SF Asian Art Museum

What to Expect from a Visit to this Beautiful San Francisco Museum

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.

sf asian art museum

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.

First Floor of the Museum

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.

Third Floor of this SF Museum

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.

asian art museum

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.

asian art museum sf

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.

jade gallery sf art museum

There are three more rooms on the third floor showcasing larger statues from China.

chinese exhibit

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.

Second Floor of this Museum

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.

china exhibit asian art museum

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.

japan exhibit sf asian art museum

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.

Visiting Tips: Ticket, Tours & Other Details

The SF Asian Art Museum hours are as follows:

  • Closed on Mondays
  • Tuesday - Sunday open from 10am to 5pm
  • During the busier season they are open until 9pm on Thursday nights


You can purchase tickets at the door. You can also purchase tickets online in advance. Prices usually start around $15 for adults with discounts for kids, seniors, students and active military.

Target First Free Sundays: Everyone gets in free on the first Sunday of every month thanks to Target

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 40% off your visits to major SF attractions with the Go San Francisco card.

Free Daily Guided Tours

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.

Free Multimedia Tours

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.

Enhance Your Visit with the Exhibit Videos

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.

Photo Policy

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.

Tips to Get to the SF Asian Art Museum

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.

  • Light Rail: Pick up the light rail train at the Powell Street station at Powell and Market Streets. Take any of the outbound trains to the Civic Center stop. Once you reach street level, look for Hyde Street. Take this one block north to Fulton Street where you will take a left. Walk one block to Larkin Street and the museum is on your right.

  • F Street Car: The F Street car rides above ground along Market Street. Hop off at the Larkin Street stop. Head north two blocks to the museum.

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.

  • F Street Car: You can pick up the F Street Car at the corner of Jones and Beach Streets in Fishermans Wharf. You will then follow the same instructions as those above for visitors coming from Union Square.

  • 47 Bus: This will take about the same amount of time as the F Street Car. Hop on this bus on North Point Street and take it all the way to the McAllister Street stop. Head across the street toward City Hall and continue for two blocks down McAllister Street until you see the museum.

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.

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