The Cleveland Museum of Art Visitor’s Guide

Are you planning a visit to Cleveland? Here’s how to get the most out of your visit to the Cleveland Museum of Art. It’s my favorite Cleveland attraction. The museum is a must-see in this underappreciated city.

You wouldn’t expect to discover the Cleveland Museum of Art in northeast Ohio. It is one of the best museums in the country. And the best part is that it’s completely free (except for special exhibitions).

In this Cleveland Museum of Art guide, we cover the basics of the museum as well as 20 must-see treasures.

From ancient times to the present, these masterpieces span 6,000 years. In this diverse collection, there’s something for everyone. 

Overview of Cleveland Museum of Art

The museum has a well-organized layout. From Roman artefacts to current art, the museum has it all. Here’s a basic rundown of the design. 

The first floor transports you to the times of the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and the early Islamic period.  The Cleveland Apollo and the Marcus Aurelius statue are among the most impressive sculptures.

A magnificent collection of Greek vases is also on display. And be sure to check out the beautiful tapestries that were once stored in the Chateau Chaumont.

A great set of Medieval and early Renaissance paintings are also on display. In the United States, you won’t come across those items very regularly. Artists represented include Botticelli, Fra Angelico and Filippo Lippi.

On the second level, you’ll find an extraordinary exhibit of 16th to 18th century French, British, and American art and furnishings.  There are paintings by Jacque-Louis David, John Singer Sargent, Thomas Eakin and a spectacular Tiffany stained glass collection.

The museum’s modern art collections are in the East Wing. This area features artists like Picasso, Van Gogh, Matisse, Monet, Degas, and Dali.

Auguste Rodin, the famous French sculptor, is represented by a number of works, including one of his stunning Age of Bronze.

The Cleveland Museum of Art has a lot to offer. Here are some of the most important works of art at the Cleveland Museum of Art:

The Atrium

The Ames Atrium, designed by Rafael Winoly, is the museum’s magnificent centerpiece. It was given the name Ames in honor of the Ames family. They donated $20 million to the museum to assist in the construction of the $350 million facility.

It’s a three-story space with lots of plants. The atrium is completely encased in glass and the ceiling has a dazzling perforated pattern.

Cleveland Apollo

The Cleveland Apollo is the Cleveland Museum of Art’s most famous and priceless piece. It was purchased by the museum in 2004 and according to Cleveland Museum Director David Franklin it is probably the greatest antiquity in the US.

Instead of the more common Roman replica, the Cleveland Apollo is most likely an authentic Greek bronze from 350 B.C. The Louvre Museum in Paris has an exact Roman replica of the Cleveland Apollo.

Original Greek sculptures are incredibly difficult to come by. The majority of them were destroyed or robbed and, as a result, lost to history.

Praxiteles, one of Ancient Greece’s greatest sculptors, most likely designed the Cleveland Apollo. The sculpture was initially called the Lizard Slayer, according to scholars. While reclining on a tree trunk, Apollo was most likely stabbing a lizard with an arrow.

Marcus Aurelius Statue

This is a magnificent, nicely carved monument. Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor, is most likely the figure. Aurelius was a follower of Stoicism, a popular philosophy in Rome at the time.

The incredibly well-dressed figure is obviously an important person. The statue’s rich detail further indicates that it is an imperial portrait.

The emperor stands with his left leg forward. He raises his right arm to his chest. This was a popular stance among Greek artists.

Greek Vases 

The Column-Krater Vase in particular is one of the most important.

It is the most significant of a group of twelve vases painted by an unknown Greek artist. The museum refers to the artist as “The Cleveland Artist.” 

On the main side of the ship, there is a magnificent chariot scene. You can see Apollo, who carries a lyre and wears a laurel wreath.

Artemis, Hera, and Hebe are most likely the three goddesses who accompany him.

The Royal Persian Tent of Muhammad Shah

This is an American art museum’s only imperial Iranian tent. The tent is a relic of the Qajar Dynasty of the 19th century. It has the inscription “Muhammad Shah,” who ruled Iran from 1834 to 1848.

These imperial tents served as more than just a place to sleep. They were also emblems of wealth and power.

The circular tent is approximately 12 feet tall and 13 feet wide and made of wool with silk embroidered flowers, vines, and exotic birds.

The embroidered panels give the impression of being wrapped in a warm and peaceful paradise garden when viewed from within the tent.

Armor Court

The Joseph & Morton Mandel Armor Court is the official name of the Armor Court.

Located on the second floor it is a very popular attraction for the museum, especiallly for anyone interested in military history

A superb collection of weaponry, armor, swords, flags, and tapestries can be found here. The Rider and Horse, created by Linda Buck, is at its heart.

Jacque Louis-David’s Cupid and Psyche

David was a modern painter from France who was very much against much of the Rococo period’s excesses. His elegant linear paintings are typical of the newer style he embraced.

David incorporated the Cupid and Psyche tale in this painting. He investigates the conflict between idealized love and love’s physical realities.

Cupid was the mortal girl Psyche’s lover. He paid her nightly visits. But only on the condition that she not find out who he was.

Cupid is frequently a God-like figure in art. David, on the other hand, presents himself as a smirking teen.

David based his view on old literature. Cupid, for example, is described as bratty and mean-spirited in poetry by Moschus.

Egyptian Artifacts

The Egyptian Collection at the Cleveland Museum is a real highlight. It houses one of the best Egyptian collections in the country. Bakenmut and Neskhonsu’s magnificent coffins are the showpieces.

The coffins are among the finest painted wooden coffins from the pharaohs’ 21st and 22nd dynasties.  The pharaohs usually had unornamented and unmarked graves to discourage looting. Instead, they spent fortunes on ornately painted coffins.

Images of gods and goddesses, as well as religious settings, adorn the coffins. Magical symbols and protection spells are other features.

Filippino Lippi Tondo 

Filippino Lippi was the brilliantly talented son of artist Fra Filippo Lippi. The majority of both their work can usually be seen in Florence’s famed Uffizi Gallery.

Lippi used the tondo format in many of his paintings. This is a painting in a circular frame.

During the early Renaissance, when art from Florence was in high demand, the tondo was very popular. 

The painting’s composition is exquisite. Mary seems smitten with the infant Jesus whilst from the left God watches.

The painting uses high-end materials and would have demonstrated the patron’s wealth and influence.

Fra Angelico’s Annunciation

Fra Angelico, together with Giotto and Donatello, helped to herald the arrival of the High Renaissance by transforming the art world. 

His works earned him the moniker “The Angelic Painter” or “Il Beato” (the Blessed). Fra Angelico was a “unique and flawless genius,” according to Giorgio Vasari, a Florentine artist and art historian. He was certainly one of the early Renaissance’s most fascinating individuals.
The Annunciation is a work by Fra Angelico from his early years and  was most likely part of an altar.

Chateau Chaumont Tapestries

Pierre Sala most likely commissioned the Chaumont tapestries. Dwellings, churches, and palaces used tapestries as murals in the 1500s. The tapestries in the museum are from the Loire Valley’s Chateau Chaumont.

In the Time tapestry the opulently dressed Sala is the central figure. He is giving his pregnant daughter a bouquet, which is a symbol of knowledge.

There is an old man with a staff who represents time. A shallow space, an unusual scale and exaggerated figures characterize the tapestry giving it  the appearance of an early Renaissance artwork.

48 hours in the Cleveland art scene

Cleveland is a city built around art, from indie galleries filled with homemade items to gigantic historic institutions curating the classics. If you’re interested in seeing Claude Monet’s impressionist paintings or Mark Mothersbaugh’s experimental style, we’ve put together a two-day schedule just for you.

Day 1


Make sure to eat your most important meal at Playhouse Square’s Yours Truly.  Wake yourself up with a handcrafted Nitro cold brew and try the signature Notso fries and Killit Skillet. 


The Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) is a short bike ride or Uber ride away, with over 45,000 works of art spanning 6,000 years. One of the last Rodin-supervised casts of “The Thinker” is here, as well as Monet’s “Water Lilies.” And you know what’s the nicest thing about the CMA? Its permanent collection is always open to the public for free.


There’s no need to travel far for lunch. The Cleveland Museum of Art has its own restaurant Provenance which is located within the museum. The acclaimed chef Douglas Katz’s upmarket food options frequently reflect the art on show at the museum. For example, during a traveling exhibition showcasing Monet, the restaurant created a special menu. It included a lemon lavender cake and delicious flowers and herbs which acknowledged the artist’s love of painting gardens.

Early afternoon

The beautiful onyx architecture of the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (MOCA) anchors the Uptown section of University Circle. It’s a non-collecting museum, so there’s always something new in the realm of contemporary art on display. Andy Warhol, Jim Hodges, and Claes Oldenburg have all had exhibits at the museum in the past. Admission is always free on a daily basis.

Late afternoon

The Cleveland Institute of Art’s Reinberger Gallery promotes professional artists while also serving as an educational resource for students and teachers. You’ll find inspiration from newer voices in the art world here. There is multi-media, multi-sensory work that really breaks norms and challenges reality inside these galleries.


Tommy’s is a neighborhood favorite in Cleveland Heights’ fashionable Coventry neighborhood. Its delicious food and excellent milkshakes are the things to go for here. With a variety of options ranging from falafel to wraps to meat pies, the menu attempts to suit both carnivores and vegans/vegetarians.


Add a little pizzazz to your night with a visit to the Waterloo Arts Gallery and Waterloo 7 Studio/Gallery. Both are located along Waterloo in Cleveland’s up-and-coming Waterloo Arts District on the east side. This distinctive part of town is an artsy hotspot, with a renowned music club, vinyl record buying, vintage clothing, and cool little cafés all along the road.

Day 2


Breakfast Grumpy’s Cafe in Tremont serves a hearty platter of corned beef hash or a giant stack of pancakes to start the day off correctly. If any of the artwork on the walls appeals to you, feel free to inquire about purchasing it.


Calicchia Studio and Doubting Thomas Gallery are just two of the scores of small galleries springing up between restaurants and houses in this area; known as the epicenter of Cleveland’s indie arts scene. Walkabout Tremont, an art walk occurring the second Friday of each month, is one of the best times to visit.


Drive five minutes to Hingetown in Ohio City for lunch at Saucy Brew Works. Lunch should include a New Haven- or Saucy-style pizza and a flight of their brewed-on-site artisan beers.


Take a short walk to Transformer Station, an art and photography gallery with ever-changing exhibitions. Go inside and you’ll find thought-provoking photographic exhibits as well as modern art curated by the Cleveland Museum of Art. The building, which used to be an electrical substation, was converted into an exciting venue for modern art. And, even better, entry is completely free.

Just a few feet over the street is SPACES, a modern art gallery housed in what used to be the Van Rooy Coffee Building. Each season, SPACES hosts three different exhibit programs, all of which feature new work by artists. Expect to see some truly mind-blowing work at this gallery, which focuses on artists that explore and experiment.

Travel west to ARTneo, a facility dedicated to preserving, researching, collecting, and exhibiting outstanding visual art from the Northeast Ohio region. Inside, you might find everything from a single artist’s painting collection to a rotating show of paintings, prints, and sculptures by a number of different artists.


78th Street Studios, a four-story building with art galleries, creative spaces, and even recording studios, is just a short walk up the street. This isn’t some posh art gallery – it’s housed in a former automobile production facility. The facility is a  fantastic place to learn about the indie art community. Each month on the third Friday, there is a special art festival with food, beverages, and over 60 small businesses.


Relax after a long day with one of Market Garden Brewery & Distillery’s many superb beers, such as the famous Prosperity Wheat or Citramax IPA. The food, which is produced with locally sourced ingredients, is just as popular as the beer selection. One of their famous Scotch Eggs is a good way to start, then move on to the rest of the menu.