Are you organizing your trip to the Big Apple and don't know where to start seeing the city? In this guide on what to do in 7 days in New York I help you organize your route to make the most of your time and not miss anything. Let's get started!
Day 1: Getting to know New York and Chinatown
Tour all the boroughs of New York with the Contrasts Tour
Manhattan is the best known of the five boroughs that make up New York. This is because it is the most famous borough because it concentrates 90% of the attractions of New York and it is in the south where the origins of this city are. But even so, New York is much more: in fact, it is huge. And one of the best ways to get a feel for the big city is to take a guided tour that will take you to see the highlights.
To avoid making the main mistake of many first time visitors to New York, which is not leaving Manhattan for the whole vacation, I recommend you start by taking the New York Contrasts Tour, which will take you to discover the five big boroughs of the Big Apple: Harlem, The Bronx, Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn.
As this tour lasts about 5 hours you will be able to visit the most iconic neighborhoods of New York in just one morning, in a minivan and accompanied by a local guide who will give you a very enjoyable introduction to the city, its neighborhoods and its cultures. It seems to me a very good option for first time travelers, as it is a first contact with the city quite complete and interesting.
In addition, once the Tour of Contrasts is over or at another time of your trip you can return to the neighborhood or area that has caught your attention to explore it by yourself in detail. If you like the idea you can learn more about this activity in this article about the New York Contrasts Tour.
Taste authentic Chinese food in Chinatown
An important thing about the Contrasts Tour is that you can choose between two places to end the tour: under the Brooklyn Bridge in the DUMBO neighborhood or in Chinatown. My advice is to do it in Chinatown because the end of the activity coincides with lunchtime, in the Asian neighborhood of New York you will have the opportunity to try authentic Chinese food at very reasonable prices.
If you love to eat and you are a foodie, in Chinatown you will enjoy a lot because you will find many restaurants and bars where you can try some of the best Asian specialties. If you like spicy food you can't miss Xi's an Famous Food (45 Bayard Street) and a good option for vegetarians is Buddha Bodai(5 Mott Street).
After lunch take the opportunity to stroll around Chinatown. Here you can breathe a very unique atmosphere that will catch your attention as a traveler. Discover Columbus Park, the Chinese Museum in America or Canal Street Market, among many other interesting places. Want to know more about everything you can do in this neighborhood? Check out my article about Chinatown.
Return to Manhattan
In the afternoon return to Manhattan to continue your tour of downtown New York. How about a stroll along the famous Fifth Avenue? This is one of the most important arteries of the city and where some of the most exclusive hotels and stores of the Big Apple are located. But in addition to shopping, on Fifth Avenue you will find several tourist attractions to visit such as the Empire State Building, St. Patrick's Cathedral, Rockefeller Center and the Public Library.
Near Fifth Avenue you will also find Times Square, the heart of New York and an icon of the city, and a visit to Times Square at nightfall is a must on any trip to the Big Apple. You can't miss it! The lights and signs of this emblematic square illuminate everything and the atmosphere here is incomparable. There is no traveler who does not surrender to the charms of Times Square!
Toast to your trip from a rooftop
The first day of your visit to New York has been long and full of emotions. What if you put the finishing touch with a good drink contemplating the Manhattan skyline from one of its best rooftops? If you like the idea, I leave you here my article about the 10 best rooftops in New York so you can choose the one you like the most.
Day 2: discover Brooklyn, Soho and the West Village
Start the day in Brooklyn and DUMBO
If you travel to New York you can not miss Brooklyn, the coolest alternative spirit area of the city. It is a borough with an industrial past and a strong cultural identity that is well worth a visit.
The easiest way to get to Brooklyn is to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan. On the way down you will land in DUMBO, a bohemian and artistic neighborhood that has managed to combine old industrial architecture and the most modern design of the present to create a unique atmosphere in New York.
When you are there you will see that DUMBO has a special charm that you will not be able to stop photographing. Along its streets you will come across murals, graffiti and authentic works of art that you will want to keep in your camera and in your retina.
Don't put your camera away because on Washington Street you can photograph the wonderful Manhattan Bridge with the skyscrapers in the background and on Plymouth Street you will have the opportunity to see the traces of Brooklyn's industrial past that still survive today in this neighborhood.
On to Williamsburg and the Jewish Quarter
The morning has only just begun and following the route of day 2 through this borough you will reach Williamsburg, a neighborhood where hipsters and the most conservative Jewish community of New York coexist but each in their own space: the hipsters in Williamsburg and the Hasidic Jews in the South Williamsburg area, which is reached by crossing under the Williamsburg Bridge.
Williamsburg is one of those authentic areas full of contrasts that is worth visiting. You will be surprised to see how in just a few streets, the atmosphere changes radically: from the austerity of the Jewish neighborhood to the most striking Street Art and the old factories converted into restaurants, galleries and other design stores.
After having walked around the Williamsburg area, it is time to enter the streets of South Williamsburg, one of the most popular Jewish neighborhoods in the world. This place is like walking through a different world compared to the hipster area. The buildings are austere and simple with worn facades and most of them with bars on the windows.
If you go on your own, my advice is to take a walk through the streets looking at the landscape to learn about their way of life and customs. Where the life of the community is concentrated is on Lee Avenue, the main artery of the neighborhood and where most of its temples and stores are located. If you can, I recommend that you go into a kosher store and buy a sweet or muffin, they are very tasty!
Try the best pizza in New York!
All that sightseeing works up an appetite, doesn't it? You can't leave Brooklyn without ordering a pepperoni pizza at the legendary Grimaldi's restaurant, just under the Brooklyn Bridge at 1 Front Street - a temple for pizza lovers in New York!
Back to Soho and the West Village
In the afternoon, return to Manhattan to discover one of New York's trendiest neighborhoods where many movies have been filmed: SoHo. This area of the city has almost no Midtown skyscrapers and some of the oldest buildings in the Big Apple, which gives it a unique and very special charm for many photographs. It is as if SoHo were an oasis in the middle of modern New York where it is a pleasure to stroll quietly among its art galleries, modern restaurants and beautiful buildings.
It is also an excellent place for shopping. Here you can find a mix of luxury stores with new designer boutiques and more affordable brands such as H&M, Zara or Mango. In SoHo there are many options to find the perfect souvenir of your trip.
Set aside some time to visit the West Village, Manhattan's bohemian and hippie neighborhood. Unlike the rest of the borough's streets, these escaped the strict grid pattern with which the city was projected. So they are chaotic and very entertaining to walk aimlessly, enjoying the walk while watching the windows of the charming stores and the beautiful architecture of the neighborhood.
The landscape of the West Village is so beautiful that its beautiful buildings have served as a set in film and television on several occasions. If you are a fan of the subject, you probably know that in this area was located the famous apartment of Monica in "Friends" (specifically on the corner of Grove Street and Bedford) and Carrie Bradshaw's apartment in "Sex and the City" (at 66 Perry Street). If you would like to do the route of movies and series in New York, this neighborhood is a good place to start.
I find the architecture of the West Village a marvel. There is always some little treasure to discover. For example, the narrowest house in New York whose facade measures 2.9 meters wide at 75½ Bedford Street or the townhouses and brownstones of Leroy Street and Morton Street.
Day 3: experience dizzying thrills at Hudson Yards and at the NBA
Breakfast like a king at Chelsea Market
The third day of your trip to New York City will be long and full of emotions. You need to take strength to resist a whole day of sightseeing and for that it is essential to have a good breakfast.
New York is a city where you can eat great, because there is a wide variety of cuisine for all tastes. However, I recommend that to start the route of day 3 you go to Chelsea Market, one of the most popular food markets in Manhattan.
In its fast food stalls you can order delicious sandwiches, salads, pizzas, muffins, donuts and cookies. An example is Amy's Bread, Doughnuttery or Filaga Pizzeria although there are many more options.
Besides having breakfast at Chelsea Market, I recommend you take a walk around the market because they have very cool stores where you can buy some souvenirs like Posman Books, Chelsea Market Baskets or the Artists & Fleas market. If you want to know more about Chelsea Market I recommend you to read my article about this market in the Meatpacking District, there is a lot to see here!
Be amazed by High Line Park
Next to Chelsea Market is one of the most original and modern urban parks in New York: High Line Park. It is a garden full of vegetation, art and rest areas built on an old elevated railroad line from which you will have the best views of the city.
Since it has become a very popular place and the train track is narrow, the park can easily get crowded so my advice is to go to see High Line Park first thing in the morning after breakfast at the market.
Along its route (about two and a half kilometers) you can enjoy its peculiar design, which mixes art and nature, while you make a very cool route that crosses Chelsea and reaches Hudson Yards from the Meatpacking District (or the other way around depending on where you start the circuit).
In my opinion, the views of the skyscrapers of the different neighborhoods of Manhattan are the best part, along with the feeling of being in a small oasis surrounded by greenery and art away from the bustle of New York. The path is so entertaining that you won't realize how far you've walked until you see it on a map!
If you're curious to learn more about this urban park, I recommend you read my article on 10 things to do and see on New York's High Line.
Get to know Hudson Yards and The Vessel
Strolling through High Line Park, you'll come to Hudson Yards, Manhattan's trendiest new neighborhood. It's hard to believe that this trendy area brimming with avant-garde buildings was until recently a dreary train depot along the Hudson River.
But New York is a living, changing place. Thus arose Hudson Yards, a place that already has several must-see tourist attractions on any trip to the Big Apple as is the case of The Vessel, a kind of giant beehive that has become the symbol of this neighborhood.
The Vessel is a futuristic structure of 45 meters that will show you fantastic views of the city from different heights, angles and approaches. You'll have a great time here playing with your camera. From the top you can look out over the Hudson River, The Shed cultural center, High Line Park and the surrounding skyscrapers. If you pay attention, you'll even see One World Trade Center and the Empire State Building on the horizon.
My advice is to buy your tickets for The Vessel well in advance so you don't have to wait in long lines at the box office.
Where to eat at Hudson Yards?
It's time to take a break from the day 3 tour of New York for lunch. In Hudson Yards there are also very good options to choose from.
One of my favorites is Little Spain Market, a gastronomic space located in building 10 Hudson Yards, dedicated to the flavors of traditional Spanish cuisine. Eating a portion of bravas, a skewer of Spanish omelette, a Valencian coca and some crispy churros in the middle of New York is priceless. Even more so if they have the seal of quality of the prestigious chef José Andrés in collaboration with the brothers Ferrán and Albert Adriá.
In addition, in the shopping center The Shops and Restaurants at Hudson Yards there are also other restaurants such as Shake Shack, Kawi or Peach Mart, among other possibilities.
The Edge, Manhattan's highest observatory
After a lunch break, it's time to test your vertigo at The Edge, one of New York's most spectacular observation decks.
Climbing The Edge is a thrilling experience. Located in the skyscraper 30 Hudson Yards at 345 meters high, from its 700 m2 glass terrace you will feel the impact of the wind and have a 360 degree panoramic view of New York.
I remember the first time I stepped on the outside of the observatory, which is projected in the shape of an arrow over the sky of New York, I felt on the edge of a cliff. Adrenaline rushed as I walked on its glass floor and gazed beneath my feet hundreds of feet above the New York traffic. It's a really thrilling feeling and you'll feel your skin crawl. Who said fear?
As with The Vessel, I recommend that you buy your tickets for The Edge in advance to make sure you can get in at the time you want, on the day you have planned.
Game Time! Experience the magic of the NBA at Madison Square Garden
Watching a basketball game at Madison Square Garden is one of the most fascinating spectacles you can attend in the United States, either because you are passionate about basketball or because you want to experience the atmosphere and the madness that this sport awakens in New York.
End the third day of your vacation in the Big Apple in style by going to Madison Square Garden to enjoy a New York Knicks game. If you want to include an NBA game in your trip, my advice is to buy tickets online before you travel. Why? The key is to buy them as soon as possible to get the best seat at the cheapest price. If you wait too long you run the risk of running out of tickets or that at the box office there are few tickets at a high price and in sectors with a less spectacular visibility.
Do not hesitate, for me this is the easiest, safest and fastest. If you want to know more about how to buy tickets to watch NBA games in New York I recommend you to read the article I wrote about it, it will only take you a few minutes and I explain everything you need to know!
Day 4: gospel mass, the best museums and tour of Central Park
Listen to heavenly music in Harlem
Take advantage of this day to do something different during your stay in New York, for example a tour of Harlem with Gospel Mass to get to know the most authentic side of this neighborhood north of Manhattan.
Immerse yourself in the culture of Harlem accompanied by a professional guide is the best way to experience the cultural diversity of this city and to discover the roots of the African-American community. In just 4 hours you will see the main sights of Harlem such as the Apollo Theater, the Cotton Club, the Morris Jumel Mansion or the historic streets of typical apartments and you will have time to visit a local church to witness an authentic live Gospel Mass. I recommend going on Sundays, as you will find a larger congregation and therefore a more genuine experience.
Cycle through Central Park
After doing this tour of Harlem you can continue your route through New York in Central Park accessing the entrance next to this neighborhood that is quieter than the southern access.
With its 341 hectares of extension, Central Park is the largest urban park in New York. To see it in its entirety would be exhausting and perhaps unnecessary. In order to get an overview of the park and have energy left to continue exploring New York after this visit , I recommend cycling through the park as you will be able to see the main points of interest and save time.
There are many ways to visit Central Park but I think a private bike cab tour is a fun and different way to discover it as you are accompanied by a professional guide. I did it and it is worth it because it shows you not only the most emblematic places of the park but also others that usually go unnoticed by tourists.
Have a picnic in Central Park
When you finish your bike tour of Central Park you can go to The Great Lawn, the largest meadow in the park to rest for a while and have a picnic when the sun is shining. There are many stalls scattered throughout Central Park where you can buy hot dogs, waffles, sandwiches, drinks and ice cream. If the weather is not good, no problem because inside the park there are several restaurants where you can take a lunch break such as The Loeb Boathouse, Café Express or Le Pain Quotidien.
Stroll around the Upper East Side and the Museum of Natural History
On the fourth day you can take advantage of your visit to Central Park to stroll along the Upper East Side, New York's wealthy neighborhood known for its imposing stately buildings and wide avenues.
Then head to the New York Museum of Natural History, west of Central Park. It is one of the must-see museums in the city and one of the most visited, so to skip the lines at the ticket office and go directly to its exhibits, it is best to get a skip-the-line ticket to the museum.
My favorite space is the one dedicated to fossils and dinosaurs but the New York Museum of Natural History has dozens of permanent and special exhibits. My advice is to plan your visit well and set aside at least 3 hours to explore the museum at your leisure but if you don't have much time, it is best to go directly to the rooms you want to see. If you want to know more about the New York Museum of Natural History, don't miss my article: Museum of Natural History New York Tickets: how to buy and prices.
Sail New York's waters at dusk
At any time of the day, the views of the New York skyline are amazing but I recognize that I have a special weakness for its lights at dusk. That's why I think a night cruise is one of the most beautiful memories you can take back from a trip to New York.
A sunset cruise on the waters of Manhattan seems to me a great plan to conclude a day full of emotions after endless walks around the city, either with family, friends or as a couple.
How about an express cruise to the Statue of Liberty or a buffet dinner with live music? Whichever option you choose, you'll have a great time while still exploring the best sights of the city and enjoying a relaxing time on a boat.
Day 5: Financial District and Broadway
Take the Upper and Lower Manhattan Tour and take a ferry to Liberty Island
There is not much left to finish your trip to New York and so that you do not leave any relevant corner to discover I recommend that on day 5 in the morning you do the Tour of Upper and Lower Manhattan, the heart of the Big Apple.
It is the perfect choice if you are going to be in New York very few days or if you are traveling with children and they get tired of walking soon. The interesting thing about the tour is to visit Manhattan in a comfortable bus and with an expert guide, so that you have some context about each place you visit when you are exploring the city at your own pace and know how to manage much better.
The Upper and Lower Manhattan Tour lasts 3 and a half hours and ends at Battery Park, at the southern end of the borough bordering the Financial District. After this activity you can take the ferry to the Statue of Liberty that departs from the pier of this park, the oldest in New York. The views of Liberty Island, Lady Liberty and Ellis Island from Battery Park are a marvel - you'll take lots of pictures!
Take a lunch break at Westfield World Trade Center Mall
On your way back to Manhattan, before visiting Ground Zero, it's time to take a break for lunch and recharge your batteries. You can go to Westfield World Trade Center Mall, a shopping center located just below The Oculus structure. Here there are many restaurants to choose from such as Eataly, Shake Shack, Wasabi Sushi & Bento or Starbucks, among others.
Visiting Ground Zero and the Financial District in the afternoon
Ground Zero in New York City is a place of remembrance that pays tribute to those who perished in the terrorist attacks of 2001 that shocked the world.
After the attack, the World Trade Center had to be completely rebuilt. The Twin Towers gave way to modern skyscrapers such as the One World Trade Center, which has the highest observation deck in New York known as the One World Observatory, the impressive 9/11 Museum and the Memorial, one of the most emotional visits I made in New York. Both are the two sites that impressed me the most at Ground Zero and that leave your emotions running high.
However, there is much more to see at Ground Zero. If you want to know more in my article 10 things to see and do at Ground Zero in New York I tell you about the must-sees.
The next stop on the route is the Financial District in the heart of Downtown Manhattan. Here there are a number of tourist attractions to see such as Wall Street and its Charging Bull or the New York Stock Exchange, among others. Its long narrow streets flanked by huge skyscrapers will barely allow you to see the sky and you will encounter hundreds of executives in suits rushing back and forth.
Experience the magic of a Broadway musical
You come to New York to have fun, to be surprised at every corner and even to daydream. That's what Broadway musicals are for, they will make you enjoy like a child, no matter how old you are!
The magic of Broadway, its musical numbers and its majestic stagings will leave you speechless. There are many titles on the bill but some of the most prestigious are "The Phantom of the Opera", "Aladdin", "The Lion King", "Wicked", "Chicago", "Frozen" or "Les Miserables".
Of course, if you want to spend a night at the theater I recommend that you buy your Broadway tickets in advance to ensure the best seats on the date you want and at a better price than at the box office, where you will also save having to wait in long lines.
6. Day Get out of New York and explore other iconic sites
Maybe while planning your trip to New York at first you did not think about adding an excursion outside the city to see other parts of the United States, since there is so much to see in the Big Apple, but in my opinion dedicating a day of your vacation to make an excursion to Washington or Niagara Falls is a great idea because you will have the opportunity to know the capital of the country or this wonder of nature.
Get to know Washington D.C
The Washington excursion from New York is one of the best one-day experiences you can do from the Big Apple. You will be accompanied by an expert guide and you will have a very complete tour of Washington to discover such emblematic sites as the White House, the Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery or the Pentagon, among many others. It's a blast!
Marvel at Niagara Falls
Another option is to take a Niagara Falls tour that brings you to and from downtown New York in one day. The great thing about this organized tour is that you won't have to worry about how to get there, which can be quite an odyssey. And once at the falls, you'll be sure not to miss a single detail from a professional bilingual guide. Seeing the beautiful rainbow and hearing the roar of the water is an unforgettable experience - I was speechless! Also, since this tour explores the New York side of the falls, no visa is required.
Day 7: good bye New York!
And the last day of your New York vacation has arrived! All goodbyes are hard, especially when you have had such a great time and memorable moments in this city but instead of being sad, my advice is to enjoy the last day to the fullest.
For starters, you can spend the morning shopping in New York to buy some original and unique souvenirs of your trip, here you can find everything and at all prices! The city is full of stores for all tastes and I am sure you will find a special gift for your friends and family.
If you need some inspiration in this regard, I recommend you take a look at my article on The 10 best things to buy in New York.
Treat yourself to your last meal in New York City
A day of shopping leaves anyone exhausted. Take a break and take advantage of the last day of your trip to New York to treat yourself as you deserve. In my post on The 10 best places to eat in New York you will find places where you can eat very well without paying a fortune.
Say goodbye to New York in style!
Say goodbye to the Big Apple from the top of one of its skyscrapers contemplating the wonderful Manhattan skyline at sunset. Watching the sun go down while the lights of New York are gradually illuminated is a magical moment and a very special way to say goodbye to the city.
There are many viewpoints to climb and each one shows a different facet of the New York skyline but the two best options are to climb the Empire State Building and the Top of the Rock, both in the center of Manhattan.
Now, which is the best observatory? It depends, the Empire State Observatory is higher and offers better views of One World Trade Center and the Financial District, while Top of the Rock is the best choice to see Times Square, Central Park and the Empire State Building from the top.
Whichever observatory you choose, you will find that being up there is truly breathtaking and you will have the feeling that time stands still before your eyes.