museum of the American Indian

    Museum in Financial District
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    It shows a part of the 3 million items collected by the New York banker, Georg Gustav Heye, from the lives of American Indians. In the former U.S. Custom House on the southern tip of Manhattan, pottery, carpets and pictures of the Indians are displayed on two floors.

  28. 28

    Neue Galerie

    Museum in Upper East Side
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    On the traces of German and Austrian art you can discover a lot here: The first floor is dedicated to Austrian art of the early 20th century with works by Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka, among others. The second floor is devoted to German, mainly expressionist, art of that era. Impressive works by Paul Klee, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Otto Dix and Wassily Kandinsky are just a few of the treasures of the new gallery.

  29. 29

    New Museum of Contemporary Art

    Museum in Lower East Side
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    The New Museum of Contemporary Art is worth a visit for its architecture alone. Its contemporary art exhibitions are among the best in the world. Founded in 1977, the New Museum of Contemporary Art building was designed by the Japanese architectural firm SANAA and is one of the most striking buildings in NYC.

  30. 30

    New York City Fire Museum

    Museum in Hudson Square
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    The Fire Museum of New York is located in a former fire station. Located on the border of Hudson Square and Soho, you can’t miss it, as you can see from the pictures! On three floors the beginnings of the fire department in New York are shown, starting with small medals, stories and anecdotes up to whole fire engines. 

    In addition, there is a small but touching exhibition about 9/11, because this fire station also lost many firefighters.

  31. 31

    New York Transit Museum

    Museum in Dumbo
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    The New York Transit museum focuses on the history and the development of public transportation in NYC. The museum covers and explores everything from the construction of the subway lines to the history of the bus systems in the city. It’s one of the oldest public transportation systems in the world. Here, visitors will get to explore the different train models that the city used and is a great experience for families with kids. Of course, there are great photo opportunities as well.

  32. 32

    Queens Museum

    Museum in Flushing
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    The museum was built for the World’s Fair in 1939 and exhibits “The Panaroma” which is a large scale model of New York City and its five neighborhoods. Many of the exhibits are documents related to the World’s Fair. Over the years, Queens Museum has housed some of the most supreme exhibitions in all of New York.

  33. 33

    South Street Seaport Museum

    Museum in Financial District
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    For fans of sailing ships and shipping, this museum is a must: The South Street Seaport Museum is located in a historical quarter of 12 blocks, the original port of New York City. With an area of 2,800 m2, it houses a working 19th century printing press, an archaeology museum, a library, a craftsmen’s center, the Marine Life Conservation Lab and the largest fleet of privately owned historic ships in the United States.

  34. 34

    Tenement Museum

    Museum in Lower East Side
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    Nowhere are the living conditions of the New York migrants of the 19th century more tangible than in the Tenement Museum.

  35. 35

    The Bronx Museum of the Arts

    Museum in Bronx
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    At the Bronx Museum of Arts you can learn all about 20th and 21st century American art. In addition, there is a very good insight into the art and design scene from Africa and Asia. Especially exciting is the overview of the creative scene in the Bronx.

  36. 36

    Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace

    Museum in Flatiron District
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    Gramercy Park is famous for its special, ancient Brownstone Houses. But one thing stands out: the birthplace of the former President of the United States: Theodore Roosevelt. He was born in this house in 1858 and lived there until the age of fourteen. Today it is a museum that offers guided tours.

    Get a thrilling behind the scenes look of a real New York Brownstone home that dates back to Roosevelt’s childhood, including original furniture and personal belongings from the former US president.

My budget tip

New York is well known for its amazing museums all over the world. That’s why a trip to the city even in the upcoming winter is worth it, to see all those great museums. Especially when you are the owner of the New York Pass, it’s really worth it, because there are no extra costs for it. In my New York Pass comparison you can find all sightseeing passes and find the best one for you.

About the author
Steffen

I'm a true New York fan! Not only have I visited the city over 20 times but also have I spent several months here at a time. On this blog, I want to share everything I have learned and discovered, so you can have the best time in the greatest city in the world. By the way: Did you like my article? Then think about becoming a supporter of us on Patreon!

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