Skyscrapers dwarf the avenues below, and the sidewalks thrum with life day and night.
The clichés about New York are true – but that's just the surface. Alongside the iconic buildings, the city’s neighbourhoods are home to people and influences from around the globe; it's the diversity in everything that makes the Big Apple so uniquely exciting.
Arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport
John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) is New York’s largest international airport and the main entry point to the city. Public transport options are plentiful, and you can reach the heart of Manhattan just a couple of hours after your plane touches down.
The 24-hour AirTrain JFK links to the subway system and has stations in all six of the airport’s terminals. Once you change onto the subway it’s a 35-minute ride into Penn Station in Manhattan. Alternatively, express buses, which also stop at all of JFK’s terminals, run every 20 to 30 minutes and stop at Grand Central Station and Penn Station. The journey takes around an hour and a quarter.
New York taxis are also available from outside the airport, and, unlike cabs hailed from the street, are not metered. There's a set fare, which can include a rush-hour surcharge. The journey duration varies depending on the time of the day, and can be as short as 40 minutes or up to 90 minutes.
If you have just a whistle-stop half a day to spend in the Big Apple, there is still plenty you can see and do. Begin your explorations in Times Square, where the flashing lights and gargantuan billboards will let you know you're truly in NYC. From there walk east to Grand Central Station and appreciate the Beaux Arts architecture and lavish interior of one of the world’s largest and most iconic train stations.
From Grand Central Station, it’s a short walk to the Empire State Building. Head to the cloud-skimming observation deck for staggering vistas across Manhattan and beyond. When you’re done snapping the panoramic views, hop on the subway and zip over to Greenwich Village to rest your weary feet. This bohemian chic neighbourhood is dotted with trendy cafés, boutiques and restaurants. Sit in a sidewalk café and watch street performers and musicians as you enjoy a quick meal.
Finish your whirlwind visit with a trip on the Staten Island Ferry. Not only is the ferry a quintessential New York experience, it’s a quick way to get up close to the Statue of Liberty without doing a full tour. Having Lady Liberty wave you off is the perfect end to a quick trip to New York.
Arriving on a Friday evening? The lights of Times Square beckon. Start your weekend in the Big Apple under the flashing signs and billboards at the heart of Manhattan. Walk the bustling streets to Broadway and choose from dinner out or a quick slice of pizza before a big-name musical.
The next day, it’s time for some serious sightseeing, so put on your comfortable shoes and have your camera at the ready. Hop on a ferry at Battery Park and begin at the Statue of Liberty. There are 393 stairs to get to the top, which gives a bird’s eye view of NYC.
Head back to the mainland and make your way to Wall Street via Battery Park in search of the Raging Bull Statue and Federal Hall, where George Washington was inaugurated. From there make your way to the moving 9/11 Memorial and Museum, which commemorates those who lost their lives in the attacks on the World Trade Center.
The foodie neighbourhoods of Chinatown and Little Italy are a short walk away, so when it’s time for lunch, follow your nose.
Wind down with a leisurely afternoon in Greenwich Village. Visit Washington Square Park, get a coffee in a sidewalk café, or head over to see the famous Brooklyn Bridge.
After dark, choose from the eclectic array of restaurants in upscale yet bohemian Greenwich Village, followed by an evening in a jazz club.
On Sunday morning, join the locals in Central Park and enjoy walking the paths or visiting the fairy-tale Belvedere Castle or the Strawberry Fields memorial to John Lennon. From here make your way to the beautiful, century-old Grand Central Station, where Beaux Arts architecture, the Whisper Room and the Grand Staircase await. The food hall inside the station makes for a fun lunch spot.
Next it’s time for a must-do visit to one of the world-famous museums. Choose from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Guggenheim or the American Museum of Natural History. There’s just one thing missing your trip now: the Empire State Building. Finish your weekend with a trip up to the dizzyingly high observation deck for a view across the NYC skyline.
Get stuck into NYC's most iconic sights with a day spent in the heart of the city, Midtown Manhattan. This is the New York of postcards and montages, with wall-to-wall skyscrapers, including the one and only Empire State Building. Then make your way to the top for a breath-taking panorama. Head to the Rockefeller Center, home of the famous winter ice rink, and enjoy the public art, shops and outdoor cafés. Window-shop in the high-end boutiques of swanky Fifth Avenue before heading to Times Square as the light fades. Take in the flashing lights before enjoying a meal and a show on Broadway.
With plenty more to see, Midtown Manhattan deserves a second day. Appreciate the architecture of Grand Central Station, visit the Museum of Modern Art and stop by Madison Square Park before exploring the bars of the Flatiron neighbourhood.
Begin at Chelsea Market, where shops and a diverse food hall will have you making your first pit stop. Go for a walk along the High Line, the city’s newest park, stretching along the Hudson River and built on a disused railway line. Continue through the trendy Meatpacking District and on to the bohemian chic Greenwich Village. If you have time, hit the boutiques in Soho.
Set off to explore Central Park. Walk the nature paths and visit iconic sights such as the Dakota Building and the Strawberry Fields memorial to John Lennon, as well as the picturesque Belvedere Castle. Running along the park’s eastern edge, Museum Mile (Fifth Avenue) is home to some of NYC’s top museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Natural History and the Guggenheim Museum. Spend a leisurely afternoon visiting two or three of the museums in the Upper East Side.
Start your day with a trip on the Staten Island Ferry and sail past the world-famous Statue of Liberty. Alternatively, take a tour to get up close and climb into her crown for panoramic views of Manhattan. Back in Manhattan, visit the moving 9/11 Memorial and Museum, before stopping for a quiet and reflective lunch. In the afternoon, head off to Wall Street and the Raging Bull statue, the New York Stock Exchange and Federal Hall. Finish by enjoying the sunset from Battery Park.
Begin at the Brooklyn Bridge, the oldest in the country. If you visit on a Sunday, make sure to include a trip to the Brooklyn Flea Market. Otherwise, amble through the neighbourhood and look in at artists' galleries and shops. In the afternoon, head to the quirky Coney Island funfair for vintage rides, a seaside atmosphere and Nathan’s Famous hot dogs.
Treat your taste-buds as you wander the streets of the very different neighbourhoods that spill into each other in Manhattan's south: Chinatown, Little Italy and the Lower East Side. They are the perfect example of the multiculturalism that New York City is so famed for, and great places to simply get lost and soak up the atmosphere. Sample everything from dumplings to tacos to knishes and leave the city full and contented.