Berkeley hotels

7 Reasons Berkeley Is A Happy Place For Museum Lovers

Are you a museum lover? Everywhere, museums open their doors to visitors. Around the world, treasured institutions are hosting living virtual tours and exquisite traveling exhibitions. As a result, access to our museum’s treasures has never been more accessible or more intriguing.

Berkeley, California has more than 30 museums covering every topic imaginable and a few you might not have thought of. You can immerse yourself in subjects ranging from anthropology to zoology. Many collections and museums associated with UC Berkeley are open to the public. All are exceptionally selected. Some are conventional, some are curious.

Define a museum

Giant stone buildings filled with moldy paint and dinosaur bones are what many people think of when you say museum. But, if you love museums like me, you know there’s more to old buildings than artifacts.

Dictionaries say that a museum is an institution devoted to the acquisition, care, study and display of objects of enduring interest or value” or “a building or place where works of art, scientific specimens or ‘other items of permanent value are kept and displayed’.

As this Britannica article puts it, “Given their diverse origins, varied philosophies, and differing roles in society, museums do not lend themselves to rigid classification.”

Museums are living entities that change as new discoveries are made, whether it’s science, art, music, literature or an unknown insect. Displays have long been showcases filled with objects. Many room-sized virtual reality exhibits tour the United States

In this roundup, I’ve included the traditional and the unusual. There are small museums in libraries, museums without walls, private museums and virtual museums. Some of the places that I loosely interpreted as museums.

Here are my most beloved Berkeley museums, some traditional, some cutting-edge, and some nondescript.

Mary Charlebois

1. Berkeley Museum of Art and Film Archives

This magnificent building housing the Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) is home to two museums. A modern art museum and a film museum reside in the same location. The quality and diversity of the University of California’s visual arts center is unmatched.

All of BAMPFA’s art is modern. You might see ancient themes and techniques reimagined for today’s culture. The space is expansive, with three-story ceilings. The building is a work of art. Anyone can immerse themselves in creating, teaching and viewing modern art.

Experience the Berkeley Museum of Art through exhibits, an amphitheater, an in-house library, a study center, the Fisher Family Art Lab, quiet reading rooms, a loft cafe, and an exceptional gift shop.

The world’s largest film archives are lovingly stored at Pacific Film Archive. This ever-growing collection is kept in an air-conditioned bubble. However, you can catch screenings of archived films in the centre’s state-of-the-art theatre. All styles, all eras and all languages ​​are represented.

Thanks to the Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive for the press pass to BAMPFA.

2. Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology

Hearst’s collected works, exhibitions and courses are a resource where “cultures connect”. Artifacts from around the world illustrate the daily life, art, music, celebrations and ceremonies of the various cultures of man.

When not open, you can experience the museum virtually with Hearst From Home. Meet exhibitions, collections and courses.

3. UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens

You may not think of a garden as a museum. However, this living museum is a 34-acre garden with a diverse landscape. There are over 10,000 plants here. Many are rare and endangered.

Begun in 1890, the garden has nine areas stretching from Italy to South Africa. Additionally, there is a collection of native California plants. This is remarkable.

After visiting the California section, stroll through the Chinese herbal medicine garden. Then stop and smell the old rose garden. You can also enjoy the Tropical House and the Arid House. Don’t miss drought-tolerant ferns. Find orchids and carnivorous plants. Useful plants such as herbs are collected. Many unusual and unusual species are presented.

Exhibitions, lectures, workshops and the Redwood Grove Festival are scheduled throughout the year.

Exhibition of bottles from the Aftel museum of curious scents.
Mary Charlebois

4. Aftel Archives of Curious Perfumes

Mandy’s exquisite museum will teach you a thing or two about your favorite scents. You will also discover perfume and its many uses over time.

On a tree-lined street in Berkley, perfumer Mandy Aftel has curated a perfume museum. His exhaustive understanding of aromas was acquired during his career as a perfumer. Its remarkable collection of olfactory objects is captivating.

Mandy’s Olfactory organ has over 300 species. The device is a tool to find and create your individual scent. Then, if desired, Mandy will formulate it for you and transfer the liquid or solid into the container of the size and style you desire. Aftel has customers all over the world. Each has their own personal scent, handmade by Mandy.

The structure housing the museum was built by the Aftels. The artwork and a beautiful, inviting space with warm woods and lots of sunshine; it is also a space for lessons. Here you can learn how to choose, make and wear perfumes. Visit Mandy’s website for museum hours and tickets.

Berkeley Free House near UC Berkeley.
Mary Charlebois

5. Berkeley Free House

Berkeley Freehouse is not a museum, but a historic building. During the 1960s, free speech and human rights activist Mario Savio held meetings in this building. Wander the halls to snap photos of the infamous meetings and other free-speech activities of the time.

Today it’s a gastro pub and is one of the best places to eat and drink near the UC Berkeley campus. The elevated pub grub, craft beer and cocktails are top notch. It’s a lively place from happy hour until late at night. There is a friendly crowd and excellent service.

Garden art at the Berkeley City Club.
Mary Charlebois

6. Berkeley City Club

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Berkeley City Club isn’t an official museum, but it should be. It stands as a monument to Californian architect Julia Morgan. She designed over 700 buildings in her lifetime, including many parts of Hearst Castle.

Morgan designed the Women’s City Club. It was built and opened in 1930. Called “Little Castle”, Julia’s masterpiece was an indispensable social and activity center for women. In 1963, the club opened up to women and men, and the name became Berkeley City Club.

Today, the decidedly “morrish with touches of gothic” design is a hotel, restaurant and event space. Romantic is the best way to describe the interior of the City Club. The hotel is highly rated and includes a fabulous “it should be in a movie” indoor pool.

Homemade Butter with Sea Salt from Julia's - Berkeley CA.
Homemade butter, Julia’s restaurant (Photo credit: Mary Charlebois)

Julia’s Restaurant, a French restaurant in the Berkeley City Club, is outstanding. In fact, I call it an “edible museum”. The food, service and atmosphere is classic fine dining, serving classic French cuisine. White linen, crystal, porcelain, silver and beautiful flowers adorn each table. The dining room is quiet, and the service is discreet. It’s nice to see that “continental” food and service is still practiced in the laid-back area of ​​Berkeley, California.

The food is sublime. The ingredients are locally sourced and everything is homemade, even the butter. The roast chicken I had for my ‘splurge’ dinner was juicy, flavorful and perfectly seasoned. I dream about it.

Reception at Graduate-Berkeley.
Mary Charlebois

7. The Berkeley Graduate

Among the hundreds of yellow National geographic from the magazines behind the reception counter to the photos, posters and decor in the rooms and public areas, the Graduate is a reminder of the university’s past and present days.

The Graduate Berkeley is located downtown, bordering the UC Berkeley campus. Formerly the Durant Hotel, Graduate Hotels purchased and refurbished the property giving it its signature look commemorating school days. Each Graduate hotel is located in a college town.

Graduate Berkeley is across from the college campus. My room on the sixth floor had a view of Sather Tower, which houses the Berkeley Campanile. I had a spacious king bed with all the usual amenities.

There is a delicious restaurant and bar called Henry’s in the lobby. Enjoy a fitness center, e-recharge parking, pet-friendly, and loaner bikes. The staff was exceptional. They were very helpful when I arrived hours early, before my room was ready. They know the area and are happy to help. This goes for office and restaurant staff.

More Berkeley Museums to Explore

Here is an alphabetical list of happy places for museum lovers. I didn’t spot them all in person, but I researched their websites and found them interesting. I have five on my list for my return to Berkeley. Check their websites for hours and exhibits.

Getting to Berkeley

The closest airport is Oakland, with San Francisco not much further. I recommend San Francisco if you don’t want to drive. You can take the BART from the airport directly to downtown Berkeley. If you plan to drive, Oakland is closer and easier.

Berkeley is a walkable city. The streets are safe and public transport is frequent and inexpensive. Moreover, this compact city has museums on practically every corner, a happy place for true museum lovers.

To learn more about exploring Berkeley, visit Visit Berkeley.

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