The term “cloister” refers to an open courtyard, usually found in the center of a religious monastery or convent. Located in Fort Tryon Park in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, the Met Cloisters are an extension of the Metropolitan Museum of Art that showcases European medieval art and architecture. There are a dozen distinct areas that include 20 galleries and gardens spread throughout the four acre space. The museum was built by architect Charles Collens and opened in 1938. Many of the artifacts and structures, which date back to the 12th through 15th centuries, were saved from various churches, monasteries, and abbeys throughout Europe and recreated throughout the museum complex. There are several stone and wood sculptures, panel paintings and tapestries on display throughout galleries that are meant to recreate the feeling of being in a medieval European monastery. The four cloisters were originally created in France, bought by art dealer and sculpture George Barnard in the early 1900s, and later bought by John D. Rockefeller and donated to the museum.
A map of the galleries can be found here.
The Cloisters are open Thursday through Monday from 10am-5pm. Admission to either the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Met Cloisters grants visitors access to both locations. Updates on hours and admission fees can be found here. Children under ages 12 are free. Currently, due to pandemic restrictions, timed tickets are required, and guests must follow a one way path through the galleries.
The Cloisters are somewhat handicap accessible. Guests who cannot walk two flights of stairs from the entrance to the admission desk may drive to the top gallery with prior approval. The Cloisters also provide a shuttle for handicap accessibility. More information on accessibility and reservations here. Strollers are allowed.
A gift shop and restrooms (down a flight of stairs) are located near the admissions desk.
The Petrie Court Cafe, usually open April through October, is currently closed due to pandemic restrictions, but information can be found here.
Plan on at least 2-3 hours to fully explore all the galleries; spend more time in nice weather lingering in the gardens.
Consider following along on the audio guide while touring the Cloisters; signage in each room indicate what track accompanies the art and architecture. There’s also a musical audio tour option and a “Kids and Families” audio tour. Find all three audio tours here.
10 Things to Do at the Cloisters:
1. Look at the crucifix from both sides in the Fuentiduena Chapel. The largest room in the museum, the chapel features statues of leaping animals, but the main focal point is the Apse, which is a recess built at the Saint Joan church in Spain in the late 12th century. It was reassembled at the museum in the 1940s. The half dome features a depiction of Mary with Jesus.
2. Examine the carvings on the limestone doorways and the statutes featured in the Langon Chapel Gallery. The gallery also displays a single aisle and focal point of a church from Paris, dating back to the early 12th century.
3. Smell the tulips of the Cuxa Cloister Gallery, the centerpiece of the museum. The cloister was originally part of a Benedictine Abbey in France, and was moved to New York in the early 1900s.
4. Walk through the paths in three gardens throughout the museum, which have been growing over 250 types of plants, herbs, and flowers since 1938.
5. Read about the inhabitants of the six effigies on display in the Gothic Chapel. Dogs are sculpted under the feet of many of the effigies. Be sure to take note of the numerous stained glass windows from a church in Austria that dates back to the mid 14th century.
6. Check out the chess pieces from 8th and 9th century in the Glass Gallery displays, which also showcase glass beakers and silver cups from the 14th and 15th centuries.
7. Explore the Treasury Room, which displays hundreds of items from 9th-15th centuries, including chalices, presley vestments, crosses, and Bibles. There are also tapestries, wooden carvings, and an illustrated copy of the Book of Revelations from the 1330s. The room was opened in 1988 to celebrate the Cloisters’ 50th anniversary.
8. Look carefully at the stained glass windows in the Boppard Room Gallery, which come from a 15th century German church. There are also several tapestries on display.
9. Count up to 80 species of plants in the Trie Cloister, made from two early 16th century French structures. There is also a large fountain in the center of the cloister.
10. See the famous “Unicorn Tapestries” in the Unicorn Tapestries Room Gallery, which are 12 feet tall and up to 14 feet long. The seven tapestries were made in Paris at the turn of the 16th century. Take note of the large fire place, which most kids (and some adults!) could easily fit inside.
For nearby fun, check out our adventures at The Guggenheim and New York Botanical Garden, both less than 20 minutes away, and our index of fun activities for families in New York City. And follow along on our adventures on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.