Known for its mom-and-pop stores, stately townhomes and family-friendly location by Central Park, New York‘s Upper West Side could be mistaken for a sleepy residential neighborhood. In reality, this area is brimming with cultural landmarks and must-see dining spots. It is impossible to capture the Upper West Side’s entire essence in a few hours, so leave yourself plenty of time to journey uptown and allow the magic of the area to sink in.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Central Park may be its polished, more famous big brother, but Riverside Park is its own refreshing kind of public space. A whole day can easily be whiled away cycling by the Hudson, paying respect to the ‘Soldiers and Sailors’ Monument, viewing talent at the skate park or breaking out roller skates for the rink on West 108th Street. Stretching for 86 blocks well beyond the Upper West Side, the oasis welcomes prodigious runners on one of the numerous trails or an amble past the promenade on West 91st Street made famous by Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks’s lovebirds in You’ve Got Mail.
The Juilliard School
Lincoln Center has no shortage of brilliant performances and events (The Midsummer Night Swing series draws out a particularly enthusiastic crowd), but it would be a crime to forget the emerging, immensely talented performances at one of the world’s premier performing arts schools a block away. Ranging from gratis to a mere $20 (£15.50), tickets feature acts such as an orchestral concert led by star conductor Nicholas McGegan, an opera tour de force, or an upcoming production of God of Carnage.
One of the great joys of Manhattan is outdoor dining and drinking after the snow has melted and the temperature has risen. There is no better place to eat and people watch than from this charming French bistro on the corner of Amsterdam Avenue. Take a seat under the wide shady awning and let this Wine Spectator champion prove its merits by serving Sauvignon Blanc with a petite pissaladière tart. Taste a fine bowl of fava bean tortellini followed by steak frites, or go straight to the bargain $38 (£29.50) prix fixe – ensuring a choice of any decadent dessert off the menu.
The Empire Hotel Rooftop
Blessed with a prime location, sophisticated vibe and a prominent role in a certain buzzed-about former NYC television series, this hotel also happens to be a stone’s throw away from Lincoln Center and offers endless options for a night out after a show. If the day calls for a refreshing swim, don’t forget to visit the pool deck. Any time of year beckons patrons to the posh rooftop bar. Slowly sip your cocktail under the dimly romantic red light of the iconic ‘Empire Hotel’ sign and admire the beautiful views.
New-York Historical Society
Since its monumental renovation completed in 2011, the New-York Historical Society transformed from a stagnant, stuck-in-the-past museum to a glittering destination on Central Park West. Its recent exhibitions include Annie Leibowitz photography and Ludwig Bemelmans’s Parisian heroine Madeline. Other highlights have included a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising and photographs of the 1965 March from Selma, reminding visitors that this institution honors history and also recognizes current social events.
For those of us with a sweet tooth in New York City, the Upper West Side has us covered. To impress a chocolate-loving friend or wow a tea savant, hop, skip and jump from the whimsical Alice in Wonderland-themed tea parlor to the closet-sized artisanal Levain Bakery. At Chapter I of Alice’s Tea Cup, take in the Alice murals while choosing among dozens of teas, daily scone selections, divine banana Nutella cake or the exceedingly generous Mad Hatter tea service. Save room for a brief walk to Levain to devour one of their legendary ‘marathon-sized’ dark-chocolate cookies or heavenly raisin sticky buns.
American Museum of Natural History
Night at the Museum references this 1877 landmark, opened by the President Rutherford Hayes himself, and it supplies endless entertainment for adults and kids alike. Do not leave without ogling at the top-floor dinosaur exhibits or listening to the sounds of the deep blue in the Milstein Family Hall of Ocean Life underneath the iconic blue whale. Children and adults will love a trip to the Hall of African Mammals to see the elephants and lions. If modern exhibits are more your speed, the Rose Center for Earth and Space amazes with its regular planetarium shows.
What would a New York City neighborhood adventure be without a hot brunch spot? Jacob’s Pickles delivers the brunch dream with elevated Southern comfort cooking, locally sourced ingredients and a quirkily lovable obsession with high-quality pickles and biscuits. This place deserves multiple visits, but if you can only trek here once, sample four types of specialty pickles, a sausage, egg and cheese biscuit sandwich, and shrimp and bacon grits. No worries, vegetarians, the biscuits French toast is meatless and out of this world.
Cathedral of Saint John the Divine
Although it is slightly outside the traditional boundaries of the Upper West Side, this beacon of New York City religious architecture warrants a visit. A few short blocks away from Central Park, this cathedral amazes new and veteran visitors at every corner. Whether here for religious or secular purposes, respectfully explore the exquisitely designed Gothic Revival nave, outside gardens and organ concerts. Better yet, appreciate the absolute silence that is hard to find in a lively neighborhood in Manhattan.
Inspired to see more? Book a stay at one of the best hotels near the American Museum of Natural History through Culture Trip.
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WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
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I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
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Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.