A day in New York: Little tips for the Big Apple

There’s more to New York City than the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. Alexandra has discovered New York City for hipsters and takes you on a foray through the villages of the glittering metropolis: from art sightseeing on Governors Island to vintage shopping in Williamsburg to rooftop bars in the Meatpacking District.

If there’s one song I can listen to over and over again, preferably on a loop, it’s Empire State of Mind, Part II. Not just because of Alicia Keys’ goose bumps voice, but because of New York. Oh, New York. Oh, New York. This city that causes glittering eyes and pounding hearts. Whose floor I first set foot on on a lousy, cold New Year’s Eve. When I got off the airport bus at Grand Central Station and flagged down a yellow cab to take me to the Webster Apartments on 34th Street, just a few blocks from the Empire State Building. In the middle of the high-rise jungle of the city where dreams are said to come true. Of which I had many at the time and one had come true: working for a New York newspaper for three months.

A picture seen through a window reads "New York of Nowhere."
New York or nowhere. I’ll sign that immediately.

At the time, New York sent me into a frenzy. The city too good to sleep. So many bars, clubs, theatres, museums, galleries, concerts, readings and the world famous opera. Or just wander through the street canyons and be amazed. Every few years I need it again, that incomparable New York flair.

Stay in the heart of Chinatown

We live in an Airbnb downtown, in a neighborhood where strange scraps of words fill our ears in the morning when we come down the narrow staircase and open the green steel door that leads onto the street. Where boxes are lugged around with electric eel and other fresh fish. Where the smell of dried crabs mixes with the pungent scent of overripe durians, the Asian “stink fruit”. On Mott Street, New York smells like China. The street with the fish and vegetable shops and food stalls is the heart of Chinatown. In Chinatown, New York is neither spruced up nor hip, instead it catapults you back in time, back to the end of the 19th century. The first Chinese settled here. Lured by the gold rush, they moved from China to California, later to the big cities on the east coast,

A New York Morning: Breakfast in hipster neighborhood Nolita

But we prefer to have breakfast somewhere else. Around the corner, on Mulberry Street in Little Italy, you could start the day with espresso and cornetto. In Napoli or Roma, but not in New York, we think. We feel more like “New York style”, which means American breakfast or clean eating. We can find both just a few hundred meters north of Little Italy, in Nolita, North of Little Italy. At  The Gray Dog  we already ate succulent French toast with crispy fried eggs and fried potatoes. A sin. Less sinful was breakfast at  Ruby’s , scrambled eggs with kale, the kale-like superfood that not only New York hipsters swear by, and chia pudding with dates and cranberries. We had a similarly healthy breakfast at  The Butcher’s Daughter on Kenmare Street, where you can fuel up for the day with elixir shots, raw smoothies and superfood bowls. Or bagels with avocado, cashew cheese and red bean bacon. Vegan is hip in Nolita.

The Butcher's Daughter in New York is a perfect hipster spot for a leisurely breakfast.
Das New York der Hipster im The Butcher’s Daughter.

Shopping for designer hipsters in Tribeca

Today we want to go south. Leaving behind the Chinese kiosks and massage parlors, we pass Columbus Park, where older Chinese couples dance, others play mah-jong; Street life like in Shanghai or Beijing. We turn right to Tribeca, the “Triangle below Canal Street”. Few tourists stray into the cobblestone streets lined with former warehouses with wrought-iron fire escapes. The streets of the district, which was once home to New York’s textile industry, are architectural gems. And next to galleries there are pretty boutiques where you can invest your dollars in the fashion of young American designers, for example Jenni Kayne Apparel + Home on Harrison Street, A Uno Tribeca on West Broadway or Nili Lotan on Duane Street. Last but not least, you might even have a chance of bumping into Robert de Niro, Gwyneth Paltrow or Harvey Keitel, all of whom are said to live in Tribeca. Incidentally, Robert de Niro owns several restaurants here like the Tribeca Grill and the Locanda Verde. The Tribeca Grill will probably be renamed in the next few monthsNew York Post.

Shopping in New York City

The saying “shop till you drop” doesn’t apply to New York for nothing, because the temptation to make your credit card glow is great everywhere. By the way, this is the payment method of choice here, you benefit from a more favorable exchange rate than at the bank and save yourself the fee for withdrawing cash. SoHo and southern Broadway are particularly suitable for an extensive shopping spree. If you want to shop for classic American labels, you should make a detour to Macy’s or Bloomingdales. Bargain hunters hop on the bus to Woodbury Premium Outlet in the north Central Valley. In the shopping frenzy, you should make sure not to exceed the allowance of 430 euros for clothing. Otherwise, a customs fee will be due when entering Germany.

In the SoHo district of New York, one shop is lined up after the other - the perfect place for a shopping trip.
Shopping in New York City works particularly well in SoHo.

New York City: Brunch in Tribeca

Our destination is  Bubby’s , on Hudson Street, a brunch mecca for locals from the neighborhood and beyond. With the most delicious pancakes with blueberries we plan the rest of the day. I have to do without my cappuccino, Bubbys only serves filter coffee, but it tastes really good. And Cold Brew, cold-brewed coffee, based on our own recipe.

By the way, New York is a paradise for brunch! Healthy juices, smoothies, bread with hummus, pastries, many of them organic and vegan, are available at Dr. Smood Organic Cafe on Murray Street in Tribeca. If you want to do it like the locals, you can book an extensive brunch on one of the many rooftop terraces on Saturdays or Sundays. A spectacular view of the skyline can be enjoyed with modern interpretations of Mexican soul food on the sun deck of the Cantina Rooftop  in Hell’s Kitchen.

You can almost smell the fluffy blueberry pancakes at Bubbly's in Tribeca through the picture - a breakfast and brunch paradise in New York City!
Bubby’s in Tribeca has Manhattan’s best pancakes.
Behind a glass bottle is the specialty at Bubby's: the cold brew - the perfect pick-me-up for breakfast in New York.
The Cold Brew is a specialty at Bubby’s and can be seen to the right behind the water bottle.

New York as far as the eye can see: One World Observatory viewpoint

Tribeca is the perfect home base for exploring southern Manhattan. We walk past Trinity Church to Memorial Plaza. Not a cloud can be seen in the blue sky peeping out between the Art Deco skyscrapers. Perfect conditions to marvel at New York from above. My favorite place for this is actually the Empire State Building. But I let myself be persuaded to let myself be rocket-like shot up to 541 meters in just 47 seconds in an elevator called the Skypod – into the  One World Observatory .

As if to increase the tension to the point of being unbearable, a multimedia show about the emergence of New York is shown after getting out of the elevator. Then the doors finally open. New York is at our feet. With good visibility you can see 80 kilometers away. Our view extends far beyond the northern tip of Manhattan, in front of us stretches everything that one otherwise looks up to in amazement. All the landmark buildings in Midtown, the Empire State Building, which also has a great view of the New York skyline, and the Chrysler Building. The checkerboard streets where the yellow cabs look like toy cars. We spot the Brooklyn Bridge spanning the East River, the Statue of Liberty, and the Staten Island Ferry, a dot of orange on the blue water. Oh, New York, you leave me speechless again. If you haven’t had enough of a bird’s-eye view of New York, you should definitely visit the viewing platformHead for the Edge  at Hudson Yards.

The art deco skyscrapers and glittering skyscrapers of the city of New York are reflected in the windows of a skyscraper.
Mixture of Art Deco high-rise buildings and glittering skyscrapers at Ground Zero.
A view of New York City from One World Observatory is a must when sightseeing.
The view from the One World Observatory viewing platform extends up to 80 kilometers.
From the One World Observatory, the countless houses look almost small.
Simply fascinating: the view of the street canyons of Manhattan.

Art on mysterious military island: Governors Island

Still a bit dazed from the ride in the Skypod, we continue to the Ferry Terminals on the southern tip of Manhattan. In addition to the Empire State Building, another New York ritual has to be canceled today: admiring the view of the skyline and the Statue of Liberty on the Staten Island Ferry. Instead, for 3 dollars, we cross over to an island that didn’t officially exist until a few years ago, or at least it didn’t appear on any city maps for a long time –  Governors Island . The island between Manhattan and Brooklyn was reserved for military purposes until it was turned into a local recreation area that offers art, culture and cuisine from May to September.

He comes here often, the gentleman tells us, reading the newspaper on one of the benches with a view of the glittering skyscrapers. Governors Island is his small, green oasis with Nolan Park, the Parade Ground with Fort Yay and the many picnic areas. He recommends that we circle the island by bike. The Hills, an artificial hilly landscape, is best explored on foot. From here we not only look at the red-brick houses that now house artists’ studios instead of soldiers’ apartments, but also at the gleaming office towers of the Financial District, the tops of which seem to touch the sky.

A must-see for sightseeing: across the water you can already see from afar that you are arriving at the port of Governors Island.
Governors Island was a restricted military zone for centuries.
On the park hills "The Hills" you will find open-air art with a view of the high-rise buildings in the background.
Typical for Governors Island: open-air art on the park hills “The Hills”.

Between hipster delis and synagogues on the Lower East Side

Back in Manhattan, we exceptionally get on the subway. Our interlocutor on Governors Island gave us the keyword: Lower East Side. From Broad Street we take the J-Train to Essex Street. If you get hungry, it’s best to control it  Essex Street Market at. Lovers of bagels & Co. will also get their money’s worth in the Lower East Side. Hidden among the hip cafes, restaurants, bars and boutiques of Ludlow Street and Orchard Street are delis with names like Kossar’s Bialy and Bagels and Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery. The Lower East Side used to be the first port of call for immigrants from Eastern Europe, Russia and Germany, who brought their local recipes with them. Probably the most famous deli: Katz’ Delicatessen. The best pastrami sandwich is said to be elsewhere, at Pastrami Queen on the Upper East Side.

Those interested in Jewish culture and immigrant history should visit the Eldridge Synagogue and the Tenement Museum. The New Museum is recommended for lovers of contemporary art   . The night owls flock again in the evenings, the Lower East Side is a bar-hopper’s paradise. You can find out which ones are hot right now in  Time Out Magazine .

Cupcakes, graffiti and gardening in the East Village

The Lower East Side flows seamlessly into the East Village. It was home to the famous CBGB, the punk rock club where bands like the Ramones, Pattie Smith and the Talking Heads made their debut. The fact that there is now a boutique on the premises is indicative of the transformation of the district, which once counted beatniks, hippies and punks among its inhabitants and whose “Alphabet City” is the talk of drug crime.

When I was last in the East Village in 2008, I found mostly tattoo and yoga studios and New Age bookstores. Bookstores have given way to macrobiotic restaurants, tattoo parlors and cupcake bakeries. What has remained in the East Village is the graffiti. Many bear the signature of Chico, a well-known graffiti artist. Between the colorful house walls: gardens with sunflowers and vegetables. Although urban gardening has been around in the East Village since the 1970s, it is currently experiencing a renaissance. Some even have art on display.

Through a fence you can see the flowers blooming against the backdrop of the city of New York.
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The strawberry cupcake from the Cupcake Market in the East Village is a heavenly good insider tip in New York.
Heavenly strawberry cupcakes from Cupcake Market in the East Village.
In the Lower East Side in New York, graffiti adorns the wall.
The Lower East Side and East Village are known for urban gardening and graffiti.

Williamsburg – Vintage shopping and drinks with a view in Brooklyn’s insider neighborhood

What was once laughed at was the “Bridge and Tunnel People” who flocked from the surrounding boroughs of New Jersey, Queens and Brooklyn via bridges and tunnels to the Manhattan Peninsula at weekends to go out. Today, it’s the other way around: Manhattanites hop on the L-Train to sip craft beers in bars on Bedford Avenue and stock up on oysters and absinthe at restaurants like Maison Premiere for a late night of indie-  rock clubbing former red brick warehouses on Wythe Avenue. There, the Williamsburgers turned up their noses at the invasion from Manhattan.

But it’s definitely worth coming to Williamsburg during the day, browsing the vintage shops on Bedford Avenue, such as Pinkyotto or Awoke Vintage, sipping a coffee at Blue Bottle on Berry Street and siding with a food truck ceviche to eat. I could live here for days. And I persuaded my companion to come back a second time this afternoon. We head for one of the former factory buildings on Wythe Avenue, diagonally across from the Brooklyn Brewery. What used to be a cooperage is now a chic boutique hotel with a great rooftop bar,  Lemon’s . With a margarita in hand, we let the breeze blowing across from the East River blow our minds and gaze once more at the Manhattan skyline.

In the Williamsburg district of New York, Bedford Avenue is always very busy.
The lifeline of hip Williamsburg in Brooklyn – Bedford Avenue.
An insider tip: It's worth browsing through the small, cute vintage shops here!
Vintage and vegan are writ large in Williamsburg.
On the stone wall of an old beer house you can still see the traces of German immigrants.
Traces of German immigrants in Williamsburg – an old “beer house”.
An impressive sightseeing spot: the rooftop terrace of the Wythe Hotel offers a view of the New York skyline.
Perfect for a stop: The rooftop terrace of the Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg.

Insider tips for New York City’s Meatpacking District

If you’re not tired yet, do as we do and head to the Meatpacking District for a nightcap. Where once slaughterhouses dominated the scene, there are now designer boutiques, upscale restaurants and some of Manhattan’s best rooftop bars. My favourite:  Le Bain at The Standard Hotel. The best drink: “Love Amid the Frostbite” – a sorbet made from fresh passion fruit with cachaça. After we were rebuffed the other day because of too casual outfits, today we convince the bouncer of the Gansevoort Rooftop  in the Gansevoort Hotel. Watch the sun sink into the Hudson River over a spicy margarita. Oh, New York.

If all this is too much for one day, simply combine the rooftop bars with a walk through the High Line Park on another day  , the elevated park that was built on a former railway line and runs from the Meatpacking District to Midtown. We have enough for today. Another detour to  Chelsea Market , where we  enjoy a Japanese-Mexican Rice Bowl at Takumi Taco https://www.takumitaco.com/ before we dream of New York back in Chinatown.

At Le Bain's rooftop bar in New York, you can enjoy the view of the city while sipping cocktails - the perfect break from sightseeing.
Cocktail with a view at Le Bain Rooftop Bar in the Meatpacking District.
You can marvel at the architecture along the High Line Park in New York, which should not be missed on any sightseeing trip.
As varied as all of New York: The architecture along the High Line Park.
From High Line Park you also have a great view of the rooftops of New York City and the Empire State Building.
The Meatpacking District is the starting point for the High Line Park.

More little tips for the Big Apple

  • When is the best time to travel to New York? The city that never sleeps is always in season. The summers are hot and sticky, but perfect for long evenings on the countless rooftop bars, and the days are nice and long then. Even in autumn, the weather is often still warm and sunny. Once in a lifetime you probably also have to travel to New York in the run-up to Christmas, go ice skating in front of Rockefeller Center and marvel at the Christmas lights in Times Square.
  • How do I get to New York? There are direct flights to New York from many German cities, most people land at JFK Airport, some airlines also fly to Newark. From JFK Airport you take the JFK AirTrain to the subway station Jamaica Station or Howard Beach and from there to Manhattan.
  • What are the best modes of transportation in New York? The best way to get a feel for the city is to explore it on foot. Longer distances can be covered by subway. It may be old and dilapidated, but it is the fastest and cheapest means of transport in New York and an experience to boot.
  • Where can you eat cheap and good steak in New York? New York has some of the most famous steakhouses in the world, Wolfgangs Steakhouse https://www.wolfgangssteakhouse.net/ ranks among die-hard fans as the best steakhouse in the world, chef Wolfgang Zwiener has even created his own way of preparation. Other top addresses: the Peter Luger Steakhouse and Keens .
  • And one more fun fact at the end: Do you actually know why and when New York came into being? Beavers and otters used to live in what is now Manhattan. At that time the island between the Hudson and the East River was still called Manna-hatta and was owned by the Lenape tribe. A Dutch trading post was founded in 1625, and a year later the island was bought from the Lenape and Nieuw Amsterdam was founded. The New York metropolitan area with the five boroughs of Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, Staten Island and Queens was created in 1898.

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