Best Things to do in New York City

If you have started to draw up the itinerary for your trip to New York, you will have immediately realized that there are so many places to visit in New York! Choosing what to see and what not is not easy at all, and the time available almost always makes it mandatory to discard something in favor of some other attraction that interests us more.

Whether you’re staying for just a day or for a much longer vacation, there are iconic New York must-see sights and attractions that must be part of your itinerary.

Must see Attractions in New York

Below you will find the main attractions of New York. The choice was not easy at all, we decided to rely a little on what the Lonely Planet guide suggests, with some personal experiences. Things to see in New York depend a lot on your tastes and time available. However, this list is a good starting point for what your NYC itinerary will be like.

Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty is one of the best-known monuments, also number 1 attraction in New York and the top-rated tourist attraction in New York City. This National Monument along with Ellis Island is one of the symbols of American immigration. Tours are organized to go by ferry and visit its base or climb to the crown. It is one of the typical things that tourists who visit New York do. That’s why tickets sell out very quickly.

This 46-meter-high statue, converted into an icon of freedom and located on a small island south of Manhattan, was a gift from the French in 1886 to commemorate the centennial of the Declaration of Independence of the United States.

You get the best views of the statue from the Hudson River with one of the many cruise ships that surround it or with the free ferry to Staten Island from Whitehall Terminal.

How to Reach Statue of Liberty

To visit the Statue of Liberty you have to take the subway to Battery Park, where the departure dock for the boats that take you to the Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island, an island that was the gateway for millions of immigrants. It has an interesting museum.

Before starting the visit, you have to keep in mind that it is one of the most visited attractions in New York City and it is advisable to arrive at the pier first thing in the morning or book this tour of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in advance.

If, in addition to seeing the statue from the island, you want to climb the crown, you have to book this ticket in advance.

Other good and romantic options to see the statue from the river are to book this cruise through New York at night that includes dinner or this boat ride at sunset.

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Times Square

Times Square is the heart and the most visited tourist attraction in New York with over 39 million visitors annually. All of us who visit this city pass by this intersection several times, either during the day or at night, to be fascinated by its billboards and neon lights.

To take the best photos of this place, we recommend you climb the red stairs of the Times Square, from where you will get a fantastic view of all of Times Square. This site is also perfect for buying tickets for Broadway shows for the same day, with incredible discounts.

If what you want is to enjoy the atmosphere, a good option is to have a long coffee and sit in one of its red chairs and tables, just to watch life go by. If we also tell you that it is one of the free things in New York, the plan is even more delicious, right?

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Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge, built in 1883, joins the island of Manhattan with the neighborhood of Brooklyn, and is the most photogenic and cinematographic bridge to see in New York.

Crossing the East River at sunset along the almost 2 kilometers of this suspension bridge is also one of the best experiences you can have in this city. In addition, from several points you will be able to take some of the best photos of New York, both while crossing the bridge, and afterwards, in Brooklyn Heights Promenade and the Empire Fulton Ferry Park, two spectacular viewpoints from where you will have unique perspectives of the bridge from the part of Brooklyn.

When crossing, you just have to be careful to walk in the lane enabled for pedestrians and not invade the bike lane, as you can cause an accident.

We recommend approaching the bridge during the day and at night, to see it illuminated. A comfortable and interesting way to see the best illuminated places in the city, such as this bridge or Times Square, is to book night tour.

  • Price: Free!

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Central Park

Relaxing, walking, having a picnic or playing sports are just some of the many things you can do in Central Park, the best place to disconnect from the stressful and noisy times of New York.

This park is the green lung of Manhattan and it is immense, full of lakes, viewpoints, statues and gardens, so it is advisable to take your time to complete this list of essential places to see in Central Park. We recommend visiting it on a Sunday, which is when there is more atmosphere and New Yorkers take the opportunity to play sports like baseball or have a family picnic. Another good option to explore this 4-kilometer-long park is to rent a bike on your own or take this bike tour, so as not to miss any interesting point.

Central Park has also been the setting for numerous movies such as “Home Alone 2”, “When Harry Met Sally” or “Breakfast with Diamonds”.

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Top of the Rock, one of the places to visit in New York

The Top of the Rock, located in the Rockefeller Center complex of buildings, is our favorite viewpoint to visit in New York.

Located between the 67th and 70th floors of the Comcast skyscraper, this vantage point has stunning panoramic views of Manhattan, featuring the Empire State Building on one side and Central Park on the other.

Admission is included if you have one of the city’s tourist cards, which allow you to save time and money, such as the New York Explorer Pass, the CityPASS or the New York Pass.

Although the Top of the Rock is wonderful, in October 2021 The Summit observation deck was inaugurated in the One Vanderbilt building, located a few blocks away and with even more spectacular views, in addition to walking on a transparent glass floor more than 330 meters high.

If you come at Christmas, the famous Ice Skating Rink and the large Christmas Tree are set up in the Rockefeller Center square.

Visiting hours: Every day from 8 a.m. to midnight (last access at 11:15 p.m.).

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New York Museums

Another of the best things to do in New York is to visit one of its fantastic museums, most of which are free, although they have a fairly reasonable suggested price.

Our favorite museums to visit in New York are:

  • Natural History Museum : Located among the best science museums in the world, it stands out for its excellent collection of dinosaur reproductions and that of the blue whale. Open every day from 10 a.m. to 5:45 a.m. Although it was free before, now you have to buy this ticket.
  • Metropolitan Museum (MET) : It is one of the most important art museums in the world with works by Monet, Cézanne or Rembrandt, although its most popular collections are those of Egypt and the Roman. It opens from Tuesday to Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday until 9 p.m. You can enter with one of the tourist cards or book this skip-the-line ticket in advance.
  • MoMA : It is the most important modern art museum in the world with masterpieces by Picasso, Dalí, Van Gogh, Pollock and Andy Warhol. Open from Saturday to Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; On Fridays it closes at 8pm and the last 4 hours are free.

Also Read: Fifth Avenue

Fifth Avenue is the most famous and commercial street to visit New York. This great avenue, which crosses the city from north to south, is full of shops, some luxurious like Tiffany & Co, known for the “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” scene, and other more popular ones like the Apple or Disney store. These more exclusive shops are concentrated between Calle 34 and Calle 59, which is the section we recommend going through, even if it’s just to window shop.

Among the most prominent buildings on Fifth Avenue, in addition to the Plaza Hotel and the Trump Tower, is St. Patrick’s Cathedral, located directly across from Rockefeller Center and considered the largest neo-Gothic Catholic church in North America. It is worth going inside this white marble church to see its huge organs and the sculpture of the Pietà. You will take the best photo of this building from the Rockefeller Center Atlas sculpture, where you can see the architectural contrast of the Cathedral with the skyscrapers that surround it.

An interesting way to learn about the history of this avenue and other areas of the city is to book this recommended tour of Upper and Lower Manhattan.

Cathedral visiting hours: Every day from 7am to 8pm.

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Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is, without a doubt, one of the undisputed symbols of New York! Present in all the photos taken in the city, it stands out on the nearby skyscrapers with its 443 m (including the antenna).

One of the best known buildings in New York, a real symbol of the city, an unmissable attraction among the things not to be missed in New York. Immediately recognizable in the New York skyline, it has long remained the tallest skyscraper in the world and in the city, surpassed by the Freedom Tower for some years.

A classic example of the Art Deco style, it was inaugurated in 1931. Since then hundreds of millions of visitors, including the Queen of England, have admired the city from her observers. Yes, because there are 2 observation platforms: one on the 86th floor and one on the 102nd floor. The 86th floor observatory it is located at 320 meters high and allows you to enjoy a breathtaking 360 ° panorama. The one on the 102nd floor, at 381 meters high, can be reached for a surcharge and will give you an even wider and deeper New York panorama.

Admire the entrance on Fifth Avenue, with an embossed image of the skyscraper superimposed on a map of New York. Elevators will take you to the 86th floor in 45 seconds.

The queues to enter could be very long, many recommend Top Of The Rock, the rooftop observatory of Rockefeller Center, as an excellent alternative. The cost is lower, there will be less queue and from which you can also admire the Empire State Building itself. I would like to give you the same advice, even if it is difficult to give up climbing the historic Empire!

The Empire State Building is the most famous skyscraper in the world as well as being the tallest building on the planet for many years, the most visited places in New York.

This 102-storey building with a height of 381 meters has two of the best viewpoints in New York, one on the 86th floor and the other on the 102nd, both with fantastic views of Manhattan.

To avoid the long queues that form at the entrance, especially at sunset rush hour, we recommend that you book this ticket in advance.

Another option is to have one of the tourist cards in which the entrance is included.

Visiting hours: Every day from 8am to 2am.

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Harlem neighborhood, one of the places to see in New York

Crossing Central Park you will reach the neighborhood of Harlem, a multicultural neighborhood that has become over the years one of the best places to visit in New York.

With a large African-American community and a somewhat tumultuous history, the neighborhood’s tourist area is today very quiet and safe, so you can walk around it without any problem. In addition to completing this list of the best things to see and do in Harlem, we recommend that you listen to a good live jazz concert in a traditional venue and attend a Gospel massin one of its numerous churches. Also don’t forget to try southern food like fried chicken with waffles at recommended restaurants Amy Ruth’s and Sylvia’s Restaurant.

An interesting way to attend a gospel mass and learn about the history of this neighborhood is to book this tour with a guide in Spanish or this offer that also includes the tour of contrasts.

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Broadway, with almost 33 kilometers, is the longest and most famous street next to Fifth Avenue, to see in New York. The best-known part is the one that crosses Times Square, where the vast majority of theaters are concentrated, where many Hollywood actors began their careers and where some of them still act.

Musicals are its star show and one of the things to book in New York, especially if you want to ensure a good seat and, on many occasions, take advantage of good deals. The most famous are: The Lion King, The Phantom of the Opera, Frozen, Chicago, and Aladdin, which was the one that we saw and that left us impressed, so we can do nothing but recommend it.

SoHo New York

SoHo, short for “South of Houston Street”, is one of the most charming neighborhoods to see in New York.

This area, where former freed slaves lived, has become over the years one of the most popular neighborhoods in the city, dominated by art galleries, charming shops, restaurants and trendy cafes. design and cast iron lofts at a price of gold.

Thanks to its ancient architecture of low-rise buildings with colorful facades and fire escapes on the outside, without any skyscrapers nearby, it is widely used as a setting for movies and TV series.

During our stay in the city it was one of our favorite neighborhoods and we came several times to walk through streets like Spring Street, Prince Street or Broadway and look for an original gift.

One of the best ways to have a good first contact with this endless city and learn about its history is to book this free tour, considered one of the best free tours in New York, or this private tour, both with a guide in Spanish and with the point meeting place located in this area.

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Flatiron Building

The Flatiron Building, originally the Fuller Building, is one of the most iconic buildings to see in New York. Located next to Madison Square Park, this centennial building of 97 meters high has an architecture that will not leave you indifferent with its triangular shape and with an end that is only 2 meters wide. Also the scene of scenes from movies such as Spiderman or Armageddon, New Yorkers baptized it as “the flatiron”, due to its resemblance to the plates of the time.

In addition to taking several photos from different perspectives, this area is also a good place to eat since you have Eataly, an Italian shopping center, full of quality products and restaurants, right next to it.

New York 9/11 area

The area of the old World Trade Center building complex with its two famous Twin Towers has become a tribute to the victims of the savage attacks of September 11, 2001 that killed more than 3,000 people, 2,753 in this place.

In the 9/11 Memorial, located right where the towers were, you will find two large fountains inscribed with the names of the deceased, as well as a tree that survived the fall of the towers.

In the 9/11 Museum you can see objects from the victims, material that was recovered from the towers, parts of the planes, testimonies from survivors, among many other details and objects, as well as explanations.

Although we understand that it is an overwhelming place, we believe that it is one of themost essential places to visit in New York, so as not to forget history and pay tribute to the victims.

If you do not have any tourist card that includes the entrance, you can avoid the longest queue by reserving this entrance in advance.

In the place occupied by the twin towers, in addition to the monuments and the museum, the tallest building in the city, the One World Trade Center, has been erected.

On floors 100, 101 and 102 of this skyscraper is the One World Observatory, a 360-degree panoramic viewpoint with incredible views of the island of Manhattan and the bay. On our last trip we went up to this viewpoint and we can confirm that it is very worthwhile.

To go up to the viewpoint it is recommended book this skip-the-line ticket in advance so you don’t miss out.
To get to this area there is nothing better than taking the subway to The Oculus, a futuristic station and shopping center designed by the Spanish Santiago Calatrava.

Museum hours: Every day from 9am to 8pm; Friday and Saturday it closes at 9pm.
Viewpoint hours: Every day from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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Queens in New York

Queens is not the most touristic neighborhood or district to see in New York, but it is worth spending some time if you want to get to know one of the essences that characterize this city, its multiculturalism.

In this neighborhood you can see at a glance how the inhabitants of each area of the neighborhood are from a different part of the world. In addition, the neighborhood is full of good restaurants and shops of all these nationalities, so, in addition to walking, it can be a perfect destination to taste good food and do some shopping. Some of the areas to visit in Queens are the Jackson Heights neighborhood, Forest Hills, Rockaway Beach, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Jamaica and Astoria.

If you don’t feel like getting here by subway on your own, one of the best ways to get a taste of this neighborhood is to book the famous New York Contrasts Tour or this VIP Contrasts tour that takes you in a minibus with a maximum of 15 people, in which in addition to getting to know Queens with a guide in Spanish, you will get to the Bronx.

After doing this tour on our first trip, we believe that it is the best way to get to know the other less touristy side of the city, learning its history and more curious anecdotes. We recommend reserving the tour in advance as it is the best-selling tour in New York in Spanish.

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Madison Square Garden

Madison Square Garden, a legendary stadium where the New York Knicks of the NBA and the New York Rangers of ice hockey play, is another of the essential places to see in New York.

To visit this five-story stadium with a capacity of more than 20,000 people, you can buy a ticket to watch a match or book this guided tour in Spanish that will take you to the most interesting places in this emblematic sports hall.

If you prefer to see a game (option we recommend) and have good seats, it is best to book tickets in advance, especially in games with a good rival. Just to see the show that takes place at the beginning and in the downtime is already worth the money spent and in the end, even if you are not a big fan of this sport, the experience in general, we assure you that you will not forget it. Also, with a bit of luck you can always see a famous actor or singer watching the game in the main stands.

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The Vessel

The Vessel, a futuristic, stair-filled, pot-shaped monument, is New York’s new gem to visit.

Located in the new neighborhood of Hudson Yards, this 45-meter-high work of art with 2,500 steps has become the main tourist attraction in this hitherto little-known area. In addition to climbing many stairs, it has several viewing platforms to recharge your batteries and enjoy the views.

Although The Vessel is free you have to book the ticket in advance from this page.

If the views of The Vessel have not impressed you, we recommend you go up to The Edge, the highest open-air observation deck in New York and which has areas of glass floor that produce a lot of vertigo. You can book tickets in advance from this page.

A few meters from The Vessel, is the end of the two-kilometer walk of the High Line, a park built on an old elevated railway line and which is another of the things you must do in New York. There are several points with good views of the city and it is very pleasant to sit down and have a picnic in one of its designated areas.

You can also take advantage of a visit to the High Line to visit Chelsea Market, a beautiful covered market with very good restaurants and shops with quality products, and Little Island, a new floating public park on the Hudson River that will surprise you with its futuristic design.

2021 Update: The Vessel is closed until further notice to increase security and prevent potential suicides.

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Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Terminal, the city’s main train station, is another of the architectural wonders to see in New York. With one of the most beautiful halls in the world, which has been the scene of some scenes from famous Hollywood movies such as “Death on our heels” or “Superman”, this more than 100-year-old station will make you fall in love.

Some of its most outstanding elements are the emblematic clock located in the central part and surrounded by screens with the routes of each train, the three large windows, the vault of the main hall and the marble floors.
On the ground floor there are all kinds of fast food restaurants such as Shake Shack, one of the best places to eat in New York cheap, and cafes like Magnolia Bakery.

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Public Library

Bryant Park is one of the most beautiful parks to visit in New York and also one of the most central. On one side of this green space full of atmosphere in summer, is the New York Public Library and, how could it be otherwise, it is worth a visit in silence. Its beautiful Astor Hall welcomes us with white marble walls, ceilings and stairs and the Rose Main Reading Room, the main reading room that has appeared in numerous films, surrounded by oak bookshelves, tables and chairs, is one of those places that you cannot miss and where you would stay for hours and hours.

Before you leave, don’t forget to stop by their store, one of our favorites in the city, next to the MOMA store.

Visiting hours: Every day from 10am to 6pm.

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Wall Street

In the area of the financial district is Wall Street, one of the most touristic and well-known streets to see in New York. This area includes the Stock Exchange building, the Federal Reserve and a little further away the famous Wall Street bull or Charging Bull, which they say you should touch to bring you good luck. During the midday hours on weekdays, you may see some suitably-suited brokers rushing out of the buildings to grab a hot dog and eat it while chatting in small groups. And it is necessary to take into account that the large amount of money that moves there does not rest.

Other neighborhoods to visit in New York

In addition to the neighborhoods to visit in New York mentioned in previous points, we leave you with other of our favorites:

  • Bushwick – A Brooklyn neighborhood home to some of the best street art and graffiti in the city.
  • Tribeca – One of the city’s trendiest and most expensive neighborhoods with a bohemian feel and numerous art galleries.
  • China Town : neighborhood where the large Chinese community resides with oriental restaurants and counterfeit shops with poor quality products.
  • Little Italy : This neighborhood almost absorbed by China Town still maintains a street full of Italian restaurants and some interesting graffiti.
  • Greenwich Village : a neighborhood with an architecture similar to that of SoHo in which series such as «Sex and the City» and «Friends» were filmed.

How to save money in New York?

There are several cards that allow you to enjoy discounts and save time by being able to skip the lines of the most important tourist attractions to visit in New York.

  • Book the New York Explorer Pass that allows you to enter the main attractions with great flexibility, being able to choose the tickets among the 58 available attractions, until the last minute.
  • Book the CityPass that allows you entry to the most visited attractions in New York saving you up to 43% on the price of tickets.
  • Book the New York Pass that allows you free access to more than 100 attractions to see in New York.
  • Remember that in order not to pay commissions and always have the current change, we recommend using the Vivid card and the N26 card. They are the ones we use, they are free and they will mean a great saving.

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