With over two million works in the permanent collection spanning over 5000 years of history from around the world, the Metropolitan Museum of Art brings the past alive through its visual displays that are evocative and thought-provoking. In one place, you can travel the globe encountering many cultures spanning human history.
Founded in 1870, the Metropolitan Museum of Art was established with the mission of “encouraging and developing the study of fine arts, and the application of arts to manufacture and practical life, of advancing the general knowledge of kindred subjects, and, to that end, of furnishing popular instruction.” This mission statement warms my heart. It recognizes the importance of art, not only for its aesthetic value, but as an essential element of humanity and life in general. The museum has been accomplishing that mission for 150 years.
In 1880, it moved to its current location on Fifth Avenue with Central Park as its backyard. As the museum has grown over the years, the facility has expanded to encompass the treasures within. Behind its Beaux-Arts façade, the Metropolitan Museum of Art houses some of the greatest artistic productions of humankind. Visiting the Met is simply one of the most spectacular things to do in NYC—I never miss a chance to wander its galleries—I recommend putting on your comfiest shoes and get prepared to be dazzled.
- The Met is huge—really huge—it covers over 2,000,000 square feet and just one room houses an entire Egyptian temple, so I suggest consulting the museum map ahead of time and familiarizing yourself with the layout, as well as noting which works are “can’t-miss” pieces for you. Too frequently travelers try to “take in” too much at a museum, which causes fatigue and cultural overload. Look at the collection highlights and figure out which pieces you most want to see. You won’t see the entire museum in one visit…that’s okay…you will have a reason to go back.
- Consider a guided tour—they are free with museum admission and you can find one that gives a “highlights” overview or a closer look at a specific area.
- Don’t forget about the Cloisters museum. This amazing place is all about the art and architecture of medieval Europe. Your general admission tickets gives you entry there, as well as the Met Breuer museum (modern and contemporary art). You have three consecutive days to see all three, but you can only enter each once.
- Eat before you go. They don’t allow outside food and drink—although you are allowed to bring a bottle of water (and I highly suggest that you do). Although there are several eateries in the museum, they can be expensive, so start on a full stomach and use the cafes for a nice snack or drink.
- Visit the rooftop, if the weather is nice. Whether you have a drink up there, or just go to hang out, the roof provides spectacular views of Central Park.
- Don’t try to rush. Make this a main sight-seeing attraction for your day. Plan to spend a few hours. I wear comfy shoes and a scarf (in case I get chilly) and rest when needed.
- Greek/Roman—pottery, frescoes, sculptures, jewelry, and more covering 5000 years of ancient history.
- Egyptian—sarcophagi, papyri, sphinxes, statues, figurines, and other ancient artworks.
- Africa, Oceania, and the Americas—masks, textiles, sculptures, and other pieces tell the history of many cultures.
- Asian—metalwork, ceramics, and other artifacts from all over Asia with the oldest pieces dating to the 3rd millennium BC.
- European—paintings from 13th-20th centuries, sculptures, furniture, drawings, books, musical instruments, arms/armor, and much more.
- Medieval—reliquaries, furniture, religious artifacts, sculptures, figurines, tapestries, arms, and armor from the Middle Ages.
- American—paintings, drawings, photographs, domestic arts, and a lot of other finery from North America.
- Modern/Contemporary—12000 pieces from 1900-present.
- Costume—textiles from Renaissance era to contemporary age. It is a fitting collection for the institution that hosts the most fashion-forward party in the States—the Met Gala.
- Ancient Near East—from winged lions to intricate tiles, Mesopotamian history is on display showcasing many centuries.
- Islamic Art—dating from the 7th to the 19th century, over 15,000 objects (both sacred and secular) provide insight into the Islamic cultural traditions from Spain and Morocco to the east.
My Top Five (not in order of importance):
- Hatsphepsut statues and sphinx—I adore the art of this former pharaoh from Egypt in the 18th dynasty. Her successors tried to erase her memory by destroying many of the references to her, but as you can see, artifacts still remain.
- Robert Lehman Collection: Raphael, Botticelli, El Greco…oh my! This collection has some of the finest art from the ages with an emphasis on the Renaissance. If you’re short on time and can’t visit all the various painting galleries, I suggest seeing this collection to admire a variety of eras in one location.
- The Impressionist exhibits, especially the Monet rooms, are spectacular. They have a fine collection of Impressionist paintings and sculptures.
- The human-headed Neo-Assyrian lions from Nimrud in Mesopotamia, 883-859 BC.
- The massive Greek terracotta krater, 750-735 BC, from the Hirschfeld workshop in the Greek & Roman galleries always intrigues me. I spend way too long trying to “read” the pictographs surrounding this large vessel.
How to buy Met Museum tickets and prices: You can buy Met museum tickets online, at the admission desk (this can have a line), or at one of the handy kiosks in the Great Hall.
- $25 regular admission (full price ticket is valid for 3 consecutive days for the three locations)
- $17 seniors
- $12 students
- Children under 12 and members: free
- “Pay as you wish” for New York state residents, as well as New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut students.
*Please note that although there you used to be “pay as you wish” admission, this is now restricted as outlined above.
- Met Fifth Avenue (main branch): 1000 Fifth Avenue (at 82nd street)
- Met Cloisters: 99 Margaret Corbin Drive, Fort Tryon Park
- Met Breuer: 945 Madison (at 75th street)
Metropolitan Museum of Art Website: https://www.metmuseum.org/visit/plan-your-visit
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