I have been to Los Angeles on and off for years now and never visited the Getty Center or Getty Villa. I was driving by at both locations and also kinda noticed them. After many yeas of ignoring this locations, I wanted to give them a try. But lucky as I am, I probably visited during the “best” weekend of the year. It was cloudy, almost no sun and Sunday it even started raining. After I finished work on Friday I made plans about my visit to the Getty Center and Getty Villa. Originally I planed to do both locations in one day. They are not very far apart from each other, which makes it very easy. But other things crossed my plan and I was only able to see the Getty Center on Saturday and visited the Villa on Sunday.
I can highly recommend to visit both places, even if you don’t like art. Both places are amazing and they are great to hang out, explore, walk around, meet interesting people and enjoying the views. My favorite kind of art is photography, which was great because there was an exhibition of “Josef Koudelka: Nationality Doubtful” which still will be at the Getty Museum until March 22, 2015.
The Getty Center
The Getty Center houses the Getty Museum, Research Institute and Conservation Institute. Getting there is pretty easy, just take the Getty Center Dr off-ramp of the 405 and follow the signs. You can’t miss it. But be aware, some GPS give you directions up the residential streets. There is no access to the Getty Center from there.
I arrived at about 11 am on Saturday morning. As mentioned earlier, the weather was not very good. Overcast and a lot of clouds, no real sunshine as you are used to in this area.After entering the parking garage and taking the elevator up to the tram, which runs up to the Getty Center, I got the first shock of the day. The line for the tram was crowded and it looked like a long waiting time. I decided to walk up instead. I haven’t actually watched how long it took me, but according to the Getty website it’s about 15-20 minutes walk, which seems right to my experience. The walk up is not to bad, even that I thought it would be a tough one. I made it up with no big problems and also carrying my camera gear in my big backpack. if you don’t like to walk, you will have to wait or be super early to be one of the first once in line. But I recommend the walk up, you get some nice views and can stop to take pictures and take your time to enjoy it. The first part of the walk up was covered with quiet a lot of noise of the nearby freeway, but as you ascend up the noise vanishes quickly.
Once at the top you will walk up a set of stairs (or take the elevator near the tram station) into the museum entrance hall of the museum. An impressive piece of architecture. Unfortunately you can’t take any big bags or backpacks into the galleries. It’s fine if you only go outside to the gardens and open spaces. You can check your belongings at the coat room, which is to your left of the entrance, near the restrooms.
Right after the entrance doors to the museum entrance hall you will find a theatre, which shows a short orientation movie about the Getty Center. When you exit the movie you can find on your left hand side the “Getty Guide” an interactive self-guided audio tour. Make sure you take one to get more information about the different pieces of art shown in the galleries and around the Getty Center. The guides are for free, you only have to leave your ID for the time being. Here you can find a map to pre-plan your visit.
Now feel free to explore the various galleries with permanent and changing exhibitions and the gardens. Unfortunately because of the drought in California, most of the water features at the Getty Center were turned off to conserve water. Also go up to the terrace and enjoy the great view around you. It’s really worth it to come here just for the view, even if you are not interested in art. On the outside of the museum is also a Café and a Restaurant if you get hungry.
There is a lot to see there and if you are into arts, this is a must see destination for you. I forgot to mention earlier, that the admission is free but parking is 15$ or 10$ after 5pm. Make sure you check the hours before you go there, because the change and the Getty Center is closed on Mondays. For the way back down I used the computer-operated tram just to try it out.
My plan was to visit also the Getty Villa at the same day. At this point I didn’t know that I won’t make it today. Because I planed a quick stop in Santa Monica, which turned out to be an amazing encounter with some great people. After a lot of talking with them it got late, to late for the Getty Villa today.
The Getty Villa
Another day, another Getty location. Sunday morning I headed over to the Getty Villa. The Villa is located in Pacific Palisades directly on the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1). Probably the most famous Highway in the world. But for the Villa you have to get an entry ticket in advance online. Online you have to select a time at which you would like to enter. It really happens, that some times are “sold” out. The admission here is also for free, but you have to pay the same prices for parking again, 15$ and 10$ after 5 pm. About the ticket: Even that you have to select a time, you can stay as long as you want. There is no limit. Because you had also to select a time for your advance entry-ticket, I was confused if I could stay only a certain amount of time, but after a short email everything was cleared up. A map of the Getty Villa can be found here.
Make sure you have the tickets ready when you get to the Villa. It will get checked on the way in to the parking garage. At the museum they have the same rules again. No big bags or backpacks. However it’s no problem to take your stroller with you. I don’t know what they have against big bags or backpacks. I think it is more likely to hit something with your stroller as with your backpack. I left again my camera backpack at the coat room, which is to your left when you enter through the museum doors. There you will also get the Getty Guide for the Getty Villa for a self-guided audio tour. However they also have a lot of guided tours at the Villa, which are very interesting and you get to know a lot of details. I got a flyer with the daily schedule right at the entrance, before you walk up the stairs or take one of the elevators. Otherwise just ask a staff member, they will help you out. The Getty Villa is dedicated to the arts and cultures of the ancient Greece, Rome and Etruria.
But with my bad luck it started raining just when I wanted to explore the beautiful courtyard with the big pool in the center. Unfortunately also dry because of the drought in California. As usual in a museum you are not supposed to touch things, but here is one exhibit which you can actually touch. But this is really the only one you should touch and are allowed to touch. It’s located at the end of the courtyard to the left. Just walk all the way down to the end on to the balcony and look to your left and you will see the statue there. It is a replica of the marble sculpture of Venus, Roman goddess of love by Antonio Canova.
Make sure you explore the museum downstairs and upstairs with the different exhibits. There is a lot to see, from vases, sculptures all the way to ancient coins and jewelry. The boundaries are very thin here between archeology and art.
A weird fact: If it’s bad weather, like rain, they close the balcony which overlooks the courtyard and the big pool in the center of it. It’s a great vantage point for good photos of the courtyard. Unfortunately I got lucky and wasn’t able to go out on the balcony – to bad.
- If you want to visit both locations on the same day, you only have to pay once for parking. Just go to the information desk either at the Getty Center or the Getty Villa to get a validated parking ticket for the other location.
- Best way between both locations is probably driving along Sunset Blvd. especially if you go from the Getty Center to the Getty Villa. This gives you a nice view.
- If you are a Foursquare user you get 20% off any item in the museum store at both locations.