The skyscrapered, traffic-clogged, jam-packed part of New York known as Midtown (which encompasses the area south of Central Park at 59th Street down to 14th Street) has a lot to offer, including celebrated architecture, museums, parks, shows and shopping. These are the Midtown spots every first-time visitor should include in their Manhattan itinerary.
No doubt you’ll already be familiar with the Flatiron Building – the heavily photographed triangular structure situated on the wedge of land where Broadway and 5th Avenue meet. Constructed in 1902, the building features a terra-cotta and limestone facade with decorative Beaux-Arts flourishes, and the narrowest end is just six feet (1.8 meters) across. Hop off at the 23rd Street R/W subway station for a wealth of activities; swing by The PIT for a comedy show, historic Rizzoli Bookstore for literary events or the Gramercy Theatre for musical acts. Hungry? Eataly’s rooftop restaurant, SERRA by Birreria, is a popular location for seasonally themed food and drinks inspired by the Italian countryside.
New York’s Koreatown spans a two-block radius, from 31st to 33rd streets between Broadway and 5th Avenue. Here you’ll find beauty stores with shelves full of sheet masks (The Face Shop and Innisfree are top picks to purchase products for a 10-step Korean skincare regimen) and a slew of cavernous Korean barbecue restaurants such as Jongro BBQ and Baekjeong NYC, havens for meat fiends. Arrive after dark for neon signs, bites from stalls at food court Food Gallery 32, and hidden 24-hour karaoke joints.
Back in the day, Times Square was a seedy red light district, but now the area is better known as a hub of shopping and entertainment. Expect an assault on your senses no matter what time you go, but visit at night for the maximum mind-melting effects of multi-story screens and glittering, illuminated signage. Catch a Broadway show, and grab a bite at City Kitchen food court or at one of the best restaurants in the area. Then climb the red steps over the TKTS pavilion (the go-to for discounted last-minute theater deals), and watch the hubbub.
Grand Central Terminal is more than just a train station. Huge windows flood the marble floor of the main concourse with sunlight, and the ceiling is painted with constellations depicting signs of the zodiac. The expansive terminal contains 60-plus shops and 35 dining options, including the famous underground oyster bar – a 100-year-old dining institution with space to seat 440. There are around 30 oyster varieties per day, but the servers can help you decipher whether you’re an East or West Coast fan.
The best way to experience the historic Plaza Hotel (assuming you can’t afford the $905-30,000 per night price tag) is to pop downstairs to The Palm Court for afternoon tea. Enjoy a sample of fancy savories like the brioche crostini with foie gras mousse and black cherry jam; posh pastries, including the red velvet chouquette with mascarpone and white-chocolate-orange cremeux; and warm, fluffy scones smothered in devonshire cream and house-made preserves. All can be washed down with a bottle of champagne, naturally.
This elevated park built on a historic freight rail line begins at West 34th Street and hugs the Hudson River down to Gansevoort Street. Strolling the length of the High Line provides a moment of respite from the street-level traffic; the picturesque route is flanked by trees, flowers and tall grass, with shaded areas featuring lawn or wooden benches on which to recline. During your walk, keep an eye out for art, both on the trail and the streets surrounding it. Every day at dusk, the park projects video-format art at 14th Street, and there are regular opportunities to catch live performances of various sorts throughout the year.
Rockefeller Center really comes into its own during the festive season. Catch the high-kicking Rockettes at the opulent Radio City Music Hall, and hit the intimate ice rink. Afterward, watch the annual unveiling of the colossal Christmas tree. No matter the time of year, climbing to the Top of the Rock provides 360-degree views of Manhattan wrapped by the boat-dotted rivers, with the Empire State Building smack in the middle of it all.
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is known for buzzy installations such as 2013’s Rain Room by Hannes Koch and Florian Ortkrass for Random International (visitors walked through a torrential downpour without getting wet thanks to motion sensors), which attracted 74,222 people in just 11 weeks. Start at the first-floor restaurant for a glass of wine and a bite to eat before venturing upstairs to peruse the exhibits. MoMA has an astounding 200,000 artworks spread over six floors, including Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night, Salvador Dalí’s The Persistence of Memory and Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans. The MoMA is currently closed and will reopen on October 21, 2019.
Named after its first-ever headliner, Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker, this acclaimed jazz venue has been attracting musical legends since its opening in 1949. Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, Stan Getz, Lester Young and many more musicians have played sets at Birdland. Reserve your tickets and arrive early for dinner and martinis before the lights dim and the performers take the stage.
Located behind the New York Public Library, Bryant Park is a perfect place to take a load off between sightseeing stops. During the summer, the park hosts numerous events, from yoga and tai chi to poetry readings and live music. In the colder months, the ‘Winter Village’ pops up, offering guests a place to warm hands on a steaming cup of glühwein (German mulled wine) and do a bit of holiday shopping from the array of local artists squeezed into stalls lining the park.