Friday, May 25, 2018

The New York City Guide

After going to New York twice I feel like it's finally time to write my belonged New York City Guide. It had always been my dream to visit the Big Apple and when that dream became reality I was over the moon. When you are walking in Manhattan and look up to those high sky scrapers it's feels so surreal and I had to pinch myself every single time.
I actually went to the city by myself and if you are thinking of doing that I highly recommend doing it. Going with a friend or family member is fun too and with this post you are all ready for the trip of your life.

When to visit?
I think New York is good all year round. I have been in January and in May and I loved being there both times. December is amazing because of all the Christmas decoration and around October is pretty nice too because they go pumpkin spice crazy on everything. Do keep in mind that in the winter time it's cold AF there. There was a huge snow storm the week before I went and I was wearing thermal clothing each day. Also check the weather reports because it can be 16 ˚C degrees and -10 ˚C degrees the next day. New York weather just has crazy mood swings!

Travel documents
If you live in the EU you most likely need to apply for an ESTA before you enter the USA. It costs $14 and is very easy to do. Within 72 hours you'll hear back if your application is approved and the ESTA expires in two years. So enough reason to visit America a lot more!

Also: if you are travelling back to the US on the same ESTA you don't have to queue. There is a special line for returning ESTA's which will save you a lot of time!

They have the American dollar currency, which can work out a lot cheaper with buying stuff.  More on that in the shopping part of this post. I highly recommend a credit card because they don't really work with other debit cards, like Maestro, which is the most used card here in the Netherlands. Also don't forget to take some cash with you. It's fun to have - I mean green money hello! $$- and some shops and cafés only accept cash.

How to get to the city
Taxi: The quickest and maybe most amazing option? Yellow taxi cabs are such a New York thing and when you ride on the Brooklyn Bridge to the city you'll get the most amazing feeling. Sadly it's not the cheapest option, since one ride will cost you around $70.
Subway: You can take the JFK AirTrain and make a transit to the MTA Subway. It's cheap since the AirTrain costs $5 and the subway $2, 75.
Bus: You can also take the bus into Manhattan. You can either get dropped off at Grand Central Station or Time Square. You can also book a more private shuttle bus where you get dropped off at your destination. I decided to take the last option since it was the easiest for me. Especially since it was my first time, I would be tired, I had two suitcases and I didn't see myself making all the transits on the subway. It can take a bit longer since you also have to drop off other people but I personally thought it was the best way to get to the city. I think it cost me around $45 for a return? Money well spend!

Where do you stay?
The city is full of Airbnb's, hotels and hostels. Both times I stayed at a hotel, since Airbnb is expensive if you are by yourself and hostels are not really my thing if I stay somewhere for a long time. I stayed at the Marrakesh Hotel (Upper West Side) and The Jane Hotel (Meatpacking District). Both were very cheap on Expedia at the time so I decided to go for it. I especially recommend The Jane Hotel. Although I had a teeny tiny room and a shared bathroom (which was always free) I loved the vibe in the hotel and the location near The Village was amazing! Accommodation can be very expensive in New York especially around peak months and I'm personally not too fussy about where I sleep as long as the bed is comfy, I'm good.

Of course you can take a cab and go from place to place but the subway is much cheaper ($2, 75 per ride) and this way you get to experience the true New York life! I bought a 7 day unlimited metro card which is very handy if you, occasionally, check in on the wrong side of the tracks or jump in a train to Brooklyn when you are actually headed to Uptown Manhattan. Yes, this has happened to me, A LOT.
Tip: check the sign before you walk down the stairs on the subway. In London and here in Amsterdam it's normal that you just walk down and then choose the direction that you need to go to. In New York you can't, so do see if you are going uptown or downtown. It took quite some time before I figured this out haha.

You will find lots of Wi-Fi connections in the city. Of course lots of restaurants, museums and tourist attractions do and you can also find Wi-Fi at subway stations which I found really handy when I had to kill some time waiting for the next train. Sephora and Target also have amazing Wi-Fi and I called my sister on FaceTime to show her all the crazy American foods haha. I bought some travel internet too which was hella expensive but so handy in case I needed to have a look at Google Maps or tell the world that Cole 'Jughead' Sprouse walked past me on the street. You know the important stuff.

New York has plenty of different areas that you can explore. Even in Manhattan alone there is so much to see. Greenwich Village aka the The Village is my favourite area because you'll see the typical New York buildings here that you see so much in movies and TV shows. I also love NoHo for their more industrial look and artsy street art. Just walk around each area and see which one you like most. That's also a tip: walk a lot. I probably walked 18km each day but this way you see most of the city instead of sitting in a cab or riding the subway.

New York Culture
Even though New York is a Western city I felt super European when I was there. Just the people and the accent and everything was so funny to see and hear. New Yorkers are super busy most of the time but also super friendly. I was wearing this blue leopard faux fur coat the first time I was there and I kid you not every day at least two people would compliment me or ask where it was from. Here in the Netherlands, and I think most countries in Europe, people don't randomly say they like your coat as you sit down in a restaurant and then go back to their own conversation. So at first I was a bit like, okay why are you all talking to me, but then I thought it was kind of nice. I think European people are just not really good with compliments haha.

Solo Travel
As I said before, I travelled solo to the Big Apple. I had actually never travelled outside of Europe before so with that in mind I was a bit nervous at first, but once I was there it was fine. If you are contemplating about going solo to NYC I would highly recommend to just do it. New Yorkers do a lot by themselves. Sitting in Central Park reading a book, eating out or going to the cinema so you will blend in just like that. I know eating out can be a bit tricky since it's such a social thing and 'a table for one' just looks stupid, especially if you are not used to eating alone in public, but in New York no one really cares, so yeah just do it! You also have plenty of take-out food options and New York really is THE city with the most amazing food.

New York has lots to see and to do. Of course you can go to all the spots individually and pay the price there or get a pass that is a lot cheaper and gives you a few more extra's like easy access. There are a couple of New York passes but I personally recommend the New York CityPASS. With this one you have 9 days to visit them all and with the other passes you pay per day to see everything which I think makes it very expensive in the end. The CityPASS costs $126, which sounds a lot but don't forget that visiting Top of the Rock already costs around $40. With the pass you can visit the following things:
- Empire State Building
- Top of the Rock or Guggenheim Museum
- Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island or one of the Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
- 9/11 Museum or Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum
- American Museum of Natural History
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The cool thing is that you can also visit the Empire State Building twice on the same day with this card. So you can see it during the day and in the evening (after 8pm). A lot of the attractions have special queues for CityPass holders and I overall really enjoyed my experience with the card. Not sponsored - I wish - but I just really liked it!

Other things that are a must to see when in New York are:
- Times Square (obviously)
- Rockefeller Centre (which is Top of the Rock)
-  Radio City Music Hall
- Lotte New York Palace (for all you Gossip Girl fans)
- MoMa Museum
- Flat Iron Building
- Grand Central Station
- New York Public Library
- Carnegie Hall
- Madison Square Garden
- Columbia University
- Dumbo, Brooklyn
- Williamsburg, Brooklyn
- Brooklyn Bridge
- Central Park
- Central Park Zoo
- The Oculus
- 9/11 Memorial + Museum
- Charging Bull
- Wall Street
- One World Observatory
- Monica's apartment (It'll be like you are in Friends)
- Carrie Bradshaw's house (real Sex and the City feels)
- The High Line
- Washington Square Park (even more Friends vibes)
- Little Italy
- Chinatown

A must thing to do is visit a Broadway show. At TKTS on Times Square you can buy discounted tickets for shows on the same day. Or you can book them in advance which will cost you a bit more money. I saw the musical Frozen which just opened and it was very expensive, but I wanted to see it so bad that I was like why not. Definitely one of the best shows I've seen!

Sports games
Americans go crazy about their sports teams and you can be a part of that too by going to a Knicks or Rangers game. Depending on the season some sports are not available so just have a look and see what's there. I actually have never been but I would love to see a baseball or ice hockey game.

I could write one big post alone on all the yummy food they have there. I stalk a lot of NYC foodie accounts on Instagram and have collected quite a lot of amazing cafes, coffee shops and restaurants over the last year. I have put them all in a Google Map that you can find here. I downloaded the map offline so even when there was no Wi-Fi I was able to see what was near me, because I kind of plan my day around where I'm going to eat haha.
Here some of my favourite food places that I discovered in New York:
- Big Daddy's, basically Grease in a restaurant. Think booths to sit in, old school tunes, lovely decor and amazing diner foods. I had cookie dough pancakes and they were so good. For burgers, hot dogs and milkshakes they are also the place to be. I went to their location on the Upper West Side.
- Citizens of Chelsea, super hip café located in Chelsea. Perfect for some brunch or quick brekkie to go. I had the waffles and they were so good!
- The Wild Son, probably my favourite breakfast spot from my first trip. Loved the vibe there and the pancakes were the best! It's located near the High Line so perfect to have a walk after.
- The Butcher’s Daughter, super healthy spot in Nolita and the West Village. If you are into vegan and healthy food this is the place to be!
- Jack's Wife Freda, cosy cafe also in Nolita and the West Village. I finally made it there on my last trip and it was totally worth the wait. Their waffles are amazing!
- Ellen's Stardust Diner, I met up with a friend in NYC and we went for dinner here. It's a diner where the staff sings. It's like Glee but then in real life! People queue up for this place like it's free and we had to wait 40 minutes in the pouring rain -with an umbrella luckily-. It's not the kind of restaurant where you can sit for ages, but it's fun to experience it and the staff are really good singers too. I highly recommend eating some mac & cheese here.
- By Chloe, vegan fast food with yummy burgers, sandwiches and salads. I had a burger and sweet potato fries and really enjoyed it.
- Maman, a must for good food and coffee to go. The interior is amazing and this place has to be on the top of your list.
- Egg Shop, amazing for breakfast and located in Nolita.
- The Sosta, lovely pasta place in Nolita. Just down the street from the Butcher's Daughter.
- Bleecker Street Pizza, you'll find pizza everywhere in the city but these guys are famous for a reason. Try the Nonna Maria, it's the best pizza I have ever tasted!
- Bubby's, I went here on my last day when I visited in May and I kid you not, their pancakes are so good! I had the fluffy ones with blueberry and they are the best I have ever tasted. Such a nice classic New York restaurant that you must visit!
- S'MAC, for the best mac & cheese that you will ever have!

- Sprinkles Cupcake ATM, a must if you are a sweet tooth like me. You choose your cupcake swipe your card and ta-da a cupcake appears in front of you!
- Dylan's Candy Bar, True GG fans know Dan and Vanessa bought some candy here on the show and it's honestly one of the best candy shops I've seen. Definitely bought too many sweets here haha.
- Magnolia Bakery, their first bakery in the West Village is so cute and you'll probably recognize it from Sex and the City and other films. Try a red velvet or coconut cupcake. So good!
- DŌ, the first cookie dough café that ever opened and if you love cookie dough you should really go here.
- The Bagel Store, famous for their crazy coloured rainbow bagels. I went to Brooklyn to get one of these babies and it was delicious!
-Supermoon Bakehouse, crazy bakery with green croissants and delicious cronuts. Everything is served in a silver bag or box and it was quite the experience.
- Taiyaki, ice cream in a fish tail shaped cone. I had the unicorn version which was so fun to eat. You'll find this place in Chinatown!
- Milk and Cream Cereal Bar. They mix your favourite cereal with ice cream and create the most amazing soft serve. It was honestly the best ice cream I have ever tasted in my life.
- Milk Bar, speaking of soft serve, this ice cream tastes of the left over milk at the bottom of your cereal bowl. Besides that it also looks too pretty to eat!

- Cha Cha Matcha, if you love matcha this is the place for you. The pink interior is amazing, the drinks are cute and tasty too.
- New Territories, two words: freak shakes. Aka the best and tastiest drinks ever. They also have cute bubble waffles.
- Pietro Nolita, everyone always poses in front of their pink building but it's actually a restaurant too. Or just grab a coffee to go to get one of their infamous 'pink as fuck' coffee cups. I really want one!
- Woops!, a chill café for some macarons and a good latte. Their white interior is a dream for every Instagram addict and they have a lot of locations in the city.

American chain restaurants that you must try if you are not from the USA: IHOP, Shake Shack, The Cheesecake Factory, Five Guys, Wendy's, The Olive Garden, Chipotle and McDonalds (I did just to compare the differences and portion sizes!).

There are also a lot of food markets around the city where you can try the most amazing things. A few of my faves here: Chelsea Market, Broadway Bites, Gansevoort Market, Urban Space and Madison Square Eats.

If there is one thing you can do in New York it's shopping. Fifth Avenue is the shopping street with the fancy buildings and big brands but I also love 34th street where you find the biggest Sephora, a huge Target and a big Victoria's Secret. Also keep in mind that American brands are cheaper so go crazy in stores like Nike, VS and Dr Martens! A few of my favourites in NYC:

- Glossier, every beauty obsessed girl or boy must have heard of Glossier: the pastel pink brand with the most amazing products. They have a showroom in Nolita where you can try all the products and order them as well. It's one of those shops where you'll just have a look and then you walk out with four balm dot coms, just because you needed a new lip balm.
- Target, shopping heaven if you ask me. I always heard of Target in YouTube videos so when I finally entered one I was thinking OMG the entire time. I first went to a location in the Atlantic Terminal Mall in Brooklyn which is honestly the biggest store I have seen and later went to their 34th location to stock up on my sweet potato crisps and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups addiction.
- Sephora, before I went to NYC I looked up which store is the biggest in the city and they said 34th street. Indeed it is the biggest Sephora I have seen. So many brands, so much make-up, so much money went down the drain in that shop. Luckily I had myself under control. Kind of.
- CVS, another American drugstore where I had to pop in to have a look. Again bought too many beauty items, but hey that's what holidays are for.
- Ulta Beauty, if you are hungry for more beauty stuff then pop into Ulta Beauty. It's located on the Upper East Side and is full of everything you didn't know you wanted. I spend way too much money in here too.
- Victoria's Secret, personally I'm not a huge VS fan, but I know a lot of people are and I've seen plenty of stores around the city.
- Bath & Body Works, remember when this was such a huge thing back in the day? I personally find the scents a bit too sweet now but it was fun to finally have a look around. They have a store in the Atlantic Terminal Mall.
-  Macy's, Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdale's, Sak's Fifth Avenue. All department stores that are famous in New York. Just have a look inside and try not to spend too much.
- Anthropologie, my favourite store in London and luckily it's cheaper in the US.
- Fishs Eddy, a fun store with home goodies that I stumbled upon when I was near the Flatiron Building. They have all these mugs and plates with really funny art on them. Definitely have a look!
 Other shops and markets: The Vintage Twin, Sézane, Feng Sway, Around the world, Artists & fleas, Lou & Grey, Century 21.

Can I list 'going to supermarkets in foreign countries' as one of my hobbies? Because it honestly is. I love to walk through all the aisles and browse what they have. Of course I buy way too many goodies too and my suitcase on my last trip was packed full with Cliff Banana & PB bars, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Oreo's. Here are a few of my favourite supermarkets: Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Dean & Deluca and Target (they seriously have everything in that store).

And that is it for my New York guide. The concrete jungle where dreams are made of has a special place in my heart and with more than 3500 words that definitely shows. I can't wait to go back and eat, shop and walk in that amazing city.

Do you have any recommendations for a trip to New York?


  1. Girl this is the most amazing and helpful guide.. love how you also included how to get to the city :)

    x Lisa |


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