NYC Explorer: Quick Tips for Touring The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Last time on American Nomad we discovered fun facts about The Met…today I wanted to help you get a lay of the museum to plan your masterpiece of a tour.

To start, The MET has 2 million square feet and seventeen curatorial departments and counting.

I often recommend taking your time and not over touring a museum – but I’ll admit, being the art lover I am, I couldn’t resist trying to see it all. Over two days and nearly twelve hours of enjoying The MET, I left fulfilled, but tired and I still missed a few highlights.

in 2023, The Renaissance wing was closed off, along with many of the European masterworks (Baroque and earlier). This was a bummer for me because I love Renaissance art and Baroque artists like Caravaggio…

I bring this up because when you visit a major museum like The Met, it is important to scout out the exhibits and permanent collection online first so you can make the most of the time you are there. That is not to say that an impromptu trip won’t yield an amazing adventure, but given The Met’s size and scope it can be overwhelming if you don’t have an itinerary in mind.

Quick Tips

  1. If you want to see it all (well as much as your feet can guide you to) it will take at least two days and you really need four days to dive into each of the wings and have a few minutes to sit and ponder the art from time to time.
  2. It is okay if you only focus on certain highlights – having time with the art and ‘conversing’ with it is important and you don’t have to see it all for The MET to impact you. You can always return again (and again) to experience other wings in the future
  3. Utilize The Met website and other resources (like American Nomad) to identify what interests you – Impressionism, Asian art, Modern Art? Make a list of what you are curious about.
  4. I also encourage you to pick one area that is out of your comfort zone – like Egyptian art for example…you don’t have to spend a ton of time in those exhibits, but it is important to be open to something new – you might fall in love with a new art period or artist
  5. Break up your day(s):
    • During our February 2023 trip we spend the entire day (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) going through as much of the museum as possible. We did take time for a quick snack in the American Cafe and also sat quietly with several of the paintings. I had a blast, but on my next trip, I’ll probably spend three hours over three days to avoid fatigue.
    • On our second day we visited for two hours in the morning (in the Medieval section); we then took a lunch break and went to another museum, The Frick, before returning that evening to The MET. Even though we had a full day at museums, we were refreshed by the change of pace.
  6. The museum is open late certain days and occaisonally offers live music
  7. There are several cafes and a fine dining restaurant at The MET…In all honestly the cafe was a bit overpriced ($100 for a salad, two drinks, a gluten free cookie and chips), but the view overlooking Tiffany glass windows and scupture from masters made it worth the mid-day cafe break.
    • In hindsight I think the cost difference for The MET Dining Room would have been worth the splurge. It was a little more than what we paid for the salad, but a better value for the price in my opinion.
  8. Tickets are good all day, so you can leave and come back…
  9. Central Park is right next door…take a moment to see Cleopatra’s Needle (right behind The Met…) It is over 3000 years old!

Touring the collection…

  • The Museum’s two-million-square-foot building has vast holdings that represent a series of collections, each of which ranks in its category among the finest in the world. The American Wing, for example, houses the world’s most comprehensive collection of American paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts, presently including 24 period rooms that offer an unparalleled view of American history and domestic life. (from Met website)

I recommend breaking up your day by period collections. The staff curator recommended we start in The Egyptian Wing and work our way from the ‘north side of the building’ to the ‘south side’ where the Greek and Roman collection is housed. This took us two days.

When you arrive at The MET don’t be afraid to ask for advice an help at the main desk. The staff and volunteers are AMAZING and want you to enjoy the museum and get the most out of the experience.

In my next post I’ll feature my personal highlightst, but at the end of the day The MET has something for everyone and it is your adventure to discover.

Why visit the…

  • Egyptian Collection:
    • see ancient artifacts and tomb relics that are nearly 5,000 years old. Learn about ancient Egyptian culture and witness the artistry of their civilization.
    • The largest collection of Egyptian artifacts outside of Egypt
    • Includes The Temple of Dendur
  • American Collection:
    • The most comprehensive collection of American art from pre-colonial to master American painters.
    • This was one of my favorite wings in the museum as it features Washington Crossing the Delaware (Leutze), Thomas Moran’s painting of The Grand Tetons, as well as a fine colleciton of Bierstadt, Church, Hassam, Sargeant and other American masters.
    • The historic rooms take you back to life in early-American history – travel back in time without leaving The MET
  • European Collection
    • Includes 2500 masterworks from masterworks by Botticelli, Vermeer, David, Canaletto, to…Impressionism’s finest: Monet, Manet, Morisot, Renoir, Van Gogh and Father of Moderrn Art – Cezanne…Picasso and Matisse are also featured here.
  • Modern Art: I enjoyed seeing The Edward Hopper paintings and Matisse…this section can take several hours if you enjoy modern art
  • Greek and Roman Wing: Just to see pottery that is thousands of years old and ancient statues from Rome and Athens makes you pinch yourself – it is really puts human history in perspective.
  • Asian Art:
    • The highlight for me was the Astor Chinese Garden
    • Hiroshige was off view in Feb. 2023- but the museum is home to his Wave – one of my favorite paintings
  • Costume Collection:
    • I worked at a professional costume shop in high school, so seeing historical costumes from history to more modern inspired pieces is AMAZING. You could easily spend a day just in this section alone.
  • Medieval Collection:
    • I love Medieval Art – the glorious stain glass and religious iconography moves the soul. The MET is home to one of the largest Medieval Collections in the US and it is actually spread across two separate locations. You can explore the large Medieval wing at The MET on Fifth Avenue – or for a more immersive Medieval Experience, head north to Fort Tyron Park to experience The Cloisters…
  • Islamic Art – fairly new to the collection and offers a window into the Arabesque style of art
  • There are so many more wonders to explore…download a map and start planning your MET adventure

Planning your visit:

  • Tickets – purchase tickets here
  • Check their website for updated hours. As of 2023 they are closed on Wednesdays!

Interested in a guided tour of The MET? You are in luck…The museum offers several curated events as well as an AMAZING audio tour that is self-paced (just need your phone and earbuds)

Learn more here about upcoming events

To join the museum guided tour…click here

Medieval window in MET on Fifth Avenue

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