Walkable Houston: Zone 3 in the Museum District

View from the BBVA Compass Roof Garden | Photo courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

While Houstonians definitely love their cars, there are nooks and crannies of the city that are best explored by foot. In our Walkable Houston series, we traverse those districts to find the prettiest parks, hottest restaurants and bars, coolest local art and shops, and most visit-worthy hidden gems.

Houston’s world-class Museum District is divided into four walkable zones, and each is a thing of beauty. Here, we’ll explore Zone 3, offering a glimpse into the area tucked away below the trees of Montrose Boulevard, mainly below 59 and to the Montrose/Main Street circle. Check out our Walkable Houston: Menil Campus guide for a look out Zone 1, which includes the Houston Center for Photography, The Menil Collection, and Rothko Chapel; and our Walkable Houston: Museum Park for a look at Zone 2, which includes the Lawndale Art Center, Asia Society Texas Center, and more.

Play & Explore

  • Contemporary Arts Museum HoustonFounded in 1948, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston offers a look at the best and most exciting international, national, and regional art of our time. Visit to experience art through exhibitions (6 to 8 per year), lectures, original publications, and a variety of educational programs and events.
  • The Jung Center This nonprofit center acts as a forum for dynamic conversation on a range of psychological, artistic, and spiritual topics. Its goal is to provide pathways to greater self-awareness, creative expression, and finding a deeper meaning in everyday life. Look out for a lineup of art exhibits as well as programs including the Mind Body Spirit Institute and Expressive Arts.
  • The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Enjoy the wonder and enlightenment at this fine arts museum and cultural institution, set right off Bissonnet between Montrose and Main. Established in 1900, MFAH’s arts collections date from antiquity to the present, offering an in-depth look at American art, European paintings, pre-Columbian and African gold, decorative arts and design, photography, prints and drawings, Modern and Contemporary painting and sculpture, and Latin American art. Explore the museum’s campus, which boasts the Audrey Jones Beck Building, the Caroline Wiess Law Building, the Glassell School of Art, and the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden; and lookout for a calendar of museum events, films and festivals, rotating exhibitions and more.
  • Glassell School of Art This newly renovated teaching institute of the MFAH offers studio-art courses, art-history instruction, and workshops for adults and students ages 3 to 18 as well as a Core Residency Program for postgraduate artists and critics.
  • The Brown Foundation, Inc. PlazaAdjoining the new Glassell School of Art is this nearly one-acre public green space, where you’ll find an architectural fountain and outdoor sculptures, including Cloud Column by Anish Kapoor (the same artist behind Chicago’s “bean”) and Song of Strength by Eduardo Chillida. Head to the plaza and you’ll also be able to access the BBVA Compass Roof Garden, which offers 360-degree views of the Museum District, Downtown, and the Texas Medical Center.
  • Cullen Sculpture Garden The Brown Foundation Plaza also offers access to this lush sculpture garden, a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of the city that showcases 20th and 21st-century sculpture works by artists including Louise Bourgeois, Dan Graham, Henri Matisse, Auguste Rodin, and David Smith. Admission to Cullen Sculpture Garden is free.
  • Mecom Fountain You’ll find this dazzling fountain at the center of the traffic circle where Montrose and Main connect. Designed by Eugene Werlin, the showpiece was presented as a gift to the city of Houston from oil magnate John W. Mecom and his wife in 1964 and was the largest fountain in the city when it was built.
  • Italian Culture & Community Center Just a short walk away on Milford, this community center strives to advance, celebrate and preserve Italian culture and heritage. Look out for a lineup of events, including concerts, lectures, exhibitions, wine tastings, dine-arounds, films, and Italian Masses followed by pasta lunches.

Eat & Drink

  • MFA Café – In the lower level of the Audrey Jones Beck Building on Main, the MFA Café offers Italian-inspired fare with Texas flair, including a European-style coffee bar, kids menu, and eats from omelets and antipasto plates to panini and pizza.
  • Glassell Coffee Bar – Located inside the Glassell School of Art, this coffee bar features the same tasty drip coffee, espresso, teas, and smoothies as the MFA Café, as well as grab-and-go items from sandwiches and salads to pastries and popsicles.
  • Bodegas Taco Shop – Fuel up with tacos and margaritas at this Museum District gem, located off Binz.
  • Grand Prize Bar – Those looking for a divey atmosphere can seek solace at Grand Prize Bar, a two-story haunt set on Banks that rocks killer drinks and a jukebox.
  • Lucille’s – Hit this charming restaurant from Chef Chris Williams for a taste of Southern comfort, with offerings from Grandma-style chili biscuits and fried green tomatoes to bone-in fish fry.
  • MF Sushi – Known for its incredible omakase tasting, this classy sushi restaurant sits off Binz.
  • Monarch at Hotel ZaZa – Housed in the super chic and luxe Hotel ZaZa, Monarch restaurant rocks a gorgeous terrace overlooking the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Mecom Fountain. Head here to feast on ribeye with bone marrow butter, butter-toasted lobster rolls, and brunch eats from crab cake eggs benny to roasted chicken chilaquiles.

Shop & Support Local

  • The Jung Center Bookstore Visit the bookstore to browse and buy a compelling collection of works in psychology, mythology, philosophy, and religious studies.
  • The MFA Shop Located on Main, The MFA Shop offers a curated selection of artful gifts, prints, jewelry, books, toys and more. It’s always free to visit the MFA Shop, and there is no need to pay museum admission.
  • The Museum Shop at CAMH This Contemporary Art Museum’s shop offers a diverse selection of books and exhibition catalogs related to contemporary art, as well as unique gifts from artist-made jewelry and design objects for the home and office to educational toys and games for children.
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Brooke Viggiano is a food and lifestyle writer residing in Houston. When she's not contributing to publications like 365 Things to Do in Houston, Thrillist Houston and the Houston Press, she's on the hunt for the coolest happenings in the city. You can follow her musings on Twitter @BrookeViggiano .