Visiting NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is exhilarating and awe-inspiring—and often overwhelming.
Where should you go first? Where do you buy tickets? Is that an elevator or a closet? Is it worth waiting online for the coat check?
Fear not—we have the info to make your visit memorable, enjoyable, and most of all, stress-free.
When Should I Go to the Met?
First tip: go early if possible. The museum opens at 10am and gets more crowded as the day goes on. Aim to get there around 10:15am when the people who have already lined up before the museum opens are already entering the museum. Remember: the museum is closed on Wednesdays.
Entry at the Met
When you walk into the Met, you’ll be in the Great Hall, facing the circular Information Desk. You can pick up a map (do so) and event schedules here, and ask specific questions.
There’s actually a method to the madness in the way the Great Hall is laid out. The statue of the giant seated Pharaoh leads you into the Egyptian Galleries, while the work of art on the other side takes you into Greek and Roman Art. The corridors on either side of the Great Hall staircase lead back into the Byzantine Galleries and then Medieval Art.
Met Coat Check
Coat checks are to your right and left against the wall, but often only one will be open. Note: The lines at the coat check also get progressively longer as the day goes on, so you might have to wait a while to claim your coat if you check it.
Tickets and First Floor Restrooms
So…the first question many people ask: where are the first-floor restrooms? The closest ones are in the Egyptian galleries. You’ll need a ticket to enter, though. If you live in the the tristate area (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut) you can pay what you wish—but you’ll have to wait in the ticket line to do so. The ticket kiosks against the walls charge whatever the set admission fee is. One advantage: there’s rarely a line since there are so many of them.
Once you have a ticket (put the top part of the sticker on your coat or somewhere the guard can see it) you are free to roam about the museum. To head to the nearest restroom: dace the info desk and walk right into the Egyptian Galleries. Bear left and walk until you’re in a room with colorful images in the wall. The restrooms are on the right.
You’ll find others on the first floor near the American Wing Courtyard, European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, and Contemporary Art. Our vote for least crowded goes to the one on the Mezzanine in the American Wing (there’s even a water fountain). FYI, water bottles are allowed in the galleries, but no other food or drinks.
Must-See Galleries at the Met
So…which galleries should you visit? Two hours for a visit is good rule of thumb. Always check out the special exhibitions since they’re there for a limited time. Always see something you love, whether it be the Impressionist Galleries or Arms and Armor. Those are among the most popular galleries, along with Egyptian Art, and they’re popular for a reason—they’re incredible. And always aim to see something you’ve never seen before. Take time to wander and explore, to go down unfamiliar corridors and see where you end up. Make sure to really stop and look and spend time in front of the works of art that intrigue you. And don’t try to do too much just for the sake of doing it. You won’t remember much, and you’ll be exhausted. Read the label copy of works of art that interest you. Take photos (not for Instagram) so you can re-examine them and do further research later if you want.
Billie Grace Ward/Flickr
Tip: on Friday and Saturday nights the museum is open until 9pm. Definitely go at night at least once—the galleries look totally different, and you’ll often have parts of the museum to yourself. Depending on the time of year, you might find live music as well.
There are no ticketed exhibits, and you can even go out of the museum and come back in—hang on to the bottom part of your ticket in case you lose the top part.
Getting to the Second Floor of the Met
sarahtarno/Flickr. Metropolitan Museum of Art. European Decorative Arts. Gallery 511. State bed. ca 1689. British. Wood covered in blue silk damask. Armchairs. Attributed to Thomas Roberts. ca 1700. Ebonized beechwood, original Genoese velvet covers.
Speaking of the Impressionist Galleries—how do you get to the second floor?
You can walk up the Great Hall staircase if you’re feeling energetic—it takes you to the second floor with access to European Paintings, Asian Art, 19th Century Art, and more. There’s also an escalator to the left of the staircase which comes out on the balcony. But the best-kept secret is the enormous (unmarked) elevator to your left before the Egyptian galleries. Yes, it’s open to the public, is almost always empty, and will take you up to the balcony as well.
Eating at the Met
If you go in the morning, around noon you’ll probably start looking at your watch as stamina flags. You won’t find a lot of food choices on the streets around the museum itself—there’s a Starbucks on Madison and Serafina for Italian food on 79th, but you’ll have to walk a ways to find any other restaurants. Your choices in the museum include the public cafeteria, called The Eatery. (Fun Fact: it sometimes has exhibition-inspired offerings.) It’s down a flight of stairs or an escalator in the Lehman Wing. You’ll find the largest selection of food there, everything from pizza to sandwiches, so it's a good family-friendly option with plenty of seating. (But be warned—no windows.) You can view menus online, good for planning ahead.
The American Wing Café offers a nice view of Central Park plus a beautiful space in which to enjoy sandwiches and coffee and extend the museum experience. The Petrie Court Café is only open Friday and Saturday evenings and has a similar menu to the American Wing Café.
The Great Hail Balcony is a great spot for a drink or snack. It overlooks the Great Hall so it can be noisy, but the people watching is fun. The Balcony Lounge is only open to Members at a certain level, but the Met Dining Room offers sweeping views of the park and an upscale menu (it’s definitely a splurge).
Date Night at the Met
Filip Wolak/Met Museum.
And finally, the popular Cantor Roof Garden Bar is only open during the summer and early fall, but it offers magical park and skyline views and incredible sunsets, making it a good spot for date night.
With some planning and these handy tips (plus a willingness to occasionally get lost), your Met visit will ideally be the right mix of discovering, exploring, and, most of all, enjoying. 1000 Fifth Ave., 212-535-7710, metmuseum.org
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