Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden by Sam Wood for Smash Transit

Some of the Top Free Museums in Washington, DC

While most other US cities don’t have a particular reputation for their museums (perhaps with the exception of New York, Boston, or Chicago), the capital is full of so many top notch museums and galleries, most of which are totally free! Here are some of the best ones worth visiting on a trip to Washington DC. And if you’re into that, you could realistically visit all five of them spread over two days, if you take your time.

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

In a wonderfully sci-fi building designed by architect Gordon Bunshaft, who was given the directive to create an edifice worthy of a modern art collection, this museum isn’t enormous but packs in a whole lot. The permanent collection includes works by greats such as Picasso, Matisse, Pollock, Rothko, Bacon, and Rodin, and there are changing exhibitions by well-known contemporary artists. In an hour, you can easily see the majority of the works on display here, but allow some more time to take in the cool architecture, too!

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden by Sam Wood for Smash Transit

National Air and Space Museum

One of the most popular museums that forms part of the Smithsonian Institute, this massive, interactive museum chronicles the human history of flight from the first craft to take to the air in the early 1900s right up to modern space exploration, and even includes replicas of some fictional spacecraft. Take your time exploring this huge museum to fully absorb the wealth of information presented here, and bear in mind that, at weekends and holidays, you may have to queue to get in.

National Air and Space Museum by Sam Wood for Smash Transit

National Museum of African-American History and Culture

The newest part of the Smithsonian Institute, having only opened in September 2016, this museum showcases almost 40,000 items relating to many different aspects of the African-American experience, including community, the visual and performing arts, religion, civil rights, slavery, and segregation. It also houses an award-winning restaurant, Sweet Home Cafe, which contains four distinct food stations with dishes typical to the Agricultural South, the Creole Coast, the Northern States, and the Western Range.

National Museum of African-American History and Culture by Sam Wood for Smash Transit

Smithsonian American Museum of Art

Home to one of the largest collections anywhere in the world of art made in the United States, the 7,000 artists represented cover the period starting at America’s colonial origins right up to the modern day. Some notable artists’ works that you can see here include Hockney, O’Keefe, Hopper, and Homer, but the joy is also in discovering lesser-known artists who have created equally impressive works of art!

Washington, DC by Sam Wood for Smash Transit

National Museum of the American Indian

Offering an in-depth look at the historical, current, and potential future situations of Native peoples in the Western hemisphere, this museum endeavours to engage and educate visitors about how native peoples in North America have lived, what traditions and practices are still important in their everyday lives, and ways in which these cultures can be nurtured and continued in modern life. The building itself is an impressive and imposing structure, made of Kasota limestone (a material mostly found in southern Minnesota) to evoke a feeling of a structure that has been present for thousands of years, and slowly shaped and eroded by the elements.

National Museum of the American Indian by Sam Wood for Smash Transit

Have you ever been to Washington, DC, or any of these museums? If so, do you have any suggestions or tips for people? If not, what do you think? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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Sam Wood

Sam is originally from London, living nomadically since 2010 teaching English as a foreign language, and is now based in Berlin. He's a wannabe minimalist and language geek, working and often traveling with his husband, Zab. On his blog, Indefinite Adventure, he chronicles their journey as two city boys looking for the best vegan food, street art, and most interesting things to do in any given destination.
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