Houston Museum of Fine Arts

Architecturally stunning and filled with pieces by renowned artists of the world, this museum is a must-see for art lovers.

The Houston Museum of Fine Arts houses more than 62,000 works of art covering almost every continent, and time periods from antiquity to present day. There are pieces from masters such as John Singer Sargent and Henri Matisse, to modern Scandinavian artists. Located in multiple buildings in the downtown Museum District, this is the largest cultural institution in the southwest. 

Before heading inside, take time to admire the majestic architecture. There are several buildings on campus, including the original neoclassical style building finished in 1926. Renowned architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe designed two glass-enclosed galleries, built in 1958 and 1974 respectively. 

Meander through the sculpture garden, designed by famed Japanese-American artist and landscape architect Isamu Noguchi. It houses sculptures by some of the world’s greats, including Matisse and Auguste Rodin. 

A tunnel links the original cluster of buildings to the modern Audrey Jones Beck building, finished in 2000. This is the main entrance and the best place to start browsing. You’ll find the museum’s collection of American paintings and sculpture as well as European masterpieces. Don’t miss Claude Monet’s incredible Water Lilies painting, a piece from the impressionist’s priceless series, many of which are housed in galleries in Paris.

Back through the tunnel in the original cluster of buildings are 20th- and 21st-century exhibits, as well as the Museum’s South American, Asian and African collections. There are many impressive gold relics, sculptures and intricate carvings; these are some of the largest collections of their kind in the world. Break your visit with lunch from one of a number of food trucks that stop in the parking lot daily, or a bite from the museum café.

While the museum’s own collection is huge, it attracts many international exhibitions, such as a Picasso series straight from New York’s Guggenheim Museum and Portraits of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado. Check the Houston Museum of Fine Arts website before a visit to find a list of current exhibits.

There are two off-site galleries: The Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens and the Rienzi House, both about five miles (eight kilometers) from the main campus. They house American and European decorative arts pieces and paintings from the museum’s main collection. 

The Houston Museum of Fine Arts is located in the downtown Museum District, and free parking is available. It’s open Tuesdays through Sunday, and entry is free every Thursday. 

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