Visiting New York for the first time: The ultimate beginner’s guide to New York City

Visiting New York for the first time. The ultimate beginners guide to New York City

The Impressive skyscrapers that form a fantastic skyline together, a mix of architecture where historic buildings and futuristic design go hand in hand, the city that never sleeps, … You probably already guessed it? This blog post is about New York City. There is so much to experience in this huge metropolis, that visiting New York for the first time definitely requires some preparation. To help you, I bundled all my tips in an ultimate beginner’s guide for a successful first visit to The Big Apple.

In 2022 I traveled to New York City for the second time. After 8 years I was super excited to visit this fantastic city again and especially surprised, because so much had changed. Although it was my second visit, it still felt like my first time. I had to get to know the city again. And soon New York City stole my heart once more.

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Visiting New York for the first time: The ultimate beginner’s guide to New York City

How to travel to New York City? 

Traveling to this metropolis is possible with a direct flight from Brussels Airport. There are several airlines that offer tickets to New York. If you search and compare well you can even find very affordable tickets. In barely 8.5 hours or 2 to 3 films on your airplane screen later, you reach The Big Apple.

We landed at JFK airport where we boarded a private transfer to the city center provided by the travel agency where we booked our trip. Frankly, this service was very expensive for a driver who came to pick us up 2 hours late. “Traffic,” he said. Of course, traversing New York City by car is no easy task, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt. There are many other options to get to Manhattan from the various airports in New York. One of them is an external service that offers shared transfer at democratic prices

You can also travel to Manhattan from the various airports with a large shuttle bus. If you prefer a little more privacy, you can opt for the taxi. This may be a bit more expensive, but the taxis are available at all terminals at the airport itself. You don’t lose time waiting for a driver to pick you up. You do have to watch out for ‘pirate cabs’ though. These are not official taxi drivers trying to trick you into riding with them.

Traveling by train is also an option. From JFK and Newark you can reach several major train stations by train. You can also take the airtrain in JFK. This is a kind of monorail system that connects the airport to the New York subway. That way you can continue your journey by metro.

In short, there are plenty of options to travel from the airport to your destination.

How to get around in New York City?

Hi Taxi! 

The yellow cabs have become one of the trademarks of New York City. They are therefore often seen as the means of transport par excellence to move through the city. The taxis are not super expensive, of course this depends on the duration of the ride. Because traffic is often congested during peak hours, the taxi is not always the most appropriate option to get around the city center quickly. Taxis can be hailed all over the city if they are not occupied. You can see this by the light.

You can also use an uber. Unlike a taxi, an uber has a fixed price. But I’ve heard several times that this price can be high, especially during peak hours.

Go underground

The subway is a fast and cheap way to move around the city. The cheapest method of using the metro is to buy a reloadable ‘Metro Card’. This way you can always reload a certain amount on your card. A ride with the Metro Card costs $2.75 regardless of destination. I’m not lying when I say that New York’s subway traffic is very chaotic. When you travel by metro you sometimes have to search a bit and especially stay attentive. Make sure you always have a plan at hand or on your smartphone. The disadvantage of getting around with the metro is that you don’t see anything of the city while you’re on the way.

Hop-on-Hop-off 

A pleasant alternative is the red Hop-on-Hop-off bus. This is a bit more expensive, but it drives past the most popular sights in New York City. Because you can get on and off at any stop, you can easily move between the different attractions while enjoying the city. These bus rides are offered by various companies,  but tickets are cheaper to book online.

Walking and cycling

Exploring the city by bike is always fun and is certainly possible in New York City. Although this is not the safest and most relaxed option. Don’t get me wrong. There are many neighborhoods that are great to discover by bike, such as Central Park, DUMBO, … However, New York’s traffic is so chaotic that you need your full focus when cycling and can’t fully enjoy the beautiful city. It’s therefore better to opt for an organized bicycle tour with a guide.

I myself planned our visits for a certain day in the same neighborhood so that we had to use the metro as little as possible and could mainly walk from one sight to another. I found the combination of walking and riding the subway to be the best option. This allowed us to move quickly and economically, but this way we could also see a large part of the city.

Walking in New York City
Walking in New York City

The best time to travel to New York City?

The climate of New York City is somewhat similar to our climate, only with more extremes. It can get very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer. Yet visiting New York in all seasons has its charms.

The most attractive period is the Christmas period. During these magical weeks, the city is beautifully decorated and the shopping paradise par excellence for buying the best Christmas presents. Then you can also admire the imposing Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center and try the accompanying skating rink. You can also skate in other places in the city, such as Central Park. In short, New York City is the perfect Christmas destination.

Don’t worry too much about the weather. There are plenty of things to do indoor during cold and rainy days.  You’ll find numerous impressive museums such as the MoMa, The National 9/11 Memorial & Museum, various indoor observaties such as Summit One Vanderbilt and many covered markets such as the Chelsea market where you can relax and taste some New York delicacies.

When winter gives way to spring, New York City brightens up with colorful, fragrant blossoms. In addition to the soft pleasant temperatures that already make it possible to enjoy the outside terraces, it is  the ideal time to discover the parks such as Central Park or The Brooklyn Botanic Garden. I was there in May and this was an excellent time to visit New York. 

Brooklyn Botanic Garden, New York City

During the summer months, the real New Yorkers flee the city because of the heat. My first visit to New York City was in July and yes, it was very hot. But I liked those summery sultry vibes, especially the 4th of July festivities. On the other hand, the heat also hampered some activities such as cycling in Central Park.

The best time to visit New York definitely depends on the purpose of your trip.

How many days do you need to visit New York City? 

When visiting New York for the firt time, I advise you to really take your time. This city is so overwhelming and there is so much to experience, so there is a great danger that you will run from one sight to another without really experiencing New York City. Therefore, be sure to book a minimum of 5 nights so that you have at least 5 to 6 full days to fully enjoy The Big Apple. 

Important tips before visiting New York for the first time

If you plan to travel from Belgium to the United States, you will need an international passport and an ESTA travel authorization or visa.

Also, don’t forget that New York City is in a different time zone. It is 6 hours earlier than in Belgium. This way you save a little time when you depart.  The disadvantage is the jet lag that causes you to wake up very early the first few days.

Make sure you also bring an international plug, otherwise you will not be able to use or charge your electrical appliances.

In New York, a different currency is used, USD. That may seem obvious, but it is not like in some countries where they still accept euros. It is therefore best to change some money before your trip or at the airport. The cheapest way to exchange Euro into USD is through an exchange office. First compare the prices and choose the exchange office where you have the least loss.

Keep in mind that the prices on the menu when you’re going to a bar or restaurant  don’t include a tip. At the end of the ride you still have to pay 18%, 20% or 22% extra tip. Even when someone provides you with a service, for example the driver, the bellboy in the hotel, … you are expected to tip. 

Where to stay in New York City?  

When looking for a place to stay in New York City, Times Square is often put forward because this neighborhood is centrally located. I too have stayed around Times Square twice. Personally, I think it is one of the less cozy neighborhoods in New York. It is perhaps the one that is located the most central in Manhatten, but via the metro you can also move very quickly from another location.

On my next visit to New York I will definitely choose to stay in a different neighborhood. I already an overview of 15 gorgeous boutique hotels where to stay when visiting New York. But also via the map widget of Booking you can easily find a stay near your preference.



Booking.com

The best things to do when visiting New York for the first time

New York City card 

New York City is an immensely large city. And if you are there only there for a few days, then of course you want to see and experience as much as possible. Therefore it necessary to prepare well for your city trip in the Big Apple.

Do you want to visit many sights? Then I advise you to take a look at a New York city card. This allows you to visit some of New York’s highlights at a cheaper rate. There are different types of city cards. Below you will find an overview. The best thing is that you look at them all and choose the city card that best meets your needs.

 

We opted for a Sightseeing Flex Pass with which we could visit no fewer than 7 sights. The advantage was that we not only saved money on the entrance fee to the attractions, but with this ticket we didn’t have to make reservations anywhere. This way we could decide for ourselves during the trip when we wanted to visit which sights. It’s useful to be able to adjust your itinerary last minute when the weather is bad or not…

New York, New York 

One of the reasons why visiting New York City should be on your bucket list is of course, the impressive skyline. This is formed by the mix of beautiful buildings in different architectural styles. The first skyscrapers were built in the early 20th century during a period of economic prosperity. Just think of the roaring twenties. You can still admire many buildings in this typical Art Deco style, such as the Empire State building, Chrysler Building and Rockefeller center.

The Chrysler Building, New York City
Empire State Building, New York City

In this neighborhood you can still find some gems from the past, such as Grand Central Station, the New York Public Library and the Flatiron building.

Grand Central Station New York City
The New York Public Library
The New York Public Library

But time does not stand still and certainly not in New York City, the city that never sleeps. In the meantime, you can also see many hypermodern complexes, such as the recent sustainable construction project Hudson Yards, where you’ll find The Edge and The Vessel, among other spectacular skyscrapers. And there are also some beautiful parks here such as the High Line and Little Island.

The Edge, Hudson Yards, New York City
The Vessel, Hudson Yards, New York City

Of course there are many more other modern buildings in the city center to admire, such as the One World Trade Center, One Vanderbilt and the Oculus Center.

One World Trade Center, New York City
Oculus Center, New York City

Both the older and the newer generation of buildings together form the impressive skyline of The Big Apple. You can admire this beautiful skyline from one of the five observatories in New York City or from some other viewpoints that I will discuss in more detail later in this article.

Must visit Museums in New York City

When you plan to visit New York City for the first time, there are bound to be a number of museums on your to-do list. This city has so many museums that it is impossible to visit them all. That is why I am listing a few of them below that are definitely worth a visit.

MoMa 

MoMa is the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Here you can, as the name says, admire modern and contemporary art. It is one of the largest museums in the world and the modern art collection of the MoMa is also considered one of the best collections in the world. 

MoMa New York City

In the permanent exhibition you can admire pieces from 1880 to the present. These are artworks from big names such as Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo, Henri Matisse, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Gustav Klimt, …   It’s therefore a very varied collection that is definitely worth a visit.

MoMa New York City
MoMa New York City

Besides the permanent exhibition, there are also changing exhibitions. This allows you to visit the MoMa again and again and be surprised by works that you have never seen before.

Guggenheim 

Just like the MoMa, the Guggenheim is a museum with a beautiful Modern art collection, including some works that fall within the Impressionism and Expressionism movement.

In addition to the impressive art collection, the building is actually a work of art in itself. It was designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright and consists of a spiral shape that can be seen both inside and outside. This way you can admire the artworks as you make your way along the spiral ramps that run through the entire building.

If you are not planning to visit the Guggenheim, it is definlitely worth just taking a walk past the building.

9/11 Memorial museum 

An tragic event New York City will never forget is the 9/11 attack in 2001, when two planes flew into The Twin Towers. This disaster was worldwide on the news. More than 3000 people lost their lives here.

Today this place is referred to as Ground Zero. On the exact spot where the Twin Towers stood, there are now two monumental pools with the names of all the victims engraved in the rim. It’s quite impressive, but at the same time also captivating to see.

9/11 Memorial, Ground Zero, New York City
9/11 Memorial, Ground Zero, New York City

Be sure to visit the 9/11 Memorial Museum where you can learn everything about this terrible event, but also how New Yorkers experienced this attack through their personal stories of loss, recovery and hope. You will also find remnants of the old structures of the Twin Towers as well as objects that have been recovered from the rubble. This makes it easier to imagine how terrible this event was. Let me tell you that a visit to this museum is sure to leave a deep impression on you.

9/11 Memorial Museum, Ground Zero, New York City
9/11 Memorial Museum, Ground Zero, New York City
9/11 Memorial Museum, Ground Zero, New York City

A touch of green New York City

Visiting New York City for the first time is intense. New York City is referred to as the city that never sleeps for a reason. The sounds, lights, the city in constant development… That sometimes causes a little overstimulation. An occasional moment to take a breather is not an unnecessary luxury here. Fortunately, The Big Apple has numerous beautifully landscaped city parks where you can relax or enjoy New York City in a green setting.

Central park 

The most famous park in New York City with about 25 million visitors annually is Central Park and is also called the green heart of Manhattan. The large, rectangular domain stretches from 59th to 110th Street and from 5th to 8th Avenue. From Top of The Rock you can admire the park very well from above. That’s where you see how big it really is.

The construction of Central Park took no less than 16 years. When you walk through the park, you will not be surprised that it took so long. It’s a beautiful natural environment consisting of wide avenues, smaller hiking trails through the woods, several lakes, impressive monuments, sunbathing areas and a few restaurants. You can also spot some sights here such as the Belvedere castle and the famous Bethesda fountain. The park also houses a zoo called “Central park zoo.”

Central Park, New York City

Central Park, New York City
Central Park, New York City
Central Park, New York City

Around the park is a 10 kilometer long road where car traffic is banned during weekends and after 7 pm. Then it is a real paradise for active New Yorkers, but also the perfect time for tourists to explore Central Park by bicycle. Rent a bike or opt for a guided bike tour. Not an avid cyclist? Then take a nice walk or go for a romantic ride in a horse-drawn carriage.

Last but not least. If you plan to spend some time in Central Park, it is also nice to have lunch on the beautiful terrace of The Loeb Boat House when the weather is nice. Don’t forget to make a reservation! Here you can also rent rowing boats to go out on the lake.

The Loeb Bout House, Central Park, New York City

High line 

The High Line in a beautiful park that stretches for 2,3 kilometers from the Meatpacking District to Hudson Yards. This park was built on an old elevated railway that was used for the transport of meat and poultry until 1980. This piece of green runs above the streets between the buildings. It is a unique experience that attracts millions of visitors every year.

During the walk you can enjoy a beautiful view of the Hudson River, the typical New York industrial environment, the mix of different architectural styles and art. Yes, you heard that right. Artworks such as statues and murals are exhibited in the park. There are also occasional shows.

View from High Line, New York City
View from High Line, New York City

If you’re in the mood for a refreshing drink or snack, head down between 15th Street and 16th Street for a break at the Chelsea Market. This former biscuit factory has been transformed into a cozy food hall. Today you can find numerous food stalls and restaurants.

Besides that the High Line is close to some popular attractions. You can combine a walk through the park with a visit to The Vessel and The Edge.

View from High Line, New York City
The Vessel, New York City

You can also opt to walk the High Line as part of a guided tour. This way you will learn even more about the history of the park and the surrounding area. 

Little Island 

Little Island is, as the name suggests, an island that floats above the Hudson River. It is a city park that only recently (in 2021) opened its doors. So it probably won’t surprise you that it’s located near the Meatpacking District and Hudson Yards. You can also admire this impressive park with several height differences from the High Line. It’s quite unique to see.

Little Island seen from the High Line in NYC

Would you like to visit Little Island? Then you can reach it via one of the two pedestrian bridges, the North Bridge or South Bridge. Both bridges are located on the Hudson River Greenway at Pier 55.

From Little Island you can enjoy a green urban oasis with beautiful flora and an impressive view of Manhattan, New Jersey and the river around you.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden 

Want to escape the city for a while and relax in an oasis of peace? Then be sure to visit the beautifully landscaped Brooklyn Botanic Garden. This park consists of no less than 12 different gardens.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Brooklyn Botanic Garden

The best time to visit Brooklyn Botanic Garden is during the spring when most of the flowers are in bloom. In April you can admire the lush cherry blossoms. We were only there at the end of May and could enjoy a beautiful setting full of colorful and fragrant flowers. The biggest draw was the vast field of purple bluebells.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Brooklyn Botanic Garden, New York City

Nice neighborhoods to explore in New York City 

New York City is divided into several neighborhoods that overlap. The nice thing is that every neighborhood has its own identity. When visiting New York for the first time you will get to most  neighborhoods anyway when you go sightseeing all over the city. I already mentioned some neighborhoods under the other topics in this article. But here I list a few more that should certainly not be missing from your itinerary during your city trip in The Big Apple.

DUMBO 

Let’s start with the most trendy neighborhood in Brooklyn. Just across the Manhattan Bridge you will find the DUMBO neighborhood which literally means “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass”.

It’s a super fun and creative area to explore. You will find various art galleries, coffee bars, bakeries and also very photogenic places.

The most famous photo spot is perhaps the one on Washington Street where you can see the Empire State Building through the pillars of the Manhattan Bridge.

DUMBO viewpoint on Manhatten bridge from Washington Street
View from Brooklyn Bridge Park, New York City

From Brooklyn Bridge Park you also have amazing views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the spectacular Manhattan skyline.

The best day to visit DUMBO is definitely Sunday. Then there is a flea market where you can find nice things.

Lower Manhatten and the Financial District 

Even though the name ‘Financial District’ sounds rather boring, I still found this a super fun area to explore. You walk in between the most impressive skyscrapers that serve as offices for the most prestigious companies. You will find, among other things, the world-famous stock exchange and the One World Trade center.

Other special monuments are the beautiful Trinity Church that suddenly appears between the skyscrapers of Wall Street.

Trinity Church, Wall Street, New York City
Trinity Church, Wall Street, New York City
Trinity Church, Wall Street, New York City
Trinity Church, Wall Street, New York City

Near Wall Street you’ll also find the famous statue The Charging Bull. If you rub the nose, horns and yes, the balls of this statue, it supposingly brings good luck. Another famous statue in the area is The Fearless Girl. The statue was made in honor of International Women’s Day and stands in front of the New York Stock Exchange.

The Charging Bull, Wall Street, New York City
The fearless girl, Wall Street, New York City
China Town en Little Italy 

Nice neighborhoods to stroll through are China Town and Little Italy. This name already tells you that these are the neighborhoods where mainly Chinese and Italian immigrants settle. Meanwhile, the boundaries between the two neighborhoods have become blurred. China Town is growing while Little Italy is shrinking. This is because many Italians are moving away from the area. Yet you can still find the authentic atmosphere in both neighborhoods. There are also still many traditional restaurants and boutiques.

Little Italy, New York City
Little Italy, New York City
China Town, New York City
China Town, New York City
Times square and Hell’s Kitchen 

Although I certainly don’t think Times Square is the nicest or coziest neighborhood in New York, it is of course something you should see at least once. The immense advertising screens, the colorful neon lighting, the many street performers, the gigantic shops, the masses of tourists… It has something, especially when it’s dark.

Times Square, New York City
Times Square, New York City
Times Square, New York City
Times Square, New York City

You can combine your visit to Times Square with a theater performance on Broadway or a snack and drink in Hell’s kitchen. Hell’s kitchen used to not have the best reputation, but today you will find many trendy bars and eateries there.

Below you will find some amazing guided tours from Getyourguide. These are perfect if you want to explore different neighborhoods in an original way.

The best views in New York City

I personally think the best views of New York City are the places where you can admire the city from a distance or from above. Then you can completely soak in that beautiful skyline consisting of the most impressive buildings.

Admire New York City from above

Visiting one of the 5 observation platforms in New York should not be missing on your New York itinerary. These 5 viewpoints are located on the roof of some of the most impressive skyscrapers in New York. I will briefly go through them all here. An extensive report full of tips for visiting one or more of these phenomenal observatories can be found in my blog post about the 5 observatories with the best view of New York.

Empire State Building

Empire State Building is the oldest observation platform and therefore a true classic. In addition to the beautiful view, you also have access to the interactive museum where you can experience the evolution of the building, including a tribute to its film history. The building served as a film setting for several blockbusters such as King Kong and Sleepless in Seattle.

View from Empire State Building, New York City
Top of Rock

You have the best outdoor view from Top of Rock. This observatory is located on the roof of Rockefeller center. Here you can admire the iconic skyline in all its glory with highlights such as the Empire State Building, Chrysler building, Statue of Liberty, One World Trade Center, but also Central Park.  

View from Top of Rock, New York City
View from Top of Rock, New York City
One World Trade Center

The tallest skyscraper in New York City is One World Trade Center. The top floor, One World Observatory is open to visitors. There you have a phenomenal 360 degree indoor view of the city. The highlight of our visit was definitely the elevator that took us to the 102nd floor in 47 seconds. Not because it was so fast, but because we could see the entire evolution of 500 years of New York City on the walls of the elevator during the ride.

One World Observatory, New York City
One World Observatory, New York City
The Edge

One of my favorite viewpoints is The Edge. The observatory is unique in that way it’s an angular platform suspended from a skyscraper, hence the name: The Edge. So there is no building under the outdoor zone. Some bits of the floor have been replaced with glass that literally allow you to see 100 floors down. The unique shapes and the use of these different materials ensure that this is a very original photo spot.

The Edge, New York City
The Edge, New York City
Summit One Vanderbilt

If you want to be surprised by design, art and special effects in addition to the view, then you should definitely visit Summit One Vanderbilt. The visit is such an amazing experience that sometimes you forget that you have to enjoy the view. This because you are so absorbed in everything that happens in the spaces. Moreover, it is also a very photogenic place.

Summit One Vanderbilt, New York City
Summit One Vanderbilt, New York City

Do you want to admire New York City from even higher. Then you can also book a helicopter flight. Impressive views guaranteed!

Walk towards the skyline on Brooklyn Bridge 

One of the most famous landmarks in New York City is the Brooklyn Bridge. It opened in 1883. This iconic steel-constructed bridge was long the only connection between Manhattan and Brooklyn. It’s definitely a must-see when visiting New York for the first time.

Brooklyn Bridge, New York City
Brooklyn Bridge, New York City
Brooklyn Bridge, New York City

The bridge is not only very impressive to look at. When you walk it from Brooklyn towards Manhattan you also have a great view of the New York skyline. You literaly walk towards it.

Soak in the skyline from on the water

Since Manhattan is completely surrounded by the Hudson River and East River, it is really worth admiring the city from the water.

You can do this by taking a ferry from Battery Park to Liberty Island where you can see New York City’s most famous woman up close, Lady Liberty. In addition to the Statue of Liberty, you will also find the Statue of Liberty Museum with information and exhibitions about everything related to the Statue of Liberty. This museum is free for all visitors to the island. 

Liberty Island, New York City
Liberty Island, New York City
Liberty Island, New York City

You can also take the ferry to Ellis Island. This island served as a border post for immigrants who wanted to settle in America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today you can visit the Ellis Island Immigration Museum where you can see several exhibits, each highlighting a different aspect of immigration. The personal stories are especially touching.

Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration, New York City

You can enjoy a beautiful view of the New York skyline from both the ferry and on both islands.

View of Manhatten from Hudson River ferry, New York City

Besides the ferry, you can also opt for another type of boat trip, such as a cruise with or without extras.

Where to go shopping in New York City? 

SoHo (south of Houston Street) and Nolita 

What used to be an industrial district, dotted with factories and warehouses, is now a true shopping paradise called SoHo. These old buildings were restored into shops with luxury apartments and lofts above them. Because the historical elements have been preserved, it is still a very pleasant neighborhood to walk through.

Start your shopping adventure at Broadway and get lost among the 25 blocks of shopping district. You will find a mix of unique boutiques, large department stores and high-end luxury designers.

Do you need a break? Then visit Balthazar Bakery. A beautiful place completely in Art Nouveau style where you can go for a snack or drink. And not unimportantly one of the best bakeries in New York City.

Haven’t shopped enough yet? Then walk on to the adjacent neighborhood of Nolita where you can find even more beautiful shops and unique boutiques.

5th Avenue and Madison Avenue 

The most legendary shopping street is of course 5th Avenue. There you will find all the famous luxury brands. They are characterized by most impressive shop windows. It is not for nothing that 5th Avenue is called the most expensive shopping street in the world.

Within walking distance is Madison Avenue, which is part of the Upper East side. Here you can also find several high-end shops. In addition, this street is also known because some of the most expensive real estate in the world are located here.

If budget is not an issue, 5th Avenue and Madison Avenue are the places-to-be for shopping. Otherwise you stick to window shopping, like me. 

Impressive shopping malls

The United States is known for its gigantic ‘Shopping Malls’. You can also find some impressive ones in New York City. Two of the most famous shopping centers, Brookfield Park and The Oculus, are within walking distance of each other in Battery Park. Brookfield Park mainly houses luxury shops, while you can find more affordable brands in The Oculus. If you don’t like shopping, The Oculus is still a super impressive building to visit.

Oculus Center, New York City
Oculus Center, New York City

Another one that you absolutely cannot miss is the famous American department store Macy’s on Herald Square. This branch is according to the Guinness Book of Records the largest department store in the world.

Of course there are still plenty of nice places to shop in New York City. You also have the vibrant Bleeker Street in Greenwich Village and the charming streets of the West Village. For nice vintage stuff you have to be in the East Village. And some more high-end fashion houses and shops can be found in the Meatpacking District.

Not to miss specialties New York City

Hotdog 

Hot dog New York city

Hot dogs are an indispensable part of the New York street scene, at least the numerous hot dog stalls that you will find on every corner of the street. It is therefore a must-do to order a hot dog at such a typical food truck during your trip to the Big Apple. There are now also many vegetarian alternatives. I was told that you can taste the best hot dogs at Gray’s Papaya.

Blueberry pancakes 

Blueberry pancakes

You may have seen them appear in a couple of films or television show, but these little stacked pancakes are a true breakfast classic in the United States. In New York City you can order these typical American pancakes in different ways. The most famous are the bleuberry pancakes made with blueberries. When you order them you usually get a jar of blueberry jelly and one of maple syrup with your pancakes. I first tried to carefully put a piece of pancake in both jars and then eat it, until the waiter convinced me to empty both jars at once over my stack of pancakes. And believe me, it tasted heavenly! The best blueberry pancakes can be found at the Clinton St. Baking Company.

Bagels  

Bagels New York City

Another real New York specialty is the bagel. These round buns with a hole in them, not to be confused with the donut, originally come from Poland. The bagel was introduced to New York City by Jewish immigrants. These delicious sandwiches became a hit and today they are the favorite breakfast or lunch choice of many New Yorkers. The classic New York bagel is topped with cream cheese, smoked salmon and onion and is highly recommended. You can order delicious bagels at one of the many Black Seed Bagel locations.

New York Pizza 

New York Pizza Slice

Everyone knows that pizza is an Italian specialty. The New Yorkers gave it their own twist, partly influenced by their fast-paced and busy lifestyle, and that is how the famous New York pizza slices came about. Where you normally have to wait for your pizza to be baked, you can have a delicious pizza slice within just 2 minutes in one of the many pizza places all over New York City. The perfect snack for a quick and cheap bite while discovering the city.

Are you a foodie and want to discover even more delicious New York City specialties? Then opt for an organized food tour with a guide from Getyourguide. You will not only discover the different delicacies, but also the best places to eat them.

 

Where to eat New York City?

New York City has a lot of restaurants. Like its inhabitants, the restaurants are a melting pot of cultures. And that’s nice, because you can really find all kinds of cuisines there. It’s a true foodie paradise! The only thing you need to know is that the good restaurants are in demand and that it is therefore best to reserve a spot in time. Sometimes it can be hard to get a table in New York’s best restaurants.

Of course it was impossible for me to try everything, but below is a small summary of the restaurants and cozy neighborhoods to eat that personally appealed to me the most. 

The blue dog NYC

Do you want to start your day of sightseeing off right? Then go for brunch at The blue dog NYC. This address is one of the best. We even went there twice because it was so good. The specialty of the house are the egg-o-holics on bread, a hearty breakfast that will keep you going for a few hours. The blue dog is popular, so book a table in time.

South Street Seaport 

A super cozy neighborhood where you can find a lot of nice restaurants is South Street Seaport. This former harbor is home to some of the oldest buildings in Manhattan. Many of these historic buildings have been completely restored and house authentic boutiques, trendy bars and cozy restaurants. You will also find pier 17 an events center that hosts a series of concerts on the roof terrace in the summer. On the ground floor of pier 17 there are still plenty of restaurants where you can dine with a view of the Brooklyn Bridge. We dined at Malibu Farm New York and can definitely recommend this restaurant.

If you then walk further along the waterfront towards Battery Park, you will pass Industry Kitchen where you can also enjoy a delicious lunch or dinner.

Industry Kitchen, New York City

Chelsea & Meatpacking Disctrict  

Adjacent to the Chelsea district, we find the Meatpacking District where many slaughterhouses and packaging companies used to be located. Today this is one of the trendiest neighborhoods in New York City where you can also find numerous elegant bars and delicious restaurants such as Fig & Olive, Pastis, Catch and Buddakan. 

Nearby you can also visit the Chelsea market, a former biscuit factory, which was transformed into an impressive food hall. You will not find many different types of food stalls and restaurants here, but the interior is also really great.

With this comprehensive beginner’s guide to New York City, I’ve tried to give as many tips as possible for visiting New York for the first time. I hope that with my tips you will have an unforgettable first New York experience.

Are you visiting New York for the first time? What would you definitely not want to miss on your this trip to The Big Apple? Let me know below in the comments.

If you are planning a city trip to New York City, then definitely read 5 best observatories in New York City where I share my experiences visiting the all of New Yorks’ observatories and my overview of 15 gorgeous boutique hotels where to stay when visiting New York.

Wanna visit more of the United States? Then check my travel guides below:

Thank you for reading. 

Yours truly, 

Sarah

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The ultimate beginner's guide to New York City
The ultimate beginner's guide to New York City

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