If you ever get the chance; visit New York. While most of us know it from TV we never really get the feeling of walking down the streets of this mysterious city. The people are very friendly, public transport is good, and prices are reasonable (for a big city).
New York is big, like really big. Maybe one of the biggest cities we ever visited. But that also means there is a lot to see. Don’t expect you can see it all in one day… Or a week. Our top 10 things to do in New York can be done in 4 days, maybe 3. We highlight those sights that inspired us the most. From a park to a library and from an immigration island to a church.
We take the subway to 14th Street and 8th Avenue and from here we walk toward Chelsea Market. This huge building, constructed in the 1890s, used to house the National Biscuit Company, which developed and produced the Oreo biscuits, among other things. In the 1990s it was redeveloped and now it is a food hall, shopping mall, office space, and television production facility in one. The huge building fills the entire block between 15th and 16th Streets and 9th and 10th Avenues. It is mainly the food hall area that attracts visitors to Chelsea Market.
When you walk in you immediately see that this used to be a factory. The style is very industrial and you see all kinds of attributes that you also see in a factory. The shops in Chelsea Market are very diverse and offer something for everyone. It’s just nice to walk by, even if you don’t need anything. We let ourselves be seduced by the delicious smells and dive into a bakery, which according to the lady behind us has the best bread in all of New York. We can’t judge that, but the cinnamon buns are very tasty!
We take the ferry to Ellis Island to learn more about the immigration process. When we get off the subway we are immediately approached by a person with a reasonably official-looking vest. He indicates that there are two tours, one of one hour and one of three hours. That’s weird because last time I could just buy a ticket and look around myself. We decide to ignore him and just go and see Battery Park for ourselves.
At a fortress, Castle Clinton, you can buy the official tickets. When we get there we have to choose. It’s a bit late in the day and we could either go to the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island. That’s a pity, but we choose Ellis Island. If you want to do both, go early in the day so you have enough time. You pay $ 24,30 for a visit to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The audio tour is included in the price. We go through security control and wait to board the ferry.
You have a very nice view over the skyline of New York when you are on the ferry. It first stops at the island where the Statue of Liberty stands. Even if you don’t visit the island you get to see the Statue of Liberty up close and that’s the most important thing. On the island you’ll find more information about the Statue of Liberty is you’re interested.
The ferry continues to Ellis Island and we get off. In the building, we pick up an audio tour. A must as far as we are concerned because this makes the stories come to life even more and you get a better understanding of how things must have been back then. You are guided through the entire immigration process and that was quite strict. A simple fungal nail could be reason enough to be refused and have to return to your country of origin. Some people were detained on Ellis Island for months before a decision was made on whether they could enter America. You can also check on the island if any of your relatives have come in via Ellis Island, but unfortunately, that center is already closed when we get there. Nowadays you can also find this out online.
We are standing in front of the famous American Museum of Natural History, or AMNH. In this museum, many films have been filmed, of which A Night at the Museum is the most famous.
The AMNH is the largest museum in the world (let that sink in for a moment). The museum is 190,000 m2 in size and has 45 permanent halls of exhibits, 25 connected buildings, 33 million plants, animals, fossils, minerals, stones, meteorites, human remains, and human cultural objects. The museum itself also has a great history.
We pay 28 dollars per person and enter. You can also reserve a ticket online. It is a huge building and there is a lot to see. Don’t storm in and go into the first room you see. It is better to take a moment to see what is available and then to determine a route after you have received the map (free). We want to see at least the dinosaurs, the dioramas, and a few more. Here’s a small impression:
There is so much to see! All about American history. The landscapes, animals, people… Everything passes by. It gives a great picture of how people used to live here and how the landscapes were created.
It’s just not possible to see everything in 1 day! We leave the museum with much more information about the United States. It was a fantastic visit.
But before we leave the building we see the person to this museum is dedicated to: Roosevelt.
Across the street or the American Museum of Natural History is Central Park. It’s a good idea to combine these two highlights.
Central Park is the most visited park in the United States. It is 4 kilometers long and covers an area of 341 hectares. It took 16 years to build the park. Everyone knows it from movies and TV series.
We take a walk through this park. And as soon as you enter the park a bit, you forget that you are walking in a huge city. Everyone is enjoying walking or exercising. It’s wonderful.
The park is also being used as film sets or for concerts. Keep an eye out on the Central Park agenda if you want to know what is happening in the park. Just don’t try to take a peek at a film set. There are people doing everything they can to keep you away from it… Everything.
We take the subway to World Trade Center, a station very close to the monument. It is a short walk and we see that they are still very busy constructing new buildings. The new WTC is also very visible from this spot.
We follow the signs to the monument and after a while we see them. They are two huge water basins that stand on the spot where the towers once stood. On the edges are all the names of the victims; people in the towers and emergency workers. It’s very impressive. It is also very quiet. People usually have little respect for silence (where it is often requested) but it is very quiet here. All you hear is the traffic in the distance.
Take notice of the white roses. These are not put here by family members, but by a commission that places the white roses on a birthday of a victim.
Nearby is a small park, which is called Liberty Park. In this park is a sphere that has many dents and small parts that are missing. This sphere stood between the Twin Towers and survived the attack. Six months after the attack, the sphere was housed in Battery Park. On August 16, 2017, the sphere was restored and placed in Liberty Park, near the point where it stood all along when the towers were still there.
We would like to cross the bridge and explore Brooklyn on our own. It takes a while to find where we need to go when we get off the subway. We are at High Street – Brooklyn Bridge Station, but the bridge is nowhere to be seen. Fortunately, as always, we have Maps.me with us so we can use it to find the right route. There is a park along the water which is worth visiting.
Brooklyn Bridge Park is 34 acres and stretches along the banks of the East River. From the park, you have a beautiful view of the Manhattan skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge. There are several piers where ferries leave for all kinds of destinations. But you can also enjoy sports here, walk your dog or just enjoy the view. There are nice restaurants on the edge of the park where you can eat or drink something.
The pedestrian entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge is well-hidden. We are now really under the bridge, but it is very high and there are no stairs or elevators here. We follow the road that runs along the bridge until we find access that puts us on the bridge. Finally, we are on the Brooklyn Bridge!
This bridge was built in 1883 and connects Manhattan to Brooklyn. It also gives a great view of the Statue of Liberty. The bridge is 1825 meters long and the main span is 486 meters. Today, an average of 120,000 cars, 4,000 pedestrians, and 2,600 cyclists cross the Brooklyn Bridge each day. There is a shared path for pedestrians and cyclists above the section for motorists. So pay attention to where you walk, because the cyclists are always in a hurry and don’t stop (quickly).
St. Patricks Cathedral is a huge cathedral in the middle of New York. It is one of the oldest Catholic churches in New York. In 1866 the first version was destroyed by a fire. In 1868 the new, contemporary church was rebuilt. The church has two organs, both 9838 pipes.
When we enter, our bags must be checked first. Then we look into the huge cathedral. The building is immense. Beautiful decorations everywhere, niches everywhere, one for each saint. There are many visitors, many of whom come to pray. We also see many homeless people, sheltering from the cold.
The decorations of this church are beautiful and there is so much to see. It’s also a great place to escape the busy streets of New York. Just sit on a bench and look around.
Everyone knows the main hall of this train station as it appears in many films. Recently we saw the movie 2:22. In short: man has a thing for patterns, prevents a plane crash, saves a girl, and something strange about time and paradoxes… Good film. Grand Central Station also appears in this film and we saw that the constellations are painted on the roof of this hall. Something not many people know. Martha has been here a number of times, but she has never noticed it either.
When we enter we first see all kinds of stalls that sell small snacks of food. You can also get coffee here. A small walk and you are in the main hall.
The main hall is exactly what you’d expect if you’ve seen the movies. Big, authentic, busy, old-fashioned, and beautiful. It seems like you go back in time. The first thing we do is look up at the roof. And yes, the constellations are indeed incorporated into that.
A few little facts about The Grand Central Station:
Opened in October 1871, but the current building was opened in 1913. It has the most tracks in the world: 44 platforms, and 67 tracks. About 575,000 visitors use this station every day. Dozens of restaurants and bars can be found under the station.
It remains a beautiful building, both outside and inside. Most New Yorkers will no longer notice it because they are busy getting from A to B. Stand in the middle of this hall and let everyone pass you by. It feels as if everything moves in slow motion.
Time for something different: a library. The New York Public Library is a huge library open to everyone. Some departments (87 in total) are only accessible to researchers or students. This library was built between 1897 and 1911. The building was designed by the architectural firm Carrère and Hastings, whose busts of the architects can be seen in the lobby of the library.
In the building, there are different areas to visit for normal people like you and me (unless you are a researcher because then you have more options). We enter via 5th avenue and are directly in Astor Hall. Here we get a map printed with useful information.
There is a room where they play an educational film. It’s very interesting because they tell the origin of the building, the history, the research they do and what old books they have here.
Everyone knows this square from the electronic billboards. Times Square’s name is derived from the headquarters of the New York Times. Until its construction, it was called Longacre Square. In the 1980s it had become very impoverished and it was rebuilt through joint initiatives. The square is now the cultural center of New York.
When we enter the square we are immediately overwhelmed by all the lights of the billboards. It really is as it appears on TV. There are all kinds of different shops on the sides. There is a big stair on one side of the square where you can sit and take selfies or … just look at hundreds of people taking selfies.
Well, that’s it, our list of 10 of our favorite things to do in New York. We love this city in every aspect. What is your impression of this city? Are there any activities you miss in this blog post? Feel free to reach out to us or simply comment on this blog.
New York is a city that most of us know from TV. In reality, it feels like walking around on a big set. Everything is big, looks like some action hero will jump off a building, and the food is plenty. Sadly, we just had a few days, and seeing these 10 things, and more was actually a bit too much… But worth it!
Walk around a bit, jump on the subway and soak it all in. Enjoy the scenery, the friendly people, the history, and the quiet parks.
Find this post helpful? Buy us a coffee!
New here? Join our mailing list and be the first to hear about news, discounts, and other related subjects.
This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, we may earn a small commission (for which we are very grateful). We only recommend products we would use ourselves and all opinions expressed here are our own.