15 Best Museums in Philadelphia

For art and history lovers, there's truly nothing like spending the day exploring museums, and Philadelphia museums are among the greatest and most renowned in the country, if not the world, thanks to the City of Brotherly Love's rich history and art culture. With dozens of amazing exhibits and collections to check out, you can find museums across the city dedicated to vastly different niches — from classic automobiles to medical mysteries to the nation's founding and history.

Discover the 15 best museums in Philadelphia, and find out for yourself why Lonely Planet has named Philadelphia the 5th best city in the world to visit and 1st in the U.S.; USA Today readers gave Philly the top spot for walkability in the U.S. noting the city’s cultural and historical attractions; and travel magazine Afar listed Philadelphia as one of the top 25 places in the world to visit in 2024, particularly noting upcoming exhibitions at the Rodin Museum and Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA) has a remarkable history as the first art school and museum in the U.S. Today, the museum showcases innovative collections and exhibits of American art, highlighting the work of renowned regional talent and featuring an outstanding permanent collection.

Among its outstanding, 16,000-piece permanent collection, you’ll find 18th- and 19th-century masterpieces by greats including Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, and Mary Cassatt. No worries if your taste runs to works by 20th and 21st century artists. Their collection also features the art of several modern/contemporary artists including Charles Demuth, Mickalene Thomas, Andy Warhol, and Kehinde Wiley.

The academy is located in the heart of Philly, at 118-128 North Broad Street, just blocks from Philadelphia City Hall. If you enjoy getting the nitty gritty details when exploring an art collection, you can request a reservation for private tours from their dedicated and knowledgeable staff.

The PAFA museum is closed Monday through Wednesday every week. On Thursdays and Fridays, doors are open from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Weekend hours shift slightly, and the museum is open from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Museum of the American Revolution

little girl picking up a fish from bucket
Museum of the American Revolution

The Museum of the American Revolution offers an immersive look into our country's unique history with walking and guided tours, living history demos, and the hands-on, family-friendly discovery center, Revolution Place. It's an excellent day trip for students just beginning to learn about the American Revolution, but also for history buffs, art enthusiasts, and scholars. The museum's extensive collections include:

  • Personal artifacts of leaders of the revolution, soldiers, and civilians.
  • Late 1700's weapons including muskets, swords, and other armaments.
  • Art from the era depicting key battles, as well as portraits and posters.
  • Rare documents including manuscripts, newspapers, and books.

This museum is conveniently located near Penn's Landing in the eastern portion of the city at 101 South Third Street. Visitors can enjoy special events, including classes and hands-on workshops, and the newest exhibits. Regardless of when you visit the Museum of the American Revolution, you'll leave with a deeper and more meaningful appreciation of the hardships endured and the incredible bravery of both soldiers and civilians and the devoted leaders who founded this nation.

The Museum of the American Revolution is open daily from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. To fuel your visit, enjoy a warm coffee and light snack at the museum's Cross Keys Cafe.

The African American Museum in Philadelphia

a girl holding flag
The African American Museum in Philadelphia

The African American Museum in Philadelphia tells the story of the African American experience in Philadelphia and the U.S. over the past several centuries. The museum’s impressive collection of art, artifacts, and memorabilia document the remarkable history, heritage, and culture of African Americans and people of the African Diaspora through four galleries of exhibits.

The permanent collection is organized chronologically so visitors can walk through the Black experience from America's pre-Colonial days through the Civil Rights movement with a key focus on family life, and the impact African Americans have had on the arts and entertainment, sports, medicine, architecture, politics, religion, law, and technology.

You can find The African American Museum at the corner of 7th and Arch Street. That's just a stone's throw from Franklin Square and the National Constitution Center in the city's Historic District.

The museum is open Thursday through Sunday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Before you go, they ask that you reserve one of the following four time slots to visit:

  • 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
  • 12 p.m. to 1:15 p.m.
  • 1:45 p.m. to 3 p.m.
  • 3:30 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.

The Franklin Institute

franklin institute building
The Franklin Institute

Have kids who love science and/or looking for the premiere technology and science museum in Philadelphia? With three stories of interactive, hands-on exhibits, a planetarium on the first floor, and an observatory on the roof, The Franklin Institute is your must-visit, science-y destination.

Be sure to visit the "heart" of the museum — literally. The iconic, two-story-high Giant Heart walkthrough exhibit has been educating visitors about the human heart and public health issues for more than 50 years. It even features sounds of a real human heartbeat so you can see if your heartbeats are in synch with the display.

You can explore the museum solo or register as a group. Be sure to sign up for the fun and impressive live science demonstrations, such as their liquid air or combustion shows, making the museum the ideal spot for families and friends to enjoy together.

The Franklin Institute is located at 222 North 20th Street and takes up an entire city block. Visit any day of the week from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a convenient, designated parking garage right off North 21st Street.

The Rosenbach Museum & Library

The Rosenbach is among the most treasured museums in the Philadelphia area. Its stunning collection of rare art, furniture, and manuscripts will transport you to a different time. And for all the big readers out there, its renowned research library is home to hundreds of rare books you can peruse to your heart's content. Literature lovers, keep your eyes peeled for collections that include works by Bram Stoker, Lewis Carroll, and Charles Dickens.

Founded in 1954 by renowned fine art and book dealers Dr. A.S.W. and Philip Rosenbach, The Rosenbach is situated in a row of historic 19th-century townhomes. You'll find the beautiful brick building at 2008-2010 Delancey Place in Center City West, just a few blocks away from Rittenhouse Square.

The Rosenbach is open Thursday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. Their Sunday hours are shortened by just an hour and a half, opening at 10:30 a.m. and closing at 4:30 p.m. Visitors are strongly encouraged to pre-register for timed tickets online.

Please Touch Museum

little girl looking at art collection
Please Touch Museum

If you're looking for cool museums in Philadelphia that are kid-friendly and interactive, you've got to check out the Please Touch Museum. While other institutions discourage and often prohibit visitors from getting too close to the displays, the Please Touch Museum encourages kids to get physical and interact with nearly everything on display.

In addition to three separate toddler zones, kids can have fun exploring these interactive exhibit zones at the Please Touch Museum:

  • Roadside Attractions
  • Flight Fantasy
  • City Capers
  • Wonderland Centennial Exploration
  • River Adventures

The museum is located in Memorial Hall at 4231 Avenue of the Republic in Fairmount Park near the Schuylkill River. You can tour on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Sunday hours are shortened to 11 a.m. through 4:30 p.m. You can reserve your spot online for children older than one year.

Eastern State Penitentiary

With crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers, the nearly two-century-old Eastern State Penitentiary is one of the most haunting and memorable museums in Philadelphia. About 85,000 people were imprisoned behind its walls before it closed in 1970 — some famous, some infamous, but most whose names are lost to history.

Visitors can explore the remnants of this empty, haunting world of grand architecture and America's most historic prison by taking a daytime tour where you can see gangster Al Capone's furnished cell during his eight-month stay at the prison, complete with fine furniture, oriental rugs, and cabinet radio. For a truly creepy, fright-filled, and fun evening experience, you can visit Eastern State Penitentiary for their Halloween Nights experience in October.

You can find Eastern State Penitentiary at 2027 Fairmount Avenue. Visitors can tour Eastern State daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Independence Hall

No trip to Philadelphia is complete without touring Independence Hall, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This beacon of freedom for the world and icon of American democracy is where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were drafted, debated, and signed by the nation's Founding Fathers.

The key stop on the half-hour tour is the Assembly Room where all the action in the nation’s founding took place. The room is set up just as it was in 1776 (or as close as historians have surmised), complete with George Washington’s famous “Rising Sun” chair.

There are a few things to know before you go. Unless you’re touring the building in January or February, you’ll need to present a timed ticket obtained beforehand. The tickets are free, but there is a $1 handling charge. You can print your tickets or have a digital copy ready on your phone. It's also a good idea to arrive about 30 minutes before your tour because everyone is required to go through a security screening.

You can find Independence Hall at 520 Chestnut Street, between 5th and 6th Streets, in Philadelphia. It is open for daily tours from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Tours last about 20 minutes, so Independence Hall is a fantastic place to explore if you have limited time in the city.

Science History Institute

If you are a chemistry or engineering enthusiast looking for fun museums in Philadelphia, you'll marvel at the hidden circumstances of some of the most important moments of discovery at the Science History Institute Museum and Library, which shines a spotlight on overlooked stories of scientific innovations. Fine art, instruments, artifacts, and an oversized mass spectrometer are just a few of the items you can expect to uncover. You can also access preserved documents and photographs of significant individuals throughout scientific history.

This museum is not just for adult science enthusiasts. Kids will also enjoy an afternoon exploring a wide range of scientific concepts, from vaccinations to rare elements. Visit the museum on Saturday for a family-friendly program that highlights the many strange and surprising stories from the history of science, with fun, interactive activities designed for science lovers of all ages.

The Science History Institute is located at 315 Chesnut Street on the eastern side of Philly. Admission is free for all visitors. You can tour the museum Wednesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Most visitors spend about an hour or two, exploring the permanent and rotating exhibits.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

two people looking at a card
Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is among the very best Philadelphia museums. From its iconic “Rocky” steps to its 200 galleries housing the museum’s remarkable collection of masterpieces, the museum will delight art lovers and those who simply enjoy looking at pretty (amazing) pictures. The building itself is a treat to experience as one of Philadelphia’s major landmarks.

The museum’s collections feature the works of artists from throughout the world and range from the “old masters” to today’s contemporary artists, with African and African Diasporic art one of their newest collections. The tens of thousands of objects that comprise their collections include sculptures, textiles (including Grace Kelly’s royal wedding dress) and other decorative arts, prints, drawings, and photographs.

You can find the main building at 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway near the Schuylkill River in downtown Philly and visit the museum anytime between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Mondays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Visitors can enjoy a pay-what-you-wish admission on Friday nights and the first Sunday of each month.

Mütter Museum

The Mütter Museum at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia is not for the faint of heart. Its exhibits are the most novel and mesmerizing of the downtown Philly museums. If you are deeply interested in anatomy and medical history (and have a strong stomach), this is the destination for you.

With the tagline "disturbingly informative," you can probably guess the museum showcases a wide range of astonishing but sometimes hard-to-look-at medical artifacts. You can expect to see real human body parts, anatomical marvels, and shocking medical instruments from the “dark ages” of medicine.

You can find the Mütter Museum in the heart of Philly at 19 South 22nd Street. They are open Wednesday through Monday, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Visitors can also visit the Historical Medical Library on the weekends with the same operational hours.

Barnes Foundation

The Barnes Foundation is one of the best museums in Philly for European art lovers. Their impressive collection of paintings includes multiple works by some of the world's most famous and renowned painters. Even people who aren't typically "wowed" by museums will likely find themselves breathless seeing art by Renoir, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Matisse, Modigliani, and Picasso!

It is worth the trip just to see the unique way the artwork is displayed. Unlike most museums where art is labeled and displayed by artist, genre, or time period, the works at the Barnes Foundation are arranged in ensembles that emphasize visual relationships between light, color, lines, and space. Here you are likely to see a work by one of the great masters hung alongside African masks, native American jewelry, Greek antiquities, or decorative metalwork, just as the museum’s founder, Dr. Albert C. Barnes, visualized.

To get the most out of your visit, plan to take one of their guided tours or use your smartphone and their mobile gallery guide, Barnes Focus, to learn more about a specific piece of art on your own.

You can find this museum located at 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway in the heart of Philadelphia, just a three-minute walk from The Franklin Institute. The Barnes Foundation opens its doors Thursday through Monday, from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Members who pay an annual fee can enjoy early members-only access from 10 a.m. until 11 a.m. along with other member benefits.

National Constitution Center

The National Constitution Center is one of the best Philly museums for history buffs and those interested in the U.S. Constitution and how it has influenced, informed, and guided the nation for more than two and a half centuries. Here, you can take a deep dive into the nation’s founding and history with rare artifacts and manuscripts to peruse and the live performance, Freedom Rising, described as "the best 17-minute civics lesson in the country" and the perfect place to start your museum experience.

Be sure to visit Signers Hall with its 42 life-size bronze statues of America's Founding Fathers. The statues recreate the final day of the Constitutional Convention with each statue in a life-like pose. There is also a display dedicated to Alexander Hamilton — perfect for all the "Hamilton" fans among us. You can grab a snack or lunch from a variety of on-site options, including a coffee shop and a few cafes.

The National Constitution Center is located at 525 Arch Street on the eastern side of Philadelphia. They are open Wednesday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.

The Academy of Natural Sciences

If you love learning about wildlife and the marvels of the natural world, The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University is one of the best museums in Philly. Consider this museum your window into the wilderness. Many of their exhibits are kid-friendly and highly interactive, bringing science to life and sparking meaningful conversations.

There is so much to do at The Academy of Natural Sciences. You can tour a room with massive dinosaur skeletons or explore a display to help you visualize the wild food chain. On weekends, kids can become amateur paleontologists with fossil brush in hand to dig for dinosaur bones at The Big Dig.

The Academy of Natural Sciences is located near Logan Square at 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia and just a five-minute walk to the Franklin Institute and a six-minute walk to the Barnes Foundation. The museum is open Wednesday through Friday, starting at 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., with weekend hours from 10 a.m. through 5 p.m.

Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum

photo of a vintage car dashboard
Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum

If you ever wanted to peer inside a super-high-performance Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Bugatti, Mercedes, Jaguar, Bentley, Porsche, Aston Martin, Corvette, Ford, or other of the world’s greatest racing cars, a visit to the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum clearly should be at the top on your “must-visit” and lifetime bucket list.

With the theme "The Spirit of Competition,” they are passionately devoted to preserving and showcasing the evolution of these “magnificent machines.” Organized largely by race course to show how competition has led to substantial improvements in car design and performance, many of the 75 cars in their outstanding collection have appeared in at least one race, with the earliest a 1907 Renault 35/45 Vanderbilt Racer and 16 cars that have raced at Le Mans.

Located at 6825 Norwitch Drive in South Philly near the Philadelphia Airport in a former engine manufacturing plant, the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum is also home to one of the largest specialized collections of automotive books, periodicals, and photographs in their research library.

The museum and its accompanying library are open Tuesday through Friday, from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., and Saturday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. through 4 p.m. They also host Demo Day on two Saturdays each month, from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. where you can see high-value classic cars in action. It may make the perfect Father's Day excursion!

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