Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston
Boston , Massachusetts
Tel: 617 566 1401
Concierge.com's insider take:
Isabella Stewart Gardner was an heiress and something of a black sheep of late-19th- and early-20th-century Boston society: She was a rabid Red Sox and horse-racing fan. Tapping into a $1.75 million inheritance from her father (a linen merchant) and husband (a financier and heir to a shipping fortune himself), Gardner personally designed this four-story building, modeled on a Venetian palazzo, to house her extensive collection of art and antiquities. The exhibits include paintings by Manet, Sargent, Holbein, Whistler, Rembrandt, Matisse, Michelangelo, and Titian; 15th-century Flemish tapestries; a first edition of Dante's Divine Comedy; and inscrutable documents—look for the one signed by Marie Antoinette. A visit to the museum is like meandering through the attic of a wealthy, if eccentric, old aunt. Mrs. Gardner believed that art should be appreciated on its own merits, so almost nothing is labeled, though some rooms have laminated information cards that fill in the blanks (and some have blank spaces on the walls where masterpieces hung until they were stolen in one of the greatest art heists in American history). The indoor garden courtyard, filled with citrus trees, orchids, and seasonal plantings, is as impressive as the collection—and there's an explanatory book about it that you can pick up at the information desk. If your name is "Isabella," you will be admitted free, and there's a discount if you have visited the nearby Museum of Fine Arts within a two-day period. (Bring your ticket stub.)—updated by Jon Marcus
Open Tuesdays through Sundays 11 am to 5 pm.