What to See in New York – The Ultimate NYC Travel Guide

February 2, 2020

what to see in New York

NYC is one of the best cities in the world so it’s no wonder you’re looking for a guide on what to see in New York!

I’m always in NYC, and have spent many years building up an endless list of tips, tricks and recommendations, and building the perfect list of what to see in New York… Which you’ll find here! Hopefully this huge New York City travel guide will be useful and informative, and make your trip to NYC the trip of a lifetime!

What to see in New York (my unmissable list)

First up on my list of what to see in New York it’s my un-missables list.

Of course, what kind of New York City travel guide would this be if I didn’t include a huge list of things to do when you visit NYC, and a huge list of what to see in New York! You’ll want to make sure you’re ticking off all the top tourist activities.

Here’s my list of things I wouldn’t miss in NYC…

  • Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge (here’s how!)
  • Visit Times Square
  • Walk through Central Park (or take a pedal ride!)
  • Visit Macy’s (and do some shopping)
  • See the Statue of Liberty (click here to read a post on the best ways to see it)
  • Visit DUMBO in Brooklyn and enjoy the skyline views
  • Sip cocktails on a NYC rooftop bar (here’s a list!)
  • Have a bagel for breakfast
  • Visit an Observation deck (see below for my top picks)
  • Visit the Rockefeller tree (if you’re there from Nov – Jan)
  • Walk the High Line park
  • Visit a museum (see below for a list of the best!)
  • Explore Grand Central Terminal (click here to book a Grand Central Station tour)
  • Ride the Subway
  • Try a slice of NYC pizza
  • See a Broadway show
  • Have a pint in an Irish bar
  • Visit the New York Public Library

new york city travel guide what to see in New York

Top NYC tip: First up, if you’re visiting NYC and plan on hitting up lots of the tourist attractions, getting a NYC PASS is one of the best ways to save money. It’s also a great guide of what to see in New York – as you can just your way through their attractions list. You pay one price, and then get access to loads of different attractions (many of which are mentioned below). This is genuinely a great way to save money during your trip. 

Observation Decks in NYC

Next up on my list of what to see in New York…  the views of course! Here’s a breakdown of the different observation decks in the city – which offer the vest views of the NYC skyline.

There are a few different observation decks in the New York City, so when you’re thinking of what to see in New York, definitely try and squeeze one of these into your schedule. Each one offers a slightly different view of the city and the skyline and they’re perfect places for taking photographs. Here are the most popular ones:

Top of the Rock (Rockefeller)

My personal favourite observation deck for what to see in New York. It’s not as high as the others, but I think the view is the best, as you get to see the incredible empire state as part of the skyline. Click here to book tickets. 

One World Observatory

My second favourite. It’s the highest building in New York, and the views literally span for miles. Click here to book skip-the-line tickets. 

Empire State Building

My least favourite, but it’s a classic choice and an iconic building – so it’s not a bad choice! Click here to book skip-the-line tickets. 

new york city travel guide observations decks

Different kinds of tours in NYC

Next up on my list of what to see in New York… It’s all the different ways you can tour and explore the city!

When thinking about what to see in New York, taking a tour is one of the best ways to see lots of places in the city. There are SO MANY ways you can see the city if you’re going to opt for a tour, so they’re a crucial part of any New York City travel guide, especially this guide to what to see in New York.

Although tours might seem a bit touristy – they’re always really fun and education – and you genuinely learn a lot about the city during them. And you meet great people too, so they’re amazing for solo travellers.

What to see in New York: A boat tour / boat cruise

A boat tour will always make my list of what to see in New York. There are loads of boat tours in the city, most will take you around the majority of Manhattan, and it’s really special being able to see the city from the water. I recommend an afternoon and sunset boat tour (click here to book) as it’s a good balance between comfort and sightseeing.

Trust me – the last thing you want is to be stuck on an uncomfortable boat for 2 hours! It’s also worth booking a brunch / lunch or dinner cruise, if you fancy enjoying some food while you cruise around the city.

new york city travel guide boat tour

Open top bus tour

Next up on what to see in New York, it’s an open top bus tour. The open top bus tour is a classic choice in NYC, and it’s genuinely a great way to see the city. The bus tours are designed to take you via the biggest attractions / well known sights – so you can tick them off your list. What I like about this option is that you can usually hop-off if you see something you want to explore on foot, and then jump back on the next bus when you’re finished. Click here to book tickets!

new york city travel guide

Walking tour

If you want to stretch your legs and see NYC by foot, then a walking tour is actually a great idea. You can take things at a more relaxed pace, and you can soak in the city in a little more detail than the two options above would allow. Usually a walking tour will only cover a certain part of the city, or a certain neighbourhood though. I’d recommend the Greenwich food tour or the Little Italy walking tour. Walking tours are great ways of figuring out what to see in New York, and finding new places to go back and explore.

what to see in New York

Helicopter tour

If budget isn’t an issue, then taking a helicopter tour over NYC is epic and completely unforgettable. I’ve done it once, and it was beyond amazing – the views you experience are just mesmerising.

what to see in New York

What to see in New York: Neighbourhoods to explore

Next on my guide of what to see in New York, it’s which neighbourhoods you should explore!

Half the fun of visiting NYC, and figuring out what to see in New York, is exploring the different neighbourhoods and seeing the city from many different perspectives. No New York City travel guide would be complete without a list of the different neighbourhoods. For me, I love just getting to a neighbourhood and spending the day walking around it and exploring the local food options, the cafes, the shops and the seeing the architecture.

Here are some neighbourhoods I would recommend visiting and exploring:

  • Midtown (where all the touristy things are like Times Square)
  • Chelsea (a beautiful neighbourhood just below Midtown)
  • Greenwich / West Village (known for being the filming location of many TV shows, such as FRIENDS!)
  • DUMBO (a neighbourhood in Brooklyn that looks over the river to Manhattan)
  • Hudson Yards (a new neighbourhood, recently regenerated with The Vessel and a great shopping centre)
  • Little Italy (This feels very ‘old NYC’ and is obviously a must-visit if you love Italian food)
  • Tribeca (Bordering on Downtown, there are some gorgeous buildings here)
  • Upper West Side (where a lot of locals live, and so beautiful and scenic)
  • Williamsburg (a quirky area of Brooklyn that oozes cool vibes)

what to see in New York neighbourhoods

What to see in New York: Museums and Galleries

If you like to spend times in museums and galleries, you’ll like this part of my New York City travel guide! When it comes to what to see in New York, you can miss out the museums and galleries!

If you love museums, there are plenty to choose from in NYC, and they’re some of the best things to see in NYC. Here are some of my favourites in the city, as well as some of the main ones (and some unconventional choices too!).

  • Metropolitan Museum of Art (art museum – click here for skip-the-line tickets)
  • Museum of Modern Art (art museum)
  • Guggenheim Museum (art museum)
  • Natural History Museum (history of the earth and  animals – click here for tickets)
  • Ellis Island Museum (history of NYC immigration – click here for fast-track entrance)
  • Museum of Chinese in America (a museum about the history of chinese culture in NYC)
  • International Center of Photography (museum about photography and capturing images)
  • Center for Architecture (museum about NYC architecture)
  • Museum at FIT (fashion museum)
  • Skyscraper Museum (museum about NYC architecture)
  • Brooklyn Jazz Hall of Fame and Museum (music museum)
  • Ripley’s Believe It or Not! (oddities and curiosities)
  • Madame Tussauds (wax figures of celebrities)
  • Mets Hall of Fame & Museum (sports museum)
  • National September 11 Memorial & Museum (museum dedicated to victims of 9/11 attacks)
  • Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum (museum of World War II aircraft carriers – click here for tickets)
  • New York City Fire Museum (museum of firefighting vehicles, equipment, uniforms)

nyc museums

What to see in New York: Parks and green spaces

Next up on my list of what to see in New York… it’s parks and green spaces in the city!

There are actually loads of parks in NYC – all with something slightly different to offer! Yes, of course Central Park is the most iconic and famous park in the city – but if you want to enjoy some green space in other parts of NYC, there gorgeous parks will definitely do the trick! When it comes to what to see in New York, the parks make the top of the list as they’re so unique!

Central Park

How could I write a guide for what to see in New York, and not mention Central Park. I have to mention this one because it’s the biggest and the best. It’s iconic – please don’t leave NYC without visiting Central Park at least once! There’s so much to do in Central Park, from the zoo, to the carousel, to the parks, the the views… it’s just amazing. There are loads of great tours of the park too, or your can rent a bike and tour it yourself!

nyc travel guide new york

Bryant Park 

My second favourite park in the city is Bryant Park, so I had to include it in my list of what to see in New York. this one is located in the heart of Midtown, next to the Public Library. It’s such a gorgeous little park, with a mini carousel, a huge green lawn, and even chess and other games for visitors. It’s also has an amazing Christmas market during Christmas time in the winter months.

nyc travel guide new york city

Madison Square Park 

Located in Chelsea, this little park has some lovely places to sit (as well as a dog park) so it’s a fun place to hang out. It’s also right by the Flat Iron building, so a great place for taking some photos too. I actually got engaged in this park, so of course I had to include it in my guide to what to see in New York.

nyc travel guide new york city

Battery Park 

Right at the very southern tip of Manhattan is Battery Park. I love Battery Park because it’s the very end of the city (kind of!) and it has lovely views out to the water. If you’re getting a statue of liberty cruise, this is probably where you’ll depart from.

nyc travel guide new york city

Brooklyn Bridge Park 

This park is located right on the river in Brooklyn, so it overlooks the Manhattan skyline. It’s one of the parks with the best views of the city – which makes it really popular. If you want some great images of the NYC skyline – this place needs to be on your to-do list. I love taking photos here, so I definitely had to include it in my list of what to see in New York.

nyc travel guide new york

NYC hacks and tips

When figuring out what to see in New York, it also helps to have some tips and trick for getting around the city!

Here are some of my NYC travel hacks and tips for whilst you visit – these are a bit random, but I wanted to make sure I included them! No New York City travel guide would be complete without some money-saving tips and travel hacks.

  • If you plan on riding the subway, be sure to get a weekly Metro card (it’ll work out cheaper)
  • Citymapper (it’s an app for your phone!) is amazing for navigating the city. Just type in your location and it’ll give you various routes you can take to get there.
  • Need the toilet whilst sightseeing? Most hotel lobby’s have toilets – so just use those! Alternatively – Starbucks!
  • Avoid hailing a cab in Times Square, you’ll have clocked up a huge fare before you’ve even got out of the area just because the traffic is so bad.
  • For cheap food, look out for food courts or food markets. You’ll be able to get one-person portions for under $10. I love Time Out Market at the moment.
  • Don’t order room service – it’s so overpriced! Use services like Uber Eats instead, they’ll deliver from external restaurants to your hotel room.
  • Visit Times Square in the morning (it’s so much quieter) or after 10pm (again, less crowds!)
  • Save money on attractions by buying a NYC pass (that includes lots of attractions within the price)
  • A bagel with cream cheese is the CHEAPEST breakfast and will keep you full for hours. It shouldn’t cost more than $4. For a cheap dinner, grab a slice of $1 pizza. You can’t go wrong.

Where to stay in NYC had a big impact on what you’ll see and do.

Finally, a big thing that can have an impact on what you see in New York, is where you stay!

When thinking about what to see in New York, you’ll want to make sure you stay in the right place too! New York is a pretty big, and where you stay can make a huge impact on how much you enjoy your trip and the kinds of things you’ll spend time doing / seeing. In this part of my NYC travel guide, I’ll talk about the best neighbourhoods to stop in, and which areas of the city might be best for your particular needs.

For first timers: Go for Midtown

If you’ve never been to the city before, then Midtown is hands down the best place to stay. You’ll notice a lot of the activities in this New York City travel guide are based in Midtown, so it’s a great place to be based if you want to be within walking distance of loads of NYC attractions. Try and opt for a hotel between 30th St and 52nd St, and you’ll be in the heart of all the action.

If you want somewhere a little more ‘local’: Go for Chelsea or Greenwich Village

There are still touristy attractions in Chelsea and Greenwich Village, but the general ‘vibe’ in these neighbourhoods is much more local, than touristy. It’s usually this part of NYC that you see in TV shows and sitcoms. The buildings aren’t as tall as in Midtown or Downtown, but they’re older, and feel a bit more ‘old-school’ NYC.

If you’re on a budget: Go for Brooklyn

Brooklyn is gaining in popularity as every year passes, but hotels are still cheaper there compared to  Manhattan. One thing I will say about Brooklyn though, is be careful of your location. Brooklyn is a little more ‘spread out’ than Manhattan – so try and ensure you’re close to a Subway Station (it’ll make getting around so much easier!).

If you want romance: Go for Columbus Circle or near Central Park

For me, the most romantic hotel rooms in NYC (so I wanted to include this area in my New York City travel guide) are the ones with views of Central Park. It’s just my opinion, but I love being able to see the park peeping through the sky scrapers. If you’re there on a romantic getaway, I’d really recommend somewhere north of 56th street, in the blocks leading up to Central Park. You’ll still be walking distance to loads of attractions, but you get the peacefulness of the park too. Ask for a room on a high floor so you get an amazing view!

new york city travel guide 2020

Other NYC blog posts

And last up on my list of what to see in New York, some other blog posts you may find useful!

I love NYC and I’ve spent so much time here over the years (we visit multiple times a year!). So, as you’d expect, I’ve been writing about this city for almost a decade! Here are some other blog posts I’ve written, that might be useful for you!

The best ways to view the Statue of Liberty

Famous restaurants in NYC from movies and TV shows

Things to do for couples in NYC

The best outdoor rooftop bars in NYC

The best art galleries in Chelsea, NYC

Best places to take photos in NYC at night time

How to take a great photo in Times Square

Secret places to take amazing photos in NYC 

Hidden gem and neighbourhood restaurants in NYC

Touristy things to do with a baby in NYC

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  • Gina July 10, 2020 at 9:58 am

    I’m so happy that i checked out some of this experiences , i was lucky for visiting NYC in the winter