Home to one of the country’s top five art museums and oozing history and culture, Philadelphia packs a punch when it comes to fantastic places to explore. Whether you’re a history buff, an art lover, or a culture vulture, you’ll discover an array of world-class museums in Philadelphia that promise to delight!
Journey back to the dawn of time at the Penn Museum and then wander through the annals of history at the Museum of the American Revolution. Dive into the city’s rich maritime heritage at the Independence Seaport Museum and follow in the footsteps of our Founding Fathers at the Benjamin Franklin Museum.
Enjoy off-the-beaten-path gems like Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens with its tapestry mosaics or marvel at masterpieces by Van Gogh and Picasso at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Barnes Foundation. Discover medical mysteries and rare oddities at the Mütter Museum at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.
Not sure where to begin your museum-hopping adventure in the City of Brotherly Love? This in-depth Philadelphia museums guide should give you some ideas to start your journey through its art, history, and culture!
Philadelphia Museum of Art
One of the city’s most iconic museums, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, shouldn’t be missed! This world-renowned cultural institution is a treasure trove of art and history that beckons you to enjoy its vast collection and captivating exhibits.
Housed in a magnificent Beaux-Arts-style building—and famously known for its ‘Rocky Steps’ featured in the iconic movie—the Philadelphia Museum of Art has one of the most impressive art collections in the world. From ancient artifacts to European masterpieces, American art to Asian treasures, the museum’s extensive collection offers a panoramic view of human creativity and expression.
Adjacent to the Philadelphia Museum of Art is the Rodin Museum, housing an extensive collection of works by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin, including his famous piece ‘The Thinker.’ Venture to the nearby Perelman Building, another part of the museum complex featuring photography, textiles, and design exhibitions.
Before you leave, channel your inner Rocky Balboa and run up the museum’s iconic steps for a picture-perfect view of the city skyline and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. It’s a quintessential Philadelphia experience!
The Franklin Institute
Marvel at the wonders of science, technology, and innovation at the Franklin Institute. Located on North 20th Street in the charming Logan Square neighborhood, this iconic science museum brings science to life through interactive exhibits and engaging experiences.
Founded in 1824, the Franklin Institute is one of the oldest science museums in the United States. The museum is named after Benjamin Franklin, a renowned polymath and one of America’s Founding Fathers, and promotes science education and fosters a curiosity for learning.
Meander through various interactive exhibits covering topics ranging from physics and astronomy to biology and technology. Visit the Your Brain exhibit, which delves into the intricacies of the human brain. Immersive interactive displays showcase how the brain works and influences our thoughts and actions.
Venture into the Space Command exhibit to learn about space exploration, the universe, and the technologies that enable us to study the cosmos. Don’t miss the iconic Giant Heart exhibit, where you can walk through a massive model of a human heart and better understand the cardiovascular system.
Experience larger-than-life adventures in the IMAX Theater, where you can watch educational films on a massive screen that transports you to different places and times.
The Mütter Museum at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
Intrigued by medical oddities? Get an eerie glimpse into the world of medical history and human anatomy at the Mütter Museum at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. This one-of-a-kind institution in Center City offers a fascinating perspective on the history of medicine with a few surprises!
Excellent exhibits provide a deep dive into the human body and medical practices of the past. Ponder over a captivating collection of medical oddities, anatomical specimens, and unique medical artifacts, from skulls to skeletons, medical instruments to pathological specimens.
Discover a range of historical medical instruments and tools that highlight the evolution of medical technology and practices over the centuries.
Marvel at intricate wax models that depict various medical conditions, showcasing the methods used to teach medical students about diseases and anatomical structures before modern imaging techniques.
If you have the stomach for it, don’t miss the Conjoined Twins Exhibit, featuring the preserved conjoined liver of Chang and Eng Bunker, the original ‘Siamese Twins.’ Discover the medical realities of conjoined twins in the 19th century.
Museum of the American Revolution
If you love American history, this museum is a must! Based on South 3rd Street in the heart of the Old City, the Museum of the American Revolution brings to life the compelling story of the American Revolution and the birth of the United States.
Comprehensive exhibits tell the story of the revolutionary period that led to the founding of the United States. Connect with the stories, struggles, and triumphs that shaped the nation’s identity and ideals. Be inspired by the courage and determination of those who fought for liberty and the birth of a new country.
Experience the drama and intensity of the Revolutionary War through interactive galleries that highlight key moments and figures. Marvel at various artifacts, including weapons, uniforms, letters, and personal items from the Revolutionary era.
Witness the iconic tent that served as General George Washington’s mobile command center during the Revolutionary War. Check out the museum’s Liberty Tree, where you can reflect on the ideals of the Revolution. And don’t miss the Battlefield Theater, where a multisensory experience transports you to pivotal moments in Revolutionary history.
Benjamin Franklin Museum
Discover the remarkable life and contributions of Benjamin Franklin and pay tribute to one of America’s most influential Founding Fathers at the Benjamin Franklin Museum. Located in the heart of historic Philadelphia, this museum offers a fascinating journey through this extraordinary man’s life, achievements, and legacy.
Begin your visit by exploring the museum’s charming courtyard and the historic structures that house exhibits related to Franklin’s life and work. Step back in time to 18th-century Philadelphia as you wander around the buildings.
Visit the Franklin Court Printing Office, a recreation of Franklin’s print shop, where you can learn about his career as a printer and publisher. Interactive displays provide fascinating insights into the printing process of the era.
Discover Franklin’s inventive spirit and contributions in the Inventor’s Room, such as the lightning rod and bifocal glasses. Delve into Franklin’s role as a diplomat, statesman, and Founding Father. Learn about his involvement in shaping the United States and his influence on the creation of the Constitution.
While the museum offers self-guided experiences, joining a guided tour can provide deeper insights into Benjamin Franklin’s life and the historical context of his contributions.
Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History
Delve into the rich tapestry of Jewish life in the United States at the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History. This captivating institution celebrates the vital role of American Jews in shaping the country’s cultural, social, and political landscape.
Journey through over 350 years of American Jewish history in the museum’s core exhibitions. Discover a comprehensive narrative of Jewish life in the United States from early settlers to the present. Learn the stories of individual immigrants and families contributing to American society.
Discover the Jewish-American Hall of Fame, which honors influential individuals from various fields, including science, entertainment, literature, and social activism. Learn about the remarkable achievements that have shaped American society.
Don’t forget to browse the museum shop, which offers a diverse selection of books, gifts, and Judaica items that make for unique souvenirs or gifts.
For an unparalleled artistic experience, there is no place like the Barnes Foundation. Housing an extraordinary collection of masterpieces from Picasso to Pissaro, this world-renowned art institution is one of Philadelphia’s must-visit tourist attractions for art lovers!
Established by wealthy entrepreneur and art enthusiast Dr. Albert C. Barnes in 1922, the Barnes Foundation features an exceptional collection of over 9,000 works of art. Paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts from renowned artists such as Renoir, Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso, and Van Gogh form part of the remarkable collection, thoughtfully curated by Dr. Barnes.
Marvel at the ‘wall ensembles,’ an innovative display of artworks juxtaposing masterpieces from different periods, cultures, and styles for a unique and dynamic viewing experience.
Consider renting the audio guide offered by the museum. It provides valuable insights into the collection, the artists, and the founder’s vision, enriching your understanding of the artworks on display.
Take a stroll through the tranquil and picturesque garden surrounding the museum building. The lush greenery and serene atmosphere provide a lovely respite amidst the city’s hustle and bustle.
If you’re an evolution fan and love pondering where we came from, visiting the Penn Museum is a must on your Philadelphia trip itinerary! Located on the University of Pennsylvania campus, this world-renowned institution explores human history and culture.
Officially known as the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, the Penn Museum was founded in 1887. It’s grown into one of the most prominent archaeological institutions in the world, with a vast and diverse collection spanning over 10,000 years of human history.
Explore the museum’s leading galleries, which offer an enthralling journey through ancient civilizations. Marvel at artifacts from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, China, and many other cultures from around the world.
Don’t miss the impressive Sphinx Gallery, home to a 3,000-year-old sphinx that once guarded the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II!
Step into the Artifact Lab, a working conservation laboratory, where you can observe experts preserving and restoring ancient artifacts up close. Handle replicas of age-old objects and gain insights into the methods of archaeology and anthropology.
Pop into the museum’s gift shop on your way out to find unique souvenirs related to the exhibits and the museum’s collection.
African American Museum in Philadelphia
Explore the rich history and contributions of African Americans in the United States at the African American Museum in Philadelphia. Situated in the heart of the city’s historic district, the museum celebrates and honors the African American experience.
Founded in 1976 as part of the nation’s Bicentennial celebration, the African American Museum was the first museum in the country devoted to African American history and culture.
Explore the museum’s compelling permanent exhibits, which delve into various aspects of African American history, art, and culture, from the African diaspora to the Civil Rights Movement. Gain a more profound understanding of African American history and their indelible contributions to the fabric of American society.
Catch a performance at the museum’s Freedom Theater, a cultural and performing arts venue that showcases African American talent and creativity. Keep an eye on the museum’s calendar for special cultural events, lectures, and discussions featuring prominent artists and speakers.
Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
If you’re looking for a whimsical, one-of-a-kind experience, make your way to South Street in the eclectic South Street neighborhood, where you’ll find Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. Created by the visionary artist Isaiah Zagar, this enchanting and immersive art space is filled with vibrant mosaic art installations that will leave you in awe!
Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens had its humble beginnings 1960s when Zagar began transforming vacant lots, walls, and buildings throughout the city with intricate and colorful mosaic artworks. Covering a half-block area, the Magic Gardens is an eclectic blend of mosaics, sculptures, and found objects intricately woven together to create a mesmerizing mosaic wonderland.
Lose yourself in the labyrinthine pathways adorned with beautiful mosaics and handcrafted tiles. Step inside the galleries to explore more of Zagar’s intricate mosaics and discover rotating exhibitions featuring the works of local and international artists.
Venture into the outdoor art space surrounding the central installation to find even more of Zagar’s mosaic murals adorning nearby buildings and walls. Allow yourself plenty of time to explore the Magic Gardens at your own pace. There are hidden details and surprises to discover in every nook and cranny.
You can also take a guided tour led by knowledgeable staff who can provide insights into Isaiah Zagar’s life, artistic process, and the stories behind his intricate mosaics.
Independence Seaport Museum
Calling all swabbies, salties, and seadogs! If you have salt in your blood and a love of the sea, head to the Independence Seaport Museum on the scenic Delaware River waterfront for a fascinating journey through Philadelphia’s maritime heritage.
Located at Penn’s Landing complex next to the Delaware River, the Independence Seaport Museum tells the extraordinary story of Philadelphia’s maritime heritage. The museum’s exhibits and collections showcase the marine traditions and innovations that have shaped the city’s identity.
The museum proudly houses a collection of historic ships you can explore up close. Step aboard the USS Olympia, a 19th-century cruiser that served in the Spanish-American War, and the Submarine Becuna, a World War II-era submarine with a storied past. Get a glimpse into life at sea and the naval history of the United States.
Wander around the museum’s various galleries, featuring captivating exhibits highlighting Philadelphia’s maritime commerce, immigration history, and the Delaware River’s ecology. Hop on a boat tour of the Delaware River to enjoy a unique perspective of Philadelphia’s skyline and waterfront landmarks.
After your museum visit, take advantage of the beautiful waterfront location and enjoy a meal at one of the nearby restaurants overlooking the Delaware River.
Fireman’s Hall Museum
History and heroism converge at the Fireman’s Hall Museum to showcase the bravery and dedication of firefighters. Located in the heart of Old City, this fantastic museum delves into the history of firefighting and the legacy of Philadelphia’s firefighters.
Dating back to 1902, the Fireman’s Hall Museum has an incredible collection of firefighting equipment and memorabilia. Explore awe-inspiring exhibits that offer insight into the evolution of firefighting techniques and equipment. You’ll find vintage fire engines, historic uniforms, photographs, and artifacts that tell the stories of the brave men and women who have risked their lives to protect the community.
Experience firefighting challenges firsthand, where you can test your skills using virtual firefighting tools and learn about the complexities of battling blazes. Pay your respects in the museum’s Memorial Room, which honors fallen firefighters who died in the line of duty.