When visiting Boston, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is a great option for a cold or rainy day. Whether you are an avid art museum enthusiast, or are just trying to introduce your kids to various cultural activities, this is a fabulous museum that shouldn’t be missed. Our teenager was particularly enthralled, and could have stayed much longer than the rest of the family.
Note: we love the nearby Museum of Fine Art as well; the MFA is larger and might be a better choice if you can only choose one. Though we just saw the Gardner Museum for this first time this fall and loved it too.
Isabella was a wealthy Bostonian, born in 1840, who thoroughly enjoyed travel and managed to collect many valuable paintings, rare books, and other items with cultural significance. After a large inheritance, she was free to pursue her passion, and spent the last 25 years of her life building and filling the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
How to Visit
If you are exploring the city on foot, the closest T stop is on the Green Line E train: Museum of Fine Arts. It’s also not too far from Kenmore Square or Fenway Park. Since we drove in, we just used the SpotHero app to find a parking deal at the nearby Simmons University garage.
One of the highlights of the museum are the courtyard gardens that you will encounter on the way to the artwork.
The Monk’s Garden
There are also several other exterior gardens, so make sure that you check your map to make sure that you don’t miss them.
We took a quick walk through the Monk’s Garden. The kids thought that one of the fountains looked a bit like a rabid dolphin that had bit the arm off a small child…
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is fairly small, but there are some really nice pieces that span a wide range of time periods. Here are a few of the medieval pieces.
While exploring, you will also get a feel for what it may have been like to live in a house like this since many of the rooms display period furnishings and fixtures.
I thoroughly enjoyed admiring the artwork.
Beyond just paintings, there were plenty of carvings.
As well as other decorative work.
The stained glass was also quite pretty.
If you are looking for tapestry artwork, there are several nice exhibits in this museum.
One unfortunate incident happened in 1990 when 13 very valuable ($500 million) pieces of artwork were stolen from the museum. You can view some of the empty frames and consider the enormity of the loss.
But all in all, this is a museum that I would highly recommend.
I may even come back in the future, although my guess is that when we get out of Covid times, the museum will be much more crowded again.