There’s a lot to see and do in Boston, from visiting historic sites on the Freedom Trail to exploring Boston Common and the city’s other green spaces. But there are also several stand-out museums that shouldn’t be missed on any trip to the Hub.
In fact, the next time you find yourself in the Massachusetts metropolis, add these three stops to your touring itinerary.
of Fine Arts, Boston
Home to nearly a half million objects spanning from ancient Egyptian artifacts to contemporary artwork — not to mention a host of show-stopping temporary exhibits — this South End staple can seem a bit daunting at first.
If you find yourself vexed with navigating the massive complex, we suggest taking a free guided tour (included with admission), where docents will give you an overview of the collection and take you to some of the museum’s more famous pieces.
Or if you prefer to wander on your own, start with the Art of the Americas wing. Highlights include early colonial New England decorative arts and paintings, such as John Singleton Copley’s famous portrait of Paul Revere and the renowned patriot’s Sons of Liberty Bowl; John Singer Sargent’s 19th-century painting The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit; and Frida Kahlo’s Dos Mujeres (Salvadora y Herminia).
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
One of the city’s more unusual museums is this gorgeous historic home and garden. In 1860, Isabella Stewart came from New York to marry John Lowell Gardner, who was among Boston’s leading citizens. “Mrs. Jack,” as she became known, decided to build a gorgeous Venetian palazzo to hold her ever-growing collection of art.
Her masterpieces include Titian’s Rape of Europa, Giotto’s Presentation of Christ in the Temple and John Singer Sargent’s El Jaleo, among others.
The interior courtyard is as breathtaking as the art. Gardner stipulated in her will that nothing in the museum could ever be changed or moved. You can imagine her sweeping through the door with a new acquisition.
of Contemporary Art Boston
Before even stepping inside the ICA, stop to admire the stunning glass-walled, cantilevered building that houses the museum. Perched right on the edge of the Boston waterfront, the sleek façade reflects the harbor back on itself.
Since its founding in 1936, the ICA has been instrumental in identifying or showcasing the day’s most important artists, such as The Scream painter Edvard Munch, Pop artist Andy Warhol, American performance artist Laurie Anderson and modern icon Roy Lichtenstein. More recently, it has been pivotal in the careers of creatives like director Bill Viola, silhouettist Kara Walker, photographer Cindy Sherman, graphic designer Shepard Fairey and performance artist Rashaun Mitchell.
One of best things about visiting the ICA is that there is always something new and exciting going on, with ever-changing exhibitions, live music, dance performances, films, talks, tours and other activities on the calendar. If you’re around on the first Friday of the month, check out the museum’s First Friday series, which could feature anything from guest DJs to virtual-reality pop-up installations.
Where to Stay
Boston is such a compact city that reaching most of its museums via foot, subway or taxi is easily done from downtown. If you prefer to be driven, though, staying at Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star XV Beacon, located in exclusive Beacon Hill, offers a nice perk: complimentary Lexus service around town. Other pluses about the cozy stay include working fireplaces and Jacuzzi bathtubs you’ll want to acquaint yourself with after a long day of sightseeing.
For a more historic, but equally elegant stay, check into Forbes Travel Guide Recommend Fairmont Copley Plaza. Situated between Boston’s major attractions (namely Fenway Park and Boston Common), the 100-plus-year-old grand dame charms with its signature red awnings, grand staircases and stylish American brasserie, Oak Long Bar + Kitchen.