Manhattan, New York.
Arguably, the world’s most famous city – and at the same time, a world unto itself.
It draws people from all backgrounds and walks of life who are hungry – for success, inspiration, an escape or excitement – and this drives the competitive culture of the city and I think it is what creates the city’s infamous “energy” and hum. A week in Manhattan feels like three weeks anywhere else. You’ll leave exhausted but satisfied.
Weather-wise, it goes from extremely cold to extremely hot, and when it rains, it buckets. However, more often than not, the sky is bright blue and provides the perfect backdrop for the city’s stunning skylines. Along with this, you have the summer greens, autumnal reds, winter whites and vibrant spring colours of Central Park – a respite from the concrete jungle, with a beauty that pervades the year.
Following on from my ‘Explore: Williamsburg’ post, I have created this summary for Manhattan, which you will find filled with links to maps and websites. I’ve tried to break everything down into approximate areas, detailing tourist activities and nearby food and drink spots that I would recommend.
So, if you’re heading to the Big Apple sometime soon, I hope this is useful. If you have questions, comment below!
Top Tips for the Visitor to New York:
- Download the YELP App and use it to find all the locations below. It’s very useful to use the Bookmark feature, so if you are ever in a new area, you can check your map and see if one of your Bookmarks is nearby.
- Buy a 30 day or 10 day subway pass.Cheaper than single-rides. Google Maps is great for finding out when the next Subway is arriving and what line you should take.
- If not the subway, Uber is very reliable and easy.
- And if not Uber and you’re confident enough to take on the city streets, Citi-Bike!
- The first time I visited Manhattan a couple of years ago, I took one of these open-air buses around the city, which was quite good for getting an overview and perspective of the streets and space.
- Book restaurants in advance online, if possible. If they don’t take bookings, be prepared to put your name down on the wait-list and sit at the bar or head elsewhere for a drink while you wait. The popular places can book out weeks in advance for Friday and Saturday nights.
- Some good websites to read more restaurant and bar reviews are: Zagat, OpenTable, Refinery, The New Potato.
- Brunch in New York is not “kiwi brunch”. It will start anytime after 11am (but probably around 1pm) and will most likely involve alcohol (often in the form of mimosas). You can wait for up to 2 hours to get a table at the really popular places…
- Broadway shows – lots of restaurants in the Theatre District will have early sittings so you can eat before shows.
Upper East Side
- Central Park – use a Citi-Bike to get around the whole park or simply walk. It is bigger than it seems and you get lost easily! Check out a map and work out where you want to go.
- The Guggenheim – I love this museum and saw a particularly beautiful exhibition here. The building itself is a work of art.
- The Frick Museum – a beautiful museum that was originally a person’s own private art collection and house.
- The Metropolitan Museum – “The Met” is massive and overwhelming at the best of times, but it is a must do. They often put on interesting exhibitions and also do some late-nights.
- Neue Galerie – features The Lady in Gold by Klimt.
To eat and drink:
- Cafe Sabarsky – in the Neue Galerie, famous for its Viennese pastries. Very cosy and perfect on a cold or rainy day. They have plenty of dessert.
- Ralph’s Coffee – cool coffee shop inside Ralph Lauren. Popular with bloggers.
- Bluestone – Australian cafe chain that does good coffee. This location is inside a church.
- Ladurée Madison – french macarons and cakes.
- Lady M Cake Boutique – beautiful cakes, including “crepe cakes”.
- The Plaza – a classic hotel near Central Park. I went here for high-tea with my mum, which was quite special.
- Serendipity 3 – from the movie “Serendipity” and famous for their frozen hot chocolates and outrageous desserts and sundaes. Always a massive wait so get there early!
- Sprinkles ATM machine – a 24 hour cupcake ATM, what more could you ask for?
Upper West Side
- The Lincoln Centre – if you like classical music, ballets, orchestras, operas, and different performances – this is where you’ll want to visit. Opening night at the opera was spectacular when I went (everyone was dressed to the nines) and I also went to a chamber music performance that was equally beautiful.
- Columbus Circle – a transport hub with a decent-sized mall that features a Sephora, H&M, Stuart Weitzman, Coach and more.
- Century 21 – clothing store with huge discounts on designer labels. A bigger store can be found in the Financial District.
To eat and drink:
- Wholefoods Columbus Circle – good to know one exists in the area if you’ve had a big day in Central Park and are after something healthy to eat/drink! Could also work well to stock up on picnic supplies here.
- Norma’s at the Parker Meridien – if you want a REAL american breakfast, this is it. Massive portions, hotcakes, waffles, eggs, omelette – you name it.
- Momofuku Milk Bar – there are several stores through Manhattan that all sell their delicious “cereal milk” soft-serve ice-creams (which I ate for breakfast). I didn’t love their “crack pie” but they are well-known for it and also known for their cookies.
- Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola – up-market jazz bar with views over Central Park.
- Jean Georges – very fancy, highly rated fine-dining restaurant in one of Trump’s buildings. They have a small, understated cocktail bar too.
- Empire State Building – famous building (which King Kong climbed).
- Rockefeller Centre and “Top of the Rock” – this is the best place to get a view of the Empire State building (and as a result, is often visited more than the Empire state).
- Flatiron Building & Madison Square Park – a triangular-shaped building at the intersection of a couple of streets and near Madison Square Park.
- Grand Central Terminal – the subway hub that is featured in countless movies and is crazy around rush hour.
- The United Nations Headquarters – I was working here during my time in New York. I’m not sure how much access the public has to the views of the East River and the stunning rose gardens – but public tours are available, which are a great way to see inside the building and gain some insight into the UN environment. They also have an extensive gift-shop with lots of memorabilia and a special UN post shop.
- Byrant Park – you can ice-skate in winter and at other times, it’s a great place to catch some sunlight and read a book.
- New York Public Library – a beautiful, well-known landmark.
- Chrysler Building – iconic in appearance.
- Times Square – lots of lights, lots of people, lots of shows.
- The Museum of Modern Art – MoMA – I would suggest buying a membership, because you then get a discount at the shop across the road (which has some really clever and arty stuff) and can get extra people in to the art gallery for a discount too.
- Union Square – surrounded by lots of shops and a transport hub. There are Christmas markets at the end of the year and often different markets happening at other times. I liked the Wholefoods here, although it was always very busy.
To eat and drink:
- Urban Space is a food hall with multiple different food stalls inside. Very popular with well-suited business types around lunchtime. I particularly liked:
- Toby’s Estate – good coffee
- Dough – doughnuts
- Roberta’s Pizza – pizza
- Ovenly – heavenly cookies and the richest and most delicious “Brooklyn-Blackout” cake (in slices)
- Mimi’s Hummus – really tasty lunch options
- Pennylane – one of the best places for coffee in Manhattan! I visited everyday. Cool vibe, stylish and great service. Often filled with people with UN passes, caffeinating prior to long meetings at UN Headquarters situated down the road.
- Eataly by Madison square – massive italian grocery store with just about every Italian-food product under the sun. It also includes restaurants.
- Shake Shack – a burger chain with thick-shakes and crinkle fries.
- Magnolia Bakery – a chain of infamous cakes and cupcakes.
- The Amish Market – salad and lunch bars, as well as groceries.
- Zucker’s Bagels – good bagel spot.
- Grumpy Cafe – good coffee near Grand Central.
- The Breslin – great pub-style restaurant with a bar area; in the bottom of the trendy Ace hotel.
- Baccarat Hotel – beautiful hotel (the chandeliers are stunning) with a sophisticated bar.
- ABC Kitchen – this was my favourite restaurant. It’s really tricky to get a table so book in advance. There is also the affiliated ABC Cocina, which focusses on Latin American plates.
- SixtyFive – cocktail lounge with great views of the city.
- Pod 39 – pretty rooftop bar on the top of this hotel.
- High Line – “a 1.45-mile-long New York City linear park built in Manhattan on an elevated section of a disused New York Central Railroad spur” and a sight-seeing must do. I really liked the High-Line because of its history and because you are elevated up above the streets and can look over the West river. There are some beautiful gardens and artwork installed along the tracks too.
- The Whitney Museum – at the end of the High-line, a museum with lots of modern art. Definitely worth a visit.
To eat and drink:
- Chelsea Market – plenty of great food shops and restaurants under one roof! Definitely worth a visit.
- Studio Cafe – small bites and a good spot for an afternoon wine after visiting the Whitney museum.
- Cookshop – popular spot for an American brunch.
- The Tippler – original cocktails in a noisy tavern underneath the Chelsea Market.
- Spice Market – chic take on asian street food.
- Fig & Olive – a refined spot for classic Mediterranean dishes.
- Buddakan – a big, lavishly decorated restaurant with asian dishes and some good cocktails.
- Catch – contemporary American, multi-level seafood restaurant. I didn’t try one of their “Hit Me” cakes, but wish I had.
- Gansevoort Market – a food market steeped in history and dating back to the 1800’s.
- Soho House – private members club and hotel, with a rooftop pool.
West Village / Greenwich Village area
To eat and drink:
- Lena – my favourite coffee spot near Washington Square park because of the friendly service and the freshest pastries, made on site! On a Saturday morning, grab a coffee and sit in the park where a pianist magically appears with his baby grand piano and plays beautiful pieces all morning – it was one of my favourite things to do.
- Bluestone Lane – great Australian cafe (popular with celebs) with a delicious menu. Cute blue and white fit-out with lots of Australian and NZ staff.
- Joe – good coffee shops spread throughout Manhattan (and a few in this area in particular).
- Dominique Ansel Bakery – the inventor of the cronut! There are lots of delicious pastries and cakes to choose from. I also liked the Kitchen store – where you could get more serious desserts and which wasn’t as busy as the bakery.
- Chalait – a coffee shop serving their popular Japanese matcha lattes that feature stunning green milk foam (and which make for great Instagram photos).
- Big Gay Ice-cream Shop – one location in the East and one in the West, this ice-cream shop has a reputation for creating amazing soft-serves. Try the Salty Pimp, which is soft-serve injected with salted caramel and dipped in chocolate.
- Buvette – a small but well renowned, cosy French cafe and restaurant with small plates.
- HU Kitchen – casual, healthy spot with lots of paleo and whole-food options, including nut milk coffees and smoothies.
- By Chloe – very popular, youthful vegetarian restaurant with burgers, salads and vege treats.
- Joseph Leonard – casual and popular brunch spot that does good eggs and avocado smash on toast.
- The Meatball Shop – there are several of these in Manhattan (as well as the one in Williamsburg). Great for a casual, tasty dinner with a fun vibe.
- Miss Lily’s – Jamaican food. Popular, casual spot.
- Westville – there are a couple of these about and are great places for a casual, healthy meal. Lots of veges!
- Market Table – stylish, modern American food with an emphasis on farm-fresh ingredients.
- Cotenna – a tiny spot with fantastic, authentic Italian.
- Fedora – a trendy spot for dinner and drinks.
- Charlie Bird – hip hop and shared plates with a cool atmosphere – one of my favourite spots for dinner.
- Cafe Clover – a stylish spot for drinks and dinner with friends.
- Minetta Tavern – loved the decor and service in this classy tavern. You must try the “Black Label Burger” because that is what it’s known for, however, I think the option with cheese looked just as good.
- L’Artusi – classy atmosphere serving delicious Italian. Highly recommended for dinner.
- Wallflower – cute spot for cocktails and French plates.
Bowery / East Village / Soho / Nolita area / LES
To eat and drink:
- Two Hands – Aussie coffee and decent brunch.
- Happy Bones – Kiwi coffee.
- Chobani Soho – good snack spot with decent coffee. Features lots of Chobani yoghurt! I liked it because it actually gets a bit of sun and is on an open corner.
- Lafayette Grand Cafe & Bakery – skip the restaurant and get pastries from the small cafe at the front.
- Jack’s Wife Frieda – popular spot for brunch, lunch, dinner and casual drinks. There is also one in the West Village.
- Seamore’s – a fun, well designed seafood restaurant. Modern, trendy and tasty.
- Ground Support – great coffee! Popular with people on the run and also designy-types on laptops, sitting in for the long haul.
- Navy Restaurant – I really liked this place, although it was often quite quiet. They do great salads for lunch, are really chill and cool and you can sit here and just ponder life (note – the basin in the toilet is like one you’d find on a ship, it sort of collapses?! A NYC must-see)
- Dean and Deluca – gourmet food-store, with prices to match, but decent coffee and a good selection of sushi down the back if you’re keen for a grab-and-go lunch.
- Sweet Chick – waffles and friend chicken!
- Freemans – this is hidden down an alley ways in Bowery. They serve lots of traditional American breakfast foods for brunch, like “grits”, and do some good cocktails. Trendy spot.
- Morgenstern’s Finest Ice-cream – an ice-cream parlour (next to Freemans) that sells exciting flavours and sundaes.
- Clinton Street Baking Company – amazing pancakes but there is always a massive, 2.5 hour wait-list. Put your name down and plan to do something else in the area.
- Dudley’s – classic NYC brunch spot that is usually busy, so there might be a wait-time. Popular with bloggers.
- The Django – a jazz venue with a cool, cave like, Paris-inspired vibe, in the base of the Roxy hotel.
- Dirty French – I never made it here but have heard great things! A trendy spot for dinner.
- Katz’s Deli – a Manhattan institution, with the famous “When Harry met Sally” scene. Cash only and good for a late-night eat (although you will feel greasy the next day).
- Momofuku restaurants – a well-known Asian-style restaurant group that create casual but stylish spots, with tasty food and modern interiors.
- ACME – a cool spot for dinner and drinks; gets good late.
- Pepolino – a low-key Tuscan restaurant where they make the pasta fresh daily. Delicious.
- La Esquina – below the casual Corner Deli, which is good itself, there’s a hidden mexican restaurant and bar. Just act like you know what you’re doing and ask to go downstairs – good for margaritas and mexican food!
- Brooklyn Bridge – walk across the bridge to DUMBO.
- One World Trade Centre & Memorial Museum – the site of the old World Trade Centre and the memorials that now exist.
- Wall Street – the stock exchange and the Charging Bull bronze sculpture.
- Century 21 – big clothing store with huge discounts on designer labels.
- Helicopters over Manhattan – at the base of the F.D., you’ll find businesses that run helicopter tours over Manhattan, which is a really cool way to see the city.
To eat and drink (limited options in the area):
- Laughing Man Coffee & Tea – very small, Australian cafe (Hugh Jackman, the actor, owns it).
- Tiny’s & The Bar Upstairs – good for brunch, popular with bloggers.
Drinks and a little dance
- Le Bain – a must do, great place to have some drinks with a fab view of the city; on the roof of the Standard Hotel.
- Boom Boom Room – glam bar in the Standard Hotel.
- Mr Purple – great views of the city in this rooftop bar, often has a fun crowd with good music.
- Pianos – live music; this place is a good time. Try the Pickle Back shots (a shot of whiskey with pickle juice as a chaser) if you want a really bad hangover the next day.
- Happy Ending – a nightclub underneath the restaurant with disco vibes; a fun place to dance on a Friday that gets good late.
- Up and Down – fun dancing spot with different DJs and areas.
- Slowly Shirley – fantastic cocktails and a cool place to catchup over drinks. I liked the Monkey Man cocktail.
- The Up and Up – a dimly lit cocktail lounge near Washington Square Park with good drinks.
- The Happiest Hour – popular for drinks, although there’s always a queue and the acoustics aren’t great.
- The Jane – a bar/club in The Jane Hotel. This place gets quite crazy-fun on a Friday and Saturday – think top hits playing in a big, glamorous living room with a fireplace and people dancing all over the furniture.
- Employees Only – a 20’s style bar that is well-known. Decent food if you’re after dinner or a light snack.
Traditionally, a speakeasy was an illicit establishment hidden from the untrained eye, that illegally sold alcohol during the prohibition period in the United States in the 1920’s and early 1930’s. Today, speakeasy are very much part of the New York bar culture. Although often described as over-priced, pretentious and difficult to get into (and sometimes, rightly so), the fact that they are “hidden” behind (e.g.) barber shops and art galleries, makes them sort of exciting. On top of that, many of them have talented bartenders that make really creative and delicious drinks.
- Death and Company – a well-known, dark, moody cocktail lounge.
- Beauty and Essex – a two level restaurant and bar behind a music shop; quite a good spot for a girly catch-up if you get the right night.
- Bathtub Gin – a dark speakeasy hiding behind a coffee shop.
- Fig 19 – behind an art gallery, with good cocktails and a hip atmosphere.
- Please Don’t Tell – behind a phone booth in Crifs hot-dog eatery. Difficult to get into off the street, but you can call and book at 3pm everyday (if you’re fast).
- The Blind Barber – behind a barber shop. Good cocktails and they do a happy hour.
- Apotheke – an apothecary-themed speakeasy in Chinatown. Pulqueria is the underground mexican bar next-door.
- Raines Law Room – behind a door and you need to ring the bell. They take bookings on certain days. Intimate setting, known for their cocktail prowess. Note that there are two locations (don’t meet whoever you are supposed to be meeting at the wrong one!).
- Class Pass is a great option if you are staying in New York for a while and are keen to try out various exercise classes. You pay a fee for the month and can attend lots of different exercise establishments.
- Soul Cycle – cycle class on steroids, with a legion of followers.
- Barre-3 – I did lots of these barre classes and quite liked them. Nice studio.
- Barry’s Bootcamp – a mixture of fit guys and girls doing intense and pricey workouts.
- Central Park – one of the best places to exercise (you’ll find that everyone else in Manhattan has the same idea).
- Equinox gyms – high-end, quality gyms in various locations.
- Blink gyms – cheap, simple gyms in various locations.
- West and East waterways – walking/running paths.
- Tennis on the West – there are public tennis courts available to use.
Disclaimer: It is hard to summarize this city! In the interest of keeping this post up-to-date and relevant, comment in the section below if you would add anything or have any of your own useful tips!
A selection of my snaps below…