New York City is infamously the city that never sleeps, and those doing a whirlwind tour of the city shouldn’t sleep either. If you only have 24 hours in the Big Apple, it’s possible to get a pretty good taste of it – you’re just going to need a lot of coffee.
Start early with old New York
Kick off your day with a stroll through Central Park. Spanning 3.5 square miles in the middle of Manhattan, Central Park is free for all and full of things to do. Take a walk across the romantic Bow Bridge or stroll around the pathway that circles the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. Depending how much time you want to spend in the park (and on the weather), you can rent a rowboat and take to the waters for a romantic and relaxing morning.
As the morning winds on, mosey over to the east side of the park and onto 80th Street for a trip to the renowned The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which opened in 1870. Whether you’re interested in ancient Egypt, ornate fans, European paintings, sculptures or colonial America, you can find all of it at The Met. Be sure to check out their website to see which current exhibitions are on offer, or just go and wander around yourself to discover something new.
After spending a few hours looking through the expansive galleries, step out onto Fifth Avenue and work your way downtown. This long avenue is home to some of New York’s finest shopping, so it’s almost guaranteed you won’t leave empty-handed
Saks Fifth Avenue is a New York classic. Opened in 1924 by cousins Horace Saks and Bernard Gimbel, its first location took up an entire block on Fifth Avenue. It was the first New York department store to fully develop the idea of extravagant window displays, which are now an integral part of the department store experience.
Grab lunch in a melting pot
One of the best things about New York City is the diverse food scene. Dive headfirst into one of the most unique neighborhoods in the city by heading down to Chinatown.
Although it’s been satisfying dim sum devotees for nearly a century, Nom Wah Tea Parlor’s menu is as modern as ever. Rounding out the restaurant’s selection of Chinatown classics is an array of rice roll variations, beef balls and even gluten-free soy sauce. Many menu items are available in both traditional and gluten-free varieties, making this legendary local gem an ideal destination for every appetite.
While in Chinatown, be sure to spend some time walking around the smaller streets. Columbus Park is a must-see spot for those who want to be instantly transported to Asia.
This historically significant park located in the heart of Chinatown is an ideal demonstration of the neighborhood’s rich diversity and mingling of residents from different backgrounds and walks of life. The north side is reserved for Asian card players and masters of mahjong, while amateur troupes of Chinese opera performers are found throughout the park, and tai chi and kung fu practitioners strike a few moves on the grassy lawns.
Stroll around chic SoHo
Spend the latter part of the afternoon wandering around New York’s trendy SoHo district. Designer outposts are located west of Broadway, while trendy boutiques offering an upscale retail experience exist east of Broadway, in nearby Nolita.
Paperbacks hang from the ceiling in this bookworm’s fantasy café, located inside the independent bookstore McNally Jackson Books. Known as an institution by writers and readers, McNally Jackson is a true New York local favorite. Enjoy a bagel and coffee among other literary enthusiasts and escape into your novel of choice.
Carol Lim and Humberto Leon created Opening Ceremony in 2002, fusing streetwear and luxury couture with this flagship boutique. The shop offers a signature label of avant-garde garments and accessories for fashion risk-takers. A range of international designers like Eckhaus Latta, Maison Margiela, Fung Lan and Co., Jacquemus and Yeezy define the aesthetic. Jewelry, footwear and accessories are sold alongside apparel in this uber-hip, experiential boutique.
After an exhausting afternoon of strolling through boutiques, stop by New York food institution Balthazar for a French-inspired dinner.
Yes, Balthazar is packed and pricey, but it also happens to be one of the best restaurants in town. Every local should brave the crowds (and check it out) at least once – the rewards of steak fries, roast chicken for two and the famously addictive Balthazar bread are well worth it.
Head to the west side to watch the sunset over the Hudson River, then stroll down The High Line and relax on a bench to take in one of New York’s dramatic pink sunsets. Hosting a number of free activities and art installations during the warmer months, the park also offers picturesque views of both the city and the Hudson River year-round.
Next, grab a drink at the country’s coolest hotel chain – prost at a German beer garden, party with celebs at a rooftop bar, and savor the city from several stories up. With 338 rooms featuring floor-to-ceiling windows and what may be the most popular hotel rooftop in New York City, a stay at The Standard is anything but.
Then – if it’s a Friday or Saturday – it’s on to the Whitney Museum of American Art, which remains open until 10pm on weekend evenings. As the world’s first museum dedicated to 20th and 21st-century American artists, the Whitney Museum is a trendsetter within the global art community. Focusing on works by living American artists, the Whitney is known for exhibiting the creations of before-they-break talents.
Party with New York’s downtown cool kids
Spend the night bopping around the bars that pepper the Lower East Side.
Those who prefer dive bars should check out the historic 169 Bar for cheap beers and casual vibes. This LES landmark, which opened in 1916, accommodates everything from palm trees and borscht to leopard-print pool tables. Every day from 12 to 7.30pm, 169 Bar offers $3 beer cans and well shots, $1 off drafts and $2 off everything else.
If a dive bar isn’t your scene, there are plenty of other options in this area, from fancy cocktail bars to hidden speakeasies.
Be on the lookout for a sign that reads “Lower East Side Toy Company” and enter through the gate, down an alley and up a flight of stairs. The Back Room, an original speakeasy that operated during the Prohibition, maintains an old-time feel, serving drinks in teacups and bottles of beer in paper bags.
Attaboy’s moustached and bow-tied bartenders serve up dreamy cocktails. Unlike the original Milk & Honey, Attaboy does not take reservations – just knock or press the buzzer, and be sure to arrive before 9pm if you want to bag a booth or a barstool.
Before calling it a night, be sure to grab some late-night eats to cap the evening.
If you’re looking for a classic New York hot dog, Crif Dogs is not your spot. Here, dogs come topped with things like pineapple, fried eggs, or cream cheese. The Chihuahua – a bacon-wrapped hot dog with avocados and sour cream – is a fan fave. If you fancy a drink after your dinner, pass through the telephone booth at the back of the room and discover Please Don’t Tell – one of the coolest speakeasies in the city.
2 Bros Pizza has multiple locations around the city and over the years has become a staple in the world of the dollar slice. 2 Bros is packed at all hours of the day (not just after midnight) with people seeking its soft, doughy goodies. As with many dollar-slice joints, it may not be the best slice of pizza you’ve ever eaten, but it’s cheap, quick and certainly satisfying.
Refuel and recharge
End your 24 hours in New York like a proper local — by sitting down for brunch. Although most New Yorkers are willing to spend their mornings waiting in line for avocado toast, you can beat the rush by making a reservation in advance.
This spacious and extraordinarily Instagramable restaurant was designed for lazy weekend brunches with friends. During summer, the back patio and sidewalk cafe area are the ideal settings for share-plates and mimosas. Come winter, nurse a festive cocktail in one of Sunday in Brooklyn’s dining rooms, which are warmed by a huge wood-burning oven.
Inside the luxury Beekman Hotel, this French bistro offers brunch on weekends from 10am to 3.30pm. Enjoy dishes like French toast topped with caramelized apples and doused in bourbon syrup, or eggs Augustine (poached eggs, grilled ham and béarnaise sauce atop a toasted croissant).