Here’s Our Perfect Guide to Exploring (and Tasting) Your Way Through New York City

New York City may be known as the city that never sleeps, but a more apt moniker is “the city that is always reinventing itself.” It’s also a place that’s got something for everyone and can accommodate a variety of budgets. From hole-in-the-wall restaurants with dishes you’ll never stop dreaming about to luxury suites that will make your friends die with envy, NYC has it all (and then some). The best thing: There’s so much here that you never need to visit the same place twice.

New York may seem massive and overwhelming, but it is easy to navigate—if you plan ahead. Make all those tricky and hard-to-get reservations well in advance, and then leave room for serendipity as you crisscross the city by subway, taxi, on foot, or by bike. There will always be something you didn’t plan for, and it will likely be the best part of your trip. 

While Manhattan is a great starting point for any visit, you’ll also want to head over the bridge to Brooklyn and Queens to experience everything the city has to offer, especially when it comes to food. These boroughs are home to neighborhoods where you can dive deep into another culture and forget that you’re even in the U.S., as well as trendsetting restaurants serving dishes that the rest of the country will be talking about a year from now. But of course, you won’t want to sleep on Manhattan, which is one of the culinary capitals of the world.

Here are our favorite places to put on your New York City radar.

Where to stay

From luxe towers to stylish boho finds, a hotel stay in New York City is more than just a place to sleep—it’s part of the experience. Many of the city’s top properties are located in Midtown. Set in the Beaux Arts Crown Building (Manhattan’s first-ever high-rise), Aman New York is a hushed oasis just steps from Central Park with a three-level spa, a 65-foot swimming pool, Japanese-inspired rooms, and the speakeasy-style Jazz Club. The nearby Whitby Hotel is a whimsical mash-up of patterns and colors from British designer Kit Kemp. Or check out 1 Hotel Central Park, which brings the natural vibe inside with trees and plants everywhere, plus a farm-to-table restaurant from James Beard Award-winning chef Jonathan Waxman.

To get a feel for the heartbeat of New York, consider one of its charming neighborhoods. Opened in the late 1800s, the Chelsea Hotel used to be a gritty-but-cool magnet for writers, artists, and rock legends. Hipster hotelier and co-owner Sean MacPherson helped bring the Victorian Gothic hotel back to life. Luckily, he kept kitschy El Quijote (New York’s oldest Spanish restaurant) and added the French bistro-style Café Chelsea. Nine Orchard recently opened in an old bank on the Lower East Side with a restaurant run by Michelin-starred chef Ignacio Mattos. Not far from lush Gramercy Park, Freehand New York is a combo hotel-hostel that’s home to an outpost of Miami’s trailblazing Broken Shaker bar.

 Or maybe you’re in the mood for one of the boroughs. Make your way to Williamsburg, a former industrial area of Brooklyn that has been transformed into a buzzing hood with excellent accommodations. The Hoxton has eye-popping views of Manhattan and, on its roof, the hot-ticket Israeli-inspired Laser Wolf restaurant. Just down the street, The William Vale has a pair of restaurants from chef Andrew Carmellini and more of those dazzling skyline views. 

Where to eat

It goes without saying that the restaurant options are endless in New York City. The can’t-miss reservation that everyone has been talking about since its headline-making 2022 debut is Tatiana, an Afro-Caribbean restaurant in Lincoln Center that fuses influences from Nigeria, Jamaica, Trinidad, New Orleans, and chef Kwame Onwuachi’s native Bronx. Some other of-the-moment spots include the critically acclaimed Superiority Burger in the East Village, Hav & Mar (globally inspired seafood from celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson), Nolita’s Thai Diner (Thai-American comfort food bites), and Mischa (which has reinvented the hot dog in Midtown). 

In the perennially cool West Village, chefs Jody Williams and Rita Sodi have made a name for themselves with a trio of buzzy neighborhood standbys, including I Sodi (a Tuscan favorite that just moved into a larger space), Via Carota (a homey Italian-influenced trattoria), and Buvette (a combo bar-restaurant-café with a French flair). Another group that keeps hitting it out of the ballpark is Quality Branded, which is behind a number of red-hot restaurants, including the Michelin-starred Don Angie (modern Italian cooking in the West Village), Bad Roman (creative Roman cuisine hidden away in one of Manhattan’s few shopping malls), and Quality Meats (a quintessential Midtown steakhouse).

What’s old is also new. Le Relais de Venise L’Entrecôte—which was long beloved for its affordable steak frites with all-you-can-eat fries—recently reopened, and the lines to get in prove that New Yorkers are happy it’s back. The East Village’s Veselka, known for its Ukrainian soul-food staples like pierogies and borscht soup, is opening a second location in Williamsburg. In Downtown Brooklyn, there’s Gage & Tollner, an oyster and chop house from 1879 that sprang back to life a few years ago and is worth checking out for the historic space alone.

New York’s pizza is legendary. In the heart of Greenwich Village, John’s of Bleecker Street is an icon: It opened in 1929 and is one of the oldest pizzerias in the nation. A new classic is Roberta’s in the graffitied Bushwick section of Brooklyn—it helped catapult the creative pizza concept into the mainstream (don’t miss the Bee Sting, a spicy-sweet combo of soppressata and honey). And Williamsburg’s L’Industrie is one to watch—it recently expanded to a second outpost in the West Village. 

Speaking of the outer boroughs, some other places worth the schlep across the East River include Sailor (rustic bistro food in Fort Greene from chef April Bloomfield), Bonnie’s (an edgy Cantonese in East Williamsburg from Calvin Eng, one of Food & Wine’s 2022 best new chefs), Masalawala & Sons (Indian eats in Park Slope), and Bạn Bè (a Vietnamese-American bakery in Carroll Gardens from Doris Hồ-Kane, a pastry chef who started out selling treats from her home). And that’s just Brooklyn. In Queens, just a few of the many stand-outs include Ridgewood’s Rolo’s, which specializes in wood-fired dishes (a post-dinner visit to the nearby dive-adjacent bar, Peg’s Cavalier, is a must) and Birria Landia, a taco food truck parked on Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights.

If your head is spilling with all the possibilities, we’ve got a solution: Head to one of the city’s food markets, where you can try a ton of flavors in one location. In Midtown, there’s Urban Hawker, inspired by the hawker markets in Singapore and serving up Asian street food bites. On the Lower East Side, Essex Market has been a neighborhood fixture since it was founded in 1818. And in Flushing Meadows Corona Park (not far from LaGuardia Airport), the Queens Night Market is open from April to October, with vendors selling food from around the globe.

Things to do

Once you’ve eaten your way through New York City, take some time to take in the sights—whether that means going for a stroll through Central Park (or skating at Wollman Rink in winter) or hoofing it along the High Line, which is one of the country’s great urban park spaces built on an old elevated train line. Right off the coast of Lower Manhattan is the 172-acre Governor’s Island, a former military base that is now a park where you can rent a bike, check out the Statue of Liberty views, or have a wellness day at Q Spa (don’t miss the soaking pools overlooking the skyline).

You could spend a lifetime of visits wandering through the city’s many museums. The Met is always a classic (the Temple of Dendur is not to be missed). The Museum of Modern Art has some of the world’s greatest contemporary artists on display, from Picasso to Yayoi Kusama. The Whitney—which relocated to a dazzling space in the Meatpacking District—showcases American artists. And there are lesser-known spots like PS1 (a modern art museum in a former school in Long Island City, Queens), the New York Transit Museum (for those who love subways and trains), and the Tenement Museum (which showcases how NYC’s immigrants used to live). 

Want to get a real feel for the city? Take a tour. Joe DiStefano, author of the best-selling guidebook, 111 Places in Queens That You Must Not Miss, has been called “The Culinary King of Queens” and takes visitors on eating trips through Flushing (one of the largest Chinatowns in NYC). Sidewalk Food Tours does explorations all over the city, from a pizza-and-beer throwdown to Midtown food trucks to a Mad Men cocktail experience.

The perfect way to toast a great New York trip is with a drink from one of the city’s trailblazing craft cocktail bars. The Lower East Side’s Double Chicken Please was named the best bar in North America last year and has Asian-inspired cocktails on tap. Other names to know include Harlem’s jazz-inspired Sugar Monk, Katana Kitten (an izakaya with Japanese-style cocktails), and Death & Co. (a classic that never goes out of style). Cheers to that.

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