The essential guide to New York City: Dining, Shopping and exploring

Welcome to the second installment of my essential New York City Guide. In this part I’m going over suggestions on where to eat (all tried and tested), shop and hang out in the city! So let’s hit it off!

Dining in New York City

Restaurant Row at W46th street

This street was an “insider” tip from a tour guide on a double-decker bus, which I cherish very much, since it’s a place full of noteworthy (and somewhat) budget friendly restaurants near Times Square. There are many restaurants you can try from, and the last few times I visited NYC I dined at Bourbon Street.

P.J. Clarke’s at E55th str&3rd Avenue

A classic and dare say cute restaurant in Midtown East, which operates since 1880. I totally love its burgers. Keep in mind that it doesn’t take reservations and you might wait for some time to be seated, depending on how busy it is when you show up.

Il Buco, 47 Bond street, NoHo

I thank the Internet (and blogs) for this little gem! Il Buco is one of the finest Italian restaurants you’ll ever visit outside Italy! It’s also very atmospheric and cozy. It is advisable to have a reservation, but I’ve walked in twice (during busy times) and both times they were able to accommodate me! So kudos to Il Buco!

Related: 3 restaurants in New York City worth visiting

Gansevoort Market

It’s located in the Meatpacking District and hosts various types of restaurants from pizza to sushi and macarons to cupcakes! You can even find real Greek yoghurt here (no I didn’t try as I don’t like any kind of yoghurt)! I’ve visited twice and both times ended up having a pizza slice from Luzzo’s, since I’m a pizza fan!

Gansevoort Market is located on 353 W. 14th St.

Buddakan, 75 9th Avenue, Chelsea Market

Another restaurant with Sex and the City connections (though I did not know that when I visited in 2010), as it was featured in the first SATC movie as the place where Carrie and Big’s rehearsal dinner takes place! It’s a fusion Asian restaurant and it’s only open for dinner (suitably enough as it is quite dark inside).

Café Lalo, W83rd&Amsterdam Avenue Upper West Side

Now this café was featured in the movie “You’ve got Mail”, but that’s not the reason I keep coming back here! It’s the food and more specifically the deserts!! I have to point out as well, that it’s a café with true Parisian flair in the middle of Manhattan!

Pershing Square, 90 E42nd str

I’ve passed in front this restaurant numerous times before I decided to get in for dinner and wasn’t disappointed! It’s conveniently located on 42nd street opposite Grand Central Station.

Noteworthy restaurants that I’ve found around the web, but haven’t visited myself:

Jack’s Wife Freda in Nolita (224 Lafayette str near Spring Str. Station) and Maison Keyser, JG Mellon, Mezzaluna (around E75th&3rd Av) and Farinella (1132 Lexington Av) in Upper East Side in case you want to pop for lunch or dinner after visiting the Museums!

Shopping in New York City

When I first visited NYC I did a lot of research because I wanted to make sure that I would visit all the cool shops that I’ve heard or read about (I missed a couple though, but what the hell). I’ve split up my shopping suggestions on to “neighborhoods” to make it easier to navigate and I made a big fat map with all my tips!

5th Avenue

In this street you’ll find everything from Louis Vuitton to Zara, so it really has something for everyone! Back in 2010 I visited Abercrombie & Fitch for the ambience (and snagged a hoodie and a pair of sweatpants) and Juicy Couture, which is now closed! Aldo  for shoes and accessories and Barnes & Noble for my book fix are two stores I visit all the time. The best (and inexpensive) thing to do on 5th Avenue is probably window shopping!

Other stores to pop in are Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman (love their window displays, which are a dream come Christmas time) and of course Apple Store near Central Park.

Bleeker Street, West Village

My favorite (window) shopping street in NYC for sure! There are so many stores I love in this street and I wish I had money to spend on all of them: Nars, Marc by Marc Jacobs (where I may or may not spent 160€ for 2 bangles), Coach and many many more! You can start your day with a cupcake at Magnolia Bakery and then walk along Bleecker street until it hits the Avenue of the Americas (6th) and then move south towards SoHo.

SoHo

SoHo for me is 5th avenue’s little hip sibling, as here you’ll find almost all the stores located in 5th and Madison Avenue and some more! For me it’s also an architecturally pleasing area with its iron cast buildings and cobblestone streets!

Favorite streets to roam around are West Broadway, Spring Street, Wooster Street, Greene Street and many more! If you walk further to the east you’re going to reach Broadway which is full with interesting stores as well! These include: Bath and Body Works at 693 Broadway for deliciously scented body lotions and candles. A|X (Armani Exchange at 568 Broadway. Armani Exchange is exclusive to the US and has nice and stylish casual clothes and very helpful staff. My grey coat is from A|X! Next stop is Bloomingdale’s, which has a very youthful vibe and  you can find brands like Free People and Elizabeth and James. Across the street there is a Guess store, which I particularly visited for their handbags! For skate lovers, there is the Volcom Store at 446 Broadway. And for the avant guard fashionistas, further down at Howard Street there is the Opening Ceremony store.

Macy’s

Unlike my other suggestions, which involve streets or areas, this is actually one (department) store. I’m a big fan of Macy’s and shopped a lot from there while I was in Boston, as they do have really good prices and almost any given time there is something on sale/clearance.

Madison Avenue

Madison Avenue is a renowned shopping street in the Upper East Side, one of New York’s poshest neighborhoods. Here you will come across the likes of Tom Ford, Gucci, Dolce&Gabbana and more. It is nice for window shopping (unless you can afford these brands of course) and get a glimpse of Upper East Side life.

Cool Neighborhoods to explore

I’m one of those people who believe that you should explore a city on foot and that by just roaming around you can suck in the vibe of the city. I prefer exploring a new neighborhood to visiting a museum any time! Here are few of the neighborhoods that I like exploring in NYC.

Meatpacking District

I wholeheartedly thank Samantha from Sex and the City for introducing me to this neighborhood, which has become one of my favorite places in New York City ever since.  To give you a quick rundown on the neighborhood’s history, the area operated as a market from the late 19th century, first for produce and after the development of reliable refrigeration, for meat. The area’s decline started in the 60s and continued on until the 80s. In the late 90s a lot of fashion houses started opening stores in the area and it became hip and fashionable: enter the opening of the Highline in 2009 and more recently the opening of Whitney Museum in the area (see Part 1 of my guide).

Greenwich Village

Moving on to my favorite neighborhood in New York City which I love exploring. Bleeker street is nice for window (and actual shopping) and Washington square park for people watching. I’ve written extensively about the neighborhood on my post: A walk around Greenwich Village. Check it out!

SoHo

Moving south (from Greenwich Village) we come across SoHo, a lovely shopping area in the city. As I mentioned above here you are going to find all major luxury brands (those who have stores in 5th Avenue), high street brands and avant guard stores. Lots of restaurants and cafes as well. If you’d like to walk further south, then my post about walking from SoHo to One World Trade Center is ideal for you.

Upper East Side

I admit that most of my knowledge about New York City’s neighborhoods stemmed from TV series, namely Sex and the City and Gossip Girl and that is the case with the Upper East Side too. When visiting any of the major museums located on 5th avenue, make some time to explore the city’s most affluent neighborhood. That would include exploring Madison Avenue, Park avenue and all the side streets for classy townhouses.

Upper West Side

Upper West Side, New York City

Moving on to the other side of Central Park we come across the Upper West Side. It is also an affluent neighborhood like the Upper East Side, but it is a residential area with no major shopping hubs. It is also the home of Columbia University and the cultural hub of Lincoln Center. It’s a lovely area to walk and explore and you can find all the details on my designated guide/walk.

Williambsurg

views of Manhattan from Williamsburg

Williamsburg is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. It’s considered an “it” place to live/hangout as well as hipster friendly. During my last visit in NYC I spent a morning exploring this are and I loved the street art, the abundance of restaurants, cafes and bars and the views towards Manhattan. I was disappointed by the neighborhoods architecture, but it’s an interesting place to explore for all other endeavors nonetheless.

Related: A walk in Brooklyn and Williamsburg

Tips & tricks for visiting New York City

Closing up my guide to New York city, here are some tips if you’re visiting the city for the first time. For an initial introduction to NYC (the first full day you are going to be there) I highly recommend taking the double-decker tour buses starting from Times Square. During my first day I had already covered Manhattan by using a tour bus and thus knew which areas I wanted to explore more. I took the Downtown tour and roamed through Chinatown, the Financial Center, West and East Village and Midtown. Then I took the Uptown tour to see Upper West Side, Harlem and a glimpse of the Upper East Side before disembarking in order to see the Central Park. The other day I took the Brooklyn tour, as I wanted to get a glimpse of this borough, but not spend a whole day exploring it.

 Walk, walk, walk…it’s the best way to experience the city (this is a tip that applies to ALL cities). Yes, I know NYC is a laaaarge city, but you can definitely plan ahead and choose places that are worthy to walk, for example Central Park, Upper East Side, Greenwich Village, Downtown etc. (See also my recommended neighborhoods to explore above.

Last but not least, research online before visiting. Nowadays you will definitely come across a ton of interesting blog posts and guides (like this one), but that was not the case 6 years ago. My best “guide” for pinpointing walking routes and areas to explore is the blog “Walking Off the Big Apple” which is an absolute favorite of mine.

I hope you enjoyed my guide to New York city. If you haven’t read it, also check out Part 1 about sightseeing and museums.

 

Packing my Suitcase

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