When it comes to the Met vs MOMA you can’t go wrong. Both the Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of Modern Art are amazing museums. I have been to both museums many times and highly recommend that you also go to both if you can.
However, I know that sometimes you can only fit one museum in the itinerary especially on your first trip to NYC, so here are my thoughts on the differences between the Met and MOMA to help you choose.
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Met or MOMA?
Since there is so much to see when you visit NYC, you might not have time to visit more than one art museum. It can be hard to choose which one to prioritize when there are several world-class options to chose from. In this post, let’s focus on picking between MOMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The permanent collections of these two NYC art museums overlap a bit, but the Met’s is much bigger and diverse.
The MOMA focuses on modern art and contemporary art and they do it well! Seeing the collection of art at MOMA in one day is doable. The Met art galleries have such a broad range of pieces from ancient Egypt, to Medieval Art, to European Art, Modern Art, and more.
It’s hard to say what the best Met art section is because there are so many great ones. I don’t think it is possible to see everything at the Met in one visit, probably not even in two. I keep finding new areas that I hadn’t seen on previous visits.
If you want to cover as much of the Met collection as you can in one visit consider taking a tour. Maybe something lighthearted but informative, like the Twisted Metropolitan Museum of Art Tour: Scandals & Secrets of the Masterpieces.
Based on the variety and size of the collection, the Met wins here hands down.
The difference between MOMA and the Met is symbolized by their buildings. As you would expect, MOMA is a modern building opened in 2004 and that works well for a modern art museum. The building blends in with other buildings in midtown and if it weren’t for the large sign outside you might not even expect that there a museum inside.
The Met, however, is housed in an iconic building that opened to the public in 1880! It has now expanded to cover more than 2 million square feet. Like I learned on my When Harry Met Seinfeld tour, the famous steps outside have been part of many TV shows and movies like Gossip Girls and Hitch. The Met is also home to the Met Gala, also known as the Superbowl of Fashion, which is held on the first Monday of May each year.
My favorite type of art is modern art so I prefer to go to museums with that focus. Obviously, MOMA focuses on modern art, the whole building is filled with just modern art. During your MOMA visit, you will see their impressive collection including works by Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh and Warhol to name a few. I also enjoy the contemporary art at MOMA.
Before I visited the Met, I thought the focus was more on Egyptian and classical pieces, but I should say I was also impressed with the collection of modern art at the Met. They also have pieces by Picasso, Monet, and Van Gogh, plus they have a nice collection from my favorite artist, Rodin, and more.
Both museums have excellent special exhibits, that are constantly changing. Probably the most well-known special exhibit was the Rain Room at MOMA. Unfortunately, I never got to see the exhibit because the lines were always so long!
I have fond memories of several of the special exhibits I went to. I enjoyed the Tim Burton exhibit at MOMA, it was an interesting insight into his thinking and his life. At the Met, I enjoyed the China Through the Looking Glass Exhibit, which showed some of the Asian influence in fashion.
In Manhattan, outdoor space is precious and both museums have it. MOMA has a sculpture garden that is open year around. One summer I attended the MOMA party in the garden and it was a lot of fun. It’s also a great spot for photos when the weather is nice.
The Met has a rooftop that is open in during the warmer weather months. (May through late fall, weather permitting). Since the Met is located on the edge of Central Park, the view of the park and the midtown skyline is definitely Instagram-worthy. The Met Rooftop has a different art exhibit each year.
The Met Rooftop is open from 10 am – 4:30 pm during the week (except it is closed on Mondays) and until 8 pm on Friday and Saturday. There is a Martini Bar on the Met rooftop that is open Friday and Saturday from 5:30 pm – 8:00 pm. If you are visiting the Met during the Summer make sure you save time to check out the roof.
Museum Dining Options
You can find some great food options at either MOMA or the Met.
MOMA features dining options by Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, including The Modern, a contemporary American fine-dining restaurant that holds two Michelin stars, and museum cafés, Cafe 2 and Terrace 5. The museum cafes are for museum guests only and do not accept reservations. I have eaten at the MOMA cafe on the 2nd floor a few times and always enjoyed it. You do not need to be a museum guest to go to the Modern, it is pricey though. I am a big fan of Danny Meyer’s restaurants and the cafes in MOMA are great too!
Given the museum’s location in Midtown, there are also several cafes near MOMA that you could go to for lunch. I like La Bonne Soupe and PizzaArte on 55th St between 5th and 6th Avenues. If you are in the mood for a burger and crazy shake, Black Tap on 55th is also pretty close. On the weekends, I love Rue 57 for brunch near MOMA.
The Met has several dining options too. The Dining Room at the Met is the fine dining option. Even though it is located inside the museum overlooking Central Park, you don’t have to purchase admission to the museum to dine there. They have participated in Restaurant Week, so that could be a could time to try it. They also have several casual options including the Balcony Lounge, The Petrie Court Café, The American Wing Café, and the Cafeteria. You can also get light bites at the Rooftop.
If you are bringing kids along with you, you may wonder which museum is best for kids.
Luckily, both the Metropolitan Museum of Art and MOMA have special programs for young visitors to keep them interested. I think kids would be most excited about the Egyptian section of the Met. Walking through the Temple of Dendur will make them feel like they have been transported to ancient Egypt!
Winner: The Met
Both the Met and MOMA have mobile apps supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies that you can download on your phone for free.
The MOMA app was recently simplified and is now more like an audio guide where you can get more information about the artwork you are seeing. The Metropolitan Museum of Art App is more comprehensive and includes maps, information about events, a link to buy tickets, and a section for Met Museum members. Information about the Met Cloisters and the Met Bruer are also included in the Met Museum app.
Winner: The Met
Museum Opening Hours
NYC MOMA is open seven days a week from 10:30 am to 5:30 pm. During the summer, they are open until 9 pm Thursday-Saturday. The Met is open 10 am – 5:30 pm Sunday through Thursday and from 10 am – 9 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. So during the summer, MOMA has better hours, but the rest of the year, the Met has better hours.
Both museums are popular so the best time to go will be during the week in the mornings. Since MOMA is a smaller museum, it will feel more crowded than the Met. When the weather is bad, the crowds will be bigger at both museums. If you are worried about the crowds, check out this VIP tour that allows entry to MOMA one hour before it opens to the public. There is a similar option for the Met Museum that allows you entry 90 minutes before the public – click here to check price and availability.
Both museums are located in Manhattan. The MOMA Museum New York is conveniently located at 11 West 53rd Street in Midtown, only a block from the 53rd street stop on the E and M subway line. Alternatively, Times Square or Grand Central to MOMA is about a 15 minute walk. The Met is located at 1000 5th Avenue on the Upper East Side at the edge of Central Park. You will most likely need to take the 4,5, or 6 subway to 86th Street and walk 15 minutes or take the bus.
Below is a comparison of the regular admission prices as of 2/19/21.
|Students||$12||$14 (full-time with ID)|
|Children||Free for 12 and under||Free for 16 and under|
At face value, the prices look pretty similar. However, the regular admission price for the MET is the amount you will pay (plus a $1 fee per ticket) if you buy your ticket online.
The Met used to have a “pay as your wish” admission policy but since March 2018 only New York State residents and students from the tristate area (NY, NJ & Connecticut) can pay a different price. Visitors from outside New York will be required to pay mandatory admissions and admission for children under 12 will remain free. Your full-priced admissions tickets would give you access to all three Met locations (Met, Met Breuer, and Met Cloisters) for three consecutive days.
Note: The Met Breuer is closed on Mondays.
The MOMA entrance fee is fixed and not a recommended price, but every Friday evening, 4:00 pm–8:00 pm (and until 9:00 pm July 1–September 2), admission is free thanks to UNIQLO! If you want to go to a MOMA free Friday, please go early as it is very popular and there will be a line.
Both the Met and MOMA also have different combination passes with other attractions that will save you money. The RockMOMA ticket saves you $7 on admission to MOMA and the Top of the Rock Observation Deck. Additionally, both museums are part of the New York Pass which includes admission to 100+ Attractions in New York (Click here to see all the attractions included). NYC attraction passes are a great way to save money sightseeing in New York City!
***If you plan on visiting both the Met and MOMA museums, you can get a discount on the tickets here.
Overall: MOMA vs Met?
For me it’s a hard choice, I love MOMA because my favorite type of art is modern, but the MET has so much to offer. Either one is a fabulous place to spend a day – especially in the winter in NYC when it is freezing.
Ideally, you would visit both MOMA and the Met, but I know it’s not always possible. I want to hear your thoughts, the Metropolitan Museum of Art or MOMA, which one would you choose?
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Last Updated on July 8, 2021