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Are you visiting the Met soon? Best. Idea. Ever. If you follow me on Instagram, then you already know that New York’s most famous art museum, the Met, is my favorite spot in the whole city and my self-designated “happy place.”
Actually I love the Met so much that I’m considering purchasing a membership card as a Christmas gift to myself. Stay tuned, haha.
Anyway, it was only a matter of time until I decided to write a “how to” guide for visiting the Met in NYC. After all, the Met is one of the most popular museums for visitors coming to New York. It’s famous. I mean, who hasn’t heard of the Met Gala?
However, even though the Met is awesome, the collection’s sheer size is a little overwhelming, and yes, sometimes it gets super crowded with tourists and school groups. It’s a good idea to go in with a plan.
Why I Love Visiting the Met So Much
First I want to explain why I’m so passionate about the Met, and then I’ll discuss the more practical parts of visiting the Met in this guide.
Honestly, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the most beautiful museums that I have ever visited in my life. The wings are stunning with glass ceilings and walls with views of Central Park to go with them.
Furthermore, the Met is so big that I’m able to walk for hours surrounded by some of history’s best artworks. My brain turns off every time I go to the Met.
For example, I even visited the Met in the middle of a romantic heartbreaking disappointment and was surprised that – despite the crowds – the museum captured my imagination and inspired me to stay creative and strong.
Not to mention, the Met has frequent special exhibits, and I can always see brand new pieces of art, and learn about creatives. In the future, I’m going to bring a small pocket-sized notebook with me for story ideas.
How to Get to the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Ahem. Okay. Moving on from my fangirling.
As you know, New York is a huge city with a ton of traffic, especially during peak rush hour periods. Seriously, rush hour is a scary sight to behold. You can walk faster than 90% of the cars on the gridlocked streets, haha.
So, yeah, I would avoid going to the Met in the middle of rush hour.
Moving on, though. If you’re staying in New York, then your two major options for visiting the Met are the NYC subway, a taxi service, or a ride share program such as Uber or Lyft.
Also, to play it safe, I would buy your ticket to the Met ahead of time to avoid waiting in lines. Standing around behind multiple field trip groups isn’t worth your energy after making the journey, right?
1. How to Use the Subway from Penn Station
If you’re coming from Penn Station, you won’t find many subway routes that will take you directly to the Met. Most subway lines – namely the 1 and C trains – go directly to the Upper West Side instead.
Meaning, if you get off at, say 86th street, you will end up at the other side of Central Park, opposite of the Met.
However, if you’re visiting on a beautiful day, I don’t think this indirect route is a big deal, because you’re able to cut through Central Park. I personally love taking a detour to the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. The water and trees provide a peaceful oasis in the middle of the US’s busiest city.
At the time of this post, subway fare is $2.75 for a one way ride, which is considerably cheaper than a cab. You can buy a Metro card at any of the machines at the subway spots.
2. Taking a Cab or Uber to the Met
Do you really, really, really not want to take the Subway? Or perhaps you’re visiting the Met on a super rainy day? Not a problem.
If you’re willing to spend a little more money, you’ve other options for reaching the Met including NYC’s traditional yellow taxis and ride share programs such as Uber and Lyft.
Again, I would try to avoid taking a car in the middle of rush hour, especially because Uber will likely pull a surcharge.
All in all, cabs and Uber are everywhere. I’ve never had to wait longer than five minutes for an Uber in New York.
What Should I See When Visiting the Met?
This is a difficult question for me to answer. After all, the Met has so many wonderful permanent collections that it’s hard to decisively say where to go and what to see.
You certainly have options, to say the least. The Met’s collections span 6,000 years. Yup, 6,000 years.
If you don’t have any personal preferences, some of the Met’s most popular collections include:
- The Greek and Roman Sculpture Court
- Impressionist Gallery 826
- The Temple of Dendur
- The American Wing & The American Wing Court
- European Sculpture Court (You’ll find my FAVORITE statue here)
Ultimately, my advice is look at a Met map ahead of time, and pick your “must-see” galleries and go do those ones.
Best Time to Visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Unlike many museums, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is open every single day with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, and the first Monday in May when the famous Met Gala takes place.
Therefore, what day of the week you want to visit the Met is entirely up to you.
As for the best time to visit? Again, it’s up to you. I would personally avoid Saturdays in December – which is when New York City’s tourism is at its peak due to all the Christmas displays.
Furthermore, school holidays are also likely to draw in crowds of families taking vacations together. Although most children I see are well-behaved (for example, I saw the cutest two kids and mom at the Goya exhibit), some groups don’t … exactly understand how to act in art museums. Avoid school holidays if you think you’ll feel annoyed.
For those of you staying long term, plan the best time to go to New York City as a whole and plan your Met visit around your itinerary.
As for travelers or day trippers only going to the Met, you’ll also want to come either early in the morning or later in the afternoon when the crowds are either sleeping or clearing out to go to Happy Hours or dinner.
Staying in New York: Don’t Forget to Bring Your Guidebook
Metropolitan Museum of Art Guided Tours: Yay or Nay?
As for me, I like just wandering the Met and “getting lost” among the brilliant art works. True introverts might want to “turn off” in the Met and explore in peace without other people talking about the history behind the paintings and sculptures.
And that’s totally fine!
However, if you’re in New York for the first time or only have limited time, then you might benefit from a guided tour throughout the museum.
For example, a Metropolitan Art Highlights Tour is the perfect way to skip the line and see all the highlights, including the Egyptian pieces, the ancient Greek collection, and the rooftop views of Central Park.
As a solo traveler, you might also meet other art enthusiasts on your guided tour, which could be a very fun experience.
More Reading: 11 Tips for First Time Visitors to New York
Tips for Visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Below, are my top tips for visiting the Met. I’ve gone to the Met a few times in my life (and hope to visit many more times!), so I hope my suggestions help you have a smooth trip at New York’s greatest museum.
Ready to Go? Buy Your Ticket to the Met & Avoid the Lines!
1. Don’t Try to “See Everything” at the Met
You guys, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is enormous. I’ve visited this awesome art collection a few times, and I promise that I haven’t seen everything that the Met has to offer visitors. It’s literally impossible to see every piece of art.
Pick a few galleries and take your time with them.
Trying to see it all will burn you out. Not to mention, you won’t be able to enjoy the art.
If you know ahead of time that you will not see “everything,” then you’ll feel less guilty when it’s two hours later and you want to relax at a nearby bar or do a bit of shopping.
The Met isn’t leaving the Upper East Side anytime soon. You can always come back in the future.
2. You Probably Have to Pay so Budget Your Money
Unfortunately for all you budget travelers, in 2018, the Met discontinued its well-known “pay as you wish” policy and started to charge standard rates.
At the time of this post, the only people who can still pay whatever they wish are New York Residents, as well as students from New Jersey and Connecticut. Be prepared to show proof, too. Lying won’t help here.
Most visitors will have to pay $25 to go to the Met. Is it expensive? Yes, I think it is. Is the price worth it? Personally, I think it is.
3. Visit the Met Alone for a More Intimate Experience
I’m a huge advocate of solo travel to New York City. I like melting into the hustle and bustle, and taking the time to collect my thoughts, to figure out how I can be the best possible version of myself. New York is the perfect place for self-reflection.
Personally, I think the Met is wonderful for solo travelers looking for a bit of reflection. I also love that I can take my time and stare at certain paintings, and not have anyone else complaining that I’m “taking too long.”
Don’t stress if you’re coming to the Met alone. LOTS of people go by themselves such as art students and New York locals. You won’t feel out of place.
4. Use CityPASS if You Want to See All the “Big” Sites
Have you heard of CityPASS? The New York CityPASS will result in great savings if you’re a big sightseer who’s in the city for a few days.
The CityPASS includes wonderful attractions such as the Top of the Rock, 9/11 Museum, ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and … access to the Metropolitan Museum of Art!
Honestly, in my experience, the New York CityPASS is worth it for most first time visitors to the Big Apple. The pass is good for a few days and allows you “front of the line” access.
5. Eat in the Upper East Side After Visiting the Met
Okay, as much as I love the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I’ve never felt any desire to eat the food at the main cafeteria or other cafes.
The Dining Room on the 4th Floor looks nice with spectacular views of Central Park, but prices are a bit steep (unless you’re a member and receive a 10% discount) for most travelers.
The Upper East Side, particularly Yorkville, have plenty of great local hangouts and bars for you to enjoy a quality lunch. I always discover a new place to eat in this neighborhood.
6. Don’t Miss Out on the Special Exhibits
Like all art museums, the Met hosts special and temporary exhibits throughout the year. Go to the website ahead of time and see what’s “on” at the Met.
For example, on my last visit, I saw some really cool Dutch Master pieces that reminded me of my recent trip to the Netherlands.
I also know the Met recently had an extensive Rock ‘n Roll exhibit that was supposedly wonderful for music lovers. And the best part? Special exhibits are free with your ticket.
7. Have Time Left? See the Cloisters (The Met’s Medieval Collection)
The Metropolitan Museum’s main building isn’t the only part of the art collection. I’m dead serious.
Your general admissions tickets are valid for three consecutive days at the main Met museum on 5th avenue, as well as the Met Breuer and Met Cloisters.
Now I’ve been to the Met Cloisters and the whole area is so peaceful and gorgeous that I highly recommend going if you’re in New York for a few days.
8. Arrive Early to the Museum
Like I said earlier in this post, afternoons at the Met (especially on Saturdays) are crowded affairs and you need to pack your patience, depending on what part of the museum you’re in.
Keep in mind, though: the Met opens every day at 10 am.
So my advice is to go to the museum early with your admissions ticket already in hand.
As much as I complain about climbing out of bed, I’m still a morning person at heart. I like to wake up and board the train to the city before breakfast if I have enough energy.
Plan Your Trip: Buy Your Ticket for the Met
I hope you enjoyed my guide on visiting the Met. What is YOUR favorite art museum in the world? Have you ever visited the Met? Share all your thoughts on great art in the comments.