New York City boasts one of the best collections of museums in the world. There are dozens and dozens to choose from. If you like modern art, Asian art, architecture, medieval art, Czech art, immigrant history, literary history, revolutionary history, whatever your artistic or historical interests, there are museums in NYC devoted to them.
But indulging your love of museums can get expensive. If you don’t have an unlimited museum entry budget, we found 33 free museums in New York City.
Free Museums in NYC
Not all the museums on this list are free for everyone or free all the time, but we’ve included the relevant details for each museum.
Not every artist had formal art training or any training at all. Those are the kinds of artists whose works are on display at the American Folk Art Museum. You’ll see works of art including textiles, paintings, and sculptures in the museum’s collection of more than 7,000 works from artists from all across the country.
The museum is located at 2 Lincoln Square and admission is always free for everyone.
This free museum in NYC is dedicated to bringing the works of up and coming artists from not only Greece but from all over the world to the U.S. The museum is located in Olympic Tower at 645 Fifth Avenue and is always free for everyone. There is also a nice area in the lobby with tables and chairs arranged near an indoor waterfall if you’re looking for a nice spot to eat lunch or drink a cup of coffee.
The Asia Society displays art from across the Asian world including Japanese ceramics, Cambodian sculptures, and works from modern Indian artists. The museum is located at 725 Park Avenue and offers free admission for everyone on Friday evenings from 6 to 9 from Labor Day through the month of June.
BxMA is centered around 20th Century and contemporary American art from Latin, African, and Asian artists. If you love photography and video art, the museum often features special exhibitions of both.
The museum is located at 1040 Grand Concourse in the Bronx (where else would it be?!) and is always free for everyone.
Parents rejoice! Of all the free museums in NYC, your kids will probably love this one the most. This was the first children’s museum in the world and it is definitely not a “look but don’t touch” experience for kids. There are exhibitions to teach kids about the visual arts, music, the natural world, and word culture and there are many hands-on, interactive experiences.
The museum is located at 145 Brooklyn Avenue in Brooklyn and patrons can pay what they wish Thursdays from 2 to 6 and Sundays from 4 to 7.
You could spend weeks in the Brooklyn Museum and still not see all of the more than one and a half million works the museum houses. The collection includes works from around the world representing thousands of years of art history.
The museum is located at 200 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn. Entry is free to all visitors on the first Saturday of every month from 5:00 to 11:00. If you’ve never been to a museum after dark, it’s a really cool experience, a very different feeling from the daytime. This is your chance to check it out for free.
Cooper Hewitt underwent a massive renovation a few years ago and the improvements include lots of cool, interactive features. The museum also has a really great gift shop filled with unique items that make great gifts.
Cooper Hewitt is dedicated to design and includes furniture, toys, decorative arts, garden design, jewelry and much more.
The museum is located at 2 East 91st Street and patrons can pay what they wish Saturdays from 6:00 to 9:00.
El Museo del Barrio began as a place to feature Puerto Rican art and artists but has since expanded to include works from the Caribbean and Latin America. The museum holds more than 6,500 works including modern and contemporary art, graphic art, and Pre-Columbian art and relics– making it one of the most culturally notable free museums in NYC.
The museum is located at 1230 Fifth Avenue and patrons can pay what they wish the third Saturday of every month.
The Frick is like two experiences for the price of one which is even better when the price is free. The museum is the former mansion of Henry Clay Frick so not only do you get to see old masters’ works, furniture, and decorative works of art used to furnish the home (most of the works in the museum belonged to Frick) but you get to see the inside of a Gilded Age mansion.
The museum is located at 1 East 70th Street and free for all visitors the first Friday of every month from 6:00 to 9:00.
The Guggenheim is another two for one on this list of free museums in NYC. The building with its distinctive spiral shape was designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The museum has a permanent collection of impressionist, modern, and contemporary works of art as well as temporary exhibitions throughout the year.
The museum is located at 1071 Fifth Avenue and visitors can pay what they wish every Saturday from 5:45 to 7:45.
The Hispanic Society showcases works of art and the culture of Spain, Portugal, and the former colonies of the two nations. There are more than 18,000 works including paintings, drawing, decorative and useful arts spanning the Paleolithic era to the 20th Century.
The museum is located at 613 West 155th Street and is always free for everyone.
The Japan Society collection includes Buddhist works of art, photography, ceramics, and masterpiece paintings dating from prehistory to the present day. The museum also sometimes offers “Talk and Tasting” events. A recent Talk and Tasting centered around the history of sake and included sake tastings. Have you ever heard of something like that in any of the other free museums in NYC?
The museum is located at 333 East 47th Street and is free to visitors every Friday from 6:00 to 9:00.
The collection of the Jewish Museum holds more than 30,000 items including antiquities, books, decorative objects, paintings, and photographs making it the largest collection of Jewish art outside of Israel.
The museum is located at 1109 Fifth Avenue and is free for all visitors every Saturday.
This museum is the only museum in the world dedicated to art focused on the LGBTQ experience. The collection is made up of more than 30,000 objects and the museum hosts six major exhibitions each year. There is also a research library with more than 30,000 volumes.
The museum is located at 26 Wooster Street and always operates under a pay what you wish policy.
The Metropolitan Museum opened this annex showcasing modern and contemporary art in the former location of the Whitney Museum of American Art.
The museum is located at 945 Madison Avenue at is pay what you wish for residents of New York State. But, out-of-state visitors seeking free museums in NYC shouldn’t fear – there is a way for the rest of us to get in free!
But there is a way for the rest of us to get in free! When you buy a ticket for the Met, the Met Breur, or the Cloisters, the ticket is valid for three consecutive days of free entry at the other two museums. For instance, if you bought a ticket to the Met on a Tuesday, you could go to the Met Breuer for free on Wednesday and to the Cloisters for free on Thursday.
This is my favorite place in the world and everyone should visit. The Met houses more than 2 million items including Greek and Roman, Egyptian, Oceanic, and American art and artifacts. There are paintings and sculptures you’ll instantly recognize if you’ve ever even glanced through an art history book.
The museum is located at 1000 Fifth Avenue. Entry is pay what you wish for New York State residents but you can use the trick described in the Met Breuer section to get into the Met for free.
Another two for one! The building which houses the museum was once the private library of Pierpont Morgan. It contains historic manuscripts, a Gutenberg Bible (one of the first things printed on the greatest invention of the first millennium, the Gutenberg printing press), and old masters drawings and prints. The museum also has really terrific rotating temporary exhibitions.
The museum is located at 225 Madison Avenue and is free to visitors every Friday from 7:00 to 9:00.
MAD highlights the way artists and designers have changed the modern world by creating the things we use and see every day. Exhibitions revolve around things like architecture, fashion, the performing arts, and interior design.
The museum is located at 2 Columbus Circle and visitors can pay what they wish every Thursday from 6:00 to 9:00. This is another one of the free museums in NYC with a great gift shop full of interesting buys.
New York City has been around for hundreds of years in some form or another from a Lenape settlement to New Amsterdam to the present day. This museum covers that entire span of history including the art it produced.
The museum is located at 1220 Fifth Avenue and is oddly specific when it comes to which visitors are allowed free entry. Free entry is open to those who live or work in the 10029, 10035, and 10037 zip codes.
MOMA houses some 200,000 works of modern and contemporary art ranging from painting and photographs to light and multi-media installations, to sculptures.
MOMA is located at 11 West 53rd Street and is free to all visitors every Friday from 4:00 to 8:00.
This annex of MOMA doesn’t collect art, rather it exhibits experimental art from emerging artists working in new and varied genres. The exhibits include retrospectives, installations designed specifically for the space, and a variety of art from all across the U.S. and the world.
The museum is located at 22-25 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, Queens and offers free or suggested donation entry to all New York City residents.
If you love all things movie and television as well as free museums in NYC, you will love this place. The museum houses some 130,000 artifacts related to movies, television, and digital media including things like photographs, costumes, games, fan magazines, marketing materials, and even old movie theater furnishings.
The museum is located at 36-01 35th Avenue in Astoria, Queens and is free to all visitors every Friday from 4:00 to 8:00.
This museum is housed in the former Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House and is dedicated to telling the story of Native Americans. The museum holds some 825,000 items that span 12,000 years of history and represent more than 1,200 indigenous cultures. You’ll see fine arts and artifacts used in everyday life.
The museum is located at 1 Bowling Green and always free for all visitors.
The Neue Galerie is dedicated to early 20th Century German and Austrian art and design. If you love art from the Weimar/Bauhaus Period (my personal favorite artistic period) you will love this museum. The collection includes paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, and photographs.
The museum also has a cafe which serves delicious food, much better than you’ll find in a standard museum cafeteria.
The Neue Galerie is located at 1048 Fifth Avenue and is free for all visitors on the first Friday of each month from 6:00 to 8:00.
New York City has so much history it needs two museums! This was the first museum to open in New York City and houses paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, and historical artifacts including fragments of the statue of King George III torn down by Patriots after a public reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 9, 1776 (the bulk of the statue was melted down into bullets that would be fired by Patriots during the War of Independence).
The museum is located at 170 Central Park West and is pay what you wish for all visitors every Friday from 6:00 to 9:00. This is another option for free museums in NYC that offers a great restaurant.
The New Museum is dedicated to contemporary art. The museum began as a place to showcase works by living artists who were often excluded from even museums dedicated to modern art. Modern and contemporary are two different things in the art world!
The museum includes paintings, photographs, and installations. The New Museum is a great place to discover living artists whose careers you can follow, a pretty cool and unique feature.
The museum is located at 235 Bowery and visitors can pay what they wish on Thursdays from 7:00 to 9:00.
The Queens Museum is dedicated to art and artifacts that represent contemporary urban life. The collection includes paintings, sculptures, a panorama of New York City, and thousands of items from the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs which were held in New York City (1964’s fair was held in the burrough of Queens).
The museum is located in the New York City Building in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens and is always free to all visitors.
The Rubin Museum is dedicated to the art and culture of Tibet and the surrounding areas including Nepal, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, and Mongolia. The collection includes nearly 4,000 objects spanning 1,500 years of history, art, and culture.
The museum is located at 150 West 17th Street and is free for all visitors every Friday from 6:00 to 10:00.
The Studio Museum is a showcase for local, national, and international artists of African descent whose works are inspired by black culture. The permanent collection includes works by more than 400 artists and spans 200 years of history. The works include paintings, drawings, photographs, and mixed-media installations.
The museum is located at 429 West 127th Street and is always free to all visitors. This area of West Harlem also has some of the best bars and restaurants in Manhattan.
The museum at FIT houses a permanent collection of more than 50,000 items of clothing and accessories from the 18th Century to today with a special emphasis on contemporary avant-garde fashion.
The museum also features revolving, temporary exhibitions. If the Costume Institute at the Met didn’t sate your fashion appetite, head to this museum.
The museum is located at 227 West 27th Street and is always free for all visitors.
Art is subjective and this museum houses something that has as much a right to be considered art as anything in the Met or any other museum in the world. The piece is “an interior earth sculpture” made up of 250 yards of earth.
The artist, Walter de Maria, has installed similar works in four other cities. The Earth Room is located at 141 Wooster Street and is always free to all visitors.
This museum was created with the goal of connecting artists across the world and across all disciplines to foster peace and understanding through art. The museum is housed in a beautiful landmarked building in Brooklyn and included paintings, sculptures, ceramics, and multi-media works.
The museum is located at 135 Broadway in Brooklyn and is always free for all visitors – which is great since some free museums in NYC have a fee several days on the week.
The Whitney is dedicated to 20th and 21st Century American art. The Whitney is something of an incubator for emerging artists via its Annual and Biennial exhibitions which showcase new artists.
The Whitey is located at 99 Gansevoort Street which is very near the entrance to the High Line so you can make a day of exploring the museum and then walk the High Line. All visitors can pay what they wish every Friday from 7:00 to 10:00.
Take Advantage Of The Free Museums In NYC!
The fact that New York City is expensive is probably not a surprise to you even if you don’t live there. But there are plenty of places in New York City where you can eat, drink, shop, and take in some sites really inexpensively. And in the case of museums, these 33 free museums in New York City are there for you to enjoy.