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Asier Villafranca / Shutterstock
It would be possible to roam the labyrinthine corridors of the colossal Metropolitan Museum of Art for days. The Met has more than 2 million works of art representing 5,000 years of history, so it's a good idea to plan ahead; looking at everything here could take a week. Some of the highlights are listed below.
Check the museum's floor plan, available at all entrances, for location of the major wings and collections. Pick up the "Today's Events" flier at the desk where you get your ticket. The museum hosts gallery talks on a range of subjects; taking a tour with a staff curator can reveal some of the collection's hidden secrets.
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 U.S.
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, and tombs.
The Met's revitalized American Wing (aka the New American Wing Galleries for Paintings, Sculpture, and Decorative Arts) 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.
The visually stunning Islamic galleries, a suite of 15 galleries, houses one of the world's premier collections of Islamic art. Now known as the "Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia," the collection comprises more than 12,000 works of art and traces the course of Islamic Civilization over a span of 13 centuries. Highlights include an 11-foot-high 14th-century mihrab, or prayer niche, decorated with glazed ceramic tiles; the recently restored Emperor's Carpet—a 16th-century Persian carpet that was presented to the Hapsburg Emperor Leopold I by Peter the Great of Russia; the Damascus Room—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: The Petrie Court Café and Winebar ($$) at the back of the first-floor European Sculpture Court, has waiter service. The Great Hall Balcony Bar ($$) is on the second floor balcony overlooking the Great Hall—on Friday and Saturday, 4pm to 8:30 pm, waiters serve appetizers and cocktails accompanied by live classical music. The Roof Garden ($), open May–October, has fabulous views. There is also a cafeteria ($) on the ground floor.
In May 2014, the Costume Institute's galleries reopened after a two-year renovation with a newly designed 4,200-square-foot main gallery, an updated costume conservation laboratory, expanded study and storage facilities, and a new name—the Anna Wintour Costume Center. The refurbishment allows the Center to have exhibitions on view 10 months a year.
In late 2014, the Met concluded its two-year, $60 million renovation of the museum's plaza. The new European-style plaza includes additional public seating, two fountains (with jets that can be programmed for varying displays), new lighting, landscaping, a row of large parasols for shade, and improved museum access.