Getty Villa Malibu – The “Other” Getty Museum in LA

Getty Villa Malibu - View of Inner Peristyle Garden and Bronze Sculptures
Getty Villa Malibu – Inner Peristyle Garden, Fountain and Bronze Sculptures – ©

During a recent weekend trip to Los Angeles, we enjoyed a fun one-day getaway in Malibu. Famous for its stunning beaches, surfing and celebrities, the area is also home to the beautiful Roman-inspired Getty Villa (the “other” Getty museum in L.A.) This one is dedicated to the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria (the other Getty venue, located near downtown L.A. is more modern and houses European works of art). Both attractions are well worth the visit and make a fun day out.

Getty Villa Malibu

After touring the popular Getty Center Museum last year (and by the way, it’s incredible!), we couldn’t wait to see its sister museum, the Getty Villa, modeled after the luxurious ancient Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum, Italy. Its Roman-inspired architecture and magnificent gardens gives visitors the feeling of what a Roman villa was like 2,000 years ago.

Reflecting Pool in Outer Peristyle Garden at Getty Villa Malibu
Reflecting Pool in Outer Peristyle Garden at Getty Villa Malibu – ©

Located on the Pacific Coast Highway in Pacific Palisades, the Getty Villa first opened in 1974. After closing for renovations in 1997, it reopened to the public in January 2006. Admission to the Getty Villa is free (timed-ticket entry is required). We purchased our tickets online (just pick the day and time you want to go and print the tickets before you leave home). Be sure to have your tickets handy – you’ll need to give them to the person at the entry gate when you make the turn into the Getty Villa off the main road, before you park your car.

Arriving early (we wanted to make sure we got parking because we heard it fills up fast), we walked around the Villa and gardens, and then decided to take one of the Complimentary Garden Tours before it got too crowded. The 40-minute docent-led group tour takes visitors on a stroll through four of Getty Villa’s gardens – Outer Peristyle, Inner Peristyle, East Garden and the Herb Garden.

Flowers in Herb Garden at Getty Villa Malibu
Flowers in Herb Garden at Getty Villa Malibu – ©

Each one is unique and fascinating – we especially liked the Outer Peristyle with its formal gardens, bronze sculptures and magnificent 220-ft-long reflecting pool (pictured below). As we strolled through the garden, we imagined what the Romans must have felt like partying and entertaining here – it’s such a surreal setting!

View of Outer Peristyle Garden and Relecting Pool from 2nd floor balcony - Getty Villa, Malibu
View of Outer Peristyle Garden and Reflecting Pool from 2nd floor balcony – Getty Villa, Malibu – ©

Besides Garden Tours, Getty Villa offers a variety of free tours, including Architecture Tours, Collection Highlights Tours, Spotlight Talks and Focus Tours. We took a self-guided tour around the Museum galleries – a collection of 1,200 Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities are on view. Ground level galleries are much smaller than those on the second floor – they seemed to have more of an intimate feeling… like being in someone’s house vs a museum. Be sure to see one of J. Paul Getty’s most prized possessions in his collection (the Lansdowne Herakles sculpture; pictured below) – it’s what inspired him to build the Museum in the style of an ancient Roman villa.

Lansdowne Herakles sculpture (Roman marble statue dates back to AD 125) is on view at the Getty Villa Museum in Malibu
Lansdowne Herakles sculpture (Roman marble statue dates back to AD 125) is on view at the Getty Villa Museum in Malibu – ©

Our last stop was the Villa’s second level outdoor balcony, overlooking the Outer Peristyle Garden and Reflecting Pool… and beyond that, the Pacific Ocean. The view from that vantage point was spectacular – everyone had their iPhones out taking pictures (including us)!

Our last stop was a visit to the Museum Store – I bought a cute little fridge magnet featuring one of the Fertility Goddesses that we saw in the Museum’s Gods and Goddesses gallery. If you’re feeling hungry, there’s a great little cafe with umbrella tables on a spacious deck overlooking the Villa. It was tempting to grab a quick bit, however, we opted to take off and have a late lunch at Duke’s oceanfront restaurant in Malibu, just a short drive from Getty Villa – Good choice 🙂

Anyone visited the Getty Villa recently?

If you had a choice of visiting the more modern Getty Center or the Getty Villa, which would you choose… and why?

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