With more than 6 million visitors annually, dozens of new exhibitions each year, and more than 2 million works of art representing 5,000 years of history, the colossal and iconic Metropolitan Museum of Art is the city's top attraction and one of the world's top art museums. With so much to see, you could easily wander the Met's labyrinthine corridors for days, so it's a good idea to plan ahead.
A major star of the museum is the Temple of Dendur (circa 15 BC), in a huge atrium to itself and with a moatlike pool of water to represent its original location near the Nile. The temple was commissioned by the Roman emperor Augustus to honor the goddess Isis and the sons of a Nubian chieftain. Egypt gave the temple as a gift to the United States in 1965; it would have been submerged after the construction of the Aswan High Dam. The Egyptian collection as a whole covers 4,000 years of history, with papyrus pages from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, stone sarcophagi inscribed with hieroglyphics,
Other highlights include the Met's revitalized American Wing (aka the New American Wing Galleries for Paintings, Sculpture, and Decorative Arts) which uses 30,000 square feet of airy, skylit space to showcase—in themed and chronological order—one of the best and most extensive collections of American art in the country, as well as the Anna Wintour Costume Center, which hosts the annual Met Gala fundraiser and fashion extravaganza to mark the opening of the Costume Center's annual fashion exhibit. The visually stunning Islamic galleries, a suite of 15 galleries, feature a collection that traces the course of Islamic civilization over a span of 13 centuries and include an 11-foot-high 14th-century mihrab (prayer niche); a 16th-century Persian carpet that was presented to the Habsburg Emperor Leopold I by Peter the Great of Russia; a Syrian Ottoman reception room decorated with poetic verses; and glass, ceramics, and metalwork from Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Iran.
If you're hungry, there are several options inside the museum for a meal or snack, including the ground-floor self-service cafeteria; the Petrie Court Cafe and Winebar on the first floor; and the Great Hall Balcony Bar on the second-floor balcony overlooking the Great Hall (Friday and Saturday evenings). The Roof Garden ($), open May–October, has fabulous views of Central Park and the city skyline. Admission includes same-day admission to the museum's newly opened modern and contemporary art outpost—the Met Breuer (Madison Avenue and 75th Street), as well as same-week entrance to the Cloisters Museum and Gardens in northern Manhattan.