The Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco is a solo traveler’s dream come true – and one of my most pleasant surprises on my visit to the city. Situated close to the ocean and the Golden Gate, near the Presidio, finding the Legion of Honor Museum can be a bit confusing at first. Following a narrow road literally through a golf course, you round a corner and the Museum rises in front of you like the Temple at Delphi.
When I visited, I was fortunate to see two very unique exhibits: Women Impressionists and The Dead Sea Scrolls. I was doing backflips over both opportunities, but it was the entire museum that impressed me the most.
I parked, my rental car overlooking an amazing expanse of forest that led my eye out to the pacific. It was a cool morning for early August, the wind coming in off the ocean. The grounds around the museum have an amazing sense of peacefulness, which surprised me for being so close to the Haight-Ashbury district and Golden Gate Park.
The entrance to the museum is grand - after all, the museum was inspired by and built to resemble the 18th-century Palais de la Légion d’Honneur in Paris. Roman columns line a square walkway that lead you to the front doors – and you can easily miss one of the capstones of the museum's collection - the bronze Rodin “The Thinker” that sit in the courtyard. Luckily, there are over seventy examples of Rodin's work inside, so you will have plenty of opportunities to study this master's work.
If you haven’t had an opportunity to see a Rodin sculpture up close, the Legion of Honor Museum is a great place to be. The pieces are wonderfully displayed, and they have a gorgeous collection of both bronzes and sculptures.
Into ancient art? The Museum has an impressive collection which spans over 1,200 pieces. I was fortunate enough to get to experience it when they also had an exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls. They also have an extensive collection of porcelain figurines and dishes - The Bowles Collection of 18th-Century English and French Porcelain - and it contains over 200 pieces. It is amazing what people have made of porcelain over the years (my amazement came more from the fact of “how did that survive without being broken” angle than anything else). And if you love European art, you will immerse yourself in the museum's 750 piece collection and come away restored.
The Legion of Honor Museum gets high marks from a solo travel perspective for the following reasons:
1. The on-site amenities are good. The café can be slightly challenging to find, but it’s got a great open dining room where you can people watch or find plenty of others with whom to engage in conversation (and the coffee was great, too!).
2. The staff was friendly, chatty and helpful – always a plus on any vacation – solo or otherwise.
3. The exhibits allow plenty of space for study, absorption, and traffic. I never felt crowded in the main museum, and the galleries were gorgeous and welcoming. I felt at home and comfortable.
On your next solo trip to San Francisco, be sure to put the Legion of Honor Museum on your to-do list!