First Time in New York – Sightseeing in New York – What to see in New York City first (top 10)
The sights of New York are known to everyone: Central Park, Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and other skyscrapers with observation decks, numerous museums and art galleries, the best theatrical productions on Broadway and so on. They are often featured in movies, and we all know the most important ones from childhood. New York City is like a magnet that attracts millions of people from all over the world every year, who are sure to take a guidebook to the city’s sights with them when they travel.
The main thing is to figure out what sights in New York City are worth seeing first, where they are and how to get to them. In this article, I’ll tell you about all the most important places in New York and share practical information about visiting them, compiled from personal experience.
Sightseeing in New York City
Most travelers begin their introduction to the United States with New York City, the cultural capital of America, and many consider it the world. We have personally seen almost all of the top attractions in New York City, and now I will give you a brief overview of what iconic and iconic places to pay attention to, as well as share some of my secrets and give practical advice on making a walking route around New York City.
Here’s what you need to know about New York City attractions before you travel to the city:
- First, New York City is a pretty big city, but visiting its attractions, unlike the attractions in Los Angeles, is pretty easy (you don’t need to book a special tour, pay money to a tour guide or rent a car to do so). You can avoid spending money on tours altogether and see New York City for free.
Read about it here.
- The second reason is that all the most interesting sights of New York are located in its center, in Manhattan. So it is better to choose a hotel here.
Read our article about how to choose a hotel in New York.
- Thirdly, it is absolutely impossible to walk around all the sights of the “Big Apple” in one day. So if you will be in New York for just two or three days, then before you go to the city of skyscrapers, it’s better to clearly understand what you want to see, and make a route of the streets of New York (where it is better to walk, and where it is more convenient to use the subway, bus, or cab).
New York City Neighborhoods
I can’t help but say that until now, in the usual view of tourists, New York City is exclusively Manhattan. This was the case before, but at the beginning of the twentieth century, the neighboring boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx became part of New York City. They too are of interest to tourists, especially the first three. But to emphasize that Manhattan is the heart and essence of New York City, Americans call it New York City, or even just the City.
For convenient sightseeing in downtown New York City we found a very comfortable and inexpensive Howard Johnson Hotel for only $130 a night (with hot breakfast and coffee, though it is not in Manhattan, but only 2 subway stations from Central Park, in the Queens neighborhood).
What to see in New York in 3 or 4 days
We put together a walking tour itinerary to see New York City on foot as follows:
- We devoted the first day in New York to the sights of Midtown – Times Square, Rockefeller Center, and Grand Central. In the evening we could go to a musical on Broadway;
- We started the second day with the Brooklyn Bridge, then visited Lower Manhattan and Wall Street, and ended with a walk through Greenwich Village with our friend Paula, who showed us places that were dear to her heart – Paula lived in New York in the 80s;
- We spent the third day walking through Central Park and visiting the most famous Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Roerich Museum;
- And on the last, fourth day, we studied Earth history at the Museum of Natural History.
We built our itinerary around New York City according to our interests, but there are some sights that should never be missed on a trip to New York City.
How do you figure it all out when you’re about to leave and it’s time to make a detailed plan for your own trip?
The 10 best sights of New York City
Here are the top sights in New York City – our top 10:
- Times Square
- Rockefeller Center
- Grand Central Station
- Empire State Building
- 9/11 Memorial
- Wall Street
- Brooklyn Bridge
- Statue of Liberty
- Central Park
Next, I’ll tell you the best way to walk around New York City to see these and other interesting sights, incorporating them into your itinerary around the city.
Times Square is a square and one of the main symbols of New York City, the busiest street in the heart of the city with the best stores and the brightest billboards. Do you remember from American movies the intersection where people are always walking from all sides? This is Times Square and the heart of New York City.
- Address: 7th Avenue and West 42nd to West 47th Street.
- Subway Station: Times Square – 42nd Street
- Best Hotel in Times Square: Marriott Marquis
The best time to enter Times Square is in the evening when there are billboards and advertisements for all the latest fashions and trends on giant billboards. Surrounded by large crowds of people, we really felt the pulse of the times there and quickly understood the most current trends.
There are also other attractions near Times Square in New York City:
- Discovery Times Square Interactive Museum.
- Bubba Gump, a legendary restaurant.
- Madame Tussauds Waxwork Museum.
The Rockefeller Center is a large office complex with apartments, restaurants and fashionable stores located between Fifth and Sixth Avenues in the heart of Manhattan consisting of 19 buildings with the most interesting observation deck – Top of the Rocks – at the top of the skyscraper where you can enjoy a spectacular view of New York City from up above in good weather. It is next to Rockefeller Center where they decorate the main Christmas tree of New York City.
- Address: 5th Avenue and between 48th and 51st Streets
- Subway Station: 47-50 Streets/Rockefeller Center
- Best 5 Star Hotel near Rockefeller Center: The Peninsula
Rockefeller Center is several buildings at once
Since we got to New York in spring we didn’t get to see the Christmas tree, but we saw the NBC headquarters (which is a part of Rockefeller Center) where The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, one of the most popular shows in USA, is being filmed.
There are also other attractions near the Rockefeller Center in New York City:
- Radio City Music Hall Theater and Concert Hall
- St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a neo-Gothic Catholic church
- New York’s Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan MOMA
Radio City Hall, where the Tony awards for best work on Broadway were to be handed out a couple of days before we arrived
Broadway is the oldest road in Manhattan. It was paved by Indians right in the middle of the forests that covered a large part of the island, and later it was transformed into the main transportation artery of New York, along which numerous theaters and concert halls have grown. And that is why Broadway, unlike other streets in New York City, winds and twists, but like many others is a one-way street. Broadway is very long: more than 50 kilometers. It begins in the very south of the island, in Lower Manhattan, and ends far beyond the Bronx.
The name “Broadway” comes from the Dutch Breede weg, which means “Wide Way.” After the transfer of Manhattan to the British Crown, it was translated into English and is still a symbol of New York City.
The most famous hotel on Broadway is the Trump International Tower, which is located on Columbus Circle, a few minutes from Central Park.
Interesting fact: You can find your own Broadway in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island (pretty much every major American city also has a Broadway, as the widest road through the city is called). And then there is West Broadway in Manhattan in Tribeca Park and SoHo, but its length is only a little over 2 km, so you better not confuse them.
Although Broadway is a rather long avenue lined with skyscrapers and office buildings and apartments, it is known for a small theater district that begins at 40th Street and extends to 54th Street in the heart of Manhattan (it lies west of 6th Avenue and up to Eighth Avenue).
- This part of Broadway in the late 1890s also became known as “The Great White Way” immediately after streetlights appeared there, fully illuminating the road at dusk and at night.
- It is on Broadway that New York’s most famous square, Times Square, is located.
- If you like musicals and theatrical productions (both classics and contemporary), then a visit to Broadway in New York is a must!
Broadway is the best place to see the world’s most popular musicals.
New York Central Station
Grand Central Station is an iconic train station in New York City and is housed in a stunningly beautiful building. Especially beautiful is the ceiling, depicting the sky with stars. Also in the Grand Central building is a large Apple Store.
- Address: 89 E 42nd St. and Park Ave.
- Subway station: Grand Central – 42nd St.
- Best hotel near the Grand Central: Grand Hyatt
Grand Central Station in New York City was built in 1903 and is a National Historic Landmark. Several types of passenger traffic intersect at this major passenger terminal. It has a fairly busy subway station and bus terminal, and there are electric trains to north Long Island and Amtrak trains leaving New York City for nearby cities as well as New Haven, Connecticut, where Yale University is located.
Near New York Central Station are attractions:
- City Park with New York City’s popular skating rink – Bryant Park
- The New York Public Library – NYPL
- One of the icons of New York is the Art Deco skyscraper – the Chrysler Building
The Empire State Building
The Empire State Building is New York City’s most famous skyscraper. It is 443.2 m tall (second tallest skyscraper in New York City and fifth tallest in the United States), has 103 floors and has two observation decks – on the 86th and 102nd floors. During holidays and important events the building is beautifully illuminated.
- Address: 5th Avenue, between 33rd and 34th Street West
- Subway stations: 33St and 34th St-Herald Sq Station
- Best hotel near the Empire State Building: The New York EDITION
The Empire State Building is the imperial grandeur of New York City. It’s hard to look up from below, but it’s mesmerizing from a vantage point over all of New York City!
It is said that one of the most unforgettable experiences in New York City is watching the city from the Empire State Building observation deck. This is the opinion of many tourists, so the line to the observation decks is quite impressive.
New York City sights that are close to the Empire State Building:
- Madison Square Public Park.
- The triangular skyscraper of the Flatiron Building.
The 9/11 Memorial is where the World Trade Center skyscrapers once stood, on the foundations of which fountains with water running underground were set up to commemorate the victims. There is also a museum, which tells in detail about the most important tragedy of the United States in the XXI century.
- Address: 180 Greenwich St.
- Subway stations: World Trade Center and Fulton Street
Nearby the 9/11 Memorial in New York City are:
- 9/11 Tribute Museum
- Monument to the starving Irish on the Hudson Riverfront
People constantly come to remember the grievous tragedy that changed the history of the world
Wall Street and the Bronze Bull
Wall Street is a street in Lower Manhattan around which the business district, the main financial center of New York City and the United States, where the New York Stock Exchange is located, has grown. This unusual street name goes back to the days when New York was a Dutch settlement and was called the New Amsterdam, and its borders were walled. Wall Street was the boundary of the city.
Bronze Bull (Charging Bull) – the main symbol of Wall Street, with which all tourists must be photographed (for this you have to wait your turn to him). Decide for yourself which part of the bull you want your picture taken with – its muzzle and horns or its polished balls.
- Address: Wall Street and Broadway intersection.
- Subway Station: Wall St.
- Best hotel on Wall Street: The Ritz-Carlton Battery Park.
- Trinity Church
- Federal Reserve Bank of New York
- Federal Hall
The Brooklyn Bridge is a bridge between the islands of Manhattan and Long Island (Brooklyn). The bridge is not only automobile, but also pedestrian, so you can walk across it and see both Brooklyn and the skyscrapers of Manhattan from the side. The length of the bridge is 1.6 km.
- Address: The intersection of Centre St Park Row in Manhattan and the intersection of Tillary Street and Boerum Place in Brooklyn
- Subway stations: Brooklyn Bridge City Hall in Manhattan and York Street in Brooklyn
- Best Brooklyn hotels: Sheraton Brooklyn
We took the subway to Brooklyn and walked across the bridge into Manhattan. It was really cool! The Brooklyn Bridge itself is very beautiful, built in a neo-Gothic style, and pedestrian-friendly, unlike the Queensborough Bridge, which only has a narrow walkway next to cars. The Brooklyn Bridge offers a good view of Manhattan, the adjacent Manhattan Bridge, Upper Bay at the mouth of the Hudson River, and the Statue of Liberty.
Next to the Brooklyn Bridge are other New York City landmarks:
- The Woolworth Building.
- New York City Hall and City Hall Park
- St. Paul’s Chapel
- Brooklyn Heights
Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty is the most famous symbol of the United States, located in New York City on Liberty Island in the Upper Bay. Officially, the Statue of Liberty is a National Monument, a visit to which is free to all. However, you have to pay $18.5 for a ferry ride to the Statue. Tickets are sold at the center of the other National Monument, Castle Clinton Fortress, which is located in Battery Park in Lower Manhattan.
- Metro station: Bowling Green, Whitehall St, South Ferry (closer to Staten Island Ferry)
- Best hotel in Lower Manhattan: The Wagner.
There are three different ways to see the Statue of Liberty in New York:
- Buy a ferry ticket to Liberty Island and see the Symbol of America up close (you can even go up to the observation deck at its crown);
- Take the free ferry to Staten Island and sail near the Green Belle;
- See the Statue of Liberty from afar: from the Statue of Liberty Vista Point observation deck in Battery Park or from the Brooklyn Bridge.
Since it’s not our first time in New York, we’ve tried all the free ways, but we haven’t sailed directly to Liberty Island yet. Maybe in the future we’ll make a joint trip to both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, where the immigrants came from.
Also near the Statue of Liberty are other New York City landmarks:
- Battery Park.
- National Museum of the American Indian.
- Castle Clinton National Monument
Central Park is another heart of New York City that is green. It is a large park with ponds, rocks, hills, numerous squirrels, a circus, and a host of events that take place there. As often as the Statue of Liberty, only Central Park appears in American movies. It is the most visited park in the United States. And we were convinced that such a title is assigned to it for a reason.
The length of Central Park – about 4 km, and width – 800 meters, and its size should always be taken into account when planning a walk. After all, in the park, you relax, not strain. Although locals also use Central Park for jogging and various sports.
- Address: Between 59th and 110th Streets, Fifth and Eighth Avenues
- Nearest subway stations:
- 5 Av is the most convenient subway station in the southeast;
- 57 St, Lexington Av-59 St, 59th St-Columbus Circle (to the southwest);
- Lexington Av-63 St, 68 St, 72 St (convenient to Stoberry Fields and Bow Bridge);
- 77 St, 86 St (convenient to the Metropolitan Museum of Art);
- 81 St-Museum of Natural History (convenient to the Museum of Natural History);
- 96 St, 103 St,110 St (east and west);
- 110 Street Central Park North, Cathedral Pkwy.
- The best hotel near Central Park: of course, the one from the movie “Home Alone 2” – located on the southwest corner of The Plaza.
Central Park appealed to us immediately. We love American nature in general, and finding such an oasis of greenery in the stone jungle of New York (although parks and squares certainly abound!) is very encouraging. You really want to relax, unwind, take your time, enjoy the sunshine, watch the ducks in the pond, and have a picnic.
In my opinion it is better to spend a whole day in Central Park. And we were glad that we rested here near the end of our trip to the U.S. (before that we managed to drive from New York to Miami to the national parks and back), when we had almost no energy left, and surrounded by nature we recovered pretty quickly.
And now, attention, iPhone lovers: you can buy a new phone at the flagship Apple Store on the Upper East Side, near the park entrance on 5th Avenue. The address of the largest Apple store in New York City is 767 5th Ave.
Also near Central Park New York are:
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
- Natural History Museum.
- Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
- The Frick Collection of paintings.
What’s the best way to see the sights in New York?
As we’ve seen from experience, it’s very difficult to see New York City in one or two days. On my first visit, two days was not enough for me: just to run around and get an idea of the city. So it is optimal to come for 4-5 days to see all the major attractions of New York, which are in my top 10.
In addition to the sights listed above, we also saw a number of interesting places in New York City. We walked around Greenwich Village and sat in Washington Square, passed the Stonewall National Monument and checked out Union Square Park, and went to the Roerich Museum. I’ll talk about all of this in detail in the respective articles.
In my opinion, it is better to walk everywhere in New York City (if the weather permits). And only take the subway to the farthest sights in the morning and gradually walk back through the city streets, or start your tour on your own and take the subway back to your hotel at the end of the day.
Important to know: One subway ride in New York City costs $2.75 (or $3 if you buy your card at the machine each time right before you enter the subway, rather than riding the MetroCard, refilling it periodically at the same machine).
Does it make sense to buy a $32 weekly unlimited subway pass in NYC?
- From our experience, it seems to me that if you will only be in New York for 2-3 days, it is not worth buying a subway pass.
- In my opinion, it’s worth it if you come to NYC for 4-5 days or more. And you don’t really like walking, but plan to take the subway and buses a lot (the unlimited pass works on those, too).
- It’s also worth thinking about buying a subway pass for those who will be living in Brooklyn or Queens rather than downtown Manhattan. In that case, the subway will be needed several times a day, so do your own math on how much it will benefit you).
- And you can also buy the Unlimited Ride MetroCard for tourists who are planning to stay in one area of Manhattan (for example, in Midtown), but certainly want to see the sights of its other areas (for example, Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, as well as to visit museums and visit Central Park) and take the subway from / to the airport.
Helpful Tip. A subway card can be one for two, but only if it’s not unlimited. You’ll just have to use the Metrocard when you enter the station one at a time.
We didn’t pay much for the subway in New York City, only $10-15 each when we rode it from the airport and a few times back to the hotel.
But if you stay in New York longer and walk around the city without rushing, allocating only one or two sights each day, it makes sense to consider buying a pass. See prices on the official New York City subway website.
Recommendation. To see the sights of New York City, it is best to settle in Manhattan. And not just anywhere, but in the center, in Midtown. Why? Manhattan is an elongated island, 21 km long and almost 4 km wide. Of course, it would not be very convenient to settle on the edge, for example, on the north of Central Park, and walk around the entire island every day from there. It is much more convenient to choose a good hotel in the center and walk every day in the direction you want.
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