a large white building with many people

In the city of blinding lights, you’ll find everything you’re looking for. It’s the city dreams are made of, where there’s nothing you can’t do. That’s probably why they named it twice. And yes, we totally just ripped off two famous songs to draw you in here to this New York City guide.

Whether you’re looking for falafel trucks at 4AM or the Frick collection at 4PM, we’ve got you covered with this easy guide to maximizing your time in the big city, getting around and enjoying some of the very best spots from quick coffee to fine dining…

There’s even some “out there” stuff, like affordable helicopter rides into the city and hip hop tours of Brooklyn!

Getting There

NYC is one of the easiest cities to reach, whatever the means of transportation. With direct trains from most East Coast cities to Pennsylvania Station and no fewer than three easy major airports including LaGuardia for domestic flights as well as Kennedy and Newark for international arrivals, you’ve got options.

Newark offers perhaps the quickest route into lower Manhattan, while John F. Kennedy Airport offers excellent connectivity to midtown and Brooklyn. Here’s a guide to riding the AirTrain from JFK, which is often the quickest and most cost efficient solution.

Once in the city, Uber, Lyft, Subways and busses are everywhere. There’s also now helicopter rides from Blade for $125, which is incredibly cool (and fast)!

a large building with many people

Where To Stay

As you may have guessed, there’s no shortage of hotel or Airbnb options in New York City.

If convenience is key, midtown offers plenty of palatable options which can easily connect you further up or downtown, such as the Kimpton EventiHotel Giraffe or Andaz Fifth.

For amazing city views and a perfect location in the buzzing West Village, The Standard is tough to beat, as is the High Line Hotel.

Hudson Yards newcomer The Pendry is also sensational, as is the food at Zou Zou’s, but it’ll cost you a pretty penny!

If you’re thinking Central Park walks, art galleries and upscale Upper East or Upper West Side dining, the Mandarin Oriental is about as sophisticated as it gets, and the same goes for the St. Regis or the Plaza, while the lovely Hotel Elysee offers a more affordable take.

If you’re looking for something less traditional, Williamsburg offers hip takes with cool skyline views from the McCarren Hotel, Wythe and William Vale.

Best Breakfast Options In New York

It may not be unique to New York, but breakfast at a Laduree’s Soho cafe is a classic, even amongst New Yorkers. If you’re looking for a quicker bite, perhaps one with some pastry on the go, Supermoon Bakehouse, Bien Cuit and Daily Provisions are great choices, as are any Blue Bottle or Bluestone Lanes locations.

a plate of food on a table

For breakfasts fit for an Instagram star (the food, not you) Dominique Ansel offers an extraordinary range of sinfully good pastries, cakes and other treats at their downtown spot.

If there’s a celebration or you feel like grazing for a boozy, indulgent brunch: Baar Baar, Buttermilk Channel and Buvette are classics.

If you’re feeling adventurous and love a bit of Sunday gospel, Red Rooster by Marcus Samuelsson is an experience you’ll never forget, and a great excuse to see the renaissance of Harlem.

For good coffee: Stumptown Coffee Roasters, The Elk, or Black Fox will hit all the right perky notes. 9th Street espresso in Chelsea Market is also a gem. Blue Bottle Coffee can also be found in just about every neighborhood.

people walking on a path by a body of water with a bridge and people walking

Sightseeing Basics

If it’s your first time in New York, we’ll excuse a brief sunrise or sunset visit to Times Square. But after that, you must leave. There are no New Yorkers, or real New York pizza’s to be seen there, nor will there ever be, despite what you’ve heard. It’s only ok to visit this area if you’re going to the theatre, once you’ve seen it.

Looking for the iconic NYC photo?

If you need to get the obligatory skyline photo, be sure to go to Top Of The Rock at Rockefeller Center, rather than the Empire State Building. Why? Because you’ll actually have the landmark in your photo! Hoboken and Williamsburg are also great locations to get the entire city in one frame!

The new addition of Little Island, a floating island off the West Side of Manhattan provides another unique vantage point for great snaps (and great fun).

NYC Subway Guide For Dummies

Now that those things are out of the way, it’s important to remember how easy it is to get around NYC by subway, so don’t fret if you find yourself hopping back and forth and if you’ve got the time – just walk. The subway is intuitive though, we promise.

Uptown trains will take you to street numbers going up, and downtown means numbers will go down. If you’re on 89th street, you’ll want a downtown train, if you’re going to 14th street. Got it? New York is best on foot, perhaps even without a direction in mind, and especially during the day, it’s very very safe.

a snow covered trees and a lake in a city

Artsy Sightseeing

A trip to New York would be remiss without a visit to Central Park. Once there, you’re so close to the MoMA, The Frick, Museum of Natural History, the Guggenheim and other worthy art galleries, if you’re into that sort of thing. It’s so easy to walk in and out of Central Park, as you weave your way from gallery to gallery, and it would be a shame not to.

Though it’s a bit controversial, we’d give a pass to the Whitney in the West Village, with the exception of the Warhol exhibition. The museum seems seems to celebrate art as irony, rather than a beautiful skill. Compared to the MoMA, it just doesn’t stack up.

After you’ve completed your midtown and uptown sightseeing, grab a downtown subway train and head for the World Trade Center.

Between the stunning Oculus and the incredibly powerful 9/11 Memorial, you’ll be so glad you did.

Few places on earth replicate the powerful feelings and inspiration felt as you enter the Oculus, and walking out to admire One World Trade Center from the ground up is truly spectacular. And yeah, it’s New York, seeing a Broadway play is totally ok.

Day One Plan: NYC Highlights

In the morning, head to Central Park for a casual wander and some galleries. On a beautiful day, you can spend hours weaving North, South, East and West through the park, passing through each unique nook and corner. For any Beatles fans or those who adore John Lennon as much as we do, “Imagine” is a must visit in the west side of the park.

Grab a croissant at Maison Kayser or Bouchon Bakery and head for the MoMA. After a good few hours uptown falling in and out of the endless shops and galleries, find an inviting sidewalk cafe along Columbus or Amsterdam Avenues, before heading to Columbus Circle. From Columbus, take the A,C or E trains down to World Trade.

There’s so much to see from nearby Battery Park and Wall Street, and the area is easily worth an hour, before heading to One World Trade Center and of course, the 9/11 Memorial. as mentioned.

After a powerful afternoon seeing the soul of New York City, pick yourself up and walk your way up along the West Side, picking up the beloved High Line at 14th Street.

Enjoy life above the fray for a while, before doubling back and hitting Top Of The Standard – aka the Boom Boom Room for a very well deserved drink, ideally with a downtown facing table to watch the sunset over One World Trade. It’ll feel special, trust us.

Shopping In New York City

People come to New York just to shop, and if you’re one of them, you won’t be disappointed. From incredible curated vintage shops in the Lower East Side and Brooklyn, to the commanding luxury brands of Madison Avenue, there’s something for everyone.

a street with cars and buildings

Boutique NYC Shopping

If you want quirky, unique, one off shops in New York City, our advice would be to get lost in the Lower East Side, Soho and Williamsburg. Just drift around, and don’t be afraid, especially in Manhattan to wander away from the crowds.

If you want department stores, H&M and all things luxury, just plant yourself anywhere in lower midtown and start walking up Madison Avenue.

If you’re into cool Scandinavian design shops, curated art collections and high fashion runway stuff, the West Village, Greenwich Village and Meatpacking districts are where you can find all the stuff that’s designed to look homeless but chic but actually caries a ridiculous price tag.

A walk down Greenwich Ave will cure even the strongest of sartorial blues. It’s mecca for NYC fashion.

Top New York Dinner Recommendations

From world famous falafel trucks to the finest of fine dining, New York has it all. If you want cheap and cheerful, Gansevoort Market offers a selection of establishments in a cool environment, with something for everyone. It’s like Chelsea Market, but a bit less commercialized.

Even with all my favorites, I always cross reference the Eater “Best List” to see if there’s anything new and unique worth trying.

For heavenly Italian, at a price you can almost stomach, JAMS in the 1 Hotel from New York icon Jonathan Waxman doesn’t disappoint.

If a big, classic New York steak is what you’re after, Keens Steakhouse in midtown or Peter Luger in Brooklyn are your two best bets for the real thing. The Modern is a great fine dining spot with the “tip included” concept if two Michelin star level food is what you’re after for a special treat.

For high end sushi lovers, Sushi Nakazawa is a NYC legend which might break the bank, but shouldn’t require a second mortgage in the process. For more every day, outstanding Asian meals at reasonable prices, Thai Diner and Pad Thai mee offers top notch Thai. For Indian, Inday offers a fun take on Indian street food and Indian Accent an extremely sophisticated one.

For NYC Chinese food, the venerable Shun Lee offers sophisticated stuff, but there are plenty day to day options.

And finally, though New York might be the last place you’d expect it, you can find some of the finest barbecue (and bourbon) anywhere, at Fette Sau in Brooklyn. Still not sure? Check out this list of our favorites, which loads onto an easy map.

Best NYC Bars For Evening Drinks

There are so many ways to do drinks, and New York City offers every single one of them. From a true cocktail revolution at Attaboy in lower Manhattan, to a drink at the iconic Palm Court at the Plaza Hotel, you just can’t go wrong.

If cocktails are your thing, you’ll never be disappointed at Mister Paradise, Mace, Employees Only, NoMad Bar, Top Of The Standard, Bar Downstairs or Dead Rabbit.

If you’re into wine, La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels offers one of the finest wine programs anywhere in the world – and yes, they’re French. And if you’re into beer and sports bars, just turn a corner – you’ll find one.

a group of tall buildings

NYC Itinerary: Day Two

Assuming you got your shopping and cultural needs out of the way on Day 1, you can now enjoy New York City like a local. Take the train to downtown Brooklyn, DUMBO or Williamsburg and discover life just outside of the city.

These neighborhoods surrounding Manhattan offer refreshing takes on city life, and are straight out of the movies. Yep, you’ve probably seen every inch of these places in something. With unique local flair, you’ll find great places to eat, shop and peek around. Once you’ve made your way through a nice stretch, you must do the obligatory walk back across the Bridge.

For cosy walks, Both the Brooklyn and Williamsburg Bridge offer excellent, safe walking paths and will spit you out in a cool part of New York City. Wander around, find a nice corner slice of pizza, grab a great coffee and let the city come to you.

There’s no better way to spend your last day in NYC than just wandering, and watching neighborhoods change as you continue to move. If you feel like you’re in the wrong one, Uber is everywhere, as are Citi Bikes.

If you’ve got time, find your way to Bryant Park or any of the other casual squares around the city for a relaxing end to a perfect trip! Oh, and be sure to leave plenty of time to get to the airport!

That’s it. You’re out of time in the city that never sleeps. Well, occasionally on Sundays.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Love this. New York is one city I really need to revisit and will likely do so on my way to somewhere else. This itinerary is perfect.

  2. Maybe I’m reading this wrong but the train from EWR goes to Penn Station which isn’t lower Manhattan. You are perhaps referring to a taxi through the Holland Tunnel which would be lower Manhattan.

    1. I prefer EWR and I’ve always lived downtown- it’s easy to get in and out of. He’s correct- and train or car service from Penn is 15 mins to West village or Soho

  3. Disagree. Breakfast must be a bagel. It’s NYC. Tradition is tradition for a reason. Then walk the city. Don’t just ride around. See maybe one museum if you must. Avoid the Met like the plague, you’ll never escape. But walk walk walk. Go to the park and hang with the ducks and the turtles. Then downtown go to Oculus, which is kind of creepy in a big brother is watching you kind of way, but you missed the best parts of that area. Go right to the food court at Oculus and enjoy a wonderful lunch at great ethnic pop ups. Get some deals at Century 21. Then ride the ferry. It’s free and you get a great view of the statute of liberty and the NY skyline. As it approaches sunset go back uptown a little and walk the Highline. Fun, and beautiful views. Eat dinner and Bubbys. You won’t be sorry. The fried chicken with pancakes serves two, believe me, and you can get dessert and a small plate. Then see a movie in an old NY movie theater. The country has so few cool old art house theaters anymore. It’s so much fun. And check out The Strand or another bookstore. Yes there are still bookstores. For some interesting shopping Evolution has crystals and fossils and rocks. Fun for kids of all ages. B&H video and photo is probably the largest electronics store in the country and it’s worth going just to see the system for delivering your item to you. Closed Saturday. Enjoy!

  4. I decided to walk in New York City, instead of taking a taxi cab. Every time a I called for a taxi cab, someone else steals it from me. There should be a guide to how to get a cab in New York. The suggestion is to get to citypass.com . Also, it’s worth getting the site seeing buses, the red double deck bus. You can use them instead of cab. They drop you off at a bus stop and pick you up too.

  5. We have literally just returned (Club out, First back, all using points). Spent 6 nights in a hotel on Bryant Park (Park Terrace Hotel). The article is great as are the comments for things to do – we found that the city is so vast and has so much to offer that, with a bit of prior research, you cant go wrong. For us, American Cut Midtown steak restaurant was amazing which we chose over Keens as it had space but were so impressed I cant see any way Keens could have been better. The high line is great as is DUMBO, though whilst there you must eat at Time Out market, and cocktails at Dear Irving on Hudson were amazing. Walked for the first 4 days and taxi/subway for the last 2 – our legs were in pieces by this point – research and enjoy an amazing city.

  6. LOL mate. What a time to republish this article. NYC is about to close down because of coronavirus. Are you really that desperate to get clicks as to put this front and center again. I mean you must be in panic mode right about now because your blogging career is pretty much done because of countries locking down and airlines having stopped flying.

  7. Regarding the helicopter discount flights to the airport…. how does luggage factor in? A cursory look on their website seems to suggest VERY limited baggage allowed & weight restrictions. Everyone going to the airport is taking some kind of baggage so how does this work?

  8. One nit…I think you meant Palm Court at the Plaza Hotel…the Polo Bar is also highly recommended, but it’s a different entity on it’s own on 55th/5th. Both are excellent.

      1. Palm Court is the best! Truly memorable cocktails as well. And ambiance is great. Highly recommend to any visitors! Same with Polo Bar – a bit of a different vibe but absolutely fantastic as well! Cheers

  9. Heading to EWR tomorrow, no desire to spend any time in NYC due to the massive increase in crime. Have tickets to see Hugh Jackman on Broadway, taking cab to show and cab back as people getting stabbed on the subway and not risking my life for a show. Will spend our spare day visiting the Jersey shore or Long Island for safety rather than spending our money in the city. NYC has gone downhill SO much over the past year, crime has increased 38%….so very sad. Heart breaking. Would suggest visitors are very careful and avoid the subway (which you say is very very safe!) if at all possible.

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