4 days in New York is a lot: there is a lot to see and do in the Big Apple, but by choosing the right itinerary and booking your tickets in advance you will be on the safe side and optimize your time.
I'll tell you what you can't miss in the city so you can get the most out 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, food, New York's best museums, 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 in the South and learn all about the history of the city. Here's how.
Take the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
Starting the day by taking a cruise up the Hudson to the Statue of Liberty is a smart move. Early in the day there are few tourists touring the islands, so you're sure to enjoy the ride much more.
To catch the ferry you have two ports: Battery Park and neighboring Jersey City. The frequency is 25 to 30 minutes, leaving the first one at 9:30 AM and the last one at 3:30 PM. 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 40% of the ancestors 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 it is worth it as you will end up being an expert on the history of the Big Apple. In addition, 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 no longer here. 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 will 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 along.
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's 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'm talking about 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 northwest you have another area worth visiting: Soho. It 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.
Take in an NBA game in Brooklyn
To end the day, how about booking tickets to an NBA game? But I recommend you do it at the Barclays Center and get out of Manhattan for a bit. It will take you about 25 minutes to get there by subway from Soho.
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 Yankees stadium.
Start your day at the zoo
The Zoo opens 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 transportation voucher. 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 is a New York Subway Guide to help you get your bearings.
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 get enough to eat 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 greet you with a variety 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 Garden, located right next to the zoo. Take a tour of the 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 visiting the Orchid Show, as the flowers are spectacular.
Close the day visiting the Yankees Stadium
The New York Yankees, whose headquarters are located 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 charming borough
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
Starting the day with a bit of exercise is a great way to get active, don't you think? So 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
Travel and sightseeing 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 can 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.
Appreciate the best of the Brooklyn Museum of Art
The Brooklyn Museum of Art is the third largest museum in the Big Apple. You will find art of 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 you can go at your leisure. Just remember to book your tickets online before, so you won't wait to enter.
For your tour inside I recommend you to follow this practical guide. This way you will not 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 it is 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 while skirting The Lake and taking 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 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. Even better if you buy your tickets online or use one of the tourist cards you can buy to visit New York that includes it, so you will 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
When you leave the MET, you can go straight down Fifth Avenue towards New York's New York 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.
Upon arrival you will be able to 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 are going to New York in December and you are a fan of the Christmas atmosphere (in that case do not 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 to the Top of the Rock for the best aerial views of Manhattan.
Have a panoramic view from The Edge
One of Manhattan's newest skyscrapers, The Edge is located next to the Hudson Yards and near 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 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 finish off the day, walk to Times Square. You're only a 10-minute walk away. From the intersection of 7th Avenue and 45th Street, I promise you'll have a blast.
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.
Reserve the night for a musical experience
While you're in the area, take advantage and get in to 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.