New York, the city that never sleeps! What an awesome city, a city you must have visited at least once in your life and experienced the vibe. Tip: bring your walking shoes as every day you’ll be walking for hours…
We stayed at the Aloft Hotel in Harlem. Hotels are very expensive in New York, but we were offered a great deal at Aloft. It’s a trendy and hip hotel, which contains a bar where the local people from Harlem also come to have a drink. The hotel staff even wear jeans :). There is a metro station around the corner (a 7 day Metro Card will cost you $29.00), which connects you within 15 minutes to downtown New York. If you can’t find a good hotel deal, try AirBnB for great places to stay at prime locations for a good price.
Since the 1920s, Harlem has been known as a major African-American residential, cultural and business center. It’s a Dutch village from origin, formally organized in 1658, and is named after the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands. Coming from the Netherlands and Haarlem being one of the nicest cities in my home country (according to my opinion of course ;)), I had to explore Harlem, despite the negative stories people were telling about it.
Although Harlem used to be a deprived urban area, nowadays you see more diversification in its population and nice restaurants and stores popping up in the area. I love to explore areas which are upcoming and where you can still feel the original spirit of its people. We felt very safe and walked throughout Harlem on our own. Obviously everybody knew we were tourists and we were always welcomed and approached very friendly in the places we were going to.
If you get the chance, visit a gospel church on Sunday morning. Religious life has historically had a strong presence in Black Harlem. The people attending church loved to meet strangers and we were very much welcomed in their community.
Also visit one of the Comedy Night’s at the famous Apollo Theatre.
Make sure to have dinner at Sylvia’s Restaurant (328 Malcolm X Boulevard). This New York legacy has opened her restaurant in 1962 and is also called the Queen of Soulfood. Soul food is a variety of cuisine that originated in African-American culture in the Southern United States.
When you are craving for something sweet, you must visit Levain Bakery. This bakery makes the best Oatmeal Raisin Cookie and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookie I have ever tasted. It melts in your mouth. You know, I’m usually not that easy to impress…So try it! And the good story is, what doesn’t sell that day goes to help feed the hungry. They are located at: 2167 Frederick Douglass Boulevard.
When we arrived, we visited the same afternoon Times Square and were overwhelmed by the many, many people that surrounded the place and the crowdedness. Coming from ‘just a city in the Netherlands’ it felt a bit overwhelming. Visit the place during daytime and during nighttime for its famous neonlights. Getting to know the other side of New York, away from the popular Times Square, was really the kind of New York I appreciated the most. And once you are at Times Square, take a look at the Broadway tickets (since the Theatre District is around the corner) to check if there is a musical you would like to go to.
New York State Library
Even if you are not into reading and books, the library is a remarkable site to visit, both from the inside as the outside.
Central Park is a park not to be missed. It was established in 1857 and it’s the most visited urban park in the United States. Moreover, many of you have seen the park on television and in movies as it’s a famous film location. While walking through the park, don’t underestimate the hugeness of it.
If you are nearby Central Park, make sure not to miss The Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s one of the most famous art museums in the world and the building is quite impressive. You can easily spent many hours in this huge museum. It is located along Central Park on the Upper East Side.
If you are into art, you should also visit the Museum of Modern Arts (11 West 53 Street). It’s open daily and costs $ 25 per adult. Admission is free every Friday evening from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. To avoid long lines, I recommend you to arrive at around 6:00 p.m.
The Guggenheim museum is a special architectural landmark. The museum’s rotunda has been the site of many exhibitions. Although the landmark and the rotunda were nice to see, we found the exhibition was disappointing.
Magnolia’s Bakery and Rockefeller Center
If you are into cupcakes, pay a visit to Magnolia’s Bakery. It’s located at various locations in New York, but go to 1240 Avenue of the Americas at 49th Street and combine it with a visit to the Rockefeller Center. The Rockefeller Plaza has an ice skating rink and if you like you can combine it with the Top of the Rock Observation Deck. On the 70th floor you can view New York City from a 360 degree perspective.
Empire State Building
Open from 8 am to 2 am, this is an icon which definitely deserves a visit. I recommend you to go right before sunset, as you will have an amazing 360 degree view on New York (on the 86th and 102nd floor) with its lights on and where the sky turns into different colors. It’s located in the center of Midtown Manhattan.
From the Empire State Building it’s just a 15 minute walk to Times Square and the Theatre District, 10 minutes to the Flatiron Building (very iconic and it lies in a neighborhood with a lot of small and nice shops) and Madison Square Garden (watch a basketball game!).
Grand Central Station
Located between Madison Avenue en Lexington Avenue, with 44 platforms this train station has the most platforms in the world. Gaze at the ceiling mural in the inside of the Grand Terminal and just walk around this historic landmark of the City. It’s about a 10 – 15 minute walk from / to the Empire State Building.
Wall Street / Financial District / Federal Reserve Bank
If you want to experience the hustle and bustle of working life in New York, walk through the Financial District and Wall Street. Here you will observe the heart of America’s financial world.
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York (44 Maiden Lane) offers daily limited guided tours to the public. The tour takes about an hour and is cost free, but you will need to bring your driver’s license or passport to show as ID. You will learn about the roles and responsibilities of the Federal Reserve, such as in setting monetary policy and promoting financial stability, BUT ALSO you can visit the Gold Vault! Which I think some of you might find more interesting ;) Gold custody is one of the services of the FED to the U.S. government, foreign governments, other central banks and official international organizations (Source https://www.newyorkfed.org/aboutthefed/visiting.html).
And since you are in the ‘neighborhood’, pass by the New York State Supreme Court / Court House. This famous and impressive landmark is also filmed in a lot of series and movies.
St. Paul’s Chapel and 9/11 Memorial (Financial District)
We visited this beautiful little church which served as a place of rest and refuge for recovery workers after the collapse of the twin towers of the World Trade Center. When you see how close the church was located to the WTC, it’s unbelievable that this little church still stands and survived without even a broken window. The exhibition of everything that has happened on and after 9/11 was quite emotional to read and see. Once you have visited this church, you can visit the 9/11 memorial which is just a street away.
Brooklyn has been established by the Dutch in the 17th century and its name is derived from the Dutch city of Breukelen. Once you have visited the financial district in Manhattan, take the metro (which goes underneath the East River) and step out on the other side. Brooklyn is famous for its brown stoned houses with the stairs in front of the house. Also a much filmed icon in series and movies ;)
After you have wandered around the place, walk back along the Brooklyn Bridge Park and enjoy the stunning views of the financial district and the rest of Manhattan. Walk towards the Brooklyn Bridge and walk over this bridge back to Manhattan. Don’t forget to take pictures!
Meat Packing District and Greenwich Village
Walk the highline!
Start at Chelsea Market. This is a very nice food hall, shopping mall, office building and television production facility located in the Chelsea neighborhood. I love to wander around markets where a lot of locals come, I find it a good way to experience the real local culture. From the Chelsea Market it’s only a short walking distance to the High Line. The High Line is about 2 km and built on an elevated section (which results in having nice views on the neighborhood) of the former used New York Central Railroad. In order to keep the High Line, it has been redesigned and planted as an aerial greenway park. The park extends from Gansevoort Street to 34th Street and is open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the winter, 10 p.m. in the spring and fall, and 11 p.m. in the summer. There are many nice restaurants and bars in the Meatpacking District.
From the Meatpacking District, walk to and through Bleeckerstreet in order to end up in Greenwich. During your walk you will encounter many typical New York brown-stoned houses, a lot of greenery and a typically family oriented neighborhood which focuses on schools and students. The lower section of Bleeckerstreet is one of the liveliest in the city at night, and is home to dozens of bars and comedy clubs. Old bohemian style! When you walk further upwards, you will find a lot of boutiques and cosy shops with exclusive and original clothing, bags, shoes et cetera. It’s a really nice shopping district, especially if you are not a fan of the mall ;)
Baseball game NY Yankees (Bronx stadium)
If you really want to experience New York City life, you have to go to a baseball game and experience the second most popular sport in America (after American Football)!. Even if you are not a baseball fan, there is so much entertainment around it, that you will definitely enjoy the atmosphere! Go with the metro, along with the baseball crowd :)
Unfortunately we didn’t have any time left to pay Lady Liberty a visit (very long queues), but New York is a city which you can easily visit a number of times and do all the stuff which you didn’t have time for before.