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2-Day New York City Itinerary: essential tips

You want to make a trip to the Big Apple, but you only have two days to do it. How to choose between so much to do? Don't worry, if you organize yourself well you can make the most of the best of New York.

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

6 min read

2-Day New York City Itinerary: essential tips

Times Squre | ©Andreas Kruck

Choosing New York as a destination is already a highlight. And it doesn't matter if you're only staying for a couple of days, I guarantee that the experience will be unforgettable. You will have enough time to take pictures in the most emblematic places of Manhattan, and even a selfie next to the Statue of Liberty!

You still don't know what to see and do in New York? Here is the travel guide that will make it all easier for you:

Day 1: The best of Manhattan

Tourists in Time Square| ©Andreas Komodromos
Tourists in Time Square| ©Andreas Komodromos

If the time you have in New York is short, the key is to choose areas of the city where the attractions are close to each other. This way you can take advantage and see several things at once. You may not be able to get into everything, but you will be able to see it from the outside and take some great photos along the way.

Walk around Times Square

If you start your day from Times Square you have a great advantage: many of Manhattan's other popular destinations are within walking distance. The walk will take you no more than 15 minutes towards Broadway.

Times Square is usually full of tourists, so if you go early in the morning you will feel less crowded and can take your pictures in peace. Also, from this meeting point many tour buses depart withtours to different areas of the city. Take advantage of them and kill more than two birds with one stone.

Take a walk through the south side of Central Park

The famous Central Park, in the heart of Manhattan has about 341 hectares. You may not have time to see it all, but you'll see the highlights.

From Times Square you can take the C subway line to Strawberry fields, the iconic John Lehnon Memorial. Or if you prefer, you can walk the same route for 30 minutes. This way you see some things on the way like the famous Tavern of the Green or Greyshot Arch.

Then go back the other way heading first a little further east. There take pictures next to The Lake. Then cross the Bow Bridge and take the path The Mall that surely you have seen in more than one movie or TV series.

If you are up for it, you can also rent a bike inside the park especially for this tour and you will be able to cover more sites in less time (plus it's quite an adventure!). If you prefer to visit another park in the city because you already know it, you can check here which are the best parks in New York.

Rent a bike in Central Park

The MET, the most complete museum in New York City

Entrance to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City| ©Patxi Moraleda
Entrance to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City| ©Patxi Moraleda

You can't visit the Big Apple and not spend at least a couple of hours at the Met or Metropolitan Museum of Art. More than two million pieces of art from all over the world will leave you with your mouth open. This is undoubtedly one of the best museums in New York.

The MET opens its doors at 10AM. Buy your tickets early or get the best New York tourist card... so you don't have to wait in line and you can enter to see the most emblematic works of its permanent collection.

A stop at Rockefeller Center

Whether it's Christmas because you want access to the giant glowing tree and skating rink or just to climb to the Top of the Rock, you can't miss New York's largest shopping complex.

Walk out of Central Park to Fifth Avenue and walk for 13 minutes to meet the facade of St. Patrick's Cathedral. Take a few photos to remember. Then go inside for a few minutes and appreciate the interior. Admission to the cathedral is free and you can enter until 6PM.

When you come out of the cathedral then continue to the front, there you have Rockefeller Center. In addition to climbing to the top I recommend you to stop for lunch here. Find herethe best places to eat near Rockefeller Center where you can recharge your energy to continue your walk around Manhattan.

Book your ticket to the Top of the Rock

Back to Broadway for the show

Close the day by returning to Times Square and be impressed by the neon lights show. And while you're at it, why not see a musical? The soundtrack, the characterization, the staging... the best of the best.

You have manymusicals to choose from. Most performances start around 7:30 pm. Be sure to buy your ticket in advance so you get a good seat.

Day 2: Beyond Manhattan

DUMBO neighborhood| ©Hellotickets
DUMBO neighborhood| ©Hellotickets

Be prepared because Manhattan is not all that New York has to offer. On the second day I recommend you to leave the island a little bit and visit two indispensable places that every tourist in New York can't miss: The Statue of Liberty and the famous Brooklyn borough.

To the Statue of Liberty

With yourStatue of Liberty tickets already purchased, skip the lines and take the ferry out to Liberty Island. You'll see the skyline forming as you head away from Manhattan. Take a picture of the backdrop of Manhattan and a selfie with the Statue of Liberty.

Once you arrive at Liberty Island you can access the interior of the monument and learn about its history at the museum. You also have access to the observation deck from which you can appreciate the views of Manhattan in the distance.

On your way back I recommend that you stop with the ferry at Ellis Island and take a few minutes to visit the Immigration Museum. You will learn all about the great waves of immigration that made New York the multicultural city it is today.

The 9/11 Memorial and Museum

As you return to the south side of Manhattan, it's a good idea to take a walk around the World Trade Center and next to it, the 911 Museum. There you will witness the impact of this tragedy and how the events of 9/11 had consequences not only for the American people, but for the rest of the world.

As I have recommended before, buy your tickets to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in advance and skip the lines.

Book a tour of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and 9/11 Memorial

Toast to your trip and say goodbye to Manhattan at the top of the Empire State Building

Say goodbye to Manhattan and celebrate that, despite your short visit, you got to see more than you thought you would. Make the most of it and do it in style by climbing the Empire State Building. If you have it, we recommend you to use your tourist card to avoid the queues. And take pictures, lots and lots of pictures. The Manhattan nightscape deserves to be remembered and immortalized.

You have time to go up before 1:15AM, as access remains open until 2AM.

Book your ticket to the Empire State Building without queuing up

Head to Brooklyn

Brooklyn Bridge at night| ©Jörg Schubert
Brooklyn Bridge at night| ©Jörg Schubert

To the southeast of the island of Manhattan rises the bridge that connects it with the famous borough of Brooklyn, home to renowned artists and much of the New York population. Crossing it on foot takes about 45 minutes and by subway from Memorial 911 you can take the A line. I recommend the former for a more authentic experience.

Once in Brooklyn, you will notice a strong architectural identity as opposed to Manhattan. For this I recommend mainly the neighborhood of DUMBO. It is approximately a 15 minute walk once you cross the bridge. Take a walk to explore Brooklyn and be amazed by those industrial buildings now converted into apartments that we all dream of owning one day.

Once there, you can also visit Williamsburg and New York's Jewish Quarter.