A stone's throw from the Golden Gate Bridge, surrounded by the greenery of Lincoln park and with a splendid view of the Pacific Ocean, there is a majestic Beaux-arts style building characterized by a long colonnade: it is the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, one of two fine arts museums in San Francisco. The other is not far away, is the De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park.
- What is it and a brief history of the Legion of Honor
- Where is it and how to get there
- Timetables and tickets
- Why visit and what to see
- Where to sleep in the area
What is it and a brief history of the Legion of Honor
The California Palace of the Legion of Honor is one of San Francisco's most prestigious museums with artwork spanning over 4 millennia of human history. It was built with the idea of commemorating the Californian soldiers who died during the First World War thanks to the efforts of Alma Spreckels.
The woman fell in love with the French pavilion at the Panama Pacific International Exposition in 1915. The pavilion was a replica of the Palais de la Légion d'Honneur in Paris. Alma Spreckels and her husband, tycoon Adolph B. Spreckels, they decided to dedicate a new art museum to the city and to build a French neoclassical style building that resembled the Parisian Palais de la Légion d'Honneur.
The architect George Applegarth combined the design that reproduced the building with the most modern technologies and engineering knowledge of the time. The war delayed the plans, but nonetheless the museum was inaugurated in 1924. At that point, the dedication to the many boys who died in the very recent war was almost a must.
Given the growing importance and notoriety of the museum, in 1995 its surface was almost doubled by creating six new galleries around the glass pyramid of the courtyard and adding various study areas in the sections of the museum. The renovations also improved the building's anti-seismic and safety characteristics.
The museum's motto? “We are motivated to move forward knowing that our community needs the comfort and inspiration of art more than ever. We will continue to illuminate the past, talk about the present and shape the future". Far-sighted words that reflect on the richness of the number of works shown and their importance.
Where is it and how to get there
La Legion of Honor in San Francisco is located in Lincoln Park at 100 34th Avenue.
If you are in auto, you will be pleased to know that the museum has free parking in front of the structure and that there are also some free parking spaces on the north side of the building.
If you reach the museum with the By public transport you are entitled to a $ 2 discount on the cost of the ticket. You can take:
- bus 18 which leaves you in front of the museum
- Bus 1: Get off at 33rd Avenue / Clement Street. It will take you less than 10 minutes to walk through the park to reach the museum
- bus 38: get off at 33rd Avenue / Geary Street stop. In about 11 minutes on foot you will reach the entrance of the museum.
Some other information that may be useful to you:
- Getting around in San Francisco
- How to rent a car in San Francisco
- All the major attractions of San Francisco
Timetables and tickets
Buy museum tickets
The California Palace of the Legion of Honor is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9am to 30pm. The last admission is scheduled one hour before closing. The museum is closed on Mondays, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. In conjunction with special events, opening hours may vary.
The ticket costs:
- $ 15 for adults
- $ 12 for those over 65
- $ 6 for students
The entrance to the museum is free for children and teenagers under 17.
The ticket also includes same day admission to the DeYoung Museum at 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive in Golden Gate Park, also in San Francisco. An opportunity to visit two fascinating museums on the same day.
If you reach the museum by public transport (Muni, BART, Caltrain) show your ticket at the cashier and you will get a $ 2 discount on the cost of the entrance ticket.
In the case of particular exhibitions or temporary exhibitions of works of art on loan to the museum, a supplement may be requested to the cost of the standard ticket.
Il first Tuesday of the month admission is free for everyone, while every Saturday it is for San Francisco Bay residents.
Buy museum tickets
Why visit and what to see
The place where it is located is worth a visit in itself: stroll through Lincoln Park, climb its steps and reach the museum and then enjoy the sea breeze and the ocean view. But the California Palace of the Legion of Honor holds within it as well 4.000 years of history: from Egyptian mummies and Greek and Roman finds to the wonderful paintings of the most important artists of the twentieth century.
The main collections inside the museum are:
- European Paintings: the numerous galleries host a selection of the more than 800 paintings by European artists from 1300 to 1900 belonging to the museum. Beato Angelico, Georges de la Tour, Rubens, Anthony van Dick, Rembrandt, Monet, Manet are just some of the best known names present.
- Ancient Art: the heart of this section has belonged to the museum since its inception thanks to the will of de Young and Spreckels. The collection of artifacts from Ancient Egypt, Greek, Roman and Middle Eastern civilizations can be found in the Hall of Antiquities and in the mummy room in gallery 1.
- European Decorative Art: ceilings of the Spanish sixteenth century, walls of the seventeenth century Florentine, altars and furniture of the seventeenth century as well as three perfectly recreated halls and a splendid collection of ancient porcelain and ceramics.
- European Sculpture: the sculpture The Thinker by master Auguste Rodin has become the symbol of the museum. But in addition to the large collection of Rodin's works, in this section you will also find some masterpieces by Della Robbia, Cellini, Giambologna, Clodion, Houdon, Maillol.
- Achenbach Foundation fo Graphic Arts: over 90.000 paper works are part of the foundation's collection, which are exhibited in rotation between the two fine arts museums.
- Photography: the two museums alternate the most significant photographic works of their collections.
In addition to the permanent and temporary collections, if you are a lover of cinema this museum is certainly worth a visit because it was chosen by the master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock for many scenes in his hugely popular film Vertigo - The Woman Who Lived Twice.
Where to sleep in the area
The museum is located inside Lincoln park, in northwest San Francisco. You are in Richmond District between the Golden Gate Park neighborhood to the south and the Garrison North. Like all parks in big cities, I recommend that you avoid going there at night, but both this and other nearby neighborhoods have many great options for sleeping during your stay in San Francisco. For an overview of the best neighborhoods for overnight stays in the city, I suggest you read our guide by clicking on the button below:
Our tips for sleeping in San Francisco