The Top Things to See and Do in Chelsea, Manhattan
Head to the High Line for a fantastic city view over Chelsea in Manhattan | © Amy Cicconi / Alamy Stock Photo
Creative and diverse, Manhattan’s Chelsea is one of the coolest districts in New York City. Here are some of the best things to do in the neighborhood, whether you’re in the market for live jazz at a speakeasy or head-turning contemporary art.
A pizazz for repurposing factories, more than 200 art galleries and a food scene that keeps New Yorkers coming back for more – Chelsea has shaken off its days of industry to become one of the city’s trendiest neighborhoods. Sprawling across Manhattan’s West Side beside the Hudson River, the area is a hotbed of creativity: its innovative spirit having brought us such delights as immersive theater, vodka pizza topping and the High Line.
Immerse yourself in Artechouse’s digital art
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Enter the psychedelic, multisensory world of Artechouse, a showcase of digital art in the old 6,000sqft boiler room of the Chelsea Market building. America’s first space dedicated to the intersection of art, science and technology, the trippy exhibitions here take over your senses with lighting, music and sound effects. Shows come and go – previous themes have included the color blue and geometric shapes. Tickets are pricey but after all, cutting-edge tech doesn’t come cheap.
Skate at the Chelsea Piers Sky Rink
Sports Center, Skate Park
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You still get a feeling of open space at New York’s only year-round indoor ice-skating rink, thanks to its position overlooking the Hudson from Pier 61. It’s open to the public most afternoons, with lessons in freestyle and ice hockey available at other times. Skate rental costs extra on top of the entry fee, so bring your own if you have them. Skating not your thing? Elsewhere along Chelsea Piers is rock climbing, batting cages and a golf driving range.
© Alex Segre / Alamy Stock Photo
An 1890s biscuit factory is enjoying a reincarnation as NYC’s most popular food hall: Chelsea Market, where around 50 vendors sell produce you’d be hard-pushed to find elsewhere. Artisan favorites include Saxelby Cheesemongers and Amy’s Bread – one of the market’s first tenants to open their doors in 1997, Amy’s semolina-raisin-fennel loaf has legendary status. Menus for sit-in lunches offer a host of international flavors, from Berlin Currywurst to Tings jerk chicken.
The High Line
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See the city from a different perspective on the High Line, New York’s park in the sky. The 1.45mi (2.3km) elevated walkway traces an old railway route on the West Side, delivering views of the Hudson River and skyline. At the Chelsea Thicket, between 21st and 22nd streets, original steel tracks run among the shrubs and blossoms. Come dusk, stroll over to the semi-enclosed 14th Street Passage, where art-videos are played on an outdoor projector.
Artichoke Basille’s Pizza
Restaurant, Italian, $$$
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As self-identifying pizza connoisseurs, New Yorkers recognize a remarkable slice when they taste one. At Artichoke Basille’s Pizza, fans of the cheesy staple are delighted by the super-sized slices in a variety of delicious flavors, including crab, vodka and cream sauce, and the bestselling spinach-artichoke. The chain’s Chelsea outpost also offers beer, wine, and plenty of seating, making it a popular late-night spot – the slices keep comin’ until 5am.
Have a fashion moment at the Museum at FIT
Courtesy of the Museum at FIT
New York City’s only museum dedicated solely to the art of fashion, the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) puts on award-winning exhibitions designed to educate and entertain. Its permanent collection of 50,000 garments and accessories span 400 years, and include creations by iconic designers such as Yves Saint Laurent and Dior. Special shows, always inspiring in their creativity, often feature talented students and faculty members from the FIT.
Sleep No More
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Credited with kickstarting the immersive theater trend, Sleep No More is still one of the most well-known performances of its kind. Involving masks, mysticism, and the storyline of Macbeth, these three-hour interactive shows require you to chase after the performers as they navigate the play’s five-story set. Voyeurism, sleuthing and Hitchcockian references ensue. Tickets have staggered time slots, with the art deco-themed Manderley Bar serving as a cocktail-soaked holding pen.
David Zwirner Gallery
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As a hub of modern and contemporary art, Chelsea attracts no shortage of forward-thinking creative brains, many of which display their work at David Zwirner Gallery. Representing nearly 50 international artists, the gallery is a master of bang-up-to-date temporary exhibitions, guaranteeing a unique experience with every visit. Be prepared to queue if there’s a blockbuster show on, such as Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Rooms – which had a permanent line right round the block.
Rubin Museum of Art
Himalayan culture comes to New York’s West Side at the Rubin Museum of Art, a serene gallery devoted exclusively to the revered Asian mountain range. The 25,000sqft space, formerly a Barneys department store, now showcases 38,000 sculptures, paintings, murals and installations. Its Tibetan exhibition is designed to help unplug your mind, with the art reflecting the central teachings of Tibetan Buddhism, in a journey “from the chaos of ordinary life to the awakened states of awareness.”
Bar, Cafe, American, $$$
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Experience the glamour and intrigue of flapper-era nightlife at Bathtub Gin, a speakeasy-themed bar for those in-the-know, hidden behind Stone Street Coffee Company. Via its flamboyant gin-based cocktails, bath-tub centerpiece – as a nod to moonshine – and sharply dressed mixologists, the bar caters to retro-loving revelers seeking alternative entertainment. Burlesque dancers on Tuesdays and live jazz bands on Wednesdays add to the feeling you’ve been transported from the 21st century outside, to the glamour of the 1920s.
Need a place to stay in the neighborhood? Check out our pick of the best hotels in Chelsea, now bookable with Culture Trip.
These recommendations were updated on October 1, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.