So you have a few hours to spare in Manhattan between meetings? The city is not about sprawl; it’s high-rise, dense, and busy.
It’s advisable to pinpoint your primary interests or work around places that are in close proximity. Subway day passes are an option if you’re heading across town or up it, but fundamentally it’s a walking city.
If you’re near Times Square and happy to meander through the bustling tourist mecca, a Broadway show, either a matinee or an evening show, is a must. There are long-playing classics; at the moment Hamilton seems top of the pile and there’s the satirical musical comedy Book of Mormon as well as less expensive off-Broadway shows (in smaller theatres).
If you’re on a budget it’s worth buying TKTS or half-price tickets on the day, or TodayTix, a new app that let’s you score reduced-rate tickets.
Times Square and its surrounds are iconic. For shoppers (or just window shoppers), there’s Fifth Avenue, the almost unrivalled retail strip, with department store icons such as Barneys, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman and big-brand superstores like Nike or Uniqlo on the main street or in adjacent streets.
The financial district is at the southern tip of Manhattan. Though commercial centres sound lacklustre in many cities, here it’s enmeshed with the DNA of the city. The neighbourhood is home to Wall Street and the National September 11 Memorial, and you can take a taxi ride on the Staten Island Ferry or head to the Statue of Liberty.
To throw in a bit of retail experience, the Century 21 chain may not be the most sophisticated shopping experience around, but it’s mayhem and fun, and all about brands and bargains.
From here it’s not far to SoHo, Chinatown and Little Italy. These are places immigrants have traditionally made their home, though Little Italy is more about tourist restaurants than the real deal. SoHo used to be about galleries and artists’ lofts but along with much of the island has become more gentrified, so you find appealing stores and shops (along with occasional galleries, though most have shifted to Chelsea and the Lower East Side).
It’s about boutique stores, bars, and, again, shopping.
There’s the High Line — a great walkway on the top of an elevated revamped railway station. Apart from offering sensational views and time away from the concrete, it’s close to the Chelsea market, high-end boutique shops like Diane von Furstenberg and a world-class Samsung shop, all in the Gansevoort Meatpacking District.
Below one end of the High Line is the Whitney Museum of American Art, which holds some of the finest 20th century American work in the world. It’s worth going just to see the building itself.
Chelsea is considered by many to be the centre of New York’s art world, and downtown there’s also Greenwich Village, full of cafés, bars and shops.
Museum Mile is where you head for more museums if you’re a museum person — the Metropolitan Museum of Art is an institution, though it’s so huge that if you’re pressed for time it’s worth deciding on a few rooms only, otherwise it can be overwhelming.
There’s now a contemporary exhibition of the work of photographer Irving Penn, one of the most influential fashion photographers of the 20th century. There’s also an exhibition of the Comme des Garçons fashion line. The founder, Rei Kawakubo, is the second living designer to have an exhibition devoted entirely to her work. This is reportedly hoped to "end the false distinction between art and fashion".
The roof garden has an interesting array of sculptures.
Museum Mile also has the Museum of the City of New York on 103rd street.
The Upper West Side is full of real character. It’s not about trendy spots; it’s residential, great for people-watching, where you get to pop into some of the most prolific delis in the city. It feels as if you’re in an episode of Seinfeld. And there’s the chance to visit Central Park. It’s homier than the Upper East Side, where bankers and lawyers live and which is more affluent. It’s also great for people-watching, as is Bloomingdale’s.
I’ve been told there’s no better place to watch the well-heeled and affluent Upper East Side ladies of leisure than Rotisserie Georgette, where facelifts and furs abound.
And the chicken is said to be delicious.