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The Great Escape: European Art at San Francisco's Legion of Honor

Has the economy got you down? No romantic trip to Paris for the holidays? Well, might as well stay home and watch Rick Steves roam the halls of the Louvre on PBS, right? Wrong. You could pay a long overdue visit to San Francisco's Legion of Honor instead.

With the renovation of the de Young Museum, the opening of the California Academy of Sciences, the convenient locations of the Asian Art and the Contemporary Jewish Museums, and the contemporary appeal of the Museum of Modern Art, the Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco's most beautiful and comprehensive museum, often gets overlooked by locals.

On my recent visit there I heard Russian, French, Italian, Hungarian and German visitors (kids in tow) in great numbers. Americans were few and far between.

On one hand, this shocked me. On the other, I have lived in the Bay Area for four years, and this was my first trip to the Legion of Honor. Boy, was I sorry that I had stayed away for so long.

The dense but beautifully curated collection of European paintings include everything from old masters Rubens and Rembrandt to the fathers of modern art, Picasso and Matisse.

The artwork here spans over 4,000 years of ancient and European art, and includes sculpture (Rodin, anyone?), furniture, decorative art and incredible examples of ancient household items. Don't miss out on a concert performed here on an antique pipe organ every Saturday and Sunday.

If you dream of sending your kids off to explore the great capitals of Europe, make sure to prepare them for what they will see there with several trips to our own local gem. The gorgeous Beaux Arts building is located in Lincoln Park and its main Court of Honor overlooks the Golden Gate Bridge.

Catch the sunset here with someone special and it will be a day that stays in your memory for years to come.

The Legion of Honor is located at 100 - 34th Ave. (at Clement Street) in San Francisco.

It is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, and is closed on Mondays.

Admission is free for children under 12, $10 for adults, $7 for seniors and $6 for students. First Tuesdays of the month are always free of charge.

Check out the Legion of Honor website to find out about upcoming exhibits and for information about the permanent collection.

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