By Laura Itzkowitz
August 10, 2015
Credit: Getty Images

The Met: any trip to New York would be incomplete without visiting it. The museum’s permanent collection spans from Antiquity to the present, and covers every corner of the globe. Yet this mammoth of a museum, covering four city blocks with more than two million works in the permanent collection, is overwhelming to many, locals and tourists alike. Here are our tips and tricks for how to make the most of a visit.

Hours & Admission

Unlike at many other NYC museums (we’re looking at you, MoMA and Guggenheim), the posted $25 admission fee is a suggested donation. Give what you can, but don’t fret about breaking the bank.

Normally, the Met closes at 5:30 pm, but it stays open late on Fridays and Saturdays—until 9 p.m.— and the galleries tend to be less crowded than during the day.

Where to Eat

In the warmer months, head up to the roof for cocktails, wine, and snacks with unbeatable views of Central Park and the Upper East Side. Or bring a picnic to the park (the museum is close to the Great Lawn, as well as several picturesque pockets along the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir). Eli Zabar’s E.A.T.,a New York standby since 1973, is a few blocks away on Madison Avenue. Call in the morning, and they can have a picnic box complete with an overstuffed sandwich, salad, brownie, and fresh fruit waiting for when you arrive.

Make a Game Plan

The Met has 17 curatorial departments including Ancient and Near Eastern Art, Greek and Roman Art, Medieval Art, European Paintings, Islamic Art, the American Wing, the Costume Institute, and more. It would be nearly impossible to see everything in one day, so prioritize, study the museum’s map, and make a game plan. Make use of the Met App to navigate the galleries and get updates.

Seek out the Highlights

If it’s one of your first trips, don’t miss the Temple of Dendur, an Egyptian pyramid constructed on the banks of the Nile River during the reign of Augustus Caesar and given to the U.S. by Egypt in 1965.

The Petrie Sculpture Court houses large-scale sculptures by European masters like Antonio Canova, Antoine-Émile Bourdelle, Aristide Maillol, and Auguste Rodin. It’s also one of the places onsite where you can see a brick wall from the museum’s original building.

Fans of Impressionism should beeline for the European Paintings galleries upstairs. The met has works by Cézanne, Courbet, Degas, Manet, Monet, Renoir and post-Impressionists like Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec.

The American Wing also has an impressive collection of art, architecture, and decorative objects. Fun fact: the grand Neoclassical façade in the Engelhard Court was rescued from the Branch Bank of the United States on Wall Street before it was torn down in the 1920s.

Find the Hidden Treasures

Some of the museum’s more obscure galleries contain amazing finds. In the lower level of the American Wing, you can see a recreation of a living room Frank Lloyd Wright designed for the Little family in Wayzata, Minnesota. There’s also a panorama of Versailles meant to transport viewers to the French palace.

Elsewhere, you can see a Chinese garden court from the Ming Dynasty, and the marble patio from the castle of Vélez Blanco in Spain.

Check out a Concert

The Met regularly hosts concerts and performances in its galleries, and tickets include admission for the day. There are few experiences more memorable than hearing live music at the Temple of Dendur or watching a dance performance amid the sculptures. Check the website for the museum’s schedule of events.

Laura Itzkowitz is a Research Assistant at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @lauraitzkowitz.