There’s a reason – well, several thousand, always-on reasons – New York is known as the city that never sleeps. There’s the must-see urban gems, like bustling Times Square and sprawling Central Park, alongside tucked-away cocktail joints and impossibly chic storefronts. You could take a lifetime to explore the Big Apple, but however long you’re joining the Manhattanites for, here’s how to navigate the city like a local (tip: wearing all black helps).

Sights and attractions

Sights and attractions in New York

Manhattan is basically one tourist attraction after another, but some are more worth your time (and battling the masses for) than others. A lingering stroll down the High Line is a solid choice in any type of weather. Beloved by locals, this 1.5-mile-long public ‘park’ was built on the foundation of a retired subway line and snakes its way above the trendy Chelsea neighbourhood. Recline in one of the coveted wooden lounge chairs for people-watching, escape the urban jungle under a canopy of trees and take a wine or ice cream break in the Chelsea Market Passage. Everyone should make the pilgrimage across the Brooklyn Bridge once – start in Manhattan and end up in Dumbo’s picturesque Brooklyn Bridge Park, with sweeping views of the skyline and a carousel right on the waterfront. And if you want to be above it all, choose the vista from atop the Empire State Building, a beacon of classic New York.

Arts and culture

Arts and culture in New York

A visit to Gotham is simply not complete without taking time to wander the immense Metropolitan Museum of Art. The walls are brimming with priceless works from humanity’s most famous artists, but once you’ve gotten your fill of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and Cezanne still lifes, visitors shouldn’t miss the seasonal rooftop exhibitions or live musical performances ’til 9pm every Friday. For more modern tastes, stop by the sunlight-drenched Whitney Museum of American Art, relocated to Chelsea in 2015, boasting several balconies with fantastic sights of the Hudson River – you may even catch its meat-processing plant neighbour, a relic of the era when the neighbourhood got its name, in action far below. For completely unique dance, music and theatre experiences any night of the week, turn to to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, whose venues have hosted dance troupes from South Asia, contemporary circus acts and Oscar-nominated films in recent months.

Food and drink

Food and drink in New York

The trek to the artistic enclave of Bushwick, Brooklyn, is worth it for trendy pizza restaurant Roberta’s. Sit in the outdoor patio area and order a Bee Sting pie – topped with pepperoni, mozzarella, chili flakes and honey – and prepare for the wood-fired pizza crust to take you as close to nirvana as a carbohydrate can (pretty damn close). Chase it with a seasonal frozen drink and you’ve got a meal that can’t fail to put a mortal man in a good mood. Dip your toes into superstar chef David Chang’s Momofuku empire with a dinner at Ssäm Bar (start with kimchi and steamed buns and move on to the spicy pork sausage and rice cakes and delectable cocktail menu) in the East Village, followed by dessert across the street at Milk Bar, where most palates will be delighted by cereal milk soft serve. For a fancy, old New York affair, The Campbell Apartment in Grand Central Station serves up luxury and elegance without the bad attitude.

Shopping

Shopping in New York

You can find everything you need on famous Fifth Avenue and the cobbled streets of Soho, but a more enjoyable retail experience is waiting nearby in the revitalizing West Village. All along tree-lined Bleecker Street you’ll encounter essential designer outposts, from Michael Kors to Burberry, as well as skincare tour de force Caudalie, candle magnate Dyptique and boutique milliner Goorin Bros. Head a bit uptown to Story, where the retail store’s ever-changing theme and hard-to-find merchandise tells an enchanting tale, then cross the river to Williamsburg for high-end clothing with a serious edge at Bird, and vintage clothing, jewellery and handmade goods at Artists and Fleas.

Unique to New York

Unique to New York in New York

The weirder things in New York are, the better they get. Peek into the smallest museum in the world (open seasonally May through November) at Mmuseumm, housed in an old freight elevator shaft on an unassuming street in Chinatown, then walk up to the wonderfully bizarre St. Mark’s, where you can shop for a Madonna-worthy punk leather jacket at Search and Destroy. See a cheap comedy show (with performers highly likely to one day be stars) at Upright Citizens Brigade, founded by Amy Poehler, any night of the week in a grocery store basement in Chelsea, and grab a late-night bite at the 24-hour Katz’s Delicatessen, where you can get a traditional Jewish potato knish, matzo ball soup or a pastrami omelette – in case you stayed out ’til it was time for breakfast again.

Day trip

Day trip in New York

Rent a Citi Bike from one of the many citywide stations and cycle from Chelsea Piers all the way up to Columbia University on the city’s scenic west side. You’ll encounter stunning views of the Hudson River and New Jersey beyond as you whiz past the USS Intrepid – an aircraft carrier that’s now part of the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum – the greenery of Riverside Park and plenty of New Yorkers sunbathing. If you’re not much of a biker, take the time to walk – you’ll be shocked by how much the city changes block by block.

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