New York holds a special place in my heart; not only because it´s one of the most wonderful, dynamic and exciting cities in the world – its also where Sam got down on one knee and popped the question – so naturally, it´s always going to be my favourite. The city has something so raw about it – in the sense that its busy and ever-changing; yet it´s filled to the brim with deep rooted heritage and history. Every time I come back, there are so many new things to discover, from the latest restaurants and bars, hot new neighbourhood and villages, exhibitions, shops… Yet the core landmarks that set this city apart, the distinguished New Yorker´s, and that constant reminder of truly feeling alive amidst all the hustle and bustle – makes it one of a kind. Here are the things I always do every time we visit.
1. EAT, EAT, EAT
There´s no doubt about it, New York is all about food. So much so, that I start researching, planning and booking our “eating agenda” several months in advance. For us, eating out is what we love to spend our money on (much more than shopping). We´re massive foodies and it´s a huge part of any holiday we embark on, and especially when we go to New York – which hosts some of the worlds top restaurants. Although we love our food – it doesn’t have to be super fancy, with accolades and Michelin stars, or be the latest must-go hot spot – whatever it is; it´s all about good food, amazing service and a memorable atmosphere. Naturally, with new restaurants opening near enough every day, the choice is endless… However, throughout the years of visiting the city – these are the ones I keep going back to.
Sant Ambroeus (simple but good Italian spot) / Jack’s Wife Freda (popular brunch spot) / Egg Shop (best eggs in town, go figure) / Balthazar (classic French) / Blackseed Bagle (a mouthwatering experience) / Dirty French (classic French with a twist) / Dimes (healthy Californian brunch spot) / Tacombi (an authentic yet hip Mexican taqueria) / Five Leaves (Aussie/American brunch spot) / Momofuko (great noodle bar) / ABC Kitchen & ABC Cocina (housed in the same building, but completely different from each other – a must-visit for all-day dining) / Eataly (incredible Italian marketplace with deli´s & restaurants) / Carbone (hot Italian spot for dinner)
Two Hand Café (juice bar, brunch/breakfast spot) / The Butchers Daughter (popular vegetarian brunch spot) / Chelsea Market (food court for food lovers) / Russ & Daughters (legendary jewish café & deli) / Barbuto (chic Italian eatery) / by Chloe. (hot vegan pit stop) / Buddakan (a classic Asian restaurant) / Neta (minimalist sushi at it´s best) / Cosme (contemporary Mexican using local ingredients) / Ludlow House (a cozy members’ club hot spot) / Empellon Taqueria (innovative tacos & delicious cocktails) / Maison Premiere (oyster/champagne happy hour at 5pm)
Soho House (popular classic member´s hot spot) / Catch (slick celeb spot, serving incredible seafood) / Locanda Verde (TriBeCa hot spot showcasing rustic Italian cuisine) / Gemma (best pizzas, people watching and outdoor seating) / La Esquina (market fresh Authentic mexican food) / Indochine (French-Vietnamese in an 80s-era spot) / Mercer Kitchen (hip Soho spot serving upscale cuisine) / Sweetgreen (juice bar and healthy bowls) / Dean & Deluca (diverse gourmet food deli) / Soho Grand (elegant all-day dining spot)
2. DISCOVERING NEW PLACES TO STAY
As well hosting some of the best food in New York – the city is also renowned for their excellent hotels – from classic and high end uptown, bohemian and retro boutique spots downtown, to hip and contemporary in-between. We got engaged at The Bowery Hotel in the East Village, which also happens to be one of the nicest hotels we have stayed at – everything from the incredible decor in classic New York style, impeccable service, food, to the courtyard setting. This time around, we had the pleasure of teaming up with Mr & Mrs Smith – the online go-to destination for the world’s best boutique and luxury hotels. We stayed The Roger Hotel, a super stylish and classic hotel located in midtown Manhattan, with Madison Avenue just a few blocks away.
It was a first for us staying Midtown; we usually tend to be downtown, either in East or West Village, or like like last time, when we stayed at Conrad in Lower Manhattan. But we absolutely loved living in the middle of the city – as we´re both big walkers, and it being so centrally located in the middle; close to uptown and Central Park, and just as close to the Village downtown – it was the perfect location for us.
The hotel entrance and lobby was definitely the star of the show – the decor was so dreamy; with classic herringbone wooden floors, blue-velvet chaises lounge, with a mix of deco and contemporary prints and artefact. The bedrooms were similar, relatively simple, but clean, modern and cozy (just the way we like it) – with some great views of the city; some even looks straight at the Empire State Building if you´re high enough at the top! The food was great and the service was top notch.
3. WALK THE CITY
New York is all about walking. With the contrast from L.A, where you rely on Uber´s or having a car – NYC is in my opinion, best seen on foot! We can walk miles and miles when we´re in the city (hence why we can compensate with all the food we consume!). From Uptown, all the way to Downtown, across to the East Village, up to West Village, over to Midtown, cross the bridge to Brooklyn, and beyond… So many amazing routes, walks and streets. You think you know the city, but every time I visit, something new appears, I discover new strips and areas that I love. Some of my favourites places to walk (other than zig zagging through the city) are these ones…
The High Line: There are few places more pleasant than a sunny afternoon on the High Line… An elevated and linear park spreading across 1.45-miles on Manhattan’s West Side, set on a disused and historic freight rail line spur called the West Side Line – running from Hudson Yards to the northern edge of Chelsea. Today, it´s an urban playground planted with wildflowers and grasses, offering some of the best views in NYC. With food and drinks offerings, live performances, stargazing, art exhibitions and more, this is really something else.
Brooklyn Bridge: Whenever I´m in NYC, we always cross the bridge – be it from Manhattan into Brooklyn, or from Brooklyn to Manhattan. I personally love walking it both back and forth, as both views are so different. If you choose to walk from Brooklyn, you´ll get some spectacular skyline views.
Central Park: One of the worlds most famous city parks – food good reason. Albeit, it´s often filled to the brim with tourists – so try to get here in the early morning, to avoid the crowds (I love running the park first thing – best way to cure a jet lag ). Whatever season, the park and the city views are always spectacular.
West 4th Street: This street runs through the heart of Greenwich Village. From Washington Square Park and plunging into the heart of the West Village – it´s one of the most picturesque strips in NYC.
Prince Street: With just 10 blocks, this SoHo street, running from Bowery to MacDougal – it chock-full of charming atmosphere and history.
From Uptown to Downtown: I love starting our morning in Central Park, and heading down Madison Avenue all the way to Chelsea – then further downwards to the Hudson River. Crossing so many different parts and vibes of the city.
Hudson River Park: Run the entire length of Hudson River- with beautiful views, a relatively easy and smooth track to run, this is the perfect start to the day.
Other favourite areas include Meatpacking, Nolita, Greenwich and West Village, East Village, Chinatown, Brooklyn and Williamsburg, and Midtown… So much to see, so much walking to do!
4. SHOP TILL YOU DROP
From high end luxury on Madison Avenue, to hip and happening on the Lower East Side, all the way across to Brooklyn and Williamsburg – to contemporary and stylish in the West Village… This city has it all. And although I seldom come to the city for the main purpose of shopping; this place just happen to have some some of the most iconic department stores in the world, with and an array of all the kinds of shopping you could ever wish for. Here are some of my favourite areas to shop in…
Lower Manhattan & the Financial District: I don’t usually spend a lot of time in this area for its shopping, but it does have the legendary discount department store Century 21 – designer steals at bargain prices. With malls such as Westfield and Brookfield Place – these are all great spots on a rainy day.
Chinatown: A crowded spot, with jammed sidewalks, cramped stores – but lots of fun! From Chinese housewares, spices, fish, knockoff sunglasses, handbags, fragrances, shoes, watches and other electronics – its a place not miss (but you have to be in the mood for it).
The Lower East Side: Don’t miss the historic and hipster area of the Orchard Street shopping district – with vintage, antiques, leather goods and designer-owned boutiques. I love Reformation, Frankie and Assembly.
SoHo: One of my favourite shopping spots in the city – with the iconic cast-iron architecture, the cobblestone streets and and distinct arty vibe… From Broadway, with the more commercial brands, to Spring Street (my fave) – with so many great boutiques and high end brands such as Prada and Chanel, to the more underground spots such as The Line Apartment (a MUST), as well as J.Crew and Club Monaco.
Little Italy & Nolita: A great area in NYC for more standout boutiques, stellar jewellery and shoe stores (and lots of delicious Italian food stores when you need a pick-me up in-between).
The East Village: A bohemian and hip area, famous for music and vintage. If not so much for clothes shopping, you can come across some real gems in-between – from vintage and antiques, to low-key independent boutiques.
The West Village & Greenwich: Another favourite of mine – great for gift shopping, bookstores, antiques, crafts – as well as hosting all my favourites on Bleecker Street, from Sandro, Maje, REISS, James Perse, Aesop… (oh, and it´s SJP´s hood from Sex & The City!).
Chelsea/Meatpacking District: Again, with lots of great stores and boutiques set within this pretty cobblestone area, from Theory, Louboutin and Apple – to more boutique and independent set ups.
Union Square/the Flatiron District: A busy and commercial area – with malls and commercial brands such as H&M and the rest. But the main star of the show is the iconic shopping emporium ABC Carpet & Home – with the dreamiest furniture, housewares and linens.
Uptown: With the luxury of Madison Avenue & Fifth Avenue – from all the high end designers, to iconic department stores such Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue – this is the spot (if only for window shopping).
Brooklyn & Williamsburg: Cross the bridge and you’re in the uber hip areas of these two popular spots, home to all the cool kids and young families. With up-and-coming designers, contemporary brands, vintage and antiques, to the underground boutiques and spots – this place is filled to the brim for inspiration and if you’re after something a bit different.
5. ROOFTOP COCKTAILS
New York is well-known for it´s rooftop spots (mainly part of hotels), and although the best ones are always super popular and busy – many of which have become classic hot spots in the city; it´s 100% a visit when in the city – especially during the warmer months – to enjoy a cocktail, or two – overlooking the concrete jungle, or the Hudson River. Some of my favourites include…
The Peninsula Hotel (high-end rooftop bar with 1930s Shanghai decor and incredible views) / Soho House (located in the heart of Meatpacking, with a pool, sun loungers and al fresco dining) / The Wythe Hotel (this Brooklyn hot spot has a killer view of Manhattan) / The Standard (the Le Bain bar hosts a disco, a seasonal plunge pool and crêperie, with some of the best views of Hudson River) / Gansevoort Park Avenue (with a tri-level rooftop area, head to this hot spot for the best Instagram-worthy cocktails) / Dream Midtown (a hip Midtown spot with views across the city and Times Square)
Refinery Hotel (a grand, industrial fusion of indoor and outdoor, with fairy lights, the glow of Empire State Building and strong cocktails) / Catch (part for the restaurant hot spot in the heart of Meatpacking, with panoramic views of the city skyline) / The Conrad (the bar here is small, but being located right on the Hudson River, you have amazing views of the water and the Statue of Liberty) / The Press Lounge (the popular popular spot, located in the heart of the city with panoramic views) / Sixty LES Hotel (a small and intimate bar on the Lower East Side of the city)
6. GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL
Grand Central Terminal is not only one of the most ironic landmark in NYC (due to the hundreds of sighting and features from movies and TV); it´s also a pretty magical place to watch the world go by, being the largest train station in the world. Having stood in Midtown Manhattan since 1871, Grand Central Station has undergone a number of renovations and restorations over the years. In the 1960’s, this famous NYC landmark was nearly torn down, but with the help of first-lady Jacqueline Kennedy, it was designated as a historic American landmark. The renovations were completed in 1998 and 2007, including an extensive cleaning of its ceiling, as well as the additions of famous art statues and brilliant bronze and gold accents.
But that´s not just it; there is so much more to this place than it just being a well known railway station (not to mention its iconic four sided clock right in the middle – famously always a minute or so ahead). It actually holds a whole other world beneath, and on the sides from the station – with The Dining Concourse, housing over 20 different restaurants – including their famous Oyster Bar (the only business that remains from the very day that Grand Central opened in 1913) – as well as their popular food market & deli spot. With Apple and many other retailers being located within the station too, it´s so much more than just a train station. So, next time you’re in NYC, spare a couple of hours to spend at Grand Central – watch the world go by, grab some lunch and enjoy some serious people watching.