Top 20 Los Angeles attractions

Getty Museum

free admission
Getty Museum

The FREE Getty Museum is an architectural masterpiece just off the 405 highway in Brentwood. 

The Getty Museum opened in 1997, designed by award winning architect Richard Meier. It's the wealthiest art museum in the world, and has a breathtaking hilltop setting with views over LA.

When oil magnate J. Paul Getty died in 1976 he left an astounding $700 million to the J. Paul Getty Trust.  Today's endowment has now grown to an estimated $6.5 billion. 

J. Paul Getty was an avid art collector, and many of the pieces are from his personal collection.  The highlights are Irises by Vincent Van Gough (1889), and original furniture from the Palace of Versailles.

It's free to enter the Getty Museum, but there is a parking fee. Check opening hours here.  

10 BEST things to do at the Getty Museum

1. Take a fun tram ride up the hill to the Arrival Plaza.  

Drive to the lower parking lot of the Getty Museum, just off the 405 highway, then walk to the Tram Departure Plaza

The excitement begins with a thrilling 5-minute tram ride, from the Tram Departure Plaza to the top of the hill.  It's exhilarating to reach the Arrival Plaza and see the awe-inspiring architecture of the Getty Museum.

2. Walk up the sweeping staircase to the Entrance Hall. 

A sweeping staircase leads from the Arrival Plaza, to the Museum's Entrance Hall.  Have you noticed that all the walls at the Getty Museum have 30-inch squares?

Getty Museum: Entrance HallGetty Museum: Entrance Hall

Pick up a map at the information desk at the Entrance Hall, and watch a 10-minute introductory video at the theater, or visit the Museum Store.

Getty Museum: FilmGetty Museum: Film

3. Admire the water features at the stunning Central Courtyard. Walk outside to the magnificent courtyard at the Getty Museum.  The courtyard is surrounded by five buildings holding precious artworks.  Can you see the blue veined boulders in the middle of this fountain?

Getty Museum: Central CourtyardGetty Museum: Central Courtyard

The buildings are constructed from Italian travertine sourced from the Bagni di Tivoli quarry 15 miles east of Rome.  

Getty Museum: Courtyard FountainGetty Museum: Courtyard Fountain

This is an 120-foot long fountain with jets.  See the Mexican Cypress trees on the right?

Getty Museum: TravertineGetty Museum: Travertine

4. Walk down to the beautiful Central Garden at the Getty Museum. 

A set of stairs leads down from the Central Courtyard the Central Garden (pictured), designed by Californian artist Robert Irwin. A stream meanders down the hill, then cascades over a stone wall into a pool with an azalea maze.  Follow the winding path all the way down to the pool and take in the fragrant azaleas.  There are fifty bushes in total.

Getty Museum: Central Garden with maze.Getty Museum: Central Garden with Maze

Getty Museum: Central Garden PathwayGetty Museum: Central Garden Pathway

Look at these beautiful bougainvillea tower trees.  Sit in the shade and relax at the Getty Museum.

Getty Museum: Garden Terrace CafeGetty Museum: Garden Terrace Cafe

The Garden Terrace Cafe overlooks the Central Garden and bougainvillea towers. Those are the Research Institute buildings in the distance.

Getty Museum: lawnGetty Museum: lawn

The Getty Museum is an interesting combination of linear and curved buildings, with dramatic porticos and terraces.  

Getty Museum: outdoor sculptureGetty Museum: outdoor sculpture

Continue the path to the Lower Terrace Garden to see six contemporary sculptures.  The most fascinating sculpture is the red Gandydancer's Dream by Mark di Suvero (1987-88).

5. Take in incredible views across the Cactus Garden.  

The Cactus Garden can be viewed from a terrace south of the Central Courtyard at the Getty Museum.  The terrace has panoramic views of Los Angeles towards the ocean.

6. Visit the Fran and Ray Stark Sculpture Garden. 

The Fran and Ray Stark Sculpture Garden is at the Tram Departure Plaza for the Getty Museum at the base of the hill.  It features many British works.  The most striking is the 14-foot Bronze Form by Henry Moore (1985).

7. Admire European paintings, including Blue Irises by Van Gogh. 

The Getty Museum has 400 European paintings from the 14th to 19th centuries. Amongst the most famous are the Irises by Vincent Van Gogh, (1889), Sunrise by Claude Monet (1873), Spring by Edouard Manet (1881), The Abduction of Europa by Rembrandt (1632), and the early renaissance Madonna and Child by Master of Saint Cecilia (1290-95).

8. See original furniture from the Palace of Versailles. 

This collection at the Getty Museum dates from the late 12th to mid 20th century.  See furniture owned by French Kings Louis XVI, Louis XIV and Louis XV from the Palace of Versailles in exquisite, paneled rooms at the Getty Museum. 

9. Browse a fantastic photography collection. 

This collection spans the early beginnings of photography in 1830s Europe, to contemporary works like Pearblossom Highway by Hockney (1986).

10. Observe famous drawings by artists like Vincent Van Gogh. 

The Getty Museum has drawings from the 15th to 19th centuries.  Don't miss the Portrait of Joseph Roulin by Vincent Van Gogh (1888).

Is the Getty Museum good for kids?

Kids will love the tram ride up the hill!   From here you can visit the free Family Room in the East Pavilion with five small play areas (check times).  The excellent Children's Shop in the West Pavilion has puzzles and unique toys.  Children will also love wandering the gardens and courtyards, and experiencing the fantastic views.

Getty Museum: For Kids.Getty Museum: For Kids.

Which is the Getty Museum's most expensive painting?

In 2014, The Getty Museum paid $65 million for Spring by Edouard Manet (1881). 

In 1987 Australian businessman Alan Bond purchased Irises by Vincent Van Gogh (1889) for $53.9 million.  It was then sold to the Getty Museum three years later for an undisclosed amount.

Food at The Getty Museum

There are two casual cafes, one upscale restaurant, and coffee carts.

Getty Museum: CafeGetty Museum: Cafe

Here's a lovely outdoor patio area at the Getty Museum.

Getty Museum: Cafe and Tables.Getty Museum: Cafe and Tables

Get refreshments at the coffee cart in the Central Courtyard and sit at a table by the fountain.

Know before you go

  • Admission: Free.
  • Hours:  Check here.  Closed Mondays.
  • Parking cost:  check here.
  • Address:  Parking lot is just off Highway 405 at the bottom of the Getty Center Drive, LA, CA 90049.  A free tram then transports visitors up the hill to the Getty Museum.

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