San Diego Museum of Art

Art buffs and architecture enthusiasts alike will enjoy the most famous of Balboa Park’s cultural icons.

The San Diego Museum of Art is touted as the oldest and largest of the museums located in Balboa Park and boasts artworks more than 7,000 years old. 

The museum is an ornately decorated building in keeping with the Spanish Colonial influences of Balboa Park. Inside is an impressive collection of fine art from all over the world that has been steadily building since the museum opened in 1926. As might be expected from the surroundings, the Spanish collections are particularly strong, and you can feast your eyes on the classical works of greats such as Murillo, Ribero and El Greco. There is a good collection of Italian painters too, and a comprehensive range of works from Asia. Margaret Bourke-White and Henri Cartier-Bresson are some of the famous names you’ll see in the museum’s photography collection.

Go to the Balboa Park Visitor Center or the museum information desk for details of current exhibitions. The museum always has at least two temporary shows on offer, and lectures, workshops and educational events often run in conjunction with these. If you are visiting in April, you will also be able to take in “Art Alive,” an annual exhibit of blooms that replicate some of the works inside. 

Depending on your interests you could spend an entire day at the San Diego Museum of Art, but two or three hours is usually enough. There are strict rules around what can and can’t be photographed here so check up on these at the information desk. Larger bags are also not permitted inside. The museum is open every day except Wednesday.


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