The must-see list for New York first timers is vast: Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Fifth Avenue – the list goes on. So having visited NYC more than a few times, I decided in my 48 hours in the city that never sleeps I would skip the most obvious tourist attractions to head to places off the beaten track.
As tour guide, I enlisted my friend Lauren, born and raised in New York and who now lives in the trendy West Village, Manhattan. Together, we set out to tackle as many of the more obscure sights as possible, with the haste for which New Yorkers are famous.
Bright and early on my first morning, we went for a brisk walk to the High Line, a one-mile linear park built on a disused elevated railway line in the Chelsea and Meatpacking districts. Redesigned and planted as an aerial greenway, the High Line was inspired by the Promenade Plantée in Paris, a public park that follows the old Vincennes railway. Boasting spectacular views of the Hudson River and city skyline, the High Line even has lounge chairs set out along the edge of the path for visitors to use. Lauren and I stopped at a couple to admire the view and soak up some morning sunshine.
Hungry for lunch, we headed for Chelsea Market, once the headquarters of the National Biscuit Company in the 1890s. A long indoor arcade now filled with restaurants, pop-up food stalls and craft stores, Chelsea Market looks a bit like an antiquated theme park and evokes a lost industrial culture.
Wanting to do a bit of shopping after lunch, but opting to forgo the crowded stores on Fifth Avenue, we ambled back to the West Village – once the centre of beatnik culture, but now one of the chicest parts of town. Featuring quaint cobblestone streets and elegant brownstone townhouses, it’s home to countless vintage stores and boutiques. On our way back, we stopped at the historic Jefferson Market Courthouse, a lovely building in Venetian Gothic style. Formerly the site of a women’s detention centre, it now serves as a branch library.
That evening we stayed in the West Village for dinner, an area also widely known for its diverse cuisine. We dined at a small, charming, contemporary American restaurant called Annisa, which means “women” in Arabic. Combining both Asian and French cooking techniques, the food was exquisite. In homage to its name, Annisa’s wine list is comprised of wine produced solely by female vintners.
The next morning we were off to the northern edge of Manhattan to visit The Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMA) dedicated to the art and architecture of medieval Europe. Set in Fort Tryon Park, the museum and its garden offer breathtaking views of downtown Manhattan; inside is a collection of approximately 3,000 works of art dating from the ninth to the 16th centuries.
That afternoon we ventured to what GQ calls the “coolest city on the planet”, Brooklyn. After stopping for a slice of New York pizza (folded in half, in true New Yorker fashion), we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, taking in famous sites such as the Statue of Liberty and Governors Island on either side.
After two jam-packed days, I finally understood why New York is called the city that never sleeps. Needless to say, I slept the entire way home to London.