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Best things to do & places to stay:

Last updated: 03 November, 2022

Tourists call it the Big Apple, New Yorkers call it the Capital of the World and that audacity, energy, wealth, power, humour and cosmopolitan pizzazz makes the ‘city that never sleeps’ one of the most exciting destinations on Earth. Few places rival its skyline views, culture and dynamism.

Relieved of much of its previous street crime, New York now inspires city-loving travellers of all ages and tastes, who thrill to its sights, sounds, museums, arts scene, and shopping. It’s unique in the sheer density of skyscrapers crammed into Manhattan and its heritage as a magnet for ambitious immigrants.

Orientation

Manhattan is the heart of New York and where most visitors spend all their time. It supports spectacular skyscrapers where geologically feasible and distinctive, often-beautiful lower-rise buildings elsewhere.

The city centre is on a grid system with numbered streets running East-West, avenues North-South, making navigation easy. The three main sections are uptown, midtown and downtown, encompassing contrasting ‘neighbourhoods’ linked by the ubiquitous Subway system. The West Village and Lower Manhattan evolved as labyrinths before the grid.

The bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination

Statue of Liberty (and Ellis Island)

New York, United States of America (USA)

The 151ft high, iconic statue that symbolises New York City and embodies American values of freedom and opportunity, and an evocative museum explaining the extraordinary 19th-century mass immigrations.

Best for ages: 4+ | £22

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Shows on Broadway

New York, United States of America (USA)

One of the world’s two most prestigious cities for theatre hosts a wide variety of world-class performing arts and performers – but nothing beats a Broadway musical.

Best for ages: 13+ | £35 | 2+ hours

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Metropolitan Museum of Art

New York, United States of America (USA)

One of the largest art museums in the world, the Met is a global art treasure house, with more than two million works spanning thousands of years of human civilisation.

Best for ages: 8+ | £20

Other worthwhile experiences in this destination if you have the time or the interest

Chelsea’s Art Galleries

New York, United States of America (USA)

A feast of hundreds of private art galleries, packed into one enclave on the west of Manhattan, showcasing an eclectic mix of contemporary and modern art.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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Katz Diner
Experience

Katz Diner

New York, United States of America (USA)

“I’ll have what she’s having,” is the famous line from the When Harry Met Salley movie scene set in this ancient palace of pastrami that’s been slicing and serving top-notch cured meat since 1888.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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Tenement Museum
Experience

Tenement Museum

New York, United States of America (USA)

History buffs should stop by this fascinating museum, a small row of old immigrant tenement houses preserved intact from the late 19th/early 20th century that showcases what life was like for the immigrants who first arrived in the city. http://tenement.org.

Best for ages: 13+ | £25

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this destination, plus helpful tickets and transfers

Best of NYC Private Half-Day Tour by Stretch Limo or Luxury Van, 3 or 5 hours

Best of NYC Private Half-Day Tour by Stretch Limo or Luxury Van, 3 or 5 hours

New York City

Forget subways and overwhelming guidebooks — take a chauffeured journey by limousine around Lower Manhattan on this private 3 or 5 hour tour...

$875 | Rating 4.48 / 5 [77 ratings]

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Full-Day New York "Must See" Small-Group Tour plus One World Observatory Ticket

Full-Day New York "Must See" Small-Group Tour plus One World Observatory Ticket

New York City

Immerse yourself in a one-of-a-kind big apple experience. On this full day guided tour, enjoy an authentic New York experience. With a small...

$129 | Rating 4.88 / 5 [1004 ratings]

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Hamilton Musical Walking Tour

Hamilton Musical Walking Tour

New York City

Take a song-by-song stroll through Hamilton’s rise and eventual fall as New York’s foremost Founding Father. This tour is designed for folks...

$63 | Rating 4.86 / 5 [191 ratings]

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New York "Must See" Small-Group Half-Day Tour

New York "Must See" Small-Group Half-Day Tour

New York City

Immerse yourself in a one-of-a-kind Big Apple experience. On this 6-hour guided tour, enjoy an authentic New York experience. With a small g...

$89 | Rating 4.87 / 5 [205 ratings]

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Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay in this destination

Pod 51 Hotel

New York City, New York, United States of America (USA)

Funky and efficient affordable option in a handy location for Fifth Avenue, Museum Mile, and Central Park.

Official star rating:

Dream Downtown

New York City, New York, United States of America (USA)

A visually cutting-edge, super trendy, well located luxury boutique with city views.

Official star rating:

Bryant Park Hotel

New York City, New York, United States of America (USA)

The surrounding clean, light streets in this enclave boast cool, modern skyscrapers.

Bryant Park is an elegant city park, adorned with the beautiful New York Public Library New York, and during the week fills with flocks of office workers eating lunch at scattered tables and chairs.

The Empire State, Rockefeller Centre, Broadway theatres, Central Park, and 5th Avenue shopping are close by.

Official star rating:

The Standard High Line Hotel

New York City, New York, United States of America (USA)

A spectacular, luxury design hotel that combines striking architecture, amazing city and river views and the hottest social scene in the city.

Official star rating:

When to go

Most of New York’s draws – world-class theatre, food, nightlife, and museums – are available all year around of course (and are mainly based inside), but New York has extreme weather that it will still have an impact on your stay and experience.

January and February’s winter weather is brutal, with freezing winds blowing up New York’s avenues, while July and August are unbearably hot and crowded. Come in winter or summer and you’ll spend your entire visit indoors.

May, September and October are glorious times to visit; pleasant sunshine, fewer crowds – it’s when New York’s rooftop bars and sidewalk tables come alive.

Getting there and away

New York has three primary airports: John F Kennedy and Newark for international arrivals, LaGuardia for domestic. Fixed taxi fare from JFK to anywhere in Manhattan is about $50, with a tip of 15% and up expected. Other fares not fixed, expect about $70 from Newark, $30 from LaGuardia plus extras. From JFK it’s easy to take the Air Train monorail, linking up with the subway into Manhattan – more walking, takes longer but about $10.

Getting around

Manhattan is surprisingly easy to navigate, being laid out on a grid system. ‘Avenues’ run north to south, starting with 1st Avenue on the eastern edge, to 10th Avenue on the western edge. 5th Avenue runs down the centre. ‘Streets’ run east to west, starting with 10th Street on the southern, up to 218th street in the far northern tip of the island.

Walking the quickest way to get around – and to discover its many secrets. The subway is cheap, safe and efficient if you don’t want to walk, while the ubiquitous famous yellow taxis are fast, easy to flag (except sometimes rush hour/rain/wee hours), although more expensive.

The subway is efficient and fairly easy to understand too. The hardest part is exiting. It’s often hard to tell, which direction is east, west, uptown or downtown amid the skyscrapers. New Yorkers love giving directions – do ask.

Where to stay

Where you should stay in NYC depends on the experiences you are seeking. For hip and cool restaurants, nightlife and shopping, head to Soho or Meatpacking, both of which are central to most of the best attractions. For an edgier, alternative scene, plum for the East Village. For Central Park and 5th Avenue shopping, the Upper West side, home to the city’s young professionals, or Midtown East are your best bets.

Avoid anywhere near Times Square, and even better centrally between 26th and 46th streets. These are horrid parts: dark, dirty, noisy and crammed with bad restaurants and cramped hotels.