Featured image: The courtyard at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston (photo by MarkSk, Trip Advisor contributor)
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is my favorite art museum in Boston. It’s like a four-story Italian palace that has been turned inside out. From a bird’s-eye view, the museum resembles a framed rectangular courtyard filled with trees, shrubs, and seasonal flowers. The “frame” is a stonework structure that houses the art collection in galleries on the lower three floors. A glass roof covers the courtyard. There’s a walkway around the courtyard’s perimeter on the lower three floors, so you can enjoy the view of the courtyard through arched floor-to-ceiling windows from almost anywhere.
The galleries are across the walkways from the courtyard. Each room has a different design.
The museum contains Isabella Stewart Gardner’s personal art collection. She began collecting pieces when she was young. When her father died, she received a large inheritance and expanded her collection. Soon she didn’t have enough space to display the entire collection in her home, so she built the museum in the Fenway Park neighborhood near the Museum of Fine Arts and moved the collection there. When the building was finished in 1901, Gardner moved into a small private residence on the fourth floor. She continued adding pieces to the collection until her death in 1924.
Explore the museum for free on January 15, when it’s open for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Also hear live jazz, lectures on African-American culture and history, and Dr. King’s speeches. See a dance performance exploring the colonial relationship between the US and Puerto Rico. Create care packages for families served by the Elizabeth Stone House, an organization that helps domestic violence survivors.
The museum is located at 25 Evans Way in Boston. Parking is limited and consists of some on-street spots, discounted spaces next door at the Simmons School of Management Garage, and two lots at the Museum of Fine Arts.
Taking public transit (called “The T” by the locals) is the best option. Two train lines and several buses stop near the museum. I prefer taking the train, because it’s more convenient and faster than the bus. The Green Line’s E train stops at the Museum of Fine Arts station, and the Orange Line stops at the Ruggles station. It’s a short walk from either T station to the museum.