Joe Minihane eats and drinks his way across the city that never sleeps, checking out some of its greatest sights en route.
Rouse yourself early and take a leisurely stroll around Washington Square Park. At the south end of Fifth Avenue and part of Greenwich Village, this is a great place to watch New York City wake up. If you’re lucky, a busker may be sat at the resident grand piano, which sits next to the park’s famous arch. If you need a caffeine hit to follow your morning stroll, walk west to Grounded (28 Jane Street, 212 647 0943), one of the West Village’s hottest coffee spots. The options for your morning brew can be daunting, but the staff are on hand to help you pick a winner. Be sure to try their breakfast burritos too.
The High Line (212 500 6035) is only one block away on Gansevoort Street. This one time raised train track is now one of New York’s most popular spots, so it pays to get here early and beat the crowds. The views along the city’s avenues from up on high are spectacular, and the new Whitney Museum of American Art, designed by Renzo Piano, is worth seeing close up. Be sure to walk the full length of the line, which was recently extended north, swinging out towards the Hudson before heading back onto 34th Street.
Jump on the subway and head east to the Bowery, once New York’s skid row, filled with flophouses and brothels, and now transformed with smart restaurants, luxury hotels and swish condos. The New Museum (235 Bowery Street, 212 219 1222) is a must-see. Styling itself as an anti-mainstream museum specialising in new and undiscovered artists, the seven-storey building designed by Tokyo-based firm Sejima + Nishizawa/SANAA and the New York firm Gensler, is, depending on your attitude, an architectural wonder or a wonky stack of silvery white boxes. It houses three main gallery levels, a theatre, a café and roof terraces.
Soho is chock-full of places to grab a bite and do some shopping. Saturdays Surf NYC (31 Crosby Street, 212 966 7875) is perhaps the best place to do both at the same time. It might seem incongruous to have a surf shop in the heart of Gotham, but its clothes are superb and not your usual baggy beach bum fodder. They have a coffee bar and a yard if you need to rest your feet after a spot of retail therapy on nearby Prince and Spring Streets. If you want a bigger meal, check out Fanelli (94 Prince Street, 212 226 9412), a Soho institution serving superb sandwiches and a dangerously wide selection of local and international beers. Be warned that ducking in for lunch can easily lead to sitting at the bar nattering with the staff and locals for a few hours.
The Tenement Museum (103 Orchard Street, 212 982 8420) is possibly the best museum in New York at putting the city’s history into context. It tells the stories of immigrants who lived at 97 Orchard Street, a tenement built in 1863 on the Lower East Side. New York has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to world-class art galleries. The Whitney Museum of American Art is currently moving downtown, so instead head to the always excellent Guggenheim Museum (1071 Fifth Avenue, 212 423 3500). Despite its size and scale, it never feels swamped like MoMA. There are always impressive, challenging exhibitions alongside a stunning permanent collection including works by Gauguin, Cézanne, Monet and Picasso.
Get on the subway and leave Manhattan behind for a cultural hit that’s easily left off of most visitors’ itineraries. The Brooklyn Museum (200 Eastern Parkway, 718 638 5000), next to the beautiful Prospect Park, is the city’s second largest museum after the Met. Its stunning beaux arts building plays home to ancient artefacts from Egypt and the Middle East. By far the biggest draw, however, is its peerless collection of American art. Rothko, Hopper and O’Keeffe are among the highlights on show. The vast space is worth exploring in depth, so be sure to take your time.
If all this cultural excess has left you pining for New York’s best food, then be sure to stay on this side of the East River. Brooklyn is blessed with an impressive and eclectic array of restaurants that won’t disappoint. Hip Greenpoint has a string of great places to grab a bite. Head to Manhattan Avenue and check out Calexico (645 Manhattan Avenue, 347 763 2129), a Mexican joint that serves up hefty enchiladas that fulfil every cliché of NYC offering the biggest portions on the globe. For something a bit fancier, try St Anselm (355 Metropolitan Avenue, 718 384 5054). This Williamsburg steak place is wildly popular and amazing value. Hit it too late and you’ll end up queuing for two hours, though, so be sure to arrive as early as possible. It’s not just about the meat; the pan-fried mash and market greens, plus its huge wine list, make it a real winner. Nearby Pies‘n’Thighs (166 South 4th Street, 347 529 6090) is ideal for anyone after homely American cooking. Think succulent chicken, fresh slaw and pumpkin pie that melts in the mouth. Barbecue fanatics should also try BrisketTown (359 Bedford Avenue, 718 701 8909) for the best ribs this side of Texas. It’s rough and ready, but that’s its undoubted charm.
There’s no shortage of bars to hop around in Williamsburg and nearby Greenpoint. If you want something swish to start with, then duck into Maison Premiere (298 Bedford Avenue, 347 335 0446) for a glass of fizz or an absinthe cocktail. It’d be rude not to, seeing as it boasts the largest collection of absinthes in New York. For a more local feel, take a ride up to Greenpoint for a jar or two in The Diamond (43 Franklin Street, 718 383 5030), a local bar ideal for hipster spotting. TØRST (615 Manhattan Avenue, 718 389 6034), on nearby Manhattan Avenue, is a beer lovers’ paradise, with 21 ales on draft and over 100 bottles to choose from. Co-owned by one of the guys behind Copenhagen institution Noma, there are few better places to have a drink across the Five Boroughs. If you’re still standing, then Union Pool (484 Union Avenue, 718 609 0484), just under the rumbling Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, is the perfect place to see out the evening, with loud tunes and booths for disco napping.
Book now and make your own 24 hour adventure, with our flights from London to New York
Written by World Travel Guide.