Discover America Radio
Boston, Massachusetts

Boston's Art Museums

Take in exceptional art, from the ancient to the avant-garde


Don’t assume that because Boston is chock-full of history its personality is stodgy. Yes, it looks back proudly on its role in the American revolution, but it also strides youthfully forward, courtesy of the area’s many elite universities (Boston is the biggest college town in the world) and the city’s thriving art and culture scene.

The holdings at the Museum of Fine Arts are so vast—more than 450,000 pieces, from objects produced from around 6000 B.C. to works by contemporary artists—that you’ll find treasures no matter where you wander. A major renovation and expansion culminated in 2010 with the opening of the new airy American Wing, which displays 5,000 treasures from across the New World.

Venture inside the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, beyond the 1901 mansion’s austere façade, to discover a romantic four-storey re-creation of a 15th-century Venetian palazzo, with a central courtyard. Once the home of Isabella Gardner, a turn-of-the-20th-century bohemian and art collector, the building now houses her idiosyncratic collection of European, Asian and American fine and decorative art. The museum hosts chamber music concert series most Sunday afternoons from September to May.

The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston—a light-filled structure of glass and steel built in 2006, and cantilevered over the South Boston waterfront—showcases contemporary and avant-garde art in all media, not just visual art and installations, but music, film, video and performance.

No visit to Boston is complete without a side trip to  ‘The People’s Republic of Cambridge’, the lively and unabashedly intellectual city across the Charles River that’s home to two heavyweight seats of learning, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University (founded in 1636). Life here revolves around Harvard Square, bustling with the tides of students, professors and visitors, and crowded with trendy boutiques, restaurants and bistros. Nearby lies Harvard Yard, where you’ll see nearly three centuries’ worth of architecture, including the university’s oldest building, Massachusetts Hall (1720). The nearby Fogg, with its Italian Renaissance-style stone courtyard, is the best known of the university’s three museums, which together hold more than 250,000 objects. (The Fogg and Busch-Reisinger Museums are closed for renovation until the end of 2013. In the interim, selected pieces from these collections are on view at the nearby Arthur M. Sackler Museum.) 

This trip idea can be found in:

1,000 Places to See in the United States & Canada Before You Die®

Trip idea text ©Patricia Schultz. For contact information about the places mentioned and many more USA trip ideas, see Patricia Schultz's blockbuster book.

Welcome to Discover America!

Now that you have registered, you can save trip ideas to your suitcase.

Start exploring

Enter your email address and we’ll send you a link to reset your password.

Please check your email.

Start exploring

The password on your account has successfully been changed. Please use your new password to login.

Start exploring

This website is set to 'allow all cookies' for the best user experience. By continuing without changing this setting, you are consenting to this. You may change your settings at any time at the bottom of this page.

More information about cookies

Cookies are very small text files that are stored on your computer when you visit some websites.

We use cookies to make our website easier for you to use. You can remove any cookies already stored on your computer, but these may prevent you from using parts of our website.

If you choose to disable non-essential cookies, the website will:

  • Allow you to log in and remember you are logged in, while in session
  • Determine your country of origin in order to serve you the most relevant version of the site

This website will not:

  • Restrict welcome messaging to the first time you visit the site
  • Track any activity on the site for analytics purposes

More information about cookies