Spending a Roman-tic afternoon at the Getty Villa

Villa pool, Malibu California

Today  I have a guest post on This Ugly Beautiful City, from a writer and friend of mine Raine Lam. She has an insider’s perspective on the Getty Villa, another great place to visit if you find yourself stranded at LAX.  You can find her as well on instagram at @rainelam

The Getty Villa

It always surprises me when I work a shift at the Getty Villa, to see so many local visitors. By local, I mean people who live in LA, or in the surrounding city. I’ve been volunteering for a little over a year now, but it never gets old.

About the Villa

The Getty Villa is the lesser-known sister museum of the Getty Center, nestled in the hills of the Pacific Palisades, just off the PCH.

The museum started off as a gallery built in 1954 by J. Paul Getty, an oil tycoon, to show off his art and antiquities collection. It was open to the public three days a week. This was adjacent to his ranch house, which is now home to part of the Getty Research Institute, where scholars and archaeological students convene from all over the world.

J. Paul Getty’s burgeoning collection soon outgrew its space, and plans were drawn up for a more ambitious project. He hired architects to build a replica of the Villa dei Papieri, a house that had belonged to Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, Julius Caesar’s father-in-law. Unfortunately, Getty passed away before the museum was completed, but he is buried somewhere on the property, overlooking the ocean.

It now houses the Roman, Greek and Etruscan antiquities collection of the Getty Museum, but it’s worth a visit to see the breathtaking gardens and architecture. A lot of people do come just to bask in the greenery and ocean air.

Planning a visit

Although admission is free, you’ll need to book timed tickets on their website. (see below)


If you plan to drive, parking is $15 per vehicle, but you can make a day of it and head over to the Getty Center with the same parking fee. Just make sure you get your parking ticket validated at any of the Visitor Services desks. The Getty Center is also open until nine in the evening at certain times of the year, so it can be a fun little trip. After 3 pm, the rate goes down to $10.

Commuting here is also fine. Taxis and ride-share vehicles will take you all the way up the hill as pedestrian traffic is not allowed. Have your timed ticket ready to show the people at the gate. As for buses, Metro bus line 534 stops at Coastline Drive and Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), directly across from the Getty Villa entrance.

A free shuttle from the entrance of the driveway can take you up. Take it. You can’t hike up the hill anyway and security will call it for you.

Tips and FAQs

Roman statues museum courtyard, Getty Villa

I love that this museum lets you touch things. NOT all the art, please note, but they do have specially set up statues that you can touch. Make sure that the signs say you can touch them, or else, like other museums, security will be all over you. You are also free to touch the plants in the herb garden. My personal favourites are the lavender and the verbena. There are flowers and fruit year-round too.

One thing they do not allow here are tripods or professional photography. I love this because they preserve the experience for all guests, so you’re not tripping on wires or missing out on parts of the exhibits just because they are occupied by people posing. They do allow selfie sticks.

If it is your first visit there, I highly recommend watching the Making of The Getty Villa video in the museum theater. It’s like the Cliffs’ notes version of the whole place.

There are also tours every hour on the half-hour until 3:30 pm. The most common ones are the Garden tour and the Architecture tour, though if you’re lucky, some docents combine both. Special tours also happen on certain days of the week. Feel free to ask the information desk or a friendly volunteer about them.

As of this writing (May 3, 2017) the second floor of the Villa is closed. They are currently reorganizing their exhibits to chronological order because right now, everything is sorted thematically. To make up for this, many events are being held in the outer peristyle, such as perfume-making workshops, live music, theater troupes and more. For the most up-to-date information, please see below.



The Museum Cafe is one of the best museum restaurants I have ever had the pleasure of eating at. Their meals are inspired by Mediterranean cuisine, and they have something for everyone.


Monday and Wednesday–Friday 11:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday 11:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.

They also have a weekly event called Tea by The Sea (details below)


If you don’t make it to the Cafe, the coffee kiosk is open until 5:00 p.m. They have a decent selection of coffee and pastries.

Have fun on your visit!

The Getty Villa

17985 Pacific Coast Highway

Pacific Palisades, CA 90272

Wednesday–Monday 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.Closed Tuesdays

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