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A day at the museum: An insider's guide to the Getty Center

Prepare to be inspired as you take in classic works, breathtaking architecture and more. | By Kassi Nopratvarakorn and Emily Cregg | March 24, 2022

Perched on top of a hill overlooking Los Angeles, the Getty Center boasts some of the city’s most beautiful views. This iconic museum is full of classic works, modern pieces, distinctive architecture and extraordinary outdoor spaces.

Get ready to make memories with these three tips:

  • On display: Immerse yourself in art by taking in the museum’s world-class rotating exhibitions

  • Go courting: Enjoy alfresco eats with a side of stunning architecture in the Museum Courtyard

  • Fly high: The tram ride to the museum’s entrance offers awe-inspiring city views

Step into history with the permanent collection

Whether this is your first or 15th trip to the Getty, take time to be inspired by the artists who made history with their work. For a day filled with can’t-miss art, start at the Museum South Pavilion for Gérard Jean Galle’s chandelier. This chandelier was inspired by a hot air balloon and features a blue globe encircled by the 12 signs of the zodiac. The whimsical piece is suspended above a glass bowl, which the artist originally intended to hold water and live goldfish.

Check out the other French decorative art objects in this area and then head over to the Museum North Pavilion to view Artemisia Gentileschi’s “Lucretia,” circa 1621, in the Italian Renaissance paintings galleries. Gentileschi often depicted donne forti (strong women), and “Lucretia” is a subject she returned to many times throughout her career.

Next, head to the top floor of the West Pavilion to see Vincent van Gogh’s famous “Irises,” circa 1889. One of the most recognizable paintings the Getty Museum’s collection, it was painted during van Gogh’s stay at an asylum in Saint-Rémy, France, and is a study in color. Each flower is unique, and van Gogh took care to convey their distinct shapes and movements when creating this masterpiece.

Insider tip: If you’re traveling with small children, stop by the Museum Entrance Hall to pick up "Be a Getty Art Detective" guides that will send kids on a scavenger hunt throughout the galleries and grounds. Both the “Find the Art…Solve the Mystery” and “Explore the Architecture and Gardens” guides are available in English and Spanish.

Explore the garden

Once you’ve had a chance to walk around inside, take a step outside. Many visitors may not realize that the Central Garden is also a work of art. Designed by renowned artist Robert Irwin, this 134,000-square-foot living work of art features more than 500 varieties of plant materials specifically chosen to illustrate the interaction between light, color and reflection.

Insider tip: If you’re traveling with small children, stop by the Museum Entrance Hall to pick up “Be a Getty Art Detective” guides that will send kids on a scavenger hunt throughout the galleries and grounds. Both the “Find the Art…Solve the Mystery” and “Explore the Architecture and Gardens” guides are available in English and Spanish.

Discover perfect moments in the Center

The Getty Center is not only known for its art, but has also been the stage for many movies and TV shows, including “The Good Place” and “Star Trek Into Darkness.” Create your own Hollywood magic with perfect Instagrammable moments found all over the Center. The upper-level terrace outside the Museum’s South Pavilion offers sweeping views looking southeast toward downtown Los Angeles. Stand with your back to the railing and you may be able to capture the Gactus Garden below in your selfie.

The Garden Terrace Cafe boasts panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean coastline. Frame your shot carefully and you’ll be able to fit some of the Getty Center’s iconic architecture in the picture, too.

Or bring a picnic and enjoy it on the Central Garden lawn. Alternatively, you can preorder a boxed lunch, drinks or snacks from the Getty Center Garden Terrace Cafe or the Museum Courtyard Coffee Cart and skip the lines.


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Don't forget the gift shop

Museum gift shops are a treasure trove of one-of-a-kind items and unique souvenirs, and the Getty Center Museum Store is no exception. Take home your favorite work of art in postcard, magnet or even wearable scarf form.

For a special memento, commemorate your visit with an exhibition catalogue. Getty Publications produces beautiful catalogues that serve as a reminder of your experience and a source of gorgeous images you can return to again and again as the perfect coffee table book.

Make your Los Angeles memory

From breathtaking Los Angeles views to classic landscape works of art, create your perfect memories at the Getty Center, one of the most famed - and free! - museums in Los Angeles.

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Kassi Nopratvarakorn is part of the Destination Marketing team for Hilton, based in Los Angeles. An avid traveler, photographer and foodie, you can find her staging the perfect shot on any trip. Usually at golden hour, usually of pasta.

Emily Cregg is a member of the J. Paul Getty Trust Development team and art aficionado. Originally from New Jersey, she loves to live her best coast life exploring the vibrant LA food scene and taking weekend getaways to Santa Barbara with her adorable new puppy, Hopper.

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