Best Places to See Art: NYC’s Museum Mile

 The Metropolitan Museum of Art, photo by Changquing Lu
 The Metropolitan Museum of Art, photo by Changquing Lu
 The Metropolitan Museum of Art, photo by Changquing Lu

Certain cities are synonymous with great art. Ranking #1 among locales in the US with the most art establishments, New York City, New York is one of those cities. You could spend several weeks in New York City and still not see it all, including iconic galleries and world-class cultural institutions.

Here to help you prioritize your must-see list for a visit to the big apple to see art, we suggest and share an easy-to-navigate self-guided tour, along the route known as “Museum Mile.”

New York’s Museum Mile is located in the Upper East Side of Manhattan and spans the area along Fifth Avenue from 82nd to 105th (technically a bit more than a mile) and has the added benefit of its close proximity to Central Park. It includes a veritable smorgasbord of amazing art, history and cultural education, not all of which you can see in one day, so we’ve created a shortlist if you only have a small window of time for exploration.

 

1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

We’re big fans of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, so we’ll start with this heavy hitter (although there are no lightweights among this bunch). Also known as the Met, this phenomenal institution, the biggest of its kind in the United States, is considered by many as the anchor museum of Museum Mile. Based on its geographical location, it also creates a logical starting point for the beginning of your mile-long (plus a few blocks) journey, with a route starting from the south and walking north on Fifth Avenue.Metropolitan Museum of Art, photo by Tomas Eidsvold

The Met’s permanent collection comprises over 2 million artworks spanning 5,000 years of art, representing every region of the world, so we suggest you dedicate at least a couple of hours to this stop alone. Additionally, the Met offers approximately 30 different exhibits each year, more than any other art museum in the world.

Fun fact: The scene in “When Harry Met Sally” in which Harry and Sally discuss “pepper and paprikash” was filmed in the Met’s Temple of Dendur. On a related note, you can also explore art inspired by movies online.

1000 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York

https://www.metmuseum.org

2. Cafe Bleriot XI

We have to confess that Cafe Bleriot isn’t ACTUALLY a cultural institution but maybe it should be. Commanding strong reviews on Yelp, this tiny family-owned coffee and pastry shop located minutes from Museum Mile has the charm of an 18th century Parisian cafe, and is known for its exceptional coffee and friendly staff.Gorgeous gold hand painted fleur-de-lys design adorns the green walls of the tiny but delightful Cafe Bleriot XI (source: Yelp)

This little gem of a place was once a fine art gallery which the owner Georgi Dimov, who is also an accomplished artist, transformed into an exceptionally quaint spot to grab a latte. Inspired by French aviator Louis Blériot, for whom the cafe is named, the Dimov family gives a nod to coffee as fuel to accomplish your daily tasks.

As the story goes, Bleriot made multiple failed attempts to fly his plane across the English Channel, and only succeeded after starting his day with a hearty breakfast (and one can assume a strong cup of joe). Unlike Bleriot, you may only need enough canale and espresso to travel several blocks back to Fifth Avenue and onto the next museum, but Cafe Bleriot is worth the quick detour.

226 E 83rd St, New York, New York

https://www.cafebleriotnyc.com

 

3. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Once properly fueled with your requisite dose of caffeine and monosaccharides, you will be well prepared to continue your art immersion experience at the Guggenheim Museum.Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, photo by Leslie Lopez Holder

Previously known as “The Museum of Non-Objective Painting,” the museum is a mecca for art lovers of all persuasions. Within the walls of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed dome and circular-shaped spaces, the museum is home to multiple rotating exhibits as well as its permanent collections.

Visitors are drawn to the variety of artworks including the pure abstraction that Guggenheim was preferential to, as well as many other pieces of notable art and photography. Among them are photographs by critically acclaimed artist/photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, whose work challenged typical notions of gender and sexuality and who further gained notoriety through his controversial use of religious symbols in his art.

1071 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York

https://www.guggenheim.org

4. The Jewish Museum

Continuing your walk along Fifth Avenue will take you to the Jewish Museum, a cultural treasure on the corner of Fifth Avenue and east 92nd street.

New York City has the largest Jewish community in the United States, and is second only to Israel worldwide. The Jewish Museum has been curating and collecting art reflecting Jewish culture and history for over a century, with a Judaica collection that is among the largest in the world.

As an example of this incredible inventory, with approximately 1,050 menorahs, the museum boasts the largest collection in existence. It includes a number of special pieces of unparalleled historic significance, such as a Hanukkah lamp which was fashioned from stolen wood from a Nazi camp in former Czechoslovakia. These and other unique cultural items which you won’t find anywhere else in the world, make a trip to the Jewish Museum a once-in-a-lifetime learning experience.

1109 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York

https://thejewishmuseum.org/Omer Calendar by Georges Goldstein (source: The Jewish Museum Facebook page)

5. Museum of the City of New York

If you’re seeking one big dose of all things New York City, keep heading south on Fifth until you get to the Museum of the City of New York. From the famous to the infamous, the museum tells the story of New York through various mediums covering NYC specific topics including art, literature, politics, sports, and racial injustice.

The ongoing exhibition “New York at Its Core” features 400 years of New York history, utilizing 450 objects and visuals highlighting themes of money, diversity and creativity. Among the many fascinating items is an original draft of the Emma Lazarus poem “The New Colossus” which is inscribed on the Statue of Liberty. The exhibition shares the vision of early immigrants to New York, and covers the prominent players and personalities who helped shape the city into what it is today.

1220 5th Ave, New York, New York

https://www.mcny.org

 

The full list of museums designated as part of Museum Mile includes a total of six locations, with the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and the El Museo del Barrio considered part of the official count. Though they aren’t part of the official designation, the mile plus path is home to several more informative and inspiring art institutions and galleries, including the Neue Galerie New York and the Museum for African Art. If you have at least a couple of days to dedicate to your cultural tour along Museum Mile, all of the sites are undoubtedly worth the time.

Can’t make it to New York City? Almost all of the institutions mentioned offer online exhibits and resources, or to peruse different styles of art similar to what you might see in the big city, check out UGallery’s impressive collection of original art.