It’s no secret that New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is the largest art museum in the U.S. (home to over 2 million artworks!), but did you know it’s also the second most visited art museum in the world? Second only to the Louvre in Paris.
The Met’s iconic doors opened in March of 1880 on Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street. It has since taken over 2 million square feet of real estate, with tens of thousands of objects in exhibits spanning 5 thousand years of history on display!
- The first object the Met acquired was a Roman sarcophagus. (They hide it in a corner because it’s ugly)
- The Met was the first public institution in the world to buy a work of art by Henri Matisse.
- The beloved ancient Egyptian hippopotamus, better known as William, got his name from a short story in which he starred. The story was published in the British magazine Punch and claimed William had oracular powers!
I know what you are thinking, that’s A LOT of art! Don’t worry, whether you are an NYC native, Met enthusiast, or touring New York for the weekend, Museum Hack’s renegade tours has your back!
We’ve included information about the Met further down on this page in the FAQ section, including details on the plethora of dining options available throughout the museum, hours of operation, holiday closings, parking and more. For a quick virtual tour of the museum, check out the section below entitled “5 Things to See at the Metropolitan Museum of Art”.
Guide to the Metropolitan Museum of Art
5 Things to See at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Standing Bodhisattva Maitreya (Buddha of the Future)
This handsome guy with a rakish mustache makes our highlight list because, hello rakish mustache, and because it’s one of the first depictions of a Buddhist deity in human form in the history of the world.
We think the story behind how this came to be is pretty rockin!
When Alexander the Great opened the Silk Road trade route, people from all over the place wanted to show up with cool gifts to celebrate. This sculpture was most likely made by a Roman artist in Gandhara (modern-day Pakistan) who, hawking his wares, offered to sculpt a god for the local religion. But since the Gandharans were Buddhists and didn’t use humans in their religious sculptures, the artist had to improvise. He used a familiar human deity form from Roman culture, added a local’s face and called it good.
Take a closer look and you’ll see the clues.
- He’s wearing a toga, like a Roman senator
- His hair is done up in the Grecian style
- His face and fabulous mustache are definitely not Roman
This odd mix of cultures confounds our expectations of what a Buddhist statue is supposed to look like and proves that globalization isn’t something Mark Zuckerberg made up –– people have been traveling and cross-pollinating since forevs.
The Lehman Wing
Tucked away in an underappreciated part of this enormous museum, is an amazing survey of paintings with a really interesting history. Robert Lehman assembled one of the most extraordinary private art collections in the entire United States, numbering nearly 3,000 works of art. He enjoyed admiring it so much he had a private mansion built to house his collection. That’s right, he didn’t live there; it was a separate mansion just for his art! When he died in 1969, he wanted to make sure that this fantastic collection would be displayed just as it had been in his art mansion. So the Met did their best to recreate it, and it’s really cool to see!
Hack: If you only have an hour to spend in the Met and want to see the widest possible variety of paintings in one single place, it’s the Lehman Wing that you need to visit!
The Met’s back galleries replicate Lehman’s sitting room. There’s a Rembrandt, a Goya, an El Greco –– all in one tiny room with a sofa to chill on! (BTW, that sofa is also a highlight of the museum. It’s one of the only areas in the Met where you can sit comfortably and relax.)
If don’t have an hour to peruse everything, and you need one single highlight to visit there, check out the Ingres. The Met is hella proud of it, and we guarantee it is worth your time!
Soon after Ingres finished this work, the woman in the blue dress, Pauline de Broglie, died of tuberculosis. She left behind five sons and a grieving husband. Her husband was so distraught that he hung the portrait in a dark room behind a velvet curtain where it remained until shortly before Lehman acquired it. Because of this tragedy, Princesse de Broglie is just as stunning and vibrant today as the day Ingres painted it in 1853.
Hatshepsut Gallery in Ancient Egypt
This whole gallery is filled with statues dedicated to the pharaoh Hatshepsut, who came to power in 1478 BC. This was a very important time for Egypt, with the opening of important trade routes, an economic boom, building the Valley of the Kings, the first zoo, etc… All of these great successes are attributed to Hatshepsut – did we mention Hatshepsut was a Badass B*tch!
Hatshepsut was one of the few female rulers in Ancient Egyptian history –– careful not to call her a queen! Ancient Egyptians didn’t have queens. As the Pharaoh, Hatshepsut was considered the King of Egypt.
As you walk around the gallery, you’ll notice an interesting transition in the art. The early statues depict her with very fem and delicate features. Later, as her co-regent and nephew grew up, she started to look more butch in her depictions, i.e. sporting a strap-on lady beard (but no mustache).
But here’s where the story takes a crazy turn – 20 years after her death there was a major erasure campaign led by her successor to pretend that she never ruled. The next pharaoh didn’t want to give Hatshepsut the cred for her many killer accomplishments, so he had all of her statuary thrown into a big ditch and covered up. Ironically, this conspiracy is the reason so many statues of Hatshepsut are extremely well preserved and we are able to celebrate her as one of history’s Badass B*tches!
Asmat Bis Poles
These funerary totem poles are from the Asmat people of Papua New Guinea. They were brought to the US in the late 1950s by Nelson Rockefeller (governor of NY at the time) and his son, Michael. These beautiful artifacts were originally housed in their own museum, called the “primitive art museum” (not a great name!), when that closed, the Met acquired them.
Some of the poles were brought back under questionable terms. At the time Western visitors were a relatively new thing for Papua New Guinea, so the Rockefellers would “trade” these sacred, ceremonial items for things like fishing line, shiny mirrors and the like. On one of his art collecting expeditions to Papua New Guinea, Michael, the heir to the Rockefeller fortune, vanished without a trace. The official story states that he drowned, but there is some strong evidence to suggest that he may have instead been murdered and eaten by the Asmat people in order to ritualistically restore balance to their disrupted culture.
If art gossip isn’t your thing, then simply go see them for their unique aesthetic. Carved from a single tree, the bis poles show the relationship between the recently deceased and the ancestors whose shoulders they stand on. The big phallic shape at the top is carved from the largest root of the tree and depicts the liberated soul passing into the afterlife.
French Period Rooms
We love these rooms simply because they’re AWESOME!
The Met was one of the first major institutions in the world to see the merit of interior design as an art form in its own right. They rescued entire rooms from Parisian hotels and salons before they were torn down. Every detail is recreated here, right down to the original walls and Marie Antoinette’s dog bed! In some galleries, you even get to walk on 18th-century floors (if that’s what you’re into).
As you pretend to be on your way to the royal ball, don’t forget to look up. These rooms are LIT! The chandeliers are filled with twinkle lights, mimicking the candles that would have illuminated these magical Parisian rooms back in the day.
Hacks for Visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Wear comfortable shoes - the Met is HUGE!
- Avoid the long lines on weekends, holidays, and rainy days by skipping the main entrance and walking around to the left (on 81st street) where you’ll find the Education Wing entrance. It has its own coat check, bathrooms, and usually a much shorter line!
- According to science, candy can help fight museum fatigue. Pick up some individually wrapped chocolates at one the the museum cafes for a quick fix and burst of energy.
- Having lunch at the cafe? Our favorite is the hot soup. It is reasonably priced and filling.
the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Frequently Asked Questions & Logistics
At the museum ticket counter, the amount you pay is up to you! Please be as generous as you can.
Want to avoid waiting in admission lines? Buy your tickets online at the suggested admission prices.
Suggested admission fees:
$0 Children (under 12)
Tip: all admission tickets include entry to The Met collection and all exhibitions. Tickets include same-day admission to The Met Fifth Avenue, The Met Breuer (closed Mondays) and The Met Cloisters. Tickets are valid for up to one year after the date of purchase.
Backpacks, packages, and large umbrellas must be checked.
Leave your luggage, suitcases and oversized backpacks of any kind at home – they won’t take them.
Laptops and expensive electronics also can’t be checked, so if you don’t want to schlep your computer around make sure you arrive at the Met relatively unencumbered.
Customer Service: 1 (800) 662-3397
Address: 1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028
There are many dining options available at the Met with options with everything from coffee or wine to full meals available.
- The Dining Room at the Met – Dress Code: Smart casual – Visit the Met’s website for hours – located on the fourth floor near the European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Galleries
- The Great Hall Balcony Café and Bar – hours vary – located on the second floor balcony over the Great Hall
- Cantor Rooftop Garden Bar – open seasonally – access via the elevator in the European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Galleries
- The Balcony Lounge – open Sun-Thurs 10am to 5pm and Fri-Sat 10am – 8pm – located on the second floor next to the the Great Hall Balcony
- The Petrie Court Café – open daily from 11am to 4:30pm – located in the European Sculpture Court
- The American Wing Café – open Sun-Thurs 10am-4:30pm and Fri-Sat 10am-8:15pm – located on the first floor in the Charles Engelhard Court
- The Cafeteria – hours vary – located on the ground floor (access from the first floor behind the Medieval Hall or from the second floor in the European Paintings galleries
- For complete hours and more dining, dessert, and coffee options at the Met, please visit the museum’s website.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art hosts a variety of events and ongoing programs – take a look at the calendar on their site for the most recent information.
10:00 am–5:30 pm + Friday and Saturday evenings till 9:00 pm
Closed: Thanksgiving Day, December 25, January 1, and the first Monday in May
Take photos of anything you want, but no flash photography and leave your selfie stick behind!
The Met is extremely accessible by subway or bus.
The Museum parking garage, located at Fifth Avenue and 80th Street, is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Bicycle racks are also available inside the garage for use during regular Museum hours only. They cost $15 per day.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art allows strollers in most of the galleries, but be sure to check with the information desk proceeding, as certain models aren’t allowed around the art.
What’s Allowed Inside
Why We Know So Much About the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Our company, Museum Hack, leads renegade tours of the world’s best museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Our guides are experts in the obscure, and collectors of amazing hidden stories about the art and museum; many of which the museum staff isn’t allowed to share.
When you come on a tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art with Museum Hack, expect:
- Fun games! Tell us which artworks you’d like to buy, burn, or steal (and how). Recreate the famous Washington Crossing the Delaware painting in a tableau vivant posing contest. Create your own Art Memes in an in-person caption contest.
- A world of gossip. The Met foundation ran out of money before they could complete the exterior of the building. Before they could raise the funds, it was put on the register of historic places. So now they CAN’T finish, ever! Pay attention to the facade, you’ll notice there are porticos and pyramids that are only half done.
- Subversive stories. Learn how the 19th-century lesbian painter Rosa Bonheur got a special dispensation to wear pants so that she could paint horses. We’ve also got the goss on how the CIA secretly funded Jackson Pollock to fight the communist menace!
- Hidden insights. The museum often leaves out the best, most interesting information, like the most expensive painting per square inch, or how Jackie Onassis was involved in acquiring the Temple of Dendur.
- Zany photos. We love museum selfies! Art museums always make great backgrounds. We’ll even challenge you to use your camera to complete challenges and play games during the tour.
No matter how many times you’ve visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, we’ll show you the “Un-highlights” you have never seen or heard of before.