New York is the ultimate city, the world’s top metropole, the Big Apple and if you can make it there, you can pretty much make it anywhere someone once said. For us New York is rock n roll, punk rock, movie sets, history, iconography, and skyscrapers all wrapped in one bag of epicness. It is a city that has inspired numerous songs from favourite New York bands like the Ramones, Blondie, and the New York Dolls. Central Park is the most filmed location in the world, around town other movies like The Godfather, Taxi Driver and Do the Right Thing have been shot. Around every corner there is a sight that is embedded in the popular psyche of the world, it might be Empire State Building where King Kong swatted biplanes, it might be the magnificent Chrysler Building with its iconic metal gargoyles used in movies like Men in Black. Looking south on Manhattan island and seeing the sheen of the One World Trade Center reaching for the heavens at the site where once two towers stood.
The sound of New York is the whooping of the police sirens, the wailing of the fire engines and the roar of the subway running under your feet. New York changes every time we visit, always something new, a new neighbourhood blooming, new art and building constructed like The Wessel at The High Line. Not to mention concerts, sporting events and city celebrations that seem to be happening on every occasion they have an excuse to throw a party. New York has gone from a crime ridden cesspool of doom, via virtual bankruptcy to a clean-up and revitalisation still going on, to a city that everyone wants to visit. On our first visit to New York in the late 90s, we were told to not visit Bowery and Alphabet city, and certainly not wander around DUMBO. Now those areas are cleaned up and make up the tapestry that is the greatest city in the world, New York.
We have mostly landed at Newark International Airport in New Jersey west of Manhattan. The decent into Newark is exciting if you are seated at the left side of the plane (most planes land from the north) where you will have magnificent views of Manhattan on the final approach. You will have to wait in the normal hour’s long immigration queue like any other US airport, so it will take some time to clear immigration. Grab your bags and head for the exit. There are public transport options at Newark, there is a train that will take you to Penn Station in Mid Town Manhattan, you will have to change trains once for this service. The train ride will be around 1 hour, maybe less if you get lucky with the connections. We have always either taken a taxi or pre ordered a chauffeur service to pick us up. A train ride to Penn Station will cost approx. 13USD plus further transport with subway or taxi in Manhattan. Taxi fare will end up at around 100 USD including taxes, tolls and tips. The fare depends on traffic of course. The ride from Newark to central Manhattan will be around 40 minutes with light traffic. When departing from Manhattan to Newark in rush hour in the afternoon/evening it could take anything from 1 hour to 2 hours to get to Newark by car. We have used Blacklane a few times both in New York and other locations in the US for airport pickups and a driver to pick you up at the airport and delivering you at the doorstep of a Manhattan hotel will cost approx. 110 USD including fees and tips. And we think that this is worth the price for comfort and leisure.
John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) is the other international airport in New York, located in eastern New York and the borough of Queens. JFK is the busiest international air passenger gateway in North America and handles more than 90 airlines and around 60 million passengers from all 6 continents of the world in one year. The public transport to and from the airport is more or less the same as on Newark, there is an airport train connecting the terminals with New York’s subway system at Jamaica and Howard Beach stations. You can also board the Long Island Railroad at Jamaica; this will take you to Penn Station. You will use about an hour on the trains from JFK to Manhattan, and it costs around 11USD. A taxi will cost about 70USD depending on traffic, the ride is typically around 45 minutes long to central Manhattan.
Finding a hotel in New York as a first-time visitor can be daunting. There are around 700 hotels to choose from. If you are a New York first time visitor, we would recommend staying in the midtown area, south of Central Park and north of 14th street. This area is also the area with the biggest concentration of hotels, and you are smack bang in the middle of Manhattan. Easy walks to most major sights like Empire State building and plenty of subway stops to transport you around Manhattan and out to other areas like Brooklyn and Williamsburg. Like any other big city anywhere in the world there are hotels in every price range and in every quality from run down to shining boutique glam. The easiest option is to decide a budget per night and check different booking sites, we tend to use Booking.com and check hotel website directly to compare. Be prepared to pay a premium, New York is expensive and hotel rooms are no exception. The average cost for a hotel room is per 2020 a eye watering 178 dollars per night. Airbnb is also an option but be aware that there has been controversy around “non hotel” letting since it is prohibited by law to rent out dwellings shorter than 30 days in Manhattan but there has also been lawsuits and a lot of public backlash to people who rent out their apartments to Airbnb. Read more here about the issue.
Our main argument against not utilizing hotel room is that most flights to Europe depart from New York in the evening, and in hotels you can store luggage at no extra cost for the departure day. If you rent an Airbnb apartment you must either carry your luggage for an entire day or find a place that offers luggage storage at a cost. And of course, there is the issue of short term rental apartments bringing higher rental costs and fewer flats to rent for those who actually have to live in New York and other big cities around the world.
1. Soho Grand
Located in our favourite neighbourhood of Manhattan the Soho Grand is industrial elegance and very chic SoHo hotel living. When it opened in 1996 it was the first upscale hotel in SoHo and it was a contributing factor to the rejuvenation of an entire area. The whole hotel is design eye candy and the rooms are plush and very cool. The hotel boasts the Grand Bar and Lounge, The SoHo diner 24-hr eatery, Gilligan’s bar, and the very cool Club Room. You can spend your entire weekend stay in New York just walking, eating, and shopping the SoHo area. You are also just a few minutes’ walk fro legendary areas like Chinatown and Little Italy.
2. Kimpton Eventi New York
Located on the edge of Chelsea area of Manhattan the Eventi hotel has a location to die for. If you get the right room, you will wake up looking out of your window straight at Empire State Building just 2 blocks northeast of the hotel. The location is perfect and within short distance of everything from Madison Square garden to the High Line and Madison Square Park. Since the hotel is quite new and build high with few tall buildings around it, the view from the rooms is normally stunning in any direction but to upgrade to that Empire State view is worth it. Even though it is a 4-star hotel, the amenities and the price for the rooms are 5 stars.
3. Hotel Giraffe by Library Hotel Collection
Great location just one block northeast of Madison Square Park this 4-star hotel is a good option. Within walking distance of most major attractions. If you are staying as a family one of their suites is a great option with a bedroom and a sitting room with a sleeping sofa in it for the kids. The hotel also offers breakfast, a rarer thing in New York, and it will save you a few dollars not having to pay every morning for your coffee and bagel. They also boast a nice rooftop garden that is open during the warmer months of the year, a great place for a post sightseeing drink.
4. Courtyard New York Manhattan/Central Park
If you are looking for a hotel closer to Broadway theatres or Central Park this hotel is the one for you, smack bang in the middle between Times Square and Central Park this is the perfect hotel. If you get a room facing south and high up, you will have views down to the lights at Times Square. There is also a great outside patio/roof bar with views down to Times Square.
5. The Empire Hotel
If you want to feel a bit of that upper west side living this is where its at. The Empire hotel is only steps from Central Park and the Lincoln Centre. It has a very cool retro cool bohemian lounge feel to the interior. It also boasts a great rooftop bar in the aptly named Empire Rooftop Bar & Lounge.
Getting around Manhattan and to the boroughs surrounding Manhattan is easiest by the very efficient subway system of New York. Opened in 1904 it is one of the oldest public transport systems, one of the most used public transport systems and it has the most stations of any rapid transit system by 472 stations in operation. It averages 5,6 million rides on a weekday, and it is estimated that in a year there are around 1,8 billion rides on the subway system. The underground in New York is busy and sometimes a bit bewildering and overwhelming. We remember the first times we ventured underground via the stairs to the platforms, some stops are easy with just one line and trains going uptown or downtown, some stations are like badger holes with tracks stacked on top of each other and navigating all the platforms requires a local’s knowledge and skill. You will get on the wrong train, going in the wrong direction, we have done this many times, just get off at the next stop and switch tracks, no big deal. There are express trains running many of the different lines, these only stop at intermittent stations (you will see them roaring past on the middle tracks of stations where the express does not stop) and if you get on one by mistake, you might get a bit farther down the line than you expected, but as we have mentioned, just switch tracks, and backtrack on the next train going the other way. The subway of New York is like a movie set, just hanging at a station feels like you are an extra in some gritty New York movie scene. To ride the subway (and buses overground) you need to buy a Metro Card, a credit card type card that you fill up with credits, almost all stations have vending machines that sell cards and for filling up your card. A card costs 1USD and you can reuse it on your next New York trip. Riding the subway costs 2.75USD for most rides. You can buy unlimited ride Metro Card that gives you unlimited rides for a certain length of time. The 7-day card is perhaps the most usable for visitors, it costs 33USD for 7 days. If you use the card more than 12 times in 7 days or less, this is maybe the best option for you. Please go to the MTA site to check out option for rides, maps, and what Metro Card to choose. You could also utilize the New York taxis if you can hail one on the street, they seem to always be on a mission to somewhere else. More popular later years is of course Uber, download the app, state your destination, and choose a car, within seconds you have your own private driver. Works great in New York and tends to be cheaper than taxis.
First Time Visitor?
New York is enormous, it is a huge city, most first, second, third- and fourth-time visitors will only see Manhattan, after all this is where most of the major sights are. There are people living in Manhattan that will never leave Manhattan, and why would they, it is the centre of the world. There is so much to see and so much to do in Manhattan, so the need to go anywhere else on your first visit is just not needed. We would recommend to first pinpoint what you would like to see as “must sees” on your first visit, there is no chance to see everything, so concentrate your first effort on what you want to see. We highly recommend for all first-time visitors to do a Hop on Hop off bus experience on your first day, just to get an impression of Manhattan, get your bearings and a feel for the layout of the city. We always do this in any new big city we visit.
We would also recommend booking an experience on one of New York’s skyscrapers. Our favourite is Top Of The Rock on Rockefeller plaza, unprecedented views over Central Park and downtown to Empire State building and further down to the tip of Manhattan island. It is spectacular, in daytime and at night-time with all the lights shining all around you. The good thing is that you can book an exact time for entering, so the lines are not that long, and they have a daytime/night-time option as well here.
Second option for skyscraper epicness is the granddaddy of all skyscrapers, Empire State building. When it opened in 1931 the art deco skyscraper was the tallest building in the world, and it remained New York’s tallest building until the twin towers of World Trade Center were opened in 1970. It stands rather alone in mid-town Manhattan, so it’s a great landmark when you walk around Manhattan’s grid streets and wonder if you are walking uptown or downtown, you can just look for the Empire State Building situated on the west side of 5th Avenue between 33rd and 34th Street. The very cool art deco lobby can be entered from 350 fifth avenue. Like Top of The Rock tickets can be pre purchased for a set time to avoid queues. The views from the observation deck are epic, the only drawback compared to Top of The Rock is that you can not see Empire State building itself, and the views towards Central Park are better from Top Of The Rock.
The last and newest skyscraper observation deck experience is in the new building One World Trade Center and their observation deck One World Observatory. This is the tallest building in New York, and it also holds deep significance for New Yorkers and people of the world since it stands next to the site where the two towers of World Trace Centre once stood. It is a stark reminder of what happened on 11. September 2001 when the twin towers collapsed by the hands of terrorists. On street level before you visit the observation deck, we strongly recommend visiting the 9/11 memorial with the two gaping holes where once the two towers stood.
The observation deck itself is on the 100th floor and gives great views to the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge and north towards mid-town and the Empire State Building. After visiting this site, we would say that the short walk south to Battery Park is worth the small detour. Walk from the 9/11 memorial west towards the Hudson River and walk the genuinely nice esplanade along the river down to the park. From here there is also a great view of the Statue of Liberty and for movie buffs you are not far from the entrance to the Men in Black offices. At the northern end of the park is the huge ventilation building for the tunnel running under the park and East River, this building was used as the entrance to the Men in Black office in the movies. The area to your north east is the financial district, and the oldest part of Manhattan. A short walk and you can have a look at the bronze charging bull on Bowling Green and Wall street a few blocks to the east.
While in the area a great way to get on the water, feel like a local and get up and personal with the Statue of Liberty, for free, is to take a ride on the iconic Staten Island Ferry running from the Whitehall Terminal on the south eastern end of Battery Park. One of the last ferries to run across the river, this is a remnant of when there were no bridges and all crossings had to be done by boat to the Manhattan island. It is a great little freebie in a city than can be quite expensive.
Sports and Entertainment
New York is the home of iconic teams like New York Yankees and New York Mets in the baseball league, New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets play world class basketball and New York Rangers and New York Islanders play ice hockey. Venues like the legendary Madison Square Garden play host to basketball and the Knicks and ice hockey and the Rangers. Some of the most legendary bands have all played the Garden, from The Beatles to Led Zeppelin and Pearl Jam. We have seen a hockey match on Thursday evening in the Garden, and the next evening we have been seated on centre field watching a concert by Temple of The Dog. Small and big venues have come and gone during the years, read our post about Bleecker Street where among other clubs the infamous GBGBs held fort and nurtured New York bands for years. We have seen the Black Crowes at Hammerstein Ballroom, and in the newly built home of Brooklyn Nets the Barclays Centre we have sung along to Pearl Jam two nights in a row. Not to mention the clubs in New York, they come and go with trends and times, but the most famous of them all Studio 54 laid down the benchmark for all other discos of the world to follow. The Apollo theatre in Harlem has seen every great soul man and woman from James Brown to Aretha Franklin, a true icon in the world of live shows.
To catch a show on Broadway, see a hockey or basketball match in the Garden or a concert, is eyewatering expensive. Most of the sports games are fully booked years in advance, by season ticket holders on the most part, so to get tickets you need to pay the price they ask and use the official resale channels via the venues themselves. We have seen a few hockey matches in the Garden (and they are great! And even greater when we had our Norwegian on the team, the great Mats Zuccharello) we have found that hockey is a bit more lively compared to basketball. Whatever you fancy, New York has something to cater to every need, just remember to use official channels to get tickets, if you don’t you might get hustled by one of the many cunning ticket touts. The most excellent Time Out people have a good calendar of what is going on in New York at any time.
New York City Walks
New York City Eats
It is hard for us to recommend places to eat with the Covid pandemic ravaging the New York citizens, businesses, and restaurants. These days so many restaurants close, and we have little information on which place is open and which are closed at time of writing this (February 2021). We will try and update this section as soon as we can based on more “normal” times when they are upon us.
We are crossing our fingers for favourites like Cipriani in SoHo, Eataly complex at Madison Square Park, and our favourite Izakaya Nomad which closed temporarily in December 2020. One of the greatest rooftop bars with grand views of Empire State Building is still open, check out 230-fifth for a drink and food with views to die for.
For breakfast we have in later years always ended up at one of the branches of Le Pain Quotidien, especially the SoHo branch. And for a quick burger there is no place like the Shake Shack. There are numerous blogs about eating in New York, check out The Infatuation for more inspiration. And do not forget to stop at any of the great food trucks parked by parks, sidewalks and in small groups on parking lots. They have suffered greatly during Covid, so support them if you can. The Infatuation has a good and comprehensive guide to what trucks are operating at any time in Manhattan.
Off the beaten path
If you ever get tired of New York, you are basically tired of life. We have been visiting about 20 times since the late 90s, and the city keeps developing. We have only scratched the surface for you, and we want to go back as soon as we can. For the adventurous who want to go outside Manhattan and explore other areas, we would say that these are some places we have been and liked a lot:
- Coney Island: take the subway to Coney island and walk the boardwalk at the beach. Eat a hotdog at world famous Nathan`s, marvel at the old fairground attractions and the vintage rollercoaster. If you dig the Ramones, head up the shore to Rockaway Beach, just because.
2. Brooklyn is also one of those boroughs that have had a regeneration in the later years. Filled with great restaurants, biergartens and the house that Jay Z built, Barclays Arena.
3. Williamsburg rose to fame during the great hipster years of the 2010s. Home to the original hipster brewery Brooklyn Brewery it is worth the trip across East River.
4. Harlem. We strongly recommend to take the trip uptown to Harlem and get a Sunday service at one of the many churches in the neighbourhood. We had a blast with the congregation singing hymns with a big band and the gospel singers in their robes singing the lords praise. After service, get some soul food in your belly at Sylvias!
5. Do a movie tour! New York has been the location of so many classic movies, so if you want to nerd out on the Godfather, Ghostbusters, or Avengers, take a tour!
New York City Walks:
If you are like us a music fan, movie buff, pizza lover, pop culture afficionado or just an urban rat who loves to roam the streets, Bleecker Street is the street for you. Bleecker Street connects East Village and Bowery with West Village and ends at Abingdon Square. Today it is most famous for the Greenwich Village nightclub district, music venues and comedy clubs but it was once the epicentre for American bohemia and 60s music, and the street starts/ends at one of the icons of punk rock culture, CBGBs. Robert De Niro grew up on Bleecker St, 177A Bleecker Street is the location of Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Santorum and Iggy Pop has discussed dying on Bleecker Street in the song “Punk Rocker”. It is safe to say that Bleecker Street is the major artery in New York’s pop cultural pulse.
Where to start?
Our walk starts in the east and the Bowery district. Easiest way is to take the Subway B D F or M to Broadway-Lafayette St and then walk east on Houston St, then do a left on Bowery and you will have Bleecker Street on your left after 1 block.
Before you set off to the west down the street, cross Bowery to the east and visit the old site of CBGBs, the most infamous rock club in New York, and perhaps the world. CBGB OMFUG (Country, BlueGrass and Blues and Other Music for Uplifting Gormandizers) club was opened in 1973. It soon became the melting pot for new wave and punk rock New York bands like the Ramones, Television, Patti Smith Group, Blondie and Talking Heads.
It was a small hole in the wall sweatbox of a club, and their toilet was infamous. The number of great bands that played that small venue is mindboggling. The Police played their first US gig there, Elvis Costello, Misfits, Television, Joan Jett and the Beastie Boys to name a few also played there. The venue closed on October 15th 2006 after Patti Smith had played the last show at CBGBs, it was a great loss to the music world. The venue today holds an upmarket Rock n Roll clothes shop by John Varvatos. Luckily, they have kept the wall decorations of old posters, flyers, and gob from countless punks.
Overthrow Boxing Club
A very cool façade and entrance to the Overthrow Boxing club at number 9 Bleecker Street with some fine murals next to the building. There are several nice old school Federal architecture houses between number 7 to 13 and 21 to 25 Bleecker Street. There used to be a mission at number 21 and 29 that provided a home for “fallen women”, attempting to reform prostitutes and unwed pregnant women around the turn of the 19th century. Look for the writing above the door at number 21 that bear the lettering “Florence Night Mission”.
Continuing east you cross Lafayette St, Broadway and Mercer Street before you get some rather large and imposing blocks on your right hand. This is the bottom end of New York University apartment blocks and the campus itself expands north towards Washington Square park. You are now entering the fabled Greenwich Village. La Guardia Place has some nice outdoor eateries on the left side of Bleecker. No 152 Bleecker Street is the former location of the Café Au Go Go, a Greenwich Village nightclub located in the basement of the New Andy Warhol Garrick Theatre building in the late 1960s.
The club featured many of the biggest names in music and entertainment between the opening in February 1964 until closing in December 1970. The Grateful Dead had their New York debut at the club and continued to play no less than 10 times in 1967 and 3 in 1969. Other music legends who played there were among many Jimi Hendrix, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, Tim Buckley, Muddy Waters, Howlin` Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Cream, The Yardbirds and The Doors (what a club!). Further across Thompson and Sullivan St the number of pubs, bars and restaurants increase.
Where Bleecker crosses MacDougal Street you should take a short detour north up MacDougal street. The amount of old and famous watering holes, cafes, and clubs in the few blocks up to Washington Square park is the stuff of legends. At the corner of Bleecker and MacDougal at No 93 is the former site of the San Remo Café, the heart of the bohemian movement. This was the hangout of luminaries like William S. Burroughs, Miles Davis, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Jackson Pollock and Dylan Thomas just to name a few. Imagine!
Bob Dylan owned an apartment at No 94. Dylan also made his debut at famed Café Wha? At No 115, also famous for Jimi Hendrix playing some of his first gigs here. Other acts that played concerts at Café Wha? Includes Bruce Springsteen and The Velvet Underground. The Comedy Cellar at No 117 has featured every name in comedy and is still going strong. Café Reggio at No 119 has been a coffeehouse since 1927 and has been featured in many movies including The Godfather Part II. Left on West 3rd St is the famous jazz joint Blue Note.
Washington Square Park
We would suggest walking as far as Washington Square park, our favourite small park in New York. The south western corner is occupied by chess hustlers. Keep walking into the square in the middle of the park and look at the Washington Square Arch and the view through the arch up 5th Avenue. The arch has been used in movies and in the intro for the Friends sitcom series.
Continuing west on Bleecker Street we recommend a cup of espresso at Porto Rico Importing Co. they have been pushing the caffeine high since 1907. Crossing 6th Avenue, the street veers off in a more northernly direction into West Village. Sit down with your espresso at Father Demo Square, an Italian style piazza great for people watching.
Bleecker Street between 6th Avenue and 7th Avenue with side streets is a small foodies paradise. A plethora of cool restaurants, delis, and takeaway joints. Drool at the Italian sweet goodness at Pasticceria Rocco. Murrays Mac and Cheese which does exactly what is says on the façade, serve delish mac and cheese. Faiccos Italian Specialties with their sandwiches filled with home made sausanges and other assorted artisan meats. Next door is Trattoria Pesce Pasta with great outdoor seating. And next door to that is another Murrays, namely Murrays Cheese Bar. And if you fancy some great oysters, do a right down Cornelia Street to Pearl Oyster bar. Further down Bleecker Street is the pizza institution of Johns of Bleecker Street, serving pizza to New York since 1929. And our favourite small hole in the wall pizza place is on the corner of 7th Avenue, Bleecker Street Pizza. Delish cheap pizza with some inside dining on respatex tables, if you cannot find a place, grab a takeaway slice and find a place to sit outside and enjoy one of the best slices of pie in New York.
Past 7th Avenue Bleecker Street changes content again and turns in to a shopper’s paradise. Lots of cool small independent upmarket clothes shops. At the intersection of Perry street, you can walk down the street to the east and see Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment entrance at Perry Street No 64 known from the hugely popular and very New York series Sex and the City. On the corner of Bleecker Street and West 11th lies the well-known Magnolia Bakery.
Thank you, Bleecker Street!
At 8th Avenue it is all over. Bleecker Street ends and turns into Hudson Street at Abingdon Square. No big fanfare or disco lights, it just ends just as abruptly as it started in Bowery. The distance is no more than 1,1 miles (less that 2 kilometres) but it is jam packed with all that makes New York tick. For us it is the ultimate New York street, combining popular culture, food, drinks and sights in a spectacular way. The best of all is when Bleecker Street ends you are only 3 blocks from another great area with some great sights, The Meatpacking District and one of the coolest walks in the world, The Highline.
The Meatpacking district is sandwiched between Chelsea and Greenwich village. The area is roughly situated between Horatio Street in the south and 16th Street in the north. Compared to the orderly grid system of most of Manhattan, this area is a rather confusing mix street names, numbers and no avenues. For first time visitors just getting used to the relative ease of the grid, google maps on your phone is essential. The Meatpacking district takes its name from the hundreds of meatpacking plants and slaughterhouses that used to do business supplying meat to Manhattan. The meat came in via the railway line that is now the High Line. It was once a major hub for meat wholesalers, these days only a few remain. The very rough area known for raw meat, seedy bars, prostitution and drugs in the early 1990s started to get clean by upmarket designer brands moving in during the later parts of that decade. Like so many of the other seedy old Manhattan districts the Meatpacking district was gentrified and cleaned up and got very expensive. Since our first visit to the area more than 20 years ago it has changed immensely and they have cleaned up almost every corner and street, and maybe lost a little of that dangerous vibe that hung over some of the backstreets and bars like the legendary Hogs and Heiffers bar – one of the last true dive bars in Manhattan.
The first luxury hotel to open in the area was the very upscale Gansevoort hotel that boasts a very cool and very expensive rooftop bar complete with pool. The luxury boutique hotel The Standard High Line opened in 2009 and actually straddles the High Line, it also has a great rooftop bar with views to die for. And on street level they have a great biergarten open in the summer.
Behind the hotel lies another Meatpacking institution, the Brass Monkey bar has been serving libations since 2004. If you just need that caffeine kick, we highly recommend the brilliant Kobrick coffee on the corner of 9th and 13th Street. If you want to visit one of the longest continually running restaurants in the US, and feel like eating some quality meat, head over to Old Homestead Steakhouse (look for the giant cow over the entryway) – they have been serving guests since 1868. On 9th Avenue between 15th and 16th Street lies Chelsea Market, a true New York landmark. Occupying an entire block, it is filled with food and retail marketplaces with a global perspective. A must visit in the area and you will for sure get lost in the maze of shops, restaurants, take away joints and artists selling their wares.
Towards 10th street the High Line has its own spur running through the building since it was originally built and occupied by the company that invented and produced the Oreo cookie. If you have a hankering for visiting a great museum, The Whitney Museum of American Art “The Whitney” opened at its new location in 99 Gansevoort Street in 2015. It boasts great works of American artists like Andy Warhol, Man Ray and George Bellows. The Meatpacking district walk is easily combined with the Bleecker Street walk, then continuing on the High Line for a full day of great New York walking. The Meatpacking district changes into a hub of food and drinks in the evening, there are plenty of cool restaurants, trendy bars, and cool nightclubs in the area.
The High Line
One of the more unique and special city walks in the world must be the High Line in New York. It has a fascinating history and an even more fascinating present history. Combine it with the oh so hip Meatpacking district and you have a full day of impressions and a belly full of food.
The Highline is a 1.45 mile (2.33km) long elevated park constructed on the old rail line on the western part of Manhattan that used to supply the Meatpacking district of New York with meat. The trains ran from 1933 to early 1980s. It fell into disuse and disrepair and was almost torn down in the 1990s. At the beginning of the millennium a non-profit organization called Friends Of The High Line took over and a design competition for a unique park was initiated in 2003. In 2006 the construction of the High Line started and in 2009 the first part of the park opened from Gansevoort Street to 20th street. In 2011 the next stretch opened from 20th to 30th street and in 2014 the third part opened to 34th street. The last area to be opened was the second spur of the line above 30th street which offered access to the Hudson Yards and the spectacular The Vessel installation, it opened in 2019.
As with most major tourist destinations in Manhattan and New York, you should either get there early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid the crowds. Check the opening times on the website. The High Line is in places very narrow, naturally since there was only one track most of the distance the trains ran. To avoid walking in a great queue, avoid the rush hour of day tourists during mid-day.
The whole High Line is a gallery, art is spread along the line, great murals are painted on the walls of adjoining buildings and the park is well maintained and groomed. All plants, flowers, trees, and brushes are local and carefully selected by the gardeners. Along the line there are disused spurs that run into warehouses, now planted with wildflowers. In the tunnels running through some warehouses there are vendors selling souvenirs, coffee, water, and other assorted trinkets to commemorate your visit. Along the track there are seating areas, and a small amphitheatre with a window down 10th Avenue. There are magnificent views across Manhattan both to the east and the west down the streets that connect East river with the Hudson river. One of the best views is down 15th Street where you can see the overpass between the Chelsea Market’s two buildings.
On the corner on 10th Avenue and 22nd Street is the genuine and Instagram friendly The Empire Diner. Great outside seating, authentic diner inside seating and great food is a killer combo.
The High Line is a must on a first visit to New York. It rates among the world’s greatest tourist destinations, and rightly so, it is a unique space in an urban setting. The past connected to the future via a walkway lined with nature and art.
Central Park is, in our humble opinion, the greatest inner-city park in the world. Opened in 1876 the park gets around 42 million visitors per year. It is located between the Upper West side and Upper East side of Manhattan. And in the south, it starts at 59th Street and ends in the north at 110th street and the start of Harlem. It is hard to fathom how big the park really is, at 843 acres (1.317 sq miles or 3.41 km2) it is simply huge (bigger than the nation of Monaco)! It contains lakes, skating rinks, carousels, galleries, cafes, restaurants, museums, large fields for sports like baseball and it has its own zoo! In the middle of the park is a great big water reservoir named after Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. You could probably use a lifetime and never really get to know every nook and cranny of the park, and we have only seen some of the park’s many different attractions on our visits. We would recommend checking out National Geographics excellent guide to Central Park for more in-depth information. Central Park is also the most filmed location in the world, around 250 movies have used the park as a location, some of our all-time favourites like The Fisher King, When Harry met Sally and The Avengers.
Suggested first time walk
If you are a first-time visitor, and want to experience Central Park, stick to the southern end. Start at the corner of 5th Avenue and 59th Street at the subway station, the lines N R W run via this station. Walk on the right-hand side of The Pond via the picturesque Gapstow bridge and the Victorian Gardens Amusement Park and then straight on to the Mall and Literary Walk that ends up at Bethesda Terrace and fountain. This site has been used for many movies and tv shows. It has great views over The Lake and the Loeb Boathouse to your right. If you can get a reservation here for lunch it is a spectacular location. And if you feel like rowing The Lake in a small boat, this is where you can rent one for a romantic cruise in Central Park.
From the Bethesda Terrace we would recommend going to your left (north west) to the beautiful Bow Bridge, arching over The Lake it gives a very cool photo opportunity with the apartment blocks of Central Park West in the background, including The Dakota, home of many celebrities including John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Yoko still lives there.
Cross over Bow Bridge and enter The Ramble. A naturally wooded and rocky area that has kept some of the wilderness of the woods before it was turned into a park.
Beyond The Ramble lies Belvedere Castle – a faux medieval looking stone castle in Gothic and Romanesque design. It looks cool and the top tower gives a great view of the park. Next to the castle lies Shakespeare Garden, an area landscaped to look like the English countryside.
The last stop in the northern direction is the Great Lawn. Some say this is the most famous lawn in the world, and who are we to argue? 55 acres of lush green well kept lawn flanked by big trees with the New York skyline in the background is very cool indeed. This is the site for any major concerts in the park, and if you visit on Saturdays or Sundays you will see baseball teams play friendly matches, the police VS the fire brigade or some other high stake game for bragging rights. Americans favourite pastime is played by everybody in all shapes and sizes. Make sure to sit down on a bench and watch an inning or two, it is great fun to hear the on-pitch banter and swearing.
Walk straight west until you meet the street Central Park West and walk southwards until you stand at the stairs of the American Museum of Natural History. A great museum used for the movie franchise “Night at the Museum”.
Back into the park again, there is a great photo spot by The Lake called Hernshead just behind the Ladies Pavilion. Continue south and you will soon find Strawberry Fields, a living memorial to Beatles legend and peace activist John Lennon. This small park within a park was dedicated on what should have been John Lennon’s 45th birthday on October 9th, 1985. It is a designated quiet zone within Central Park and is endorsed as a garden of peace by 121 countries. Just across the road lies the Dakota building where John Lennon was murdered on the 8th of December 1980.
If you by now feel like having a snack, coffee or just fill up with some food, you should try and get a table at the Tavern on the Green, the iconic Central Park restaurant.
Should you feel like burning off some of those lunch calories, Umpire Rock is just up the road to the south. A great vantage point made up of bedrock 450 million years old, Umpire Rock (or more correctly Rat Rock due to the number of rats swarming around the rock some years ago) gives commanding views of nearby Heckscher Ballfields.
End your Central Park walk at Columbus Circle and the Maine monument commemorating 260 lost American sailors from the USS Maine who sank in Havana, Cuba, in 1898.
Columbus Circle subway station has lines A C B and D running through it, easy for getting back downtown in a hurry. Or you could just walk 10 blocks south on Broadway, and suddenly you are at the busiest place in Manhattan, Times Square.
I want to ride my bicycle!
Another option if you feel a bit more adventurous and have the urge to explore more in less time is renting a bicycle. We have done this one time and it was great. Central Park has plenty of scenic roads that used to be occupied by cars and taxis. Now most of those roads are closed for traffic and opened to pedestrians, joggers, and bicyclists. Just the traverse roads are still open but there are only 4 or those open to cars. When you walk or cycle please beware of other pedestrians or bikers, follow the directions and markings on the roads. We biked all the way from 59th street and up to Harlem and back again, and we got to see some cool sights, and the number of tourists diminish the closer you get to Harlem. Central Park is not entirely flat like you might think, we got some good exercise with the small hills around Harlem Meer and the North Woods. We rented bikes at Bike Rent NYC. You could also consider having one of their excellent bike tours with a guide.
Central Park is like a small nation within a city. There is so much to see and so much to do in all seasons of the year. We have not even mentioned the many museums and galleries on 5th Avenue or all the wildlife that exists in the park. Good luck when you explore, and do not be afraid to get lost, it is a safe park, and the worst thing that can happen is that you find a secret location and get some great Instagram photos. If you need a map of the park, this is a great one from Applied Way Finding.
New York Shopping
New York is a shopper’s mecca, no doubt about it. Anything from high street fashion to streetwear to cheap and vintage at the markets that pop up around town on the weekends. And depending on what kind of shopper you are, you will find like us, that different areas offer different kinds of experiences. Our favourite area is without a doubt SoHo and the lower part of Broadway adjacent to the SoHo area. We do venture to 5th Avenue where all the major flagship stores are, but the smaller and independent shops of SoHo is where we always end up on our shopping outings. We will try and give a short explanation into our shopping favourite areas and streets, you will not find that Gucci shit (pun intended) or the major retail brands featured here, we prefer our shopping more independent and street style like.
Our recommended shopping day starts at Union Square, this is where 5th Avenue and Broadway meet and split up again at the iconic Flatiron building. One of the biggest icons of New York, the Flatiron building is a must see on any New York visit. The building itself looking like an iron, hence the name, with its sharp edge towards Union Square. The street at the pointy end of the building is made up of benches and tables for eating and just enjoying the sun if it’s shining. The whole area and park have been spruced up in later years and has gone from a major traffic jam to a more sedate and nice place to sit and watch people walk by on their way either down Broadway to the left side of Flatiron or 5th Avenue on the right hand side.
If you need some breakfast or lunch before shopping commences, see if you can find Eataly on your right-hand side if you are facing Flatiron building. Eataly is a fusion of two words Eat and Italy, it is a huge space filled with cheese, wine, pasta, takeaway, restaurants, and a great rooftop bar that serves drinks, beer, and glorious Italian food. Just to walk around and look at all the great produce is very cool, and the selection of food is mesmerising.
If you need a quick snack, the Shake Shack burger bar in Union Square park is a great option as well, one of our favourite burgers with branches in many locations in Manhattan and around the US.
Walking down Broadway there will be shops on either side of the street, but the biggest pull of this first part of Broadway before you reach Union Square Park is the Paragon Sports store just after you have crossed 18th Street. A HUGE sports store thar contains everything sports related that is in existence it seems. 5 floors of clothes, shoes, apparel and whatever you need to be a sporty person. It can be a bit tricky to see the entrance, we have walked past it a few times, if you stay alert on the western side of Broadway after 18th street, you will find it.
Union Square is another one of those great Manhattan parks that are dispersed throughout the city. On the western side is where most of the action is. The Union Square Greenmarket is a fresh produce market on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Grab a freshly made smoothie or a kale shot from one of the vendors. Plenty of shops on the western street part of the park and on the corner of Union Sq. West and 14th Street there is always lots of action from street dancers and hustlers trying to make a living.
Broadway “disappears” on Union Square, the street itself becomes part of the park and reappears in the south eastern corner of Union Square and 14th Street. The next few blocks are mostly restaurants and takeaway places, not so many shops due to the proximity of the New York University Campus. You will walk by the beautiful Grace Church. If you have the time, take a small detour 2 blocks west on Waverly Place and do a visit to our favourite park Washington Square Park.
A few blocks after Waverly Place you will cross Bleecker Street, our favourite street in New York. Bleecker street is featured in our New York City Walks, Bleecker Street blog post. After Bleecker you will meet the traffic machine that is Houston Street. After you have crossed Houston you are officially in SoHo (SOuth of HOuston).
Continuing down Broadway the density of shops really hits the roof. Every major brand is represented on this part of Broadway from Houston to Canal Street. From Adidas to Nike, The North Face to American Eagle and All Saints to Zara, you can truly shop `till you drop. And when you reach Canal Street, turn around and get lost in the streets of SoHo. The good thing about Broadway is that there are subway lines running under it the whole way, so if you suddenly need to get uptown to drop off some heavy shopping bags, the R and the W lines run up and down Broadway every minute or so.
SoHo is one of the most charming areas of Manhattan and New York. This area of New York has been transformed from industrial hub to upscale lofts and apartments for artists and wealthy New Yorkers. The area’s history is an archetypical example of inner-city regeneration and gentrification. The whole area of SoHo is included in the SoHo Cast Iron District, it consists of 26 blocks and around 500 buildings that are declared national landmarks incorporating cast-iron architecture and many of the side streets are paved with cobblestones or Belgian blocks. The SoHo area with all the shops, restaurants and bars is roughly the area between Broadway in the east, 6th Avenue in the west, Houston Street in the north and Canal Street in the south. There are so many shops, both major retail and smaller independent shops, combined with art galleries and great restaurants and bars, so you could easily spend one day just in SoHo, or maybe a whole weekend. Our favourite hotel is here as well The Soho Grand, which is featured in our favourite New York hotels blog post. We love this area, and we make sure to visit every time we are in New York.
Brooklyn Flea we have mentioned in our Brooklyn Bridge post, and this market is one of the biggest there is in New York. In winter they are located in Chelsea Market and in summer they relocate outdoors in DUMBO under the Brooklyn bridge. Check out the excellent Like A Local Tours for a comprehensive list of New York Markets.
If you can`t find what you are looking for in New York, there is a chance you might never find it. The amount of shops small and large is just amazing. Just make sure to stop and fill up with food and hydrate on the way to shopping nirvana. Good luck!
Perhaps the most iconic bridge of them all, one of the most beautiful and photographed bridges in the world for sure. Up there with Tower Bridge, Sidney Harbour Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge as icons in the world of bridges. A true icon of New York.
The Brooklyn Bridge was the first fixed crossing of the East River between Manhattan Island and Long Island and Brooklyn, it was originally called the New York and Brooklyn Bridge or the East River Bridge when it opened in 1883. It was renamed the Brooklyn Bridge in 1915. It was the longest suspension bridge in the world at the time of its opening and it is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the US. The span between the two suspension towers is 486 metres and it is 26 metres wide. The height above water is 38,7 metres from the car deck depending on the tide. The towers are 85 metres tall and built of limestone and granite.
The easiest way to access the pedestrian walkway that spans the bridge is to take the subway to either Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall subway station (lines 4-5-6) or the Chambers Street station (lines M-J-Z). From both stations there is just a few metres walk southwards to the Brooklyn Bridge Promenade. The usual recommendation of getting there early applies, the throngs of likeminded tourists can get busy mid-day and onwards. Be mindful when you walk on the promenade that you stick to the pedestrian side of the walkway, the indigenous New Yorkers on bikes do not look friendly on tourists rambling in the bike lane. If you do, there will be choice words yelled and middle fingers raised by those on two wheels. The promenade spans the whole bridge and gives breath-taking views back towards lower Manhattan and the New York by Gehry buildings, One World Trade Center and several other iconic New York skyscrapers. At the towers the promenade splits in two and there is plenty of room to step aside and read the information placards and plaques. If you feel thirsty there are lots of vendors trying to earn a few bucks from tourists that have forgotten that water is an ok thing to carry on a hot day. The best views are from the middle of the bridge where the spans dip down and leave clear sightlines towards Manhattan, down the East River towards Governors Island and up the river towards Manhattan Bridge and Williamsburg Bridge.
Approaching the Brooklyn end of the bridge you should dip down to the DUMBO area just under the bridge. The DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) is a cool little neighbourhood that in the 19th and beginning of 20th century was a warehouse and industrial district but in the late 20th century the whole area was bought as a development by David Valentas and his company and remade into an upscale residential and commercial district. Currently DUMBO is a hub for technology start-ups. The streets are still rich in traditional architecture, and some have cobblestones.
The whole area south and north of the bridge by East River is very cool. Both sides have parks with great views towards Manhattan. Head south of the bridge to 1 Hotel with magnificent views of Manhattan both to stay at or just to have a drink on their epic roof terrace. On both sides there are parks, some of the coolest streets for photos and of course a plethora of coffeeshops, eateries and small galleries. Restaurants like Superfine, Gran Electrica, Archway Café, Front Street Pizza and Los Tacos Al Pastor are all part of the tres cool outdoor dining scene in DUMBO. The whole area was designated a Historic District in 2007. In the summertime the best flea market in New York holds fort just under the bridge to the north. Brooklyn Flea is a must see in summer, it changes location in winter, so just check their website for further info.
To get back to Manhattan just walk to the York Street Subway (M line) and head back with the subway across the bridge.
Thank you New York, we love you!
The pull of New York is constant. We are sad to hear and read about how Covid has affected New York and USA in general, we truly hope that some day everything will be back to normal and tourists can come back to the greatest city on earth, The Big Apple, New York we love you!