Make your personal trainer proud and explore the depths of New York by the merit of your own two feet. NYC is like an iceberg – there’s so much more beneath its shiny surface – so stroll those sidewalks, take a detour, learn the lay of the laneways and see the city from a more intimate perspective by trying out these top 10 self-guided New York walks.
1. Treading the Brooklyn Bridge
Being immersed in Manhattan you don’t really get to appreciate its full grandeur, but a walk across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge will grant you just that. Whether you go Manhattan–Brooklyn or vice versa, the vistas are jaw-droppingly beautiful. Allow at least 30-minutes for speedy walkers, or around an hour for a leisurely stroll with plenty of time for photo opportunities. Loop onto the walkway from City Hall on the Manhattan side and don't forget to discover Dumbo (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) in Brooklyn.
2. A stroll to scope skyscrapers
Great architects throughout the eras have all left their mark on the Manhattan skyline, from Brooklyn-born William Van Alen and his famous Art Deco-style edifice, to Cass Gilbert’s neo-Gothic facades. Start your New York architecture walk at the GE Building and get your bearings from the Top of the Rock, swing by the New York Times Building, on to the Chrysler Building, south to the unmissable Empire State Building and finish up at the eye-catching Flatiron.
3. Looping Lower Manhattan
From Chinatown and Little Italy seeping into the Financial District, the melting pot that is Lower Manhattan is home to some of the oldest and most culturally significant sights in the city. Make your way south of Canal Street and tick off these must-sees: City Hall, the grand Woolworth Building, St. Paul’s Chapel (the oldest surviving church in Manhattan), retail giant Century 21, and of course the newly finished One World Trade Centre and adjacent 9/11 Memorial site.
4. Hiking the High Line
One of New York’s more recently added attractions is the High line – a former freight line converted into elevated parkland. There are currently nine access points to the High Line, plus Wi-Fi hot spots scattered among the unique gardens for work or play. Start at Ganesvoort Street and wander through the woodland, on to the sundeck and water feature off West 15th Street, past the Chelsea Grasslands and Thicket, by the 23rd Street Lawn, through Wildflower Field and finish up on West 30th Street in the Garment District.
5. Meandering through Midtown
Midtown is the stuff of postcards and trundling through Times Square is a rite of passage for first-timers to NYC. From the top end of Fifth Avenue you will find the big-hitters of luxury wear from Cartier to Juicy Couture, but if you can reign in your credit card you will also discover the Museum of Modern Art, Radio City Music Hall, impressive 360-degree views from Rockefeller Centre, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and the iconic edifices that are Grand Central Station and the New York Public Library.
6. Central Park rambling
If you need a bit of a breather from the city sidewalks, there’s no better place than Central Park. Start your journey immediately west of this impressive outdoor pocket at the American Museum of Natural History before diving into the depths of the park. There are countless statues and hidden gems to be discovered, but you won’t want to miss The Ramble – 38-acres of serene woodland with winding paths and babbling brooks – the Loeb Boathouse, Strawberry Fields Memorial, Bethesda Fountain, the Carousel and winter favourite Wollman Rink.
7. Exploring the East Village
With village names like Alphabet City, SoHo and NoLita, you can tell the East Village is a pretty hip place to hang out. Cafe-laden and laidback, the East Village is rewarding by day or night. St Mark’s Place is the place to be for eating, graffiti admiring and book-shopping, while nearby Tompkins Square Park is the culture centrepiece of this bohemian district. Further south, visit the celebrated music venue the Bowery Ballroom, the enlightening Tenement Museum and the historic Eldridge Street Synagogue.
8. Walkin’ Wall Street
Wall Street and its surrounds are more than just a hub of high finance, painting a fascinating picture of Old New York. Gaze upon the opulent facade of the New York Stock Exchange and pop into the nation’s first ever bank, now the Museum of American Finance. See George Washington’s inauguration spot at the Federal Hall National Memorial, wander over to cobbled Stone Street, said to be the city’s oldest paved street, and visit the iconic bronze Charging Bull at the Bowling Green.
9. Get to know Greenwich Village
Visit Greenwich Village and you will see a very different side of New York; one of cobbled streets, quaint townhouses and historic pockets. Arm yourself with an old-school map or your Smartphone and plot the following points: the Cherry Lane Theatre (the longest running off-Broadway theatre), the ‘Friends’ apartment at 90 Bedford St, the iconic gay rights site of the Stonewall Inn, New York University and the marble arch-adorned Washington Square Park.
10. Heading up to Harlem
Filled with theatres, jazz clubs, galleries and soul-food joints, Harlem is a vibrant and revitalised New York neighbourhood. Start your morning with gospel at the Abyssinian Baptist Church, followed by a feed at Red Rooster then on to the Lenox Lounge, which once welcomed jazz greats like Miles Davis. See Harlem’s African American heritage proudly on display at the Studio Museum before making your way to classic music haunt Apollo Theatre and ending your stroll at the Malcolm Shabazz Market.
Words by Ashton Rigg