The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection of over 1.5 million objects requires days, if not weeks, to take in. But let’s be honest: most visitors have only a few hours to spend exploring it, and much of that precious time can be squandered just figuring out how to get around.
So, whether the Met is your first stop of the morning or your last after a long day of sightseeing, you could probably use a little help getting the most out of your visit. With that in mind, we’ve assembled a list of must-see works on view. Some are among the museum’s biggest draws, but we’ve also included many lesser-known gems, hand-picked by a Met expert, that are often overshadowed by more famous works nearby.
We hope it goes without saying that you can pick and choose your own highlights along the way, depending on how much time you have. (And if you get lost, consult the Met’s handy online map.)
Here’s our walkthrough of works not to miss, in the order you’d encounter them if you entered the museum from 81st Street.
Say what now? Yep, that’s right: For speediest entrance, skip the grand steps at the main entrance at 82nd and Fifth Avenue and head a block south, where you’ll find a nondescript set of black doors at street level. As surreptitious as it might feel, it’s a full-fledged entrance, and usually a fraction as packed as the main entrance. “It’s the museum’s best-kept open secret,” says Managing Educator Kathy Galitz.
Before we begin, we’ll pause to acknowledge the fraught provenance of many of the Met’s artworks and the ongoing repatriation movements that are increasingly bolstered by law; earlier this year, for instance, authorities reclaimed 27 of the Met’s Italian and Egyptian antiquities, asserting that they had been looted.
All right, now on to the tour. Head up the stairs, and you’ll land in the Greek and Roman art section.