Welcome to the city that never sleeps, and that I call home. New York City will keep your senses engaged any time of day or night with endless entertainment in the form of dining, shopping and the arts. Composed of five boroughs where the Hudson River meets the Atlantic Ocean, this center of culture and commerce is one of the most dynamic destinations in the world.
What makes this city so culturally distinct? After being seized from the Dutch by the British in 1664, immigrants from all over Europe began to settle there. An important port, New York City became America’s trading capital in the 19th century. It wasn’t until 1895 that Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx, Staten Island and Brooklyn formed the five-borough “Greater New York”.
Neighborhoods were created by the many immigrants settling in from around the world, giving birth to what is known today as a cultural melting pot. What I’ve always loved about New York City is that wherever you come from, you feel at home among its diverse population of over 8.5 million.
Freedom, museums, and the Hudson River
For a lesson in the history of New York’s first settlers, visit the iconic Statue of Liberty and Immigration Museum on the nearby Ellis Island. Built in 1886, the Statue of Liberty was a gift from France, and since its appearance in New York, it has remained a symbol of freedom. I recommend taking a boat trip from Battery Park to Liberty Island to see this famous monument up close. If you would like to get to know the New York’s culture more, you should buy a ticket to the latest Broadway show or head to Lincoln Center for a ballet performance.
On the other hand, if you want to listen to the best musicians in the word, you should visit Carnegie Hall. Another place that you shouldn’t omit when sightseeing in New York is the Metropolitan Museum of Art, also known as “the Met”, the largest museum in America and home to an impressive collection of historic works from all around the world. A lesser known museum featuring old master works from Europe, such as paintings, sculptures and craftsmanship works is the Frick Collection. I personally also love the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) that boasts my favorite collection of modern and contemporary art. Its building alone is a masterpiece!
The best, in my opinion, views of New York City can be seen from the tallest building in the Western hemisphere, One World Trade Center, also known as the Freedom Tower. Standing 104 stories tall at 1,776 feet, this memorial to 9/11 was completed in 2014.
From here, take a walk to the neighboring Battery Park and stop at Le District to enjoy a taste of French food and culture – just like the one you can find at Paris markets.
To best discover New York City from a local perspective, take a walk through its vibrant neighborhoods, starting downtown. I very often go to the Lower East Side,
one of the city’s most trendy enclaves, filled with ethnic eateries and small boutiques. This place is located close to Chinatown and Little Italy.
After that, you have to visit NoLita (North of Little Italy), where my favorite local eatery Café Gitane is located. I also love strolling along the charming West Village which, as its names says, feels exactly like a village! If I feel like going to the Meatpacking District, I usually a walk along the High Line, a former rail line transformed into a public park boasting unique views of the city’s architecture.
From there, I often continue up to Chelsea with its street-lined art galleries. Don’t miss Chelsea Market where you can sample many of New York’s specialities at dozens of food stands.
Another must-see place is Midtown New York that always astonishes, no matter how many times you visit it. Here, every place excites in a different way – from the lights and energy of Times Square, a proof that the city never sleeps, to high-class shopping on Fifth Avenue.
I encourage you to take a closer look at Rockefeller Center, an entertainment and shopping complex, and pay a visit to the Gothic marvel that is St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
When I want to catch a breath from the concrete jungle, I go to an oasis of green, i.e. Central Park. It was created in 1857 and spans 778 acres (315 ha) of walking paths, biking paths, pastures and ponds. My favorite spot for an urban escape is the Central Park Boathouse, where I can relax over a leisurely lunch and rent a boat to explore the park by water. However, the closest to my heart is Manhattan that offers a limitless number of attractions.
You just have to cross the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, after which you can find such places as DUMBO (between Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges), uber-trendy East River gulf in Williamsburg and tree-lined Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope. Don’t miss Domino Park along Williamsburg’s East River, a brand new six-acre (2.4 hectare) park featuring an industrial-style playground and a taco stand.
Having called Manhattan home for over a decade, I have become well acquainted with the city’s vibrant neighborhoods. I live in the Lower East Side, south of Delancey street. Historically an immigrant community, this neighborhood has gentrified in recent years, becoming one of the city’s most trendy enclaves. Some of my favourite places are Kiki’s, a Greek restaurant hidden behind a Chinese facade, and Italian wine bar and restaurant Bacaro.
French restaurant Les Enfants de Bohème is another locally loved eatery. Hester Street Fair is an artisanal street market (open every Saturday), where I bring friends to discover local New York designers. This downtown part of Manhattan continues to evolve in both food and fashion, and holds the spirit of ‘old New York’.
Whether you’re looking down at the maze of the city or up at the skyscrapers rising into the sky, New York City will leave you captivated by its vibrant energy and endless entertainment in every form. Take it from a local!
The AirTrain links all passenger terminals with NYC’s Subway system at Jamaica and Howard Beach Stations. At Jamaica, you can take the E, J or Z lines. At Howard Beach, you can take the A line. All NYC Subway fares are separate from AirTrain, but they can be paid using any MetroCard. The fare is $2.75 USD.
If you’re taking the subway to the airport, you will disembark at Sutphin Boulevard Station on the E, J and Z lines or at Howard Beach Station on the A line to access the AirTrain network.