North America

A local’s guide to New York

The empire state building, Rockefeller, the Statue of Liberty – all famous NYC landmarks that tourists flock to. But what about behind the scenes? Where do all the New Yorkers hang out?

Well, enter me. I’m Lauren Sadowski, a student at the University of St Andrews and one of 10 million lucky humans that call themselves New Yorkers. So, I can give you the real lowdown to my home city. Where do I show my friends when they’re visiting New York for the first time? I’ll let you in on my itinerary…


The Bethesda Fountain



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Easily one of my favourite places to visit. During the summer, swans, dancers, and bubbles surround the area. Just behind the fountain is Bethesda Terrace that spreads out onto the famous Literary Walk full of artists and great souvenirs! If you’re a Gossip Girl fanatic, this is the place to see some of the all-familiar scenery.


Top of the Rock

Situated on top of Rockerfeller Center is a viewing platform that looks out to midtown, downtown, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, Central Park, and even New Jersey! In my opinion this is the best view of Manhattan you can ever hope to get. The fact you’re not up the Empire State Building, means you can see it perfectly.


9/11 Memorial


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The 9/11 Memorial and underground museum is one of the most humbling places in the world. Every time I visit my heart bursts not only with sadness, but with love for this city.


Brooklyn Bridge


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The place where Sex and the City’s Miranda and Steve made amends – and walking along it will give anyone those movie feels.


Washington Square


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This is my favorite park in Manhattan, second to Central Park. Situated close to NYU, the square has a young, student vibe. The perfect place for ‘people watching’, listening to musicians and feeding pigeons, as well as indulging in the plethora of restaurants around Washington Square.


Free kayaking

You’d be surprised how many free museums, parks, and excursions you can see in New York, but did you know you could kayak the Hudson for free? The Downtown Boathouse offer free sit-on-top kayaks for anyone to use!

Staten Island Ferry


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Speaking of free, the Staten Island Ferry runs every half hour. When boarding from downtown Manhattan, stand on the right of the ferry to get the best views of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. The round trip will take only an hour and costs nothing!


Jazz in Harlem


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No visit to New York is complete without an evening spent swilling a drink around your glass whilst listening to some fine jazz musicians in a tiny dive bar. Head to the home of it all, Harlem for the best joints. The legendary Bill’s Place requires booking in advance and early arrival in order to secure a seat, since it’s actually in the living room of a world class sax player, Bill Saxman. He regularly jams with the other bands that take to the stage nightly. The best bit? It’s Bring Your Own Booze!




Ellen’s Stardust Diner



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If you’re travelling on a shoestring but still want the full Broadway experience, try Ellen’s Stardust Diner. The staff are all performers and Broadway hopefuls who break into song every few minutes!


Chelsea Market and the High Line


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The New York High Line is a 2-mile long “park” built along re-purposed train tracks from the 1930’s. The fact that it’s almost one storey above street level means you’ve got great, up close views of some of the coolest buildings on West Side! There’s art work, snacks, and even pools of water you can dip your feet in. Just a block from the end of the High Line, is Chelsea Market – the international food market of NYC. One stall has hundreds of spices while another has every creature from the sea! Los Tacos No. 1 is not to be missed, with some of the tastiest Mexican fare this side of the border. There’s even a stall that often pops up selling scoops of raw cookie dough full of sugar sprinkles.


Katz’s Deli


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If you’re a meat lover like me, this is a must. Taking a number and shouting your order is how you’re served, making for a classic New York experience. However, the real challenge is eating your way through layer after layer of meat!





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The mother of all food markets, Smorgasburg in Brooklyn opens it’s gates each weekend to thousands of hungry New Yorkers, and the views of Manhattan across the river are awesome. Arrive hungry… there are hundreds or stalls serving food from all over the world.

Pizza in Brooklyn


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A New York slice can be devoured on any street corner in Manhattan, but for the best pie (that’s what the New Yorkers call it), you’ve got to head east of the river. No night out in Brooklyn would be complete without a pizza and a beer at hipster stalwart Roberta’s, a cosy Italian joint with a well stocked bar. Be sure to check out Best Pizza in Williamsburg too – to try a slice of their famous white pie.


So there you have it, an insider guide to one of the most popular cities in the world. Want to find out more about New York? Check out our own city guide, full of tips, information and places to stay! Still need more? Head over to our New York travel guide.