Manhattan is only one part of what makes up the whole of New York City, but it contains so many things to do and places to eat that visiting Manhattan can be overwhelming for first timers.
We’ve put together this handy essential travel guide to Manhattan so you know where to start when planning your New York City vacation. The guide contains some of the top things to do, see, eat and drink in Manhattan.
If you do it right, each time you visit Manhattan you can explore a new area and get to know a new part of the city. Each neighborhood in New York City is unique and different, with plenty of things to keep you busy.
Luckily, it’s very easy to get around the city, either on foot, on the subway, or by taxi. If you plan your itinerary right, you can go from one side to the other in an efficient manner, mostly on foot.
I really don’t recommend driving in the city. The bridges into the city each have a large toll to pay, and parking can be both expensive and a nightmare to find. Instead, plan your itinerary with walking and subway.
What to Do in Manhattan
Whenever I visit New York City, I try to visit different neighborhoods to explore something new, but there are certain things I do every time. I always see a Broadway show, take a walk through Central Park, and eat bagels.
One of my favorite neighborhoods is Greenwich Village, with its tree-lined streets and plethora of great cafes, restaurants, and bars. Chelsea is also a favorite, not only because it’s home to the High Line and Chelsea Market.
If it’s your first time visiting New York, you also don’t want to miss the chance to visit Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Stroll around Rockefeller Center and go to the top of the Empire State Building. Check out this enormous list of touristy things to do in Manhattan to fill up your schedule.
You want to plan ahead and book some of the activities that we’ve mentioned in this guide, we’ll make it easy on you. Here are some great tours to book.
- Secrets of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island [COMPREHENSIVE] Walking Tour – book here
- Private New York Walking Tour with a Personal Photographer – book here
- Horse Drawn Carriage Ride in Central Park – book here
- TV and Movie Locations Tour with Official NBC Studios Tour – book here
- Half-Day Hell’s Kitchen Food Tour and Central Park Stroll – book here
And don’t forget your New York CityPASS
Where to Eat in Manhattan
There are dozens – hundreds actually – of places to eat in Manhattan and so many iconic foods you’ll want to make sure you try. Manhattan has always been known for its pizza, bagels, and coffee. It’s also a haven for fine dining. One place where you can try lots of different things in a fun way is Time Out Market. It’s in Brooklyn, but super easy to get to.
If you’re looking for a high-end night out and one of the best meals of your life:
If you’re looking for a casual, iconic meal:
- Pizza at Joe’s Pizza
- Ramen at Momofuko Noodle Bar
- Bagel with schmear at Essa Bagel
- Pastrami sandwich at Katz Delicatessen
- Frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity III
Grab a drink at one of these great bars:
- Angel’s Share
- Jadis Wine Bar
- Clover Club
Tours to Book:
Where to Stay in New York City
There are so many neighborhoods to choose from in New York City. How is a first-time visitor supposed to pick? If you don’t know the city well, I recommend staying in Midtown so you can easily get to all parts of the city. Stay near a subway stop so you can get around easily.
While it might be tempting to stay in Times Square, it doesn’t give you an accurate picture of how charming New York City can be and it can be really noisy and crowded. It’s best to stay outside of that area.
Here are a few of our recommended hotels in NYC. You can read reviews of book directly through any of these links:
- The Quin – luxury boutique hotel near Central Park with a bar/lounge, renovated rooms and nice bathrooms ⇒ Read reviews | Book now on Expedia
- Kimpton Hotel Eventi – Luxury boutique spa hotel in Chelsea. The location and the hotel itself is very impressive ⇒Read reviews | Book now on Expedia
- Renaissance New York Midtown Hotel – Located in midtown, near Grand Central, this is an impressive hotel with modern design ⇒ Read reviews | Book now on Expedia
Essential Travel Guide to New York City
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Laura Lynch, creator and writer of Savored Journeys, is an avid world traveler, certified wine expert, and international food specialist. She has written about travel and food for over 20 years and has visited 70+ countries.