If you’re looking for the perfect respite from the bustle of the city, The Cloisters is it. The lesser-known branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cloisters museum is dedicated to European medieval art. The museum building, built in the 1930s, is a gorgeous reconstruction of a medieval monastery, with elements shipped from various abbeys of Spanish and French origins. A visit to the museum, gardens, and the surrounding scenic Fort Tryon Park make for a perfect weekend activity for families, friends, and couples alike.
Situated at the northernmost tip of Manhattan, the museum can take a while to get to, depending on where in the city you’re coming from. But that’s all part of the adventure! The park is easily accessible from the northern end of the A train, so bring a good book or that New Yorker you’ve been meaning to get through, and take advantage of the ride to do some quality reading.
The museum itself is small and easily digestible, even for parents who want to check it out with kids in tow. It won’t take long to peruse the medieval sculptures, paintings, pottery, metalwork, and tapestries. Even at a relaxed pace, one can do the entire museum in about an hour. Do take the time to soak in the peaceful atmosphere in the building’s enclosed gardens; their beauty and tranquility will transport you to a different time and place, far from modern New York City. The grassy lawns surrounding the Cloisters also provide great spaces to have a picnic and enjoy the natural scenery along the Hudson River, which runs adjacent to the park. The Cloisters museum sits at the northern end of Fort Tryon Park, which has its own trails good for walking.
Tips: Entrance to the museum is donation based, which means you can choose to pay as much or as little as you’d like. Go before December 8 to hear the moving and transcendent sound installation, Janet Cardiff’s The Forty-Part Motet, currently on display in one of The Cloisters’ chapels. The resonant voices of the choral piece are especially spectacular in the setting of the medieval chapel.