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. It is the most famous borough of the city, after all, 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 most important sights.
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, by minivan and accompanied by a local guide who will give you a very enjoyable introduction to the city, its neighborhoods, and its cultures. To me, it's a very good option for first-time travelers, as a first contact with the city that is quite complete and interesting.
In addition, once you finish the Contrasts Tour 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.
Try 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 since the end of the activity coincides with lunchtime, in New York's Asian neighborhood you will have the opportunity to taste authentic Chinese food at very reasonable prices.
If you're a foodie, you will definitely enjoy Chinatown where 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. There is a very unique atmosphere that always impresses travelers. 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 is also located Times Square, the heart of New York City and an icon of this city. Visiting 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. No traveler can resist 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 while contemplating the Manhattan skyline from one of its best rooftops? If you like the idea, here's my article on 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 Brooklyn and DUMBO
If you travel to New York you can not miss Brooklyn, the area with the coolest alternative spirit 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.
Once there you will see that DUMBO has a special charm that you won't 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'll be able to photograph the wonderful Manhattan Bridge with the skyscrapers in the background and on Plymouth Street you'll have the opportunity to see the traces of Brooklyn's industrial past that still survive today in this neighborhood.
Continue on to Williamsburg and the Jewish Quarter
The morning has just begun and following the route of day 2 through this borough you will reach Williamsburg, a neighborhood where the hipsters and the most conservative Jewish community of New York live together, each to its own: 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 and contrasting areas worth visiting. You will be surprised to see how in just a few streets, the atmosphere changes radically: from the austerity of the Jewish Quarter to the most striking Street Art and the old factories converted into restaurants, galleries, and other design shops.
After a stroll through 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 stroll 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 in Lee Avenue, the main artery of the neighborhood and where most of its temples and stores are located. If you can, I recommend you to go into a kosher store and buy a sweet or muffin, they are very tasty!
Try the best pizza in New York!
So much sightseeing works up an appetite, doesn't it? You can't leave Brooklyn without ordering a pepperoni pizza at the legendary Grimaldi's, just under the Brooklyn Bridge at 1 Front St. A temple for pizza lovers in New York!
Back to Soho and the West Village
In the afternoon, return to Manhattan to see one of New York's trendiest neighborhoods where numerous 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's as if SoHo is an oasis in the middle of modern New York where it's nice to stroll through its art galleries, trendy restaurants, and beautiful buildings.
It's also a great place for shopping. Here, luxury stores mix 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 West Village's scenery is so beautiful that its beautiful buildings have been used as film and television sets on several occasions. If you are a TV-head yourself, 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 around 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 9.5 feet wide at 75½ Bedford Street or the townhouses and brownstones on Leroy Street and Morton Street.
Enjoy the lights of New York on a nighttime sightseeing bus tour
To end Day 2's outing on the streets of New York, when the sun goes down and you're exhausted from all that walking, I suggest a nighttime luxury sightseeing bus tour of the city that never sleeps to see it sparkle.
Accompanied by a local guide who will show you the other side of New York, for 4 hours you will travel in a comfortable bus through such highlights as Times Square, Broadway, Grand Central Terminal, the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn Bridge, Chelsea Market and many more. In addition, you will be able to get off at some of the tour stops with your guide to listen to his commentary and get to know the city in detail.
If you found New York surprising and vibrant during the day, you'll find it magical and fascinating at night, and it's a very romantic plan!
Day 3: experience dizzying thrills at Hudson Yards and 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 heart to withstand a full day of sightseeing and for that, it is essential to have a good breakfast.
New York is a city where you can eat great, as there is a great gastronomic variety 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, doughnuts, and cookies. One example is Amy's Bread, Doughnuttery, or Filaga Pizzeria although there are many more options.
Besides having breakfast at Chelsea Market, I advise you to take a walk around the market because they have very cool shops 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 do a very cool route that goes through 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 Manhattan neighborhoods 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 walk 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 know more about this urban park, I recommend you read my article about 10 things to do and see on New York's High Line.
Get to know Hudson Yards and The Vessel
A stroll through High Line Park will take you to Hudson Yards, Manhattan's hippest 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 45-meter structure 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'll be able to see the Hudson River, The Shed cultural center, High Line Park, and the surrounding skyscrapers. If you pay close attention you will 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 the Little Spain Market, a gastronomic space located in building 10 Hudson Yards, dedicated to the flavors of traditional Spanish cuisine. Eating in the heart of New York a portion of bravas, a skewer of Spanish omelette, a Valencian coca, and some crispy churros is priceless. Even more, if they have the quality seal of the prestigious chef José Andrés in collaboration with the brothers Ferrán and Albert Adriá.
In addition, in the mall 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 1131 feet high, from its glass terrace of 7534 square feet you will feel the impact of the wind and you will have a panoramic view of 360 degrees unpublished of New York.
I remember the first time I stepped on the outside of the observatory, which projects in the shape of an arrow into the New York sky, 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 exciting feeling and you'll feel your skin crawl. Who said fear of heights?
Just like for 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 New York, either because you are passionate about basketball or because you want to experience the atmosphere and the madness that this sport awakens in this city.
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 less spectacular visibility.
Do not hesitate, for me, this is the easiest, safest and fastest way. 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 in the city, and a 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 through Harlem with Gospel Mass to get to know the most authentic side of this neighborhood north of Manhattan.
Immersing 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'll find a larger congregation and therefore a more genuine experience.
Pedaling through Central Park
After doing this tour of Harlem you can continue your route through New York in Central Park accessing by the entrance next to this neighborhood which is quieter than the access from the south.
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 for a traveler. To get an overview of the park and have energy left over to continue exploring New York after this visit I recommend cycling through the park as you will be able to see its main points of interest and save time.
There are many ways to visit Central Park but taking a private bike cab tour can be a fun and different way to discover it as you are accompanied by a professional guide. I did it and it's 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, don't worry 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 along the Upper East Side and the Museum of Natural History
On the fourth day of your tour of New York, you can take advantage of your visit to Central Park to take a 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, just 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 the exhibits, it is best to get the no-queue entrance 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 reserve at least 3 hours to explore the museum at your leisure but if you don't have too 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 Tickets.
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 that taking a night cruise is one of the most beautiful memories you can take away from a trip to New York.
A sunset cruise on the waters of Manhattan is my perfect plan to conclude a day full of emotions after endless walks around the city, either with family, friends, or as a couple.
How about a buffet dinner with DJ on board or a romantic three-course dinner with a live pianist playing jazz and blues? Whichever option you choose, you'll have a great time while still exploring the city's best sights 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 the fifth day of your adventure you do the Tour of Upper and Lower Manhattan, the heart of the Big Apple.
It is the perfect option if you are going to be in New York for only a few days or if you are traveling with children and they get tired of walking. The interesting part of the tour is to visit Manhattan in a comfortable bus with an expert guide, so you will have some context about each place you visit when you are exploring the city at your own pace and you will know how to handle yourself 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 Liberty Statue which 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 the 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 pick yourself up. You can go to Westfield World Trade Center Mall, a shopping mall 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 2001 terrorist attacks that shocked the world.
After the attack, it was necessary to rebuild the entire World Trade Center. 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 striking One World Observatory, or 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 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 all the must-sees.
The next stop on the route is the Financial District in the heart of Downtown Manhattan. Here there are several tourist attractions to see as Wall Street and its Charging Bull or the New York Stock Exchange, among others. Its narrow and long streets flanked by huge skyscrapers will barely allow you to see the sky and you will run into 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 the Broadway musicals, which will make you enjoy yourself like a child, no matter how old you are!
The magic of Broadway, its musical numbers, and its majestic staging 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 tickets for Broadway 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.
Day 6. Get out of New York and explore other landmarks
Maybe while planning your trip to New York at first you didn't 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 one day of your vacation to take an excursion to Washington from New York or to visit Niagara Falls from New York will take your trip to a whole other level.
Get to know Washington D.C.
The Washington day trip from New York is one of the best one-day experiences you can do from the Big Apple. You'll be accompanied by an expert guide and you'll take a comprehensive tour of Washington to discover such iconic sites as the White House, the Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, the Pentagon, and many more. It's such a blast!
Marvel at Niagara Falls
Another option is to take a Niagara Falls tour which takes you to and from downtown New York in one day. The great thing about this organized tour is that you don'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 with a professional bilingual guide.
Seeing the beautiful rainbow and hearing the roar of the water is an unforgettable experience - I was speechless!
Day 7: goodbye 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 getting sad, my advice is to enjoy the last day to the fullest.
For starters, you can spend the morning shopping around New York to buy some original and unique souvenirs of your trip, you can find everything here and at all prices! The city is full of stores for all tastes and I am sure you will find a special gift to give to 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 about 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 while watching the wonderful Manhattan skyline at sunset. Watching the sun go down as the lights of New York slowly illuminate is a magical moment and a very special way to say goodbye to the city.
There are many observation decks to climb and each one shows a different facet of the New York skyline but the two most famous are the Empire State Building and the Top of the Rock, both in midtown Manhattan.
Now, which is the best observatory? It depends, the Empire State 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'll find that being up there is truly breathtaking and have the feeling that time stands still before your eyes.