4 days in New York is a long time: there is a lot to see and do in the Big Apple, but by choosing your itinerary wisely and booking your tickets in advance you will be on the safe side and make the most of your time.
I'll tell you what you can't miss in the city so you can make the most of your trip.
Day 1: A Tour of Lower Manhattan
The island of Manhattan has a lot to offer you. Movie sets, street art, history, gastronomy, the best museums in New York, etc. After all, it's the image of New York that comes to mind when you hear about the Big Apple.
Start your first day down south and learn all about the history of the city. Here's how.
Sail the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
Starting the day by taking a cruise down the Hudson to get to the Statue of Liberty is a smart decision. Early in the morning you have few tourists touring the islands, so you're sure to enjoy the ride much more.
On this tour you not only discover the importance of the monument that France gave to the United States on the centenary of its independence. You also have a stop at Ellis Island, the island that hosted at least 1 ancestor of 40% of the current U.S. population.
A Moment to Remember: Visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum
When you return to Manhattan the ferry will drop you off again at Battery Park. From there you can walk 12 minutes over Greenwitch Street to the 9/11 Memorial. Although it is a bit bittersweet experience, I assure you that it is worth it because you will end up being an expert on the history of the Big Apple. Besides, both the Memorial and the Museum, which are two different things, present this historical moment in the most respectful way.
Upon arrival you will find yourself face to face with the Memorial built at Ground Zero, a space to remember those who are gone. From there you can visit the 9/11 museum, a space where you will learn all about the social and political impact that the fall of the Twin Towers had on the United States and the world.
A stroll through Chinatown
In southern Manhattan, in addition to the financial district, you find architectural and gastronomic testimonies of all the immigration that has taken place in the course of the city's history.
Start by taking a stroll through Chinatown. You can get there in about 16 minutes by taking the subway line 4. The neighborhood offers restaurants with flavors exported from China and South Asia, Buddhist temples that will surprise you and even a museum where you will learn about the history of the Asian-American population in New York. Canal Street and Mott Street are the main streets that I encourage you to walk.
Be careful not to linger and forget about lunchtime! You already know that Chinatown offers incredible places to eat and enjoy the best of Asia without leaving New York. You have both vegetarian and fusion cuisine options.
Dare to try new things and take the opportunity to savor the authentic taste of a country by visiting a different one.
Little Italy and SoHo
Just a 6-minute walk away you have another neighborhood, or at least what is left of it, where a stop is a must. Absorbed with the passage of time by Chinatown, but just as relevant to understand the history of New York, I refer to Little Italy. Walk down Mulberry Street, the street that still retains evidence of the traces of the Italian Americans who populated this neighborhood during the twentieth century.
Walking in the northwest direction you have another area worth visiting: SoHo. This is a neighborhood whose architectural structure is sure to catch your attention. Admire the Cast-Iron Buildings on your tour and take the opportunity to enter a store or two.
Here you will also find some of the best places to eat in New York.
Attend an NBA game in Brooklyn
Day 2: Exploring the Bronx borough
Although it doesn't have as many attractions as Manhattan, the Bronx is a borough you must visit. The Bronx Zoo is considered the largest zoo in North America and you also have the New York Yankee Stadium.
Start the day at the zoo
The Zoo opens its doors at 10:30 AM, so I recommend that you anticipate the time it will take you to get there from your hotel. For example, from downtown Manhattan by public transportation it will take you about an hour, so have an early breakfast and take some snacks in your backpack.
By the way, the communication between subway lines in New York is very good, so if you are going to visit more than one district you should take a travel pass. The MetroCard for unlimited use for 7 days is a good option, because if you use it twice a day its price is justified by itself. It costs 33$. Here you have this guide to the New York subway that will help you to orient yourself.
Savor Italian cuisine in Belmont
In addition to Manhattan, the Bronx borough also has its own little piece of Italy in the city. So if you can't resist hunger when you leave the zoo, I recommend you go to Belmont, the Little Italy of the Bronx.
Take the exit from the zoo to Belmont and walk from there for an estimated 10 minutes. The neighborhood will welcome you with an offer of pizzerias where you can enjoy an original taste and take a break after your long tour of the zoo.
Tour the Botanical Garden
Once you have recharged your batteries, I suggest you go to the Botanical Gardens, located right next to the zoo. Take a tour of its main gardens and greenhouses, particularly the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, and then take pictures next to the Rock Garden and its waterfall.
If you go in spring I recommend you visit the Orchid Show, as the flowers are spectacular.
Close the day with a visit to Yankees Stadium
The New York Yankees, headquartered in the Bronx, are a very well known team in professional baseball. So to close the day, I advise you to visit their stadium. You can take the bus from the Botanical Garden. It will take you about 45 minutes to get there.
In case your trip is during baseball season, you can even book tickets and watch a game. A complete experience.
By the way, Yankee Stadium (on the outside) is one of the stops on the very famous Contrasts Tour, which is something I recommend if you prefer to discover the best neighborhoods in New York with an expert guide.
Day 3: Brooklyn: a borough with charm
New York's most populous borough with a strong identity... how can you not give it a try? You can see and do tons of things in Brooklyn!
Cross the Brooklyn Bridge for a more authentic experience
Start the day with a little exercise, a great way to get active, don't you think? Then cross from Manhattan to Brooklyn on the iconic bridge that connects the two boroughs.
Your tour starts right in front of New York City Hall, from where you have a view of the Brooklyn Bridge. Take pictures with the Brooklyn borough and the bridge in the background. Then head towards the Brooklyn Bridge View and cross it. It will take you about 30 minutes to get to the other side.
When you get to Brooklyn Bridge Park take pictures this time with Manhattan in the background.
Eat at the Time Out Market
Trips and visits consume a lot of our energy and that's why lunchtime is our best ally. Take advantage of the fact that you are in Brooklyn and go to Time Out Market.
In this food hall you will find food from all over the world. Perfect if you are still not sure what you want to eat, let the options enter you through the eyes. From Brooklyn Bridge Park you only have to walk 3 minutes. This is just one of the best places to eat in Brooklyn, but walking around the area you will find many delicious cafes and restaurants.
See the best of the Brooklyn Museum of Art
The Brooklyn Museum of Art is the third largest museum in the list of the largest in the Big Apple. You can find in it art of very diverse origins such as Egyptian, Italian or Near Eastern.
To get there you must take the subway line 2 or 3. The station is right at the entrance of the museum. The museum is open from 11 AM. Ideally you should spend at least 2 hours of tour. The good thing about this museum is that you have until 8 PM to explore, so take it easy. Just remember to book your tickets online before, so you won't wait to get in.
For your tour inside I recommend you to follow this practical guide. This way you won't miss any detail among the more than one and a half million objects exhibited in the museum.
Day 4: Back to Manhattan
They say that you always go back to where you were happy and Manhattan, without a doubt, is an island where everyone who visits will be amazed. Dedicate the last day to the most emblematic places of the Big Apple. Your photos will be the envy of everyone on Instagram.
Take an early morning stroll through Central Park
All there is to see and do in Central Park can take you a whole day or more, so consider leaving some things for the next time you come back. In this case, I recommend a more limited but equally enjoyable tour.
Start by visiting the John Lennon memorial, Strawberry fields by entering Central Park West between 71st and 72nd Street. Then head towards the Bow Bridge as you walk along The Lake and take pictures from different angles.
To exit the park take the famous The Mall trail. If it's fall or spring you're sure to be amazed by the scenery. Finally change direction and head towards the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) where the best has just begun.
Lose yourself among the works of art at the MET
Start your tour of Central Park around 8 AM so that by 10 AM, the MET's opening time on Fifth Avenue, you'll be ready for your visit. It's even better if you buy your tickets online or use a tourist card that includes it, so you'll go straight through without waiting in line.
You have to keep in mind that the MET is a huge museum, so I recommend you to check this guide to visit it. This way you won't miss anything important and you will save time for other attractions in the city.
I recommend that you spend at least two hours touring the permanent and temporary collections. Another thing to keep in mind is that backpacks and suitcases are not allowed in the museum, but there are free lockers available to get rid of the weight you are carrying.
Stroll in the direction of St. Patrick's Cathedral
After your visit to the MET you can continue straight on Fifth Avenue towards the New York's New Gothic cathedral: St. Patrick's Cathedral. The tour takes about 30 minutes in which you can appreciate the buildings and stores with the most expensive rent in the city and perhaps the world.
When you arrive at the cathedral you don't have to worry about entrance fees because the entrance is free. You can appreciate its design both from inside and outside, as long as a religious ceremony is not taking place.
I also advise you to take a walk around Rockefeller Center on your way out, especially if you go to New York in December and you are a fan of the Christmas atmosphere (in that case don't hesitate to take a look at the article about Rockefeller Center at Christmas). It is located right in front of the cathedral. You can even take a lunch break there and then continue walking around the stores and Fifth Avenue a bit more. Right there you can (and should) climb the Top of the Rock for the best aerial views of Manhattan.
Take a panoramic view from The Edge
One of Manhattan's newest skyscrapers, The Edge is located next to the Hudson Yards and close to the C and E subway lines.
The Edge is one of the most affordable observatories in New York today. In fact, tickets to The Edge are better value if you buy them online, rather than at the box office.
Take advantage of other nearby tourist attractions such as The Vessel or the Hihg Line park at Hudson Yards. Stall until just before sunset and then go up to the observatory. You're going to freak out and maybe even get a little dizzy. But it's well worth it, I guarantee it.
Admire the illuminated signs in Time Square
To end the day, walk to Times Square. You are only a 10 minute walk away. Already from the intersection of 7th Avenue and 45th Street I promise you will freak out.
Take pictures by the red stairs, buy a Krispy Kreme doughnut and admire the illuminated signs that never sleep. Here you also have some giant stores you can visit such as **Forever 21, Levi's, H&**M, etc.
Book the night for a musical experience
While you're in the area, take advantage and go see an authentic Broadway musical! But don't buy your tickets on the street, there are many scams. Book online so you can still walk around the area until show time. After all, it's your last day in the city and you'll want to take advantage of it to do some shopping.