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Museum of Fine Arts
Photograph: ShutterstockMuseum of Fine Arts

The best Boston museums to check out right now

From contemporary art and science to history aboard ships, these are the best museums in Boston.

Jillian Dara
Written by
Jillian Dara
Written by
Eric Grossman
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In a city as diverse and collegiate as Boston, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that The Hub is home to museums of every category. From contemporary art and design to science and history, the collections are as varied as the edifices they’re housed in, which include ships, floral gardens and monumental buildings. Find out which museum suits your tastes from our list below— don’t worry, there’s something for every liking, even kids! Looking for more art? Check out our list of where to see art in Boston. For more fun things to do, our lists of the best free things to do in Boston and best things to do with kids in Boston have you covered.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Boston

Best museums in Boston

  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • Fenway/Kenmore
  • price 2 of 4

There are more than 100 galleries at the Museum of Fine Arts (aka MFA), beholden to some 450,000 objects from across the globe. Founded in 1870, the MFA moved from Copley Square to its current home, a Neoclassical granite building on Huntington Avenue—the so-called “Avenue of the Arts”—in 1909. Today, it’s the 14th-largest art museum in the world. An array of performances and special events attract culture hounds of all ages throughout the year.

  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • Mission Hill

The Gardner is a lavish reconstruction of a 15th century Venetian palace, complete with a luxurious interior courtyard and seasonally changing floral display. First opened in 1903, the museum is notable for its varied collection, which includes European, Asian and Islamic art from classical times to the turn of the 20th century. The museum entrance is located a short walk from the MFA, making it logistically easy to check out two of the city's most beloved museums in a single visit, though technically, you may need to make it a double trip as you could spend all day at either of these institutions.

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  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • Seaport District
  • price 2 of 4

The ICA's spacious Seaport home is the cultural cornerstone of the waterfront. With its 65,000-square-foot floor space, the dramatic glass-walled building houses galleries, a theater and a café. Founded in 1936 as the Boston Museum of Modern Art, the museum changed its name to the ICA in 1948, as a way of distancing itself from the partisan associations of “modern.” Today, the museum prides itself on being a platform for offbeat, sometimes challenging, contemporary works. For a lighter experience, catch a concert or DJ set on the breezy, scenic back deck.

  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • Harvard Sq

Given Harvard University’s history and status, it stands to reason it has one of the country’s best university art collections. With more than 250,000 pieces—from Neolithic sculptures to 21st-century conceptual installations—the collections are all housed under one Renzo Piano-designed glass roof: The Fogg Museum, known for its European and American collections; the Busch-Reisinger Museum, with its focus on works from German-speaking countries; and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum, housing one of the most important Asian art collections in the U.S.

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  • Attractions
  • Historic buildings and sites
  • North End
  • price 1 of 4

What once was a private home to the great American Patriot, Paul Revere, is now downtown Boston’s oldest building and one of the only remaining 17th-century dwellings in a large urban area in the U.S., according to the museum. Visitors can expect a self-guided tour through the two-story home, including the ground floor and late-18th century kitchen, as well as upstairs chambers with period furnishings that belonged to the Revere family.

  • Museums
  • Science and technology
  • West End

We promised there was something for the kids! This exceptionally child-friendly museum is committed to providing an interactive and educational experience, making science accessible through a wealth of hands-on activities and engaging exhibits. Highlights include IMAX movies in the five-story Mugar Omni Theater and multimedia shows at the Charles Hayden Planetarium. There's also an enormous gift shop, a variety of snack options (including pizzas from celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck) and spectacular views of the Charles River from the vast windows at the back of the museum.

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  • Museums
  • Natural history
  • Harvard Sq
  • price 2 of 4

This historic museum boasts a vast and slightly creepy collection of stuffed, bottled and dried creatures from around the globe—from llamas to coelacanths to butterflies. Fossil-mad children can gawk at dinosaur skeletons and admire the 42-foot kronosaurus (a prehistoric marine reptile), while rock fans will head straight for the meteorites and gemstones. The entry fee includes admission to the interconnected Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology, renowned for their anthropological exhibitions focused on the Americas.

  • Things to do
  • West End

Even if you’re not a sports fanatic, the team spirit throughout Boston is palpable—and you’ll want to check out The Sports Museum at TD Garden for a slice of this Boston pride. Occupying the fifth and sixth floor of the Garden, this museum features a half-mile of sports memorabilia exhibits. If you enjoy touring displays, you may want to return for a live game; TD Garden is home to the Boston Bruins and Boston Celtics.

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  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • price 2 of 4

Less than 20 miles north of Boston, in Salem, the Peabody Essex Museum is home to one of the largest art collections in New England (around 1.8 million works in total). It’s also one of the first museums in the country to start collecting decorative arts, including craft and interior furnishings. The backbone of the museum’s stock is maritime art, but there is also African, American, Asian, Native American and Oceanic art from which to browse. For a break in the appreciation, relax in the atrium’s bright café. 

  • Museums
  • Childhood
  • Seaport District
  • price 2 of 4

Founded in 1913, the Children’s Museum remains a beloved local institution amongst generations of area youngsters. This Fort Point Channel landmark has seen its surrounding neighborhood explode in recent years, but once inside kids find themselves immersed in a series of spacious open areas. The centerpiece of the museum is the New Balance Foundation Climb, a twisty, turning three-story climbing structure made of serpentine wires and curved plywood sails. Fun fact: The museum is the second oldest children’s museum in the nation.

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  • Museums
  • History
  • Dorchester
  • price 2 of 4

A looming concrete-and-glass monolith designed by I.M. Pei, this shrine to the life and work of the 35th U.S. President overlooks the harbor from the top of the Columbia Point peninsula. On the ground floor, the stunning atrium commands panoramic views of the sea and the city. Downstairs, the museum contains an extensive display of memorabilia, starting from JFK’s childhood and going straight through the important happenings during his presidency, including his inauguration to gifts from heads of state, in addition to a series of temporary shows.

  • Museums
  • Military and maritime
  • Charlestown
  • price 2 of 4

Located a short stroll away from the oldest commissioned ship in the United States Navy in Charlestown, the USS Constitution Museum is housed in a converted pumphouse. The museum’s exhibits relate both to “Old Ironsides” itself—including the people who designed, built, and sailed the ship—and to general U.S. naval history. Interactive displays offer a simulated hands-on seafaring experience, giving visitors an idea of the thrill of handling the ship’s massive sails.

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  • Museums
  • History
  • Seaport District
  • price 2 of 4

This floating museum thrills history buffs with live reenactments and multimedia exhibits explaining the famous event that changed the course of American history. The one-hour tour features historical interpreters, interactive exhibits and full-scale, restored 18th century sailing vessels meant to replicate the ships involved in the tea party on the night of December 16, 1773. Visitors can also get a taste of history by sampling the five teas thrown overboard that evening, and score a photo op while dumping “tea” themselves.

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