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The Metropolitan Museum Of Art

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£3.52

Home of blockbuster after blockbuster, the Metropolitan Museum of Art attracts some five million people a year, more than any other spot in New York City. And it’s no wonder—this place is magnificent. At 1.6 million square feet, this is the largest museum in the Western Hemisphere. Nearly all the world’s cultures are on display through the ages—from Egyptian mummies to ancient Greek statuary to Islamic carvings to Renaissance paintings to Native American masks to 20th-century decorative arts—and masterpieces are the rule. You could go once a week for a lifetime and still find something new on each visit.

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If Manhattan held no other museum than the colossal Metropolitan Museum of Art, you could still occupy yourself for days roaming its labyrinthine corridors. The Metropolitan Museum 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.

Before you begin exploring the museum, 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 buy your ticket. The museum offers gallery talks on a range of subjects; taking a tour with a staff curator can show you 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.

After several years of extensive renovations, the Met's revitalized American Wing (aka the New American Wing Galleries for Paintings, Sculpture, and Decorative Arts) reopened in early 2012 with 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.

In late 2011, after an eight-year-long renovation, the Met reopened the Islamic galleries, a suite of 15 galleries housing one of the world's premier collections of Islamic art and one of the museum's most visually stunning collections. 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, an Iran.

If you're hungry there are several options if you want to stay inside the museum to eat: 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, 4 pm 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.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art's new David H. Koch Plaza is officially open to the public following a major two-year redesign and reconstruction. The massive outdoor space—which runs along Fifth Avenue in Manhattan for four city blocks, the length of the Museum's landmark facade—now features completely new fountains, paving, and facade lighting, along with allées and bosques of trees leading to the Museum's entrances from north and south, and seating areas for visitors.

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