It’s no exaggeration to say that the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a crown jewel of the art world. Affectionately known to many as The Met, the wide-ranging collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art total a staggering 2 million pieces, with its oldest works of art dating back some 5,000 years. Situated for nearly 150 years at its famous location on the east side of Central Park, The Met is a legitimate “can’t-miss” destination for visitors of all ages to New York City.
History of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art dates back to 1870, when its doors first opened to display its original acquisition, a sarcophagus from Ancient Rome. As The Met went about growing its collection, it changed addresses a couple times before settling in permanently at its current home on 5th Avenue, right next to Central Park. The Met’s original building was a Gothic structure designed by the architects Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wrey Mould. Portions of this structure are still standing, but are largely surrounded today by the walls of The Met’s many subsequent expansions and renovations.
Designed in the Beaux-Arts style by Richard Morris Hunt, The Met’s iconic 5th Avenue façade and Great Hall date to 1902 and are considered architectural masterworks in their own right. Still, they’ve been amended and altered several times, and today The Met contains an amazing two million square feet of gallery space. It’s the flagship facility at the head of a network of affiliated institutions, with well-regarded satellite museums including The Met Cloisters, located elsewhere in New York City (and well worth your time if you’re so inclined).
What’s at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Just as The Met can only display a mere fraction of its 2 million artworks at any one given time, so too is it difficult to encapsulate in this space just how much there is to experience at The Met. It’s home to major holdings in fields as diverse as European painting, American art, arms and armor, decorative arts, sculpture, medieval art, and a vast deal more. It even features entire galleries devoted to musical instruments, photographs, and costume pieces.
The Met is legendary for its collection of ancient Egyptian art. Totaling some 26,000 items—the vast majority of which are on permanent display—it’s the most significant assemblage of such objects found anywhere outside of Cairo, Egypt. Another highlight would have to be The Met’s Old Master and Impressionist collections, as well as its sub-Saharan Africa, the Pacific Islands, and North, Central, and South America Wing. Among the many individual treasures found at The Met are works by Caravaggio, van Gogh, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Goya, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Degas, and an immense trove of historical artifacts like the Amathus sarcophagus, Blue Quran, and the inimitable William the Faience Hippopotamus.
There are many amenities available at The Met. In-house dining options include The Eatery, a casual joint where the menu focuses on salads, sandwiches, soups, and pizza, or the American Wing Café. With its scenic setting among some of American art’s most famous works, it’s a pleasant spot to grab a quick snack and get your caffeine fix. Several other small cafés sometimes operate within The Met, but their hours and availability are subject to change.
Proceeds from The Met Shop are funneled back into educational programming and support the museum’s ongoing mission. It’s a terrific place to pick up a souvenir of your visit, or purchase a special gift for a loved one. It sells a variety of artistic reproductions, books, replica artifacts, jewelry, toys, home décor, and more.
Tips for Visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art
- The Met is included on several money saving tourist passes including the New York Pass, NY Explorer Pass and New York CityPASS.
- Admission to The Met runs $25 for adults, $17 for those individuals over the age of 65 years old, and $12 for students. Admission is free for all children under the age of 12 years old.
- Restaurant hours at The Met don’t always correspond exactly to the museum’s general hours of operation, so keep that in mind if you plan to dine during your visit.
- As many fabulous works as you’ll find here on any given day, it’s worth noting that The Met is also always running all sorts of special programs. Sometimes these consist of standalone exhibits that require additional ticketing. Be certain to look into this before you visit The Met. It’d be a shame to miss out on something you want to see just because you’re stuck without a ticket or reservation.
- Glass containers are not permitted at The Met, so check your water bottle or beverage containers before visiting.
- Families visiting with small children will want to inquire about The Met’s special kids guide. This handy resource may be accessed digitally, and contains all types of enjoyable, educational content perfect for the little ones.