You must have heard about the J. Paul Getty Center located in Los Angeles.
This place is a campus for cultural institutions opened in the late 90s and funded by oilman J. Paul Getty. The Center was built at a $1.3 billion cost. Yes, you read that right. One visit to this place can give you an idea of why the price tag was so high. Everything looks amazing in there!
The Center shelters one of the two Getty Museums (the other one is the Getty Villa). The one in the Los Angeles location specializes in pre-20th-century paintings, illuminated manuscripts, drawings, sculpture, decorative arts, and photography. At this location, a research and conservation institute operates as well.
The Center also presents very interesting temporal exhibitions (you can sign in for their electronic newsletter to receive information about events taking place at different times of the year).
I can imagine some of your faces right now. “I don’t really like museums or enclosed spaces”, you may say. Even though you can’t stand a couple of hours looking at paintings, you should give the Getty a try. The museum is only one of the attractions in the complex. You can also enjoy the following if you decide to visit:
- Amazing buildings designed by architect Richard Meier.
- An interesting garden with creative statues and a maze made of flowers
- A cool tram that takes you from the parking space to the actual Center.
- Free architecture, collections and garden tours.
- The complex is located at the top of a hill. Therefore, the views of Los Angeles are amazing from here.
- You can sit in the green areas and have a picnic or rest.
As you can see, the Getty is more than a museum (boring museum to some).
Now, let me tell you something really important. The entrance to the Getty Center is free of charge. Yes, it is free!!!! Don’t you love when these rich guys get crazy and start building places accessible to all citizens? Well, there is a catch. Parking is $20. But I mean, 5 to 9 of you can get into a car, right?
And now to give you that extra push to visit, let take a closer look at the different attractions.
After you emerge from the parking structure, you will have to wait for a short period of time to take a tram that will take you to the actual museum. Parking is at the street level and the main structure is located at the top of a promontory. You can reach your destination only by tram. This is a cool way to reach your final destination!
The Main Facade
Once at the top, you are going to be face to face with the main building facade. The curved lines and polished white walls start to give you an idea of why The Getty is one of the top cultural institutions in the United States.
In addition, you are going to be exposed to a monumental staircase, statues, fountains and different views points.
Take your time to enjoy your surroundings.
The Entrance Hall
Follow the stairs to the ample, rounded entrance hall. In there, make sure to pick a map of the installation. This place is big. You need to get oriented somehow.
On the hall, you are going to find several services such as restrooms, hydration station, etc.
Also, this is the spot where scheduled talks and tours meet.
The courtyard is the place you are going to keep coming while moving between buildings. From here, you can have a better understanding of the magnitude of the institution. In a way, it feels like you are in some sort of maze filled with wonders.
Since the courtyard counts with ample sitting (chairs, benches), this is the area to rest and socialize. A café serving simple fare such as hot dogs, salads, sandwiches, soft drinks, beer, coffee and tea, help to focus on relaxation.
Collections and Exhibitions
The permanent collections can be found in one of the four pavilions (building designates as north, east, west, and south).
As a rule, you will find sculptures, illuminated manuscripts, decorative arts and drawings at the Plaza Level. Paintings are located at the upper level.
Collection highlights include paintings by Cezanne, Manet, Van Gogh, and Rembrandt. Special exhibitions can be found in the Exhibitions Pavilion.
Use the Getty 360 free app to tour the galleries.
Inside the institution, there are several points from where great views can be observed. One of those places is the South Promontory. From there, you can see pretty much all of Los Angeles (Downtown, Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, South Bay, Palos Verdes, and Catalina Island).
A cactus garden located at the promontory makes things even more scenic.
The upper levels of the collection pavillions have balconies open to the public. These should be checked out too.
The garden is probably the most charming part of the museum.
Highlights include a stream surrounded by trees, metal trees (topped with vivid flowers), waterfalls and a maze in the center of a pool.
I recommend taking it easy here. Try to absorb as much beauty as possible.
The Green Areas
There are green areas around the garden. I have observed people sitting, chatting and picnicking in these areas. Come prepared if you want to spend some time in here.
Where to Eat
At The Getty, there are several options when it comes to having a full meal or a snack.
The cafe serves sandwiches, soups, salads, pizza, tacos and grilled to order items as well as a large selection of cold and hot beverages. A smaller cafe (called the Garden Terrace Cafe) provides visitors a more limited array of dishes.
The restaurant offers full service and a seasonal menu. As an example, for lunch, you can enjoy seafood gumbo, coffee-rubbed steak, octopus & couscous, and vegetable risotto.
If the options available on-site seems too limited, I recommend heading to Japantown in Sawtelle Boulevard (distance is 6 miles). This neighborhood, known in the past as Little Osaka, is full of restaurants serving sushi, ramen, curry, okonomiyaki and much more.
As an added treat, you will find shops serving Vietnamese, Korean, American and Mexican fare. And, you guys the sweet treats! You can indulge in crepes and warm bread pudding to your heart’s content.
Santa Monica and Century City are other dining options. However, when traffic is at its worst, it is a pain to reach these places. In my mind, the Sawtelle is the no-brainer option for those days when you rather be eating and drinking than being stuck in the 405.
The Getty Center is located 12 miles from the Los Angeles International Airport and 10 miles from Santa Monica.
It is a great place to add to an itinerary if you have planned a vacation around the beach cities in Los Angeles County or have limited time in the area.
In the following posts, I give you ideas on how to include The Getty on your visit to Los Angeles.
One Day in LA: Itinerary for First-Time Visitors
More of Los Angeles
A Day in LA: 4 Amazing Downtown Itineraries
More of Southern California
Have you visited the Getty Center? What was your favorite area?
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