24 Aug What to see in New York: 20 essential visits
Who has not dreamed of going on a trip to New York at least once in their life? If you are reading this post it is because surely your moment has come 🥳️! You will be going crazy with all the things that can be done and visited in New York, right? Don’t worry, it happens to all of us the first time 😂. That’s why I want to leave you this list of what to see in New York and its 20 essential places.
In the last 4 years I have been to New York 3 times and having your brother living in Manhattan really helps a lot hehe. You save on accommodation, which by the way, is a huge part of the budget, and you always have a personal guide 😜.
Many of you will have calculated how much a trip to New York can cost you and you will have been amazed at the cost … It has happened to all of us. If you want to save as much as possible, don’t miss the article with 10 tips to save on your trip to New York.
I want to welcome you to the city that never sleeps, full of skyscrapers and millions of people from every culture you can imagine. In it you will find the most famous places on the planet, the best museums in the world, well-known parks such as Central Park, gastronomy from around the world … And, of course, millions of stores in which to leave your bank account shaking!
- 1 Times Square
- 2 Puente de Brooklyn & Dumbo
- 3 Central Park
- 4 Empire State Building or Top of the Rock
- 5 Flatiron Building
- 6 Statue of Liberty
- 7 World Trade Center
- 8 Wall Street
- 9 Grand Central Terminal
- 10 Bryant Park – NY Public Library
- 11 5th Avenue – Rockefeller Center – St. Patrick’s Cathedral
- 12 High Line, Chelsea Market & The Vessel
- 13 SoHo: one of the most charming neighborhoods to see in New York
- 14 Chinatown & Little Italy
- 15 Williamsburg: New York’s Jewish Quarter
- 16 New York Museums
- 17 Broadway musical
- 18 Madison Square Garden: NBA
- 19 Contrast Tour
- 20 Gospel Mass
- 21 What to see in New York: Interactive map
Make your own guide of what to see in New York!
Feel free to make your personalized route 🗺. In all the posts everyone will tell you to go to the MOMA and the MET and, for example, I have not been to any of them in the 3 visits I have made to the Big Apple. Time is short and there is a lot to see, so if there’s something you don’t want to waste time on, don’t include it just because someone tells you it’s essential. Because it is essential for the one who writes it, not for all humanity, including me 😜.
Grab a pen and paper and get ready to make your own guide of what to see in New York!
I couldn’t start the list with another place. Times Square, the most touristy place to see in New York. Its bustle, the thousands of people per square meter, the billboards and the blinding lights … It is something that tourists love and that New Yorkers avoid at all costs. The first time I told my brother to take me to Times Square he almost cried 😂.
Although I am sure that you will pass through Times Square several times (we all do it on our first visit), I recommend, or rather I force you, to go during the day and at night. From my point of view, at night it is something incredible.
Puente de Brooklyn & Dumbo
Undoubtedly one of the best experiences in New York to do is cross the Brooklyn Bridge. Either on foot or by bike. Although if you do it by bike be careful, because people do not respect the authorized lane and you will have to go around them all …
It is the most famous bridge in New York and I dare say the most famous in the United States along with the Golden Gate in San Francisco. And why? Well, very easy, because it is the most photogenic and cinematic bridge to see in New York.
If like me, some of you have problems with vertigo, the first time it will cost you a bit but the following will be a piece of cake 😂.
And now we go to Dumbo, a neighborhood in Brooklyn, located between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge on the banks of the East River. And you will ask yourself, why is it called Dumbo? Actually, it is an acronym for: Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. In other words, it means ‘Under the Manhattan Bridge’. In this neighborhood, which in recent years has become very fashionable, especially among artists, you can find dozens of art galleries and renovated buildings.
The best? Views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge. They are incredible!
Central Park deserves an article for itself because I could write a thousand things about the most famous park in New York and the most visited park in the United States. For this reason, it is an essential visit to see in New York.
You can go one day when you are a little exhausted from so much bustle and noise (it will surely happen to you). Relax, stroll, have a picnic, ride a bike… Anything is welcome in Central Park.
This park, with an area of 340 hectares and almost all surrounded by skyscrapers, is the green lung of Manhattan. It is full of lakes, gardens, viewpoints, statues …
And, how could it be otherwise, Central Park has been the scene of thousands of films such as “Home Alone 2”, “Breakfast at Diamonds” or “Serendipity”. If anyone is interested in taking a tour of the Central Park series and movies, Civitatis offers a very good excursion.
Logically going through all of Central Park would take you too long, so here are the most essential locations in Central Park: Sheep Meadow, Great Lawn, Strawberry Fields, The Mall and Literary Walk, Shakespeare Garden, The Lake, Bethesda Terrace, Belvedere Castle, etc.
Empire State Building or Top of the Rock
You cannot leave New York without going up to one of the two most famous skyscrapers, the Empire State Building and the Top of the Rock.
You can choose between the Empire State Building, which is undoubtedly the most famous of the two and, the Top of the Rock, with has better views than the first. If you plan to visit New York on one occasion, we can go up to both, one at each visit 😜.
The great thing about Top of the Rock is that you have stunning views of Central Park and the Empire State Building.
As for prices, the truth is that they differ very little. Admission to the Empire State Building has a cost of $ 42 (about 36 euros) for adults and the Top of the Rock, $ 38 (approximately 33 euros).
The Flatiron Building is undoubtedly one of the most famous buildings that you have to see in New York. For me, the most beautiful in the Big Apple.
It is best known for its triangular shape reminiscent of an iron for clothes, and it is 97 meters high and one end only 2 meters wide. Some of you will also know the building from movies like Spiderman or Armageddon!
Next to this building you have two fantastic options to eat cheaply in New York: Eataly, a market with Italian products where you can eat any typical dish of its gastronomy and a Shake Shack, famous for its hamburgers, located in Madison Square Park .
Statue of Liberty
Along with the Empire State Building, we could say that the Statue of Liberty is the best known monument in New York. If you are thinking about what to see in New York, the Statue of Liberty has to be at the top of the list.
Located on Liberty Island, south of Manhattan, it is only accessible by ferry.
I already tell you in the post of the 10 tips to save on your trip to New York, if what you want is to see the Statue of Liberty for free, you just have to take the free ferry of Staten Island in Battery Park. You go there and back and apart from having very good views of the Statue of Liberty, you will have impressive views of the New York skyline.
If you want you can also take the tour to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island or visit the Statue of Liberty and climb to the crown.
World Trade Center
Formerly famous for its Twin Towers, it is now known as a tribute to all the victims who perished in the attacks of September 11, 2001.
You will be able to see two different areas: the 9/11 memorial and museum and, the One World Trade Center skyscraper.
The 9/11 memorial, located right where the two twin towers were, is made up of two large fountains in which the names of all the deceased have been inscribed. Don’t miss out on the only tree that survived the 9/11 attacks.
In the 9/11 museum you can see objects recovered from the attack such as objects of the victims, part of the planes, testimonies of survivors, and many other memories. I honestly have never visited this museum because I find it quite harsh.
Apart from these tribute areas, you will also find in this area the One World Trade Center, the tallest building in New York. It has an observatory with a 360-degree panoramic viewpoint with incredible views of the city. If you want to go up, buy the tickets on their official website before going!
When you go to see the Statue of Liberty and the World Trade Center take the opportunity to go to Wall Street, the 3 areas are together.
Despite being one of the most touristic and well-known streets in New York, it is the area that least thrills me in the Big Apple.
In the Wall Street area you can see the building of the Stock Exchange, the Federal Reserve and very close the famous Wall Street Bull. They say that it is good luck to touch his “eggs”, but forget to take a good photo, he is always surrounded by dozens of people.
What I do love about this area is the Trinity Church, a church built in 1846. You will see yourself walking through the streets of NY with skyscrapers, the bustle and suddenly a cemetery with tombs from the 1800s. Beautiful!
Grand Central Terminal
You want to know what to see in New York? Yes or yes Grand Central Station is something you have to see! For a reason it is the most famous train station in the world.
Inaugurated in 1871, it has one of the most beautiful halls in the world and many will already “put faces on it” thanks to the thousands of movies and series in which it has appeared. You have seen it in movies like “Death on the heels”, “Superman” or in series like “Gossip Girl”.
The station itself is amazing, but be sure to admire its best-known elements: the Tiffany glass clock at its entrance, the lobby and its emblematic central clock, and the aquamarine ceiling with the symbols of the zodiac.
Bryant Park – NY Public Library
Another option to rest from the bustle of the city is Bryant Park, located in the heart of Manhattan and one of the most beautiful parks to see in New York.
If you go at lunchtime, you will see hundreds of workers from the neighboring skyscrapers sit down to eat at one of their tables or on the same lawn. Because everyone needs a break! If you go in summer, be sure to go see a movie at its summer cinema and, if you go at Christmas you can walk through its Christmas market or skate on its ice rink.
Next to the park you have the famous New York Public Library, which you may have seen in movies like “Ghostbusters” or “The day after tomorrow.”
And stay tuned for the views because from Bryant Park you’ll have a fantastic view of the Empire State Building.
5th Avenue – Rockefeller Center – St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Fifth Avenue is the most famous and emblematic street to see in New York. Cross the city from north to south and mix all kinds of things: residential areas, commercial areas …
It would be impossible to cover it all, so focus on the section that goes from Central Park to Rockefeller Center. In this section you can see the most famous stores, such as Tiffany’s, Saks 5th Ave or the Apple or Disney store; such emblematic buildings as the Plaza Hotel or the Trump Tower and for me one of the most beautiful buildings in New York, St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, built between 1858 and 1878, is the largest neo-Gothic Catholic cathedral in North America. Its white marble interior is beautiful, but what struck me the most is the contrast of the cathedral with all the surrounding skyscrapers. Awesome!
In Rockefeller Center you have the Top of the rock building and the famous ice rink, normally open from October to April.
High Line, Chelsea Market & The Vessel
What was once an elevated railway line is today the High Line. A linear park of 2 kilometers where you can walk, rest, have a picnic or attend one of its events.
Before entering the High Line from 14th Street, you can take the opportunity to visit Chelsea Market. In this beautiful market, with a certain alternative air, you will find very good restaurants and shops with quality products and crafts.
And at the exit of the High Line through Hudson Yards, the new jewel to see in New York awaits you, The Vessel. A futuristic sculpture made up of stairs. Access is free, but it is mandatory to reserve the date and time of the visit on its official website.
SoHo: one of the most charming neighborhoods to see in New York
SoHo, short for “South of Houston Street,” is one of the most charming neighborhoods to see in New York.
It is both one of the most popular and touristic neighborhoods in the Big Apple. And it is that, its cast-iron buildings and its colorful facades with fire-fighting stairs have made it one of the best areas in New York to take brutal photos. And of course, a fantastic setting for movies and television series.
In this neighborhood you will find the best art galleries in the city, shops with a lot of charm and restaurants and designer cafes.
Spend a good time walking through the streets of this neighborhood, you will not regret it!
Chinatown & Little Italy
If there is a neighborhood that is repeated in all large cities, it is Chinatown. And as its name suggests, the great Chinese community of New York resides in it.
It is full of oriental restaurants, counterfeit shops (with a little precarious quality), souvenir shops, Chinese shops … You cannot miss its most important street, Mott Street and others like Canal Street.
And, next to it, you will find Little Italy. I say next door, but really, this neighborhood has been practically absorbed by Chinatown, limiting the Italian neighborhood to a single street, Mulberry Street.
While the Chinese from New York reside in Chinatown, in Little Italy you will hardly find an Italian citizen. The neighborhood is limited to souvenir shops, Italian restaurants and shops with typical local products.
Williamsburg: New York’s Jewish Quarter
In the Williamsburg neighborhood you can check the theory of “New York is a city of contrasts.” It is home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the United States, the Satmar Jewish community.
Located northwest of Brookyln, along the East River, it is necessary to differentiate the north area from the southern area of Williamsburg.
In the north of the Williamsburg Bridge you will find the coolest and hipster area, with streets full of young people, restaurants, street art … In fact, it is one of the most fashionable areas of New York right now!
South Williamsburg is when the best comes to me. The Orthodox Jewish Quarter. It will seem that you have changed cities, that you are no longer in New York. Sober streets with old facades, austere shops and all (or almost all) dressed in black. The men in robes, the typical Jewish hat and ringlets. The women also in dark and with thick skirts and stockings. As a curiosity, in the contrast tour (which I will tell you about below) they told us that those Jewish women who are married wear the same wig, so they are easily distinguishable. And I warn you, you will not see men and women together. The men go all together and the women with the children.
The truth is that this Orthodox Jewish neighborhood draws a lot of attention. For me, one of the best things of what to see in New York.
New York Museums
If there is something that you have to add to your list of what to see in New York, it’s museums. For me and, I think for everyone, there are 3 important ones.
The MoMa is the most famous modern art museum in the world and another one of the essentials to see in New York.
In it you will find masterpieces such as “The Starry Night” by Van Gogh, “The Young Ladies of Avingon” by Picasso, “The Persistence of Memory” by Salvador Dalí or the “Campbell’s Soup Cans” by Andy Warhol.
The ticket has a cost of $ 25 for adults and you can buy it online but, if you can, go on Friday afternoon, since from 16:00 to 20:00 the entrance is free!
Visiting hours: Saturday to Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Fridays until 20:00.
At the MET, or Metropolitan Museum of Art, located on 5th avenue, you will find one of the most important art collections in the world.
Located among the 10 most visited museums in the world, there you will find masterpieces by Monet, Cézanne, Rembrandt, Picasso, Van Gogh, Velázquez … But its most famous collections are those of the Old Roman Empire and Ancient Egypt.
In addition to visiting the museum and its works, take the opportunity to visit the terrace, where you will have beautiful views of Central Park.
The ticket price, which you can buy online, is $ 25 for adults and free for children under 12 years old.
Visiting hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday until 9:00 p.m.
American Museum of Natural History
For me, one of the best museums in New York and considered by everyone as one of the best science museums in the world. The truth is that I am not much into art, I like history much more. For that reason, I have not been to any of the above museums and have been to the Natural History Museum twice.
Located west of Central Park, between 77th and 81st streets, it stands out above all for its collection of reproductions of dinosaurs and that of the blue whale, which is 29 meters long.
If you want to buy tickets online, you can do so on the museum’s website for a price of $ 23 for adults and $ 13 for children. But, if you can wait and buy them in the same museum, better, because this museum has the option “Pay what you wish”, that is, pay what you want. You can give them for example $ 10 because for you it is what it is worth and, without problem.
Visiting hours: every day from 10:00 to 17:45.
Going to see a Broadway musical is without a doubt a must do in New York. I live in Madrid and, it is true that here the musicals also have an enormous quality, but New York is another level!
If you are clear about which musical you want to see, it is best to buy tickets online as soon as possible, because they fly. You can buy tickets for any musical on the official Broadway website.
If, on the other hand, you don’t know what musical to watch or don’t care, here is my advice to save you a few euros 😜. I’ll also tell you about it in the post about saving on your trip to New York! Go to the TKTS ticket offices under the red stairs in Times Square. In these ticket offices they sell tickets with quite good discounts for shows that have not been filled. Take the opportunity!
The most famous musicals at the moment are: The Lion King, Aladdin, The Phantom of the Opera, Chicago and West Side Story.
Madison Square Garden: NBA
Without doubt, add this activity to your list of what to do in New York! Because if there is something that you have to do in New York, it’s to see an NBA game. It has probably (or for sure) been one of the funniest plans I have made in all my trips to the Big Apple. Along with Oktoberfest on the East River!
For those of you who don’t know, the New York basketball team is the New York Knicks and they play in the famous Madison Square Garden.
Even if you are not passionate about basketball, as is my case, do not stop making this plan. You really won’t regret it! It is no longer that you see the game, it is living the show at the beginning with the anthem and the presentation of the players. The time-outs, with the cheerleaders dancing, throwing T-shirts to the public, the camera looking for the spectator who dances the most… It’s AMAZING.
And if you are lucky, you will be able to see a famous person 😂. In my case, I coincided with Domhnall Gleeson, an actor who has appeared in films like “The Revenant” or “A Matter of Time.”
To organize the plan, go to the Madison Square Garden website and take a look at the match schedule. Choose the one you like the most or the one you have available when you are there and buy the tickets online. Normally it is an expensive plan, but from my heart I tell you, you will not regret it.
As I said at the beginning of the post, I have my brother living in New York. For that same reason I have hardly done tours, because he does them for me 😜. But if there is an essential tour to do in New York, it is the tour of contrasts.
It is the most complete and famous excursion in New York and, for 4: 30/5 hours, you will visit neighborhoods such as Harlem, Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn. For me, it is the best way to know the contrasts of New York, its cultural and people diversity. If you did this tour on your own believe me you would need several days!
You have two options with Civitatis: do the normal contrast tour or do the VIP contrast tour. It is the same tour, the only difference is that in the VIP you go with more people but in a minibus with a maximum of 15 people, and they pick you up at your hotel. In the tour with more people there are 4 hotels to make the pick-ups and you go in a big bus. The price difference is less than 10 euros. I did the VIP (we were 8 people) and the truth was that it was great!
And, last but not least, go to a Gospel mass, something that you have to see in New York.
If there is a place where you can see Gospel Masses that is the neighborhood of Harlem, in one of the hundreds of Baptist churches in this area. It is important that it is Sunday!
The most recommended church is the Absyssinian Baptist Church, located at 132 West 138th Street between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and Lenox Avenue. Being the most touristy, of course, there are always queues so try to go early. Masses are at 10 in the morning but you cannot be later than 09:30.
If you want to go with a tour, Civitatis offers you the Gospel Mass and a tour of Harlem. Personally, I have not done this tour, but you can see that the opinions are fantastic!
What to see in New York: Interactive map
And as I want to help you even a little more, here is a little gift: interactive map with the 20 essential places to see in New York 🔝🔝
And here is the end of the post of what to see in New York! But let’s face it … You don’t just have to see these 20 sites. You have to see the gazillion thousand places that New York has … Dedicate yourself to walking, messing around, getting lost … Everything is an adventure in New York!
If you are determined to travel to the Big Apple and you want someone to make you your own guide of what to see in New York totally personalized, do not forget to take a look at the travel consultancy that I offer!