The sixteenth in our new City Guide series, this travel guide to New York features the most pertinent information about the area. Use the menu below to jump among sections for suggestions on where to stay, insider tips, restaurant recommendations and more.
New York is often seen as a dynamic, inspiring and ultimately exasperating city. But as an autumn stroll through Greenwich Village or a quiet drink in the King Cole Bar can attest, it’s eminently possible to come here for a nice, relaxing stay. Boutique hotels tend to open with a splash then shutter with a whimper, but a handful of classic addresses still delivers stately but comfortable surroundings and uncanny levels of service. The grandes dames of Fifth Avenue, The St. Regis and The Peninsula, frequently cater to a midtown business crowd, while more intimate Upper East Side retreats like The Lowell, The Carlyle, and the Plaza Athénée are perfect for lovers of Central Park and Museum Mile. The sophisticated Baccarat Hotel set in the first 12 floors of a 50-story tower is the most notable debut of the past decade.
When to visit, tastemaker tips and what to do in New York.
There are no strict guidelines for the best time to visit New York. Each season offers sensory delights for every individual travel palette. The holidays are charming, but crowded; summertime can be boiling, but not nearly as scalding as many destinations. Deep winter can hold frigid temperatures some years – yet, improved hotel rates can be obtained if you're willing to brave the snow. Consult with a travel advisor about which season would be best for your New York interests.
Want to experience New York like an insider? Follow these tips from notable individuals in the travel, design, food, fashion and hospitality industries.
Andrew Harper, Editor-in-Chief of The Hideaway Report, Andrew Harper Travel
Over the years, I have been lucky enough to spend the holidays in various parts of the globe. Of all the world’s major cities, I sometimes think London enters into the festive spirit with the greatest gusto. But then I return to New York, and conclude that it is really the Big Apple that puts on the finest show of all.
I always try to pay a quick visit to Manhattan in December: to do some seasonal shopping; to try a new restaurant; to soak up the atmosphere of celebration. All of the obvious sights continue to bring me as much pleasure as when I first saw them: the tree at Rockefeller Center; the skaters at Wollman Rink; the lavishly decorated windows on Fifth and Madison avenues. But even though this continuity is gratifying, on recent trips to New York I have also been struck by just how rapidly the city is changing.
Robert Davila, VP Research, Andrew Harper Travel
A favorite moment from a hotel stay was the look on my daughter's face when a doorman peeked at baggage tags and greeted me by name, "Hello, Mr. Davila. Welcome to The Peninsula."
Anna Butler, Managing Web Editor, Andrew Harper Travel
Be sure to stop into the new Whitney Museum, housed on the west side in a light-filled, Renzo Piano-designed building. Restaurants and shopping options abound in this see-and-be-seen area of town. Sticking to the Meatpacking District, both the High Line and Chelsea Market are one-of-a-kind establishments, and have quickly become regular Manhattan institutions for residents and visitors alike. For young adults, indulging in a hoppy draft beer and Bavarian pretzel at the high-spirited Standard Biergarten is protocol.
It is impossible not to be enthralled by the choices that New York sets before you. There is virtually no cuisine you cannot find here. Plus, the options reflect every price imaginable, from a humble streetside hot dog to haute cuisine in a skyscraper sanctum. The Theater District does not rank among New York’s top dining destinations. Nevertheless, it is possible to have a perfectly satisfying meal within walking distance of a Broadway show.
In 2009, Charlie Palmer moved his flagship restaurant from an Upper East Side townhouse to its current flashy space across the street from The Knickerbocker (hotel guests have signing privileges). Considering the restaurant’s proximity to Times Square, I was pleasantly surprised by the fine lunch we enjoyed. Mrs. Harper found her kale salad with peekytoe crab, blood orange and crème fraîche light and refreshing, if a tad overdressed, and I enjoyed my appetizer of tender, meaty octopus with sofrito, white beans and Serrano ham. Main courses of black bass with asparagus and edamame, and salmon with roe, morels and hazelnuts each came flawlessly prepared, with crispy skin and moist flesh.
135 West 42nd Street. Tel. (212) 319-1660.
If you are seeing a show in the West 40s, give serious consideration to this outpost of Daniel Boulud’s culinary empire. It is a comfortable and stylish place where the menu includes a tempting lobster salad with Bibb lettuce, hearts of palm and coriander yogurt as a starter; delicious salmon with sorrel; and the notorious db burger — a sirloin patty stuffed with braised short ribs, foie gras and black truffles.
55 West 44th Street. Tel. (212) 391-2400.
Although this seafood-focused restaurant has culinary celebrities Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich and Dave Pasternack behind it, it feels surprisingly intimate. It’s an ideal pre-theater dinner choice if you’re attending a show on the southern end of the Theater District. Focus on fish dishes such as the gray snapper crudo or the sensational skate wing with spinach and onions. Other menu items, such as the slightly chewy baked local clams and the overcooked chickpea fettuccini with shrimp and mussels, were less successful.
402 West 43rd Street. Tel. (212) 564-7272.
Those seeing a show farther north should consider this popular Theater District stalwart, where the food preparations are competent if not dazzling. With 22 wines by the glass and a menu including everything from sushi to burgers to pasta, Thalia has something for everyone. I especially enjoyed the spicy tuna and scallop tartare topped with microgreens, and the flavorful scallops with Brussels sprouts, bacon, cauliflower and polenta. A glass of Finger Lakes Riesling paired beautifully.
828 Eighth Avenue. Tel. (212) 399-4444.
A relatively new discovery for me, this smart, contemporary Italian restaurant with an engaging staff impressed me on a recent visit. The salumi platter with toasted garlic ciabatta and marinated olives was excellent, as was the unusual casoncelli pasta stuffed with a delicious mix of veal, raisins and crushed amaretto cookies and dressed with sage butter and pancetta. The roasted suckling pig was impeccable.
325 West 51st Street. Tel. (212) 399-9291.
Andrew Harper points out additional tips and ideas for travelers visiting some of New York's most famed sightseeing destinations.
An unexpectedly delightful shopping venue is Bleecker Street in the West Village, especially the stretch between Abingdon Square and West 10th Street. The intersection at West 11th Street is an especially vibrant spot, with Marc Jacobs outposts and the wildly popular Magnolia Bakery at the southeast corner. Bond No. 9 is a lively fragrance shop that sells more than 39 perfumes that reflect different parts of New York with names such as “Park Avenue” and “Madison Soirée.” Mulberry is the first American branch of a noted English leather goods company.
Want to learn more about travel to New York? Read our in-depth articles from The Harper Way, The Hideaway Report and Traveler Magazine on topics such as shopping, food, wine, art, culture and more.
Stay tuned for more from our City Guide series, detailing what to do, eat and see, and where to stay, in Andrew Harper's favorite cities around the world.
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