Upper East Side museums: The best of Museum Mile and its environs

Before hitting Museum Mile’s peerless cultural cache, peruse our list of Upper East Side museums, from the massive Met to private collections.

Between 82nd and 105th Streets, Fifth Avenue is lined with more than half a dozen celebrated institutions. Trace the history of art in the era- and globe-spanning Metropolitan Museum of Art, then admire the spiral lines of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. It's also essential to head east of Museum Mile for other top Upper East Side museums such as the Whitney Museum of American Art (before it moves to its new Meatpacking District digs).

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Critics' pick

RECOMMENDED: The Metropolitan Museum of Art Occupying 13 acres of Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which opened in 1880, is impressive in terms both of quality and scale. Added in 1895 by McKim, Mead and White, the neoclassical facade is daunting. However, the museum is surprisingly easy to negotiate, particularly if you come early on a weekday and avoid the crowds. In the ground floor’s north wing sits the collection of Egyptian art and the glass-walled atrium housing the Temple of Dendur, moved en masse from its original Nile-side setting and now overlooking a reflective pool. Antiquity is also well represented in the southern wing of the ground floor by the halls housing Greek and Roman art, which reopened in 2007 after receiving an elegant makeover. Turning west brings you to the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas collection; it was donated by Nelson Rockefeller as a memorial to his son Michael, who disappeared while visiting New Guinea in 1961. A wider-ranging bequest, the two-story Robert Lehman Wing, can be found at the western end of the floor. This eclectic collection is housed in a re-creation of his townhouse and features Bellini’s masterful Madonna and Child. Rounding out the ground-floor highlights is the American Wing on the northwest corner. Its Engelhard Court reopened in spring 2009 as part of the wing’s current revamp. Now more a sculpture court than an interior garden, it houses large-scale 19th-century works in bronze and marble—and on

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Upper East Side

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Critics' pick

RECOMMENDED: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum The Guggenheim is as famous for its landmark building—designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and restored for its 50th birthday in 2009—as it is for its impressive collection and daring temporary shows. The museum owns Peggy Guggenheim’s trove of Cubist, Surrealist and Abstract Expressionist works, along with the Panza di Biumo Collection of American Minimalist and Conceptual art from the 1960s and ’70s. In addition to works by Manet, Picasso, Chagall and Bourgeois, it holds the largest collection of Kandinskys in the U.S. In 1992, the addition of a ten-story tower provided space for a sculpture gallery (with park views), an auditorium and a café. RECOMMENDED: 50 best New York attractions

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Upper East Side

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Critics' pick

Founded in 1897 by the Hewitt sisters, granddaughters of industrialist Peter Cooper, the only museum in the U.S. solely dedicated to design (both historic and modern) has been part of the Smithsonian since the 1960s. The museum hosts periodic interactive family programs that allow children to experiment with design.

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Upper East Side

The Frick Collection

Critics' pick

The opulent residence that houses a private collection of great masters (from the 14th through the 19th centuries) was originally built for industrialist Henry Clay Frick. The firm of Carrère & Hastings designed the 1914 structure in an 18th-century European style, with a beautiful interior court and reflecting pool. The permanent collections include world-class paintings, sculpture and furniture by the likes of Rembrandt, Vermeer, Renoir and French cabinetmaker Jean-Henri Riesener.

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Upper East Side

Society of Illustrators

Critics' pick

Since it was founded in 1901, the Society of Illustrators has promoted the work of artists around the world through events and exhibitions in the former carriage house of William P. Read, attorney to J. P. Morgan, on the Upper East Side.

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Upper East Side Free

The Jewish Museum

Critics' pick

The Jewish Museum, housed in the 1908 Warburg Mansion, contains a fascinating collection of more than 28,000 works of art, artifacts and media installations. The two-floor permanent exhibition, “Culture and Continuity: The Jewish Journey,” examines how Judaism has survived and explores various Jewish identities throughout history. There is also a permanent exhibit specifically for children: The Café Weissman serves contemporary kosher fare.

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Upper East Side

92nd Street Y

Critics' pick

The iconic institution, which was founded in 1874, hosts all manner of events, including lectures (with boldfaced names like Eliot Spitzer and the late Nora Ephron), live music, dance performances and more. Expect special programming during Jewish holidays such as Passover and Hanukkah. Browse and sign up for classes at 92nd Street Y

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Upper East Side

French Institute Alliance Française

Critics' pick

One of the largest Gallic cultural centers in the country, this language and cultural center has extensive offerings of theater, dance, music and performance throughout the year. Among its impressive facilities is the Haskell Library, stocked with French-language newspapers, magazines, DVDs and books.

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Upper East Side

Asia Society

Critics' pick

The Asia Society sponsors study missions and conferences while promoting public programs in the U.S. and abroad. The headquarters’ striking galleries host major exhibitions of art culled from dozens of countries and time periods—from ancient India and medieval Persia to contemporary Japan—and assembled from public and private collections, including the permanent Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller III collection of Asian art. A spacious, atrium-like café, with a pan-Asian menu, and a beautifully stocked gift shop make the society a one-stop destination for anyone who has an interest in Asian art and culture.

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Upper East Side

The Grolier Club

Critics' pick

Named after French bibliophile Jean Grolier de Servières, this institution is a library and an exhibit space.

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Upper East Side Free

Americas Society

Critics' pick

The Americas Society exists to provide public programming and forums to encourage ideas, discussions and debates about issues throughout the Western Hemisphere.

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Upper East Side
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