The SF Asian Art Museum is a personal favorite. The museum houses thousands of artifacts created over the span of 6,000 years.
It also attracts a number of amazing traveling exhibits every year. Entrance into many of these is included with your general admission ticket. Only a few require a small additional fee.
This San Francisco museum sits about a block from City Hall in the Civic Center neighborhood. It's only about a 10 minute bus ride from Union Square.
I recommend that you start your visit on the first floor of the SF Asian Art Museum. This is where they house the majority of the traveling exhibits.
After you enter, head to your left. You should see signs that direct you to the door where the special exhibit is located.
What are the current exhibits? Check the current calendar of exhibits for all SF museums by month.
Many of these exhibits do not allow photography, so make sure you ask before taking any pictures in this area.
After you view the exhibit or exhibits in this area, head to the other side of the gift shop. Here is where you'll find the escalator. Take it to the very top.
The best flow for your museum visit is by heading up to the third or top floor. Once you exit the escalator, head into the door on the right.
The first exhibit you will view is the South Asia Exhibit. This is where you will see several works of art from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Here is a photo from one of the six rooms that showcases this exhibit.
After you finish in these rooms, you'll see a small room off to the left featuring artifacts from Iran and the surrounding countries. This exhibit is called The Persian World and West Asia.
The next set of rooms is dedicated to Southeast Asia. The four rooms of this gallery include items from Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Burma, Laos, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Here is just a sample of what you will see here.
You will then enter a small exhibit on The Himalayas and the Tibetan Buddhist World. From there, you'll enter the largest exhibit which includes hundreds of pieces from China.
The first room you enter is one of my favorites. It includes several small, yet intricate statues carved out of jade. It's officially known as the Chinese Jade Gallery.
There are three more rooms on the third floor showcasing larger statues from China.
Once you finish in the room shown above - continue down the hall and you will find a set of stairs. Take these stairs down to the second level. This is where you will find three additional rooms featuring more ancient artifacts from China.
The second to last room in the China exhibit is another one of my favorites. It shows you the intricacies of the written Chinese language.
After you finish the exhibit on China, you will see three rooms with art from Korea. Some of the first pieces date back to 1392.
The next, and final, area is dedicated to art from Japan. Here you will see pieces depicting early Japanese life as well as porcelain, prints and tea related art.
Once you complete this exhibit, head out the doors and take the escalator back to the first floor.
Fun Fact: Which exhibit houses the oldest works of art? The China exhibit showcases pieces that are from around 221 BC.
The SF Asian Art Museum hours are as follows:
Tip to Save: Admission to the SF Asian Art Museum is also included with the purchase of the Go San Francisco card. Learn how you can save up to 50% off your visits to major SF attractions with the Go San Francisco card.
The SF Asian Art Museum also offers several free guided tours every day. These change frequently, so request a copy of their schedule for that day when you arrive.
You can also do a self-guided multimedia tour. The audio tour offers highlights of the exhibits in several languages. Pick up your headset at the Information Desk after you enter.
You will also notice several video players throughout the museum. Pick up the headsets and hit play to learn even more about the region, a specific country or the artifacts in a specific room.
As I mentioned above, many of the traveling exhibits do not allow photography. However, you are allowed to take photos in most of the rest of the museum (except where noted). Make sure you turn off your flash and leave your tripod at home.
From Union Square: The easiest way to get from Union Square to the SF Asian Art Museum is by taking a light rail Muni train or one of the street cars.
Tip to Save: Did you know you can get seven days of Muni rides with the San Francisco CityPass. Find out everything included with this great SF discount pass.
From Fishermans Wharf: The easiest way to get from Fisherman's Wharf is by taking the F Street Car or the 47 Caltrain Bus.
Hop On/Hop Off Bus Tour: Another great option to get here is the Hop On/Hop Off Bus Tour. It drops off less than a block away from the museum. Book your tickets today.
Local Secret: While you in the neighborhood, I also recommend a quick stop over at SF's City Hall. It's right across the plaza from the Asian Art Museum. It's free to enter and take a look around. You will not be disappointed. Find out more about this little known SF attraction.