Visiting the Getty Museum


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Getty Museum & Getty Villa

So excited to share our travels with all of you.  We recently visited The Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California. Honestly we are not big on museums but have to say this was a real treat, not only did we see the museum but our ticket included a visit to the Getty Villa.  Check out our Youtube Video to plan your vacation to this beautiful site.  


A Little Bit of Background to The Getty Museum

First, just a little bit on J Paul Getty the man and the history of the two museum sites in LA.  

J Paul Getty was born in 1892 and died in 1976 at the age of 83. During his time, he was quite famous and throughout much of the 1950s and 60’s JPG was known as the richest person in the world, he came from a family of wealth but greatly expanded it through his shrewd business decisions in the oil industry – particularly with the initial development of oil fields in Saudi Arabia.    

In addition to being a very wealthy businessman, Getty was also a notorious womanizer. He was married (and divorced) 5 times and four of his five wives were either 21 or 17 when he married them.  In addition to his wives, he had many mistresses – multiple of which lived with him in his Sutton Place British mansion where he lived out the final years of his live. 

He started collecting art and antiquities in the 1930’s and was an active collector throughout his life – however, he was known to negotiate hard for everything and never paying full price as he was very fugal despite his vast wealth.

At his death in 1976, he left $1.2bil to the J Paul Getty Trust which was created to support his museum endeavors – That 1.2Bil in 1976 is equivalent to ~$6.3Bil in today’s dollars.

Today, the Getty Trust is the world’s wealthiest art institution and the Getty is one of the top attractions in LA and receives almost 2mil visitors per year. 

Planning Your Trip to The Museum

Now, let’s get into the details of how to get the most out of your day trip visiting the Getty Museums. It’s a sizable investment in time, particularly if you really expect to delve into the details of all the art – so our fist tip is get up early and get going, and plan to spend an entire full day between the two sites.

Together, the two sites are officially called the J. Paul Getty Museum – one is the Getty Center (sometimes just called “The Getty” and the other is the Getty Villa. The Getty Center is located on a secluded hill in the Brentwood area of LA and overlooks the LA valley while the Getty Villa is a more intimate space located much closer to the coast in the Pacific Palisades overlooking the ocean.

Both the sites are free to visit but you do need to reserve a visit time for each and pay for parking. You can do both on the Getty website:

In terms of scheduling out your day, we recommend planning to start with the Getty Center as early as possible. Plan to spend 4-5hrs here including lunch at site.  Then plan to move to the Getty Villa around 2 or 3PM. The drive from the Getty Center to the Getty Villa is less than 30min in normal traffic.  This timing is important as you’ll need to reserve two different time slots for the two musuems on their website.  Again, this is free but you do need to show the ticker receipts when you visit each site.

Pro-Tip #1:  The cost of parking at each site is $20 but if you go to the Information desk at the Getty Center they will give you a coupon to get free parking at the Getty Villa later in the day – so you only have to pay once with our tip here. You can thank us later.

Pro-Tip #2:  download the Getty Guide from the Apple Store or Google Play. It’s a suite of interactive multimedia tools that offers up information about current exhibitions as well as cool commentary from curators and conservators on many of the works of art around the museum.

Getty Center

Getty Center opened in 1997, at a cost of ~$1.2Bil, and the architecture is a masterpiece in itself.  The Getty Center is actually a campus containing five museum buildings along with multiple water & sculpture gardens.

Another key point is that you can’t actually drive to the Getty Center itself but instead you park at a large 7 story underground parking garage and the base of the hill and then take a free people mover called the Getty Center Tram to the top of the hill.

The public Museum consists of five, two-story buildings behind the Rotunda building called the North, East, South, West and the Exhibitions Pavilions.

Many sculptures are also on display at various sites around the buildings, including on various terraces and balconies. Be sure to pickup this map at the information desk if you are interested in hitting all of them.  Not all are placed conspicuously.

Interesting Fact About the Getty Center……

Over the decades there have been multiple claims of Getty Curators trafficking in stolen art and artifacts as well as buying artifacts which were questionably ‘fake’. In fact, one curator resigned in 1986 and another was indicted by Italy officials in 2005.


Getty Villa

The Getty Villa is a much smaller, intimate place than the Getty Center and it was the site of the original Getty Museum which J. Paul Getty designed and built in 1974. The design was intended to recreate an ancient Roman villa from the time of the Mt. Vesuvius eruption.  It’s a beautiful, comfortable space with a much different feel than the Getty Center.

The Getty Villa focuses on ancient Greek, Roman, and Etruscan art and sculptures with a collection of over 44,000 antiquities dating from 6,500 BC to 400 AD. Only 1,400 of which are on view at any one time.

The art is arranged chronologically by themes, such as Gods and Goddesses and Stories of the Trojan War.

As impressive as the main Villa building and its contents are, the gardens are also a highlight. The main garden is a precise replica of a garden excavated at the Villa dei Papiri near Pompei Italy. – even the shrubbery and plants are copies of plants that would have been prevalent at the time.  And, fun fact, the bronzes you see in the garden are also exact copies of ones excavated from the Villa.

Although the main garden and the courtyard within the Villa are sights to see be sure to also check out the small, secluded East Garden. It’s claim to fame is that the fountain here is an exact replica of the famous shell and mosaic fountain uncovered at another famous Villa excavated in the Pompei area.

Looking For A Place To Stay?


You may want to consider staying at the Hilton Santa Monica. 

The hotel is close to the beach, within a couple of blocks and there are numerous restaurants and nightlife nearby.

The hotel is 8.5 miles from the Getty Museum or about 15 minutes depending on traffic.