Travel blog

New York City itinerary – a guide to the perfect 4 day city break

If there’s one city we’d consider moving to outside of England, it would be New York City. We love everything about this city – the culture, the sights, the food and the people! Despite its somewhat unpredictable weather, the city is everything and more. It’s one of those places that you could return to time and time again and never get bored.

This is my second time (Mar’s third) in New York and we found so many new and unique things to do that we never got round to doing the first time we came as a couple (and no doubt there’s hundreds of other things we still haven’t done).

It’s possibly one of the most well suited locations for ALL types of trips, whether you’re heading on a girls / lads trip, a family holiday or a romantic weekend getaway – New York has it all.

This guide will give you a pretty good insight into how best to spend four days in the city. But first, let’s get to know the city a little better!

NYC overview

Before diving into the itinerary, we thought it might be helpful to give you a bit of an overview of New York State and NYC, including a couple of tips we’ve learnt across our two trips!

New York State

New York state is pretty small in comparison to a lot of the other states, and when most people think of New York, they just think of New York City (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens etc.). We’ve never ventured further than the main city but we’re sure there’s loads to do upstate, including visiting Long Island or the Hamptons (let us know if you get a chance to check any of these places out)!

New York City

The city is accessible from two main airports (JFK in New York and Newark in New Jersey), both have good connections into central Manhattan (where most visitors opt to stay). We’ve flown into both and would recommend the Newark Airport Bus to get from New Jersey into the city, and the Airtrain and LIRR / subway to get from JFK to Manhattan.

There is absolutely no point hiring a car because unless you have parking at your hotel, all the local car parks are extortionately priced… and also New York traffic is some of the worst we’ve seen – hence why we wouldn’t recommend getting a taxi from the airport either (well, unless you have a lot of time and money to spare).

There is a great public transport network in the city, so you’d be silly not to take advantage of this. Each subway journey (excluding the air train and LIRR) is $2.75 regardless of where you are travelling within the NYC subway area.

From what I can understand (and from our experience) most people opt to stay within the Manhattan area – mainly in neighbourhoods such as Times Square, the Theatre District and Hells Kitchen. Both times we’ve visited we’ve stayed near Hells Kitchen – close to Port Authority bus station and Times Square. If you’re a first time visitor to NYC or visiting the city to see all the main sights, we’d definitely recommend staying in and around these areas!

Anywhere in central Manhattan is pretty accessible (imo). You can walk to a lot of the main sites including Empire State and the Rockefeller Centre and get the subway to anything further afield (One World Trade Centre, Brooklyn Bridge etc.).

When we next visit New York, I think it would be cool to stay in Brooklyn – this part of the city is super interesting and definitely a good base for those who have already experienced all the tourist hotspots on previous trips.

4 day New York City itinerary

We’re going to jump straight into our (pretty intense) four day itinerary. Obviously if you’re struggling with the tiredness from travelling or have a bit of jet lag, amend the itinerary to suit you. That’s the great thing about New York is you can do as much or as little as you want and still get to see loads!

We found that we’d spend about 5/6 hours a day out and about and then had a couple of hours either in the morning or afternoon to chill, but this itinerary can be done at any pace and adjustments can be made to suit you and your travel needs!

Day 1

  • High Line
  • The Vessel
  • Hudson Yard
  • Flat Iron Building
  • Fifth Avenue
  • Empire State Building
  • New York Library
  • Trump Tower
  • Plaza Hotel
  • Central Park

Head out in the morning (the earlier the better to avoid the crowds – although be warned NYC is always busy no matter what time it is). We walked part of the High Line (via the Vessel), this will take you down the west side of Manhattan, past Hudson Yard.

Then head slightly east towards the Flatiron building (currently under construction – Mar 2020). From there you can walk up Fifth Avenue, where you’ll find lots of shops and coffee houses etc., towards the Empire State Building. The views from the top are pretty epic but imo not the best of New York so if you’re on a restricted budget, opt for the Top of the Rock viewpoint instead.

Fifth Avenue will also take you past the New York Library (pretty impressive and free to walk around), Trump Tower and the Plaza Hotel before reaching the south west corner of Central Park. We’d recommend a stroll through the park on a clear day if possible – it’s not as fun in the rain (we would know!).

If your feet feel a little sore from lots of walking, head back to the hotel to chill for a couple of hours before heading out to a sports bar in the evening to enjoy some American bar snacks and a game of ice hockey or basketball (on one of the many screens). We like the Beer Authority – located right next to Port Authority bus station. It’s nothing special in terms of food but the beer is reasonably priced (for NYC) and the atmosphere is fun! (Top tip: always try and make the most of happy hour’s in NYC as drinks are very expensive otherwise! Irish bars are usually the best priced places to drink)

Day 2

  • Chelsea Market / Gransevoort Market
  • Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment
  • Cookies @ Sweet Corner
  • One World Observatory
  • 9/11 Memorial / Museum
  • Charging Bull
  • Wall Street / NY Stock Exchange
  • Grand Central Station
  • Times Day (daylight)

Start day 2 with a stroll to Chelsea Market – you can walk along the High Line to get here or just stroll through the streets of NY. The market is filled with boutique stores, local delicatessens and food outlets. We didn’t stop for long here but it was nice to wander through. We then crossed the road to Gransevoort Market. This is a small food market that sells some pretty delicious food! We opted for corn dogs because why wouldn’t we…we’re in America after all!

We’d then suggest continuing your explorations in the direction of lower Manhattan and the business district. You can walk via famous sights, such as Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment (for all those Sex in the City fans) or stop at a little bakery en route. We liked the Cookies at a little bakery called Sweet Corner – FYI they don’t accept cash.

The walk to lower Manhattan is quite long but we think it’s worth it, especially if you walk down Hudson Street, you will pass some cool street art by an artist (Kobra) who we fell in love with in Brazil!

When you get to the business district you can explore the World Trade Centre Complex , where you’ll find the Freedom Tower, the One World Observatory, the Oculus. We’d 100% recommend going to the One World Observatory – the 360 degree views of NYC are breathtaking.

Tip: don't bother paying for a priority pass unless you visit during peak times. We visited in February and the queue wasn't too long and it moved really fast! Be aware they are quite strict security restrictions so make sure to check these out before you visit. 

The complex is also home to the 9/11 memorial and museum. This is a harrowing but must-see spot in New York. The museum provides a deeper insight to the attacks on the World Trade Centre in 2001 and allows you to pay tribute to those who lost their lives. It’s very sad but it’s definitely worth a visit.

From the World Trade Centre, you can explore the NY stock exchange and the Charging Bull. This is also really close to the Staten Island Ferry or the tours that go to the Statue of Liberty. We didn’t actually go this time round but if you’re new to NYC or have never done it before, this is a bucket list item that you should definitely tick off! The Staten Island Ferry doesn’t actually stop at Liberty Island, unlike the tours. We did a tour and we actually paid to go to the crown of the statue – this was a pretty cool experience, but try to book in advance if you can!

We’d then suggest getting the subway back to central Manhattan. We opted for a route that went via Central Station. Getting off the subway and walking up into the main station is pretty surreal. The station is beautiful and a must for you itinerary whilst you’re in NY.

From Central Station you can walk back to your accommodation via Times Square. We’d 100% recommend seeing this during the day and at night. Then you can really appreciate the bright lights! FYI – Times Square is always busy!

Day 3

  • Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Centre)
  • Shopping in NYC (Times Sqaure / 5th Ave)
  • Highline @ Sunset

Day three is a chance to chill a bit and just enjoy being in a new city. Exploring the shops, and visiting some New York bars/restaurants. We used our third day to relax and just take our time mooching around the city.

If you plan to visit the Rockefeller Centre, we’d recommend either going first thing or at sunset. We’ve done both and they’re equally as amazing. We did sunset the first time round, if you plan well, you can be up there during the day and at night (following sunset) but be prepared for crowds as this is a VERY popular time to visit the Rockefeller. The view point is called Top of the Rock. You can book tickets in advance or on the day. For the sunset ticket, we’d recommend booking in advance to save queuing to buy tickets. On our most recent trip to NY, we visited to the Top of the Rock first thing. It opens at 8am and there was already a queue, although we were definitely within the first 30 people in the building. Once you’re at the top, make the most of the lack of crowds – take in the view, get some pictures and make sure you check out all the floors!

After this we spent the rest of the day making the most of the NYC shops, bars and restaurants. Eating, drinking and shopping our way through the day. At sunset we walked to Hudson Yard. This is where the High Line starts/ends. You can walk the semi-circle shaped part of the walkway that sits directly in front of the Vessel. From here you will get pretty epic views of sunset across New Jersey. Be warned, in winter the wind around that area is BITTER…so make sure you wrap up warm! Following this we’d recommend spending some time warming up in a nice Irish Bar during happy hour.

Day 4

  • Brooklyn Bridge
  • Dumbo
  • Manhatten Bridge
  • Main Street Park
  • Old Pier One
  • Brooklyn Bridge Park
  • Dylan’s Candy Bar
  • Junior’s Cheesecake
  • Times Square (at night)

No rest for the wicked – time for another jam packed day in NY to finish off this mad but amazing four day trip!

We’d recommend starting the day by grabbing the metro (bright and early) to Brooklyn Bridge. This means you can avoid the crowds and actually enjoy the bridge without too many people around. We walked the bridge – don’t forget to look behind you as the Manhattan skyline is pretty spectacular – into Brooklyn. Once in Brooklyn, walk to the infamous spot in Dumbo (Washington St/Water St). This is a great place to get a quintessential NYC picture with Manhattan Bridge in the background. If you walk down this street towards the bridge, you will get to Main Street Park. This park boasts beautiful views of Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge – it would be nice to enjoy a coffee here in the morning whilst watching New Yorkers go about their mornings.

Then walk under Brooklyn Bridge along the water’s edge towards Old Pier One, again there’s some pretty epic views of the NY skyline which I’m sure looks bloody fantastic at sunset too! We spent a bit of time exploring the Piers – there’s parks, fitness facilities etc. so take a look around!

Once you’ve done exploring Brooklyn, jump back on the subway (or walk) back to central Manhattan. We went via Dylan’s Candy Bar shop – which (although it was closed) looked incredible!

After a very busy morning/early afternoon – head back to the hotel and chill for a bit before your final evening in NYC. We spent our last evening eating burgers, tasting a delicious slice of cheesecake from Junior’s (near Times Square) and exploring Times Square at night – the lights are AMAZING!

What’s your favourite thing to do in NYC?

New York is somewhere we will never get bored of. There’s still so much more for us to do and despite visiting twice, we just can’t wait to go back AGAIN!

Have you been to NYC? If so let us know your favourite things to do as we’ll certainly be making a new NY bucketlist for our next visit!

P.S. You cannot visit NYC without trying one of the amazing New York Pizzas – we love Patzeria and Friends so if you get a chance give it a try!

Lets hope that visit isn’t too far away!

Adios for now,

Char & Mar x

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