The Cloisters after a snowstorm

01 of 08

Walk through Fort Tryon Park to reach the Cloisters

Danielle Oteri

See the gardens in spring, but enjoy peace and solitude in winter.

Though the gardens are worth the trip to the Cloisters in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, the solitude of winter shows another side of the museum. 

The museum is an immersive experience where the collection of late medieval art is also part of the physical museum structure. The peaceful atmosphere is best felt in winter when crowds thin and snow often dissuades visitors from the walk through Fort Tryon Park. I highly recommend a visit to the Cloisters just after a snowstorm for a peaceful, meditative experience unlike anything else in New York City.

Walk through the paths of Fort Tryon Park and enter via the Froville Arcade entrance.

A visit to the Cloisters can be a meditative experience including a slow walk through Fort Tryon Park.

02 of 08

After a snowstorm, you may have the galleries all to yourself

Danielle Oteri

Imagine you are a medieval monk in the Cuxa cloister

Just like a Benedictine monastery, all the galleries on the first floor connect to the Cuxa cloister, the heart of the museum and one of five cloisters ensembles in the collection. In summer, the garden is planted to resemble a cloister garth garden. In winter, the arcades are encased with glass and potted herbs help perfume the galleries.

03 of 08

A view of the past on the Hudson River

Danielle Oteri

The Cloisters has a view designed to transport you to the Middle Ages.

John D. Rockefeller, Jr. purchased 700 acres of land on the Palisades cliffs so that they would never be developed and the view from the Cloisters would always allow visitors to imagine they were in medieval Europe. 

04 of 08

Tombs in the Gothic Chapel

Danielle Oteri

Light enters the Gothic Chapel through 14th century stained glass.

Look in the cracks and crevices of the Catalonian tombs and discover remnants of the original painted surfaces. 

Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08

Capital from the cloister of San-Michel-de-Cuxa

Danielle Oteri

The Cuxa cloister is encased with glass from November through March

Made for a community of Benedictine monks, these capitals bear exotic images including monkeys, a twin-tailed mermaid and this fat-bellied figure which may be a lesson on gluttony.

06 of 08

Winter light on medieval stained glass

Danielle Oteri

Soft winter light diffused by fresh fallen snow provides the most beautiful light for viewing stained glass.

Roundels in the Glass Gallery reward close looking. Arcades from the Bonnefont cloister and herb are just beyond the windows.

07 of 08

Spend time alone with famous works like the "Merode Altarpiece"

Danielle Oteri

The "Merode Altarpiece" or "Annunciation Triptych", is full small, significant details.

A private devotional altarpiece made for a private home in the 1420s, this painting is the most famous work from the Northern Renaissance. In the center panel the Archangel Gabriel brings news to the Virgin Mary who appears reading in her posh medieval townhouse. While the Holy Spirit is shown descending on her by the freshly extinguished candle, the tiny infant soul of Christ flies straight through an unbroken window, holding a cross, cruising right toward the Virgin's womb. Close looking at this extraordinary painting is endlessly rewarded.

08 of 08

Cloisters gardens in winter

Danielle Oteri

Crowds arrive in the spring to view the gardens, but wintertime creates an atmosphere of peaceful solitude.

If there isn't too much ice on the ground, visitors may walk around the Bonnefont and Trie cloisters in winter and enjoy the view over the Hudson.

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