NEW YORK 101: MY TRAVELLERS GUIDE

New York has a special place in my heart. If someone would ask me where I feel at home the most while traveling, my answer will always be New York, New York, New York.

New York is the city where you must have been at least once in your life. I’ve been there a couple of times because my uncle and my aunt live there, lucky me. Last time Sander and I went together. Because it was his first time, I could show him everything the city that never sleeps has to offer. We stayed in heart of Manhattan and now we are both in love with the city. There is so much to see and do. So, here are my tips and tricks to enjoy the city we love to the fullest. If it’s your first time visiting the big apple, I would advise you to hit the highlights that are near each other on one day. Instead of running around the city trying to see all the highlights at once.

There are so many special places and well-known New York landmarks such as the various bridges, unique buildings, beautiful parks and the iconic shopping streets, all of which have their own character. There is always something new to discover.

We started with the iconic Statue of Liberty. We took a ferry ride to Liberty Island and Ellis Island. We went all the way up to the Crown of the Statue of Liberty. The view is amazing, but it comes at a price as we were required to climb 162 super narrow tight steps from the Pedestal to the Crown. If visiting the Statue of Liberty is too much for your schedule you could hop on the Staten Island Ferry which glides past all of Manhattan’s skyline along with the Statue of Liberty. The best part being that it’s absolutely free. All you have to do is, take a subway to South Ferry or Bowling Green and then take the free ferry across the harbour.

After our physical endurance climbing the double-helix spiral stairs to the crown, it was time for lunch. We found the perfect spot at Pier A Harbor House, The Oyster House. We sat there enjoying our lunch with an amazing view of the Hudson River. We ordered calamari, tuna taco’s and a tuna burger. It was exactly what we needed and we enjoyed every single bite.

Next up seeing The Big Apple from great heights. There are three buildings you can visit that give you an amazing view of New York, Rockefeller Center (Top of the Rock), the Empire State Building and the Freedom Tower (One World Trade Center). My personal favourite is the Freedom Tower, it’s the tallest building with its 104 floors. You will get whisked up to the 102nd floor with a super exciting elevator ride. All four walls of the elevator are digital screens that show a time-laps transformation of New York. Sander, who’s a real tech lover, was really impressed by it. When you reach the top, you will be met with a stunning 360 view of New York City, it really is breath-taking.
Sander and I really loved it, so if you don’t have a lot of time, I would opt for the Freedom Tower.

When you’re done at the Freedom Tower it’s just a minutes walk to Ground Zero. Ground Zero is the site of the two buildings that used to be the World Trade Center. Two huge fountains have now been created in memory of the victims of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. There is also a museum which gives you an unforgettable encounter with the story of the attack, the aftermath, and the people who experienced these events.

Next to Ground Zero there is the Oculus. The Oculus is the World Trade Centre station. It’s designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. The shape of the white building, a construction of steel and glass, refers to a bird that rises from a child’s hand. It’s intended as a monument to the victims of the attacks. The new building that has been built is an eye-catcher with a price tag of almost 4 billion dollars. This makes it the most expensive station in the world.

Before we went to the next highlight of New York we grabbed something to eat at the Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar which is a part of Brookfield Place (BFPL). The BFPL is a destination that brings together modern office space, cultural experiences, curated dining and world-class shopping on the Hudson River. It has a super pretty marina where you can sit and enjoy your food with a great view. That’s exactly what we did.

After dinner we hopped on the subway to Times Square. We love walking our way through New York, but when you want to see a lot, it’s better to take the subway to save time. Times Square is always buzzing with energy. It’s a lot to take in, the neon signs on large billboards, the people, the hustle and bustle. It’s not called the crossroads of the world for nothing. Even Broadway and the rest of the theatre district start at Times Square. If you are ever in New York during the holidays you should go and watch the famous New Year’s Eve Ball Drop on Times Square.

After this super filled day, we started the next day a little slower. We bought some bagels at Tal Bagels and some drinks at Starbucks walked to Central Park and had a small picknick. New York has a lot of parks to offer, the High Line, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Madison Square Park, Washington Square Park (Washington Arch) and Central Park. Central Park being the largest, surrounded by the skyscrapers of New York. The sound literally seems to disappear into the background and for a moment you are only surrounded by peace and greenery. There is a lot to do and see in Central Park. For the art lovers there are a lot of sculptures scattered around Central Park. One of Central Park’s most cherished sculptures is a depiction in bronze of Alice and her friends, the characters from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Different than most of sculptures, children are invited to climb, touch and crawl all over Alice and her friends. A must-see of Central Park are the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain, it offers breath-taking views of both the Central Park Lake and woods. It’s one of the most well-known fountains in the world and It’s featured in a lot of movies, like The Avengers, Enchanted and of course Home Alone 2. If you’re ever in New York in the winter months be sure to go ice-skating. It truly is a magical experience gliding across the ice with the city skyline in the background.

The High Line is a totally different kind of park, it’s a former train track that’s been transformed to a city park. Nowadays it’s an ideal place to go for a walk, to eat something or to listen to music. If you make you way over the High Line you will encounter an extraordinary centrepiece at the end of the High Line, in the Hudson Yards area. It’s called the Vessel, this interactive artwork stimulates people to enjoy new perspectives of the city from different heights, angles and vantage points. Comprised of 154 intricately interconnecting flights of stairs, almost 2,500 individual steps and 80 landings, it offers remarkable views of the city and the river. Visiting the Vessel is free, but you do need a ticket to get in, get them ahead of time, here, just to be sure you’ll be able to enter.

The Brooklyn Bridge Park and Madison Square Park are both smaller city-parks but offer great views of the city.

After our slow start we took the subway to Grand Central Station. It’s the world’s largest station but that’s not why it’s one of the highlights of New York. One of the main reasons for going to Grand Central Terminal is -for me- the beautiful ceiling in the central hall. That ceiling has a celestial mural with more than 2,500 stars and the constellations in gold set against a turquoise backdrop. It’s truly spectacular.

If you’re walking through Central Station and you see people talking to the wall don’t be alarmed. Just before the entrance of The Oyster Bar is the gallery, where the arches in the ceiling are made of ceramic. That creates a mysterious acoustics. If you stand diagonally from each other against such an arc and whisper something, the person on the other side will receive it loud and clear. After looking at the people whispering, we stepped into The Oyster Bar. The oldest restaurant in Grand Central, this landmark has one of the largest and freshest seafood menus.

Next to Grand Central Station you’ll find the New York Public Library. The building is absolutely stunning and for the Sex and the City fans, this is the place where Carrie attempted to marry “Big” in the first movie. If you have the time it’s totally free to go inside and there are free tours available too to help you understand the building. 

When you step out of the New York Public Library building and walk towards Central Park, you’re on the famous 5th Avenue. It’s considered one of the most expensive and elegant streets in the world. Anyone who knows me knows I love shopping, so I loved popping in the iconic shops and department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Tiffany & Co. and Bergdorf Goodman. Fifth Avenue isn’t all about the shops. There are also several world-famous buildings such as the Flatiron Building, the Empire State Building, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Rockefeller Center. Sander and I decided to take a load off and grab dinner at The Sea Grill. The food was really good and it had a nice view of famous statue of Prometheus. If you’re in the city in the winter you can Ice skate under the Christmas Tree on The Rink at Rockefeller Center. It’s a tradition that will never fail to delight.

Fifth Avenue also houses the Museum Mile, which is located on the west side of Central Park, between 82nd and 105th Street. Here you will find numerous museums, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (88th Street). Every year in June there is the Museum Mile Festival, during which you can visit ten museums for free, so if you’re there in June be sure to take a look in one of the museums.

Another must-see for any visitor to the Big Apple are the famous bridges, Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge and Williamsburg Bridge. My personal favourite is the famous Brooklyn Bridge. The view of Manhattan is incredible and the best way to experience the bridge is to take the 30-plus minute walk, but think twice before going on a cold and rainy day. The whipping winds and rain can leave you feeling like an icicle.

On to another love of ours, FOOD! New York is not only iconic for its buildings, shopping and parks but also for the food & drinks. From the delicious bagel (and preferably with cream cheese) to the American pancakes, we tried them all. I will share with you a very small selection of great food you should try and where you can eat them.

If you’re in New York there is no need to eat breakfast at home. Just grab some breakfast on the go, there are so many places to choose from. If you want a fast breakfast, go to one of the carts on the street or a Starbucks. You can find both of them everywhere. If you want a nice breakfast, go to a diner and have a breakfast special. Just walk around and try something you like.

On to the foods you must have tried. For those with a sweet tooth you should definitely try the Cronut by Dominique Ansel Bakery. Every morning there is a queue for the famous Cronut. The Cronut is a combination of a donut and a croissant. Everyone loves them and they sell out of them quick. The bakery only makes 500 per day, so if you want to taste one, I advise you to join the queue around 07:00.

Another real New York trend is the cupcake. My personal favourite is those from Georgetown Cupcake, their Red Velvet cupcake is really amazing. Another great cupcake place is Sprinkles and the best part is that they have a cupcake ATM. Yes, you heard it right a ATM. The ATM is restocked daily, and throughout the day, with a variety of freshly baked cupcakes and cookies so you can enjoy a cupcake or cookie 24/7.

Next up the bagel, one of our favourites. They are available everywhere and are a really great way to take a short break to satisfy your hunger while walking around town.

A fairly well-known culinary destination in the heart of New York City’s Meatpacking District is Chelsea Market. It’s an indoor food and retail marketplaces that used to be the Oreo factory. I would advise you to grab some lunch there, with the 40 different types of places to eat, there is something there for everyone.

The last culinary destination I really wanted to share is Le Bernadin. Sander and I always try and have dinner in a great restaurant when we visit a city and this time it’s the three Michelin star restaurant by Éric Ripert. It’s a French seafood restaurant in Midtown Manhattan and let me tell you, it really is amazing. The food, the wines, the service: everything is perfect. I get that it’s really pricey but it’s an extraordinary experience.

Boy, that was a long list! But I hope it will help you with your (next) visit to the city that never sleeps. If you have any questions or your own tips, let me know!

How to get around:

Use the Subway, in New York you can buy a ticket from a machine at many Subway stations. If the station is marked with a green ball at the entrance, you can buy a MetroCard here, if the station has a red ball, you must already have a MetroCard. A single ride costs about $ 3. If you want to use the New York Subway for a few days, it is often better to buy a 7-day ticket. It costs about $ 30. Please note if you want to pay by credit card at a machine you have to enter a Zip code, if you don’t have one you can enter 9999.

Where to eat:

City Pier A (Pier A Harbor House)
22 Battery Pl, New York, NY 10004, United States of America
price: €€

Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar at Hudson Eats
225 Liberty St, New York, NY 10281, United States of America
price: €€

Tal Bagels
1228 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10028, United States of America
price: € 

Starbucks
At almost every corner
price: €

Grand Central Oyster Bar
89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017, United States of America
price: €€€

The Sea Grill
19 West 49th Street Rockefeller Center, New York, NY 10020, United States of America
price: €€€

Dominique Ansel Bakery
189 Spring St, New York, NY 10012, United States of America
price: €€

Georgetown Cupcake
111 Mercer St, New York, NY 10012, United States of America
price: €€

Sprinkles New York – Upper East Side
780 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10065, United States of America
price: €€

Chelsea Market
75 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011, United States of America
price: €€

Le Bernardin
155 W 51st St, New York, NY 10019, United States of America
price: €€€€

Where to go:

Statue of Liberty
Rockefeller Center (Top of the Rock)
The Empire State Building
The Freedom Tower (One World Trade Center)
Ground Zero
National September 11 Memorial & Museum
The Oculus
Times Square
Central Park
The High Line
The Vessel
Brooklyn Bridge Park
Madison Square Park
Washington Square Park (Washington Arch)
Grand Central Station
The New York Public Library
5th Avenue
The Flatiron Building
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Rockefeller Center
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
American Museum of Natural History
Brooklyn Bridge
Manhattan Bridge
Williamsburg Bridge