I have always dreamt about going to New York City. That was in my mind since I was a teenager. That was even before I discovered that travelling is something that I love most. I guess after years of consuming American cinema and culture I just wanted to go there and see these extraordinary places with my own eyes. In May 2022 I finally had an almost one week solo trip to New York. I spent a great time in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The trip was very well organised and quite intense.
Sometimes dreaming is better than making dreams come true… That was not the case, though! I loved the city from the very first sight! New York is truly magical. Unbelievable. You can walk through different neighbourhoods and feel like you’re in different towns. Just around the corner there’s another fascinating world with other landmarks, different people, the other vibe or cuisine. Sometimes I felt like I was on the movie set. Or in the centre of the world. Such a vibrant city it is! Such energy! Nothing compares to New York.
How to prepare a trip to New York?
Visiting such a huge city requires really good preparation. Sacrificing some interesting spots is inevitable. All the preparation took me months, not only because I had to reschedule my trip twice due to Covid-19 pandemic. That was a trip from the top of my Travel Bucket List, so I wanted everything to be as smooth and flawless as possible. I was travelling on a budget and that was an important factor, too.
So how did I start? Firstly, I decided what exactly I wanted to experience and see. Secondly, I put my places of interest on the map. Finally, I split the city in a few parts and made an itinerary around it. One day in every area. Finally, I found affordable accommodation in the central location to avoid wasting time on commuting.
So here’s my full itinerary with some comments and recommendations. I’ve made a few corrections based on my own experience, to make it even better. Feel free to use it if you go to New York. That’s a good start if you still find planning that kind of a trip overwhelming. Also, above map made with five different colours should give you an idea about locations of most important places mentioned in this article. Are you ready?
6 Days New York City Itinerary
First Day In New York
Summary: A couple of hours in Chelsea, near my accommodation.
I booked my accommodation in Chelsea, which is a great base for sightseeing in Manhattan. It’s a safe neighbourhood, with easy access to the subway. I was lucky to hit a street festival with some live performances, food tracks and craft stalls. I was later told it’s a regular thing on 7th Avenue at weekends in the summer months.
I started easy with New York, as I was tired after the long flight. After check-in more than half of a day was already gone, anyway. Therefore the plan was to soak up the vibes by wandering around Chelsea. Still, I managed to see the famous Flatiron Building nearby, get some sunshine in Madison Square Park and visit Chelsea Market for a dinner.
|TOMEK KNOWS BEST: Wherever your accommodation is, just try to relax on your first day, wander around and see how everything works. Unless you land early in the morning and have a good sleep on the plane.|
Second Day In New York
Summary: A day trip to Brooklyn passing the Brooklyn Bridge by foot.
On my first full day in New York I decided to go to Brooklyn. I got up just around the sunrise to avoid crowds on the Brooklyn Bridge and to have a good light for the pictures. Passing the bridge by foot was one of the highlights of the whole trip! This amazing, tremendous structure can’t be missed, so don’t you dare take a subway to Brooklyn! I planned to cross the bridge in about one hour, it took me almost three. Not because it’s that long, but because I was so stunned that I was stopping plenty of times for pictures or just to sit on the bench to enjoy the Manhattan skyline.
When I finally found myself (starving) in Brooklyn, I got a classic New York bagel from “La Bagel Delight” and ate it in John Street Park, enjoying the skyline and the bridge again.
Next, I went to DUMBO, which (according to comedian Jerry Seinfeld) means “Down Under Manhattan Bridge”, but somebody added “Overpass” because people didn’t want to live in DUMB. Every Sunday there’s a flea market right under the bridge, with affordable craft and second hand, vintage stuff. It’s really worth visiting, even if you don’t plan to buy anything. That’s the reason why I started my trip from Brooklyn, although initially I wanted to finish it there.
|TOMEK KNOWS BEST: Organise your trip around NYC events, such as flea markets, free gigs in the parks, festivals. Try to avoid visiting museums and similar attractions at weekends due to crowds and huge tickets demand.|
The next couple of hours I spent walking along Brooklyn Bridge Park Greenway and Promenade to have a closer look at Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge, see the skyline from different perspectives and watch some New Yorkers jogging, having a walk or relaxing in one of many piers. I really loved how the promenade is designed, with plenty of leisure facilities and eateries to actually make local people enjoy their free time there. I finished my coastal walk around Pier 6 and then I walked up the hill to listen to The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. That was the second reason to go to Brooklyn on Sunday, but although I liked the band singing gospel, the whole show was too religious (which I’m not at all) and I wouldn’t do that again.
Afterwards I took a city bike to go to the beautiful hidden gem, Green-Wood Cemetery (mentioned in my article about unique NYC experiences, but if you prefer, Prosper Park nearby is an alternative). Next, I cycled through Jewish neighbourhood Borough Park. It was dirty and not that interesting, I wouldn’t recommend it. In the end I went to Brooklyn Heights, a lovely and colourful neighbourhood, perfect for wandering around, having a dinner and ice cream in “Brooklyn Ice-Cream Factory”.
To end that busy day I cycled the Brooklyn Greenway to Marsha P. Johnson State Park and took an East Hudson Ferry to Lower Manhattan. I didn’t enjoy the greenway at all due to the lack of nice views and boring route. I should’ve walked back to Manhattan through Manhattan Bridge. Maybe next time…
Although I’ve made a few mistakes in Brooklyn (The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, Borough Park, Brooklyn Greenway), that was one hell of a day! I was delighted by the views, I truly enjoyed everything else and my only regret is not walking on the Manhattan Bridge.
Third Day in New York
Summary: Lower Manhattan with World Trade Center, Battery Park, Staten Island Ferry, Stone St, Wall St, Trinity Church and SoHo.
In the very morning I cycled from Chelsea to Lower Manhattan by Manhattan Greenway. It’s a very easy route with plenty of incredible city views, so if you have more time I recommend using it to round the whole island of Manhattan. If you’re not a cyclist, just use the subway. Anyway, I left my bike around Rockefeller Park, where I was walking for a while. Then I went to see the new World Trade Center, 9/11 Memorial, 9/11 Museum and Oculus Metro Station.
The plan was also to go to One World Observatory in WTC and have a free ferry to Staten Island and back to see the Statue of Liberty. I postponed those for the next day, as it was very cloudy and foggy, so I wouldn’t see much.
Next, I went to the Battery Park which was rather mediocre, but it took me only about 30 minutes and at least I had a chance to rest among tens of brave squirrels.
Later I started moving north, sightseeing in a historical district full of old buildings (around Stone Street and Broad Street). I entered Wall Street to see the famous Charging Bull, New York City Exchange and The Fearless Girl statue. I also spent a few minutes in the Federal Hall (free entry to the first New York City Hall, but with very limited access) and then Trinity Church, which I decided to see only from outside.
Afterwards I went to SoHo which became my favourite New York neighbourhood. Maybe not the prettiest one, maybe not the cleanest one, but authentic, very vibrant, full of life, with interesting cafes, bars, shops and restaurants on every step. I was so happy walking around SoHo, that I probably spent almost 3 hours just there to eventually come back to my hostel really exhausted.
Fourth Day in New York
Summary: High Lane, Greenwich Village, Washington Square Park.
I started this day earlier than planned to have a ferry to Staten Island and visit One World Observatory in the World Trade Center, postponed from the previous day. In both cases it was definitely worth it!
Afterwards, as planned, I went to the 34 St. to walk throughout High Lane from start to finish. This approximately 3km walk was surprisingly good. I was expecting great views of the city, but apart from that the lane itself was very enjoyable, with plenty of plants and flowers, interesting corners and food options on the way (including the exit to Chelsea Market, which I visited in the end of my first day in the city).
The next stop was a stylish neighbourhood of Greenwich Village. From the architectural point of view, similar to SoHo, worth walking around for couple of hours (with interesting spots such as “Friends” apartment for the fans of this classic sitcom or Gay St, which is one of the shortest streets in New York, or Ghostbusters HQ known from the 80`s blockbuster). I had some rest in Washington Square Park, where I was “people watching”. I also enjoyed buskers and other local artists in that park.
Although I had to come back to Lower Manhattan in the morning, this day wasn’t as intense as the others. I managed to relax a lot, and in the evening I had a small walk in South Harlem where I enjoyed live music in Blue Note Jazz Club.
Fifth Day in New York
Summary: Central Park, American Museum of Natural History, Grand Central Terminal, Bryant Park + New York Library, Times Square, Rockefeller Center.
Again, I got up early in the morning (sleep is overrated!). After a good breakfast (with plenty of coffee to wake me up!) I went to Central Park. Later I visited the American Museum of Natural History and Times Square. On the way I saw Grand Central Terminal, Bryant Park and in the evening I visited Rockefeller Center for stunning views of New York after dark.
It sounds like a lot and it is, but it’s all about how much time you want to spend in these places. I was expecting to spend more than half a day in Central Park, but eventually about 4 hours was good enough (while the last hour I was picnicking on the Sheep’s Meadow). The American Museum of Natural History is a place where you can easily spend the whole day. I, however, was mostly interested in dinosaur’s fossils and meteorites, so it took me just a couple of hours (terrible crowds made me leave earlier, although it’s a great museum). I’m not a big fan of places such as Times Square (crowded, noisy and full of tourist traps) so I had just a quick walk around. I didn’t want to leave New York without experiencing Times Square madness. The New York Library in Bryant Park was closed earlier for some reason and I missed it. In that way I packed all these places in one day.
Rockefeller Center was actually the only place that day where I spent more time that I expected, which was roughly 3 hours. I was enjoying all the activities around that building and its square. Finally, I couldn’t get my eyes off the night panoramic views of NYC from the “Top of the Rock” observatory. That was another highlight of my trip!
Sixth Day In New York City
Summary: It’s a shopping time! 5th Avenue, Empire State Building and most important surrounding attractions.
The last day of my trip was left for the famous 5th Avenue and surrounding attractions that I couldn’t see before. I started on 5th Avenue close to the Solomon R. Guggenheim museum, which is an interesting building itself (I’m sorry, that’s a banal, as you can say it about literally every second building in Manhattan). I was walking down the Avenue, visiting the most interesting shops, such as Tiffany’s, Macy’s, NBA Store among others. During many breaks I was enjoying St. Patrick Cathedral, Empire State Building (including the entrance to the observatory deck on 86th floor) and “230 Fifth Rooftop Bar” that I also recommend for a great view (it’s free to enter, but check the opening hours first).
According to your personal preferences, you can spend all the shopping as the choice is limitless, or skip it and instead visit places like Chinatown, Little Italy and others. Also, this is a last chance to see New York after dark. Perhaps Lower Manhattan? Or skyline from the Brooklyn Bridge or Promenade? Whatever you decide or whether you use my itinerary or not – it’s all up to you!
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