A trip to The Cloisters is a bit of a trek since it’s so far uptown. It’s worth a visit if you have never been, or if it’s been ages, as it had been for me. My last visit was over 10 years ago so I was definitely due for another visit.
If you take the bus, like my friend and I did, it’s the very last stop on the M4: Fort Tyron Park in Washington Heights. It takes you right to the building, which was built in a Medieval style to display Medieval works of art and architecture. The Cloisters is part of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, so the admission prices are the same, and free if you went to The Met earlier in the day and you kept the pin. Like at The Met, admission here is recommended, which means you don’t have to pay the full $25; you can pay whatever you want.
Highlights tours are given free, with admission, at 3:00PM Tuesdays – Fridays and Sundays. During the warmer months a garden tour is also offered. We got there a little early so we wandered around a bit, walking through all four cloisters.
Thankfully, some of the cloisters were glassed-in for the winter so you’re free to wander them without freezing.
My friend noticed that there were carved dogs at the foot of each tomb. We made a note to ask the tour guide and were told the dogs represent loyalty.
At 3:00, we went to the admissions desk area where the tour started. Surprisingly, our group was fairly big with 26 people.
The tour lasted about 45 minutes and covered just a handful of rooms. The most interesting part of the tour was the Unicorn Tapestry Hall. There are seven tapestries in all, and they tell the story of The Hunt of the Unicorn. The tapestry on the left, in the photo above, is the most famous.
Note: If you ever want to know the most famous works in a museum, just visit their gift shop first. It’ll be filled with those images in the form of key chains, scarves, postcards, and totes. Yes, The Cloisters gift shop was littered with that unicorn tapestry.
The guide explained the story, tapestry by tapestry, and it was fascinating. The tour is worth attending just for the explanation of the tapestries. Our guide was excellent and very well informed. If you had told me that she had done her doctorate on The Cloisters, I would not be surprised.
After the tour ended, we wandered around some more and went outside to the Trie Cloister and garden, which is not enclosed. This is where the cafe usually is, but it’s only open May – October. Here’s a tip: If you see a door, try opening it. I found door that led to a terrace with a great view.
After the tour, we took a stroll through Fort Tyron Park before getting on the A train at 190th Street.
LOCATION: The Cloisters museum and gardens | 99 Margaret Corbin Drive | New York, NY 10040 | 212.923.3828
ADMISSION: $25 (adults), recommended
TOUR: Free with admission