A First-timer’s Guide to New York for Brits

Attractions , New York , Sightseeing , New York Travel , Travel Guides
A First-timer’s Guide to New York for Brits
Read our first-timer's guide to heading to New York on holiday.
We have compiled a list of New York’s top threes, from shopping and pizza to attractions and culture shocks for the ideal first-timer’s guide!

*Updated 26/01/17

As huge fans of the city that never sleeps, we have compiled a list of New York’s top threes, from shopping and pizza to attractions and culture shocks.

New York was officially named the world’s leading city break destination in 2014  at the World Travel Awards and, to be honest, it’s no surprise. New York offers something for everyone, and plenty for the British first-time visitor! Take a look at our recommendations below, which cover what we think are all the essentials and directions of how to get there via the Metro and by foot. Have we missed anything? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.

 

Big Attractions

1. 9/11 Memorial and Museum

As one of the most significant events in modern history, the 9/11 memorial at the very least is worth going to see; by using the original sites of the Twin Towers, the memorial is both sobering and beautiful.

The 9/11 Memorial Museum is located in-between the two sites and offers some insight for visitors and a place to mourn for family and friends of those who died. Open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., there are some truly shocking items on display, including one of the fire trucks that responded on the day and parts of the aeroplanes that crashed into the building. There is also a section that provides more detail about all of those who lost their lives during the event.

Getting there:

to Cortlandt Street and E to World Trade Center are the closest Subway stations.

If walking, head for the intersections of Liberty Street and Greenwich Street, Liberty Street and West Street, or West Street and Fulton Street.

Map here.

Whilst you’re there, enjoy the view of the new One World Trade Center; Banksy may have thought it was an eyesore, but it’s hard not to be impressed. The One World Observatory opened in May 2015 and could well offer the best views of the city, certainly rivalling the Empire State and Top of the Rock.

 

one world trade centre

 

2. Central Park

From humble beginnings in 1858, Central Park is now the most visited urban park in the USA. There are plenty of things to see and a number of ways to see them; check out bike rentals here and horse and carriage tours here, two of the more popular ways of seeing the sights. Of course, you can always walk, which makes for a lovely afternoon.

Getting there:

A, B, C, D, 1 to 59th Street/Columbus Circle

B, C to 110th Street, 103rd Street, 96th Street, 86th Street, 81st Street and 72nd Street

2, 3 to Central Park North/110th Street

N, R, W to 59th Street

Map here.

Central park

 

Highlights worth mentioning are the Alice in Wonderland statue, Strawberry Fields and the Wollman Rink. Tickets for the Wollman Rink are available between October and April. 

 

Imagine central park

 

3. Grand Central Terminal

The audio tour at this fully-functioning train terminal is very informative and great value for money, and there is also a guided tour for those who would rather be led by a person. We got in touch with the people who organise the tours, and this is what they had to say about the options available:

Grand Central’s official audio tour is one of the most popular activities in the Terminal, and one of New York’s most affordable history tours.  Available in both “local” (one-hour) and “express” (30-minute) versions from 9 am - 6 pm daily, the self-paced tour focuses on the architectural highlights of the Terminal, as well as its little-known secrets (a $10-million-plus jewel is in full view on the Main Concourse), famous visitors, and sometimes turbulent history.  The tour is available at specially marked “GCT Tour” windows in the Main Concourse and downloadable on mobile devices from myorpheo.com.  Tours are $9 for adults and $7 for seniors, military members, students, and kids.Languages include English, French, Spanish, Japanese, Italian and German.

Grand Central Terminal Official Guided Tour– Daily, 12:30pm – Shoppers can take a break from the stores and explore the lush surroundings at Grand Central.  MTA Metro-North Railroad has partnered with the Municipal Art Society of New York and Orpheo Inc. to provide daily docent-led tours of the Terminal. The 75-minute tour departs at 12:30 pm daily from the Terminal’s Main Concourse. Guests will learn about the history, highlights, operations and architecture of one of the world’s largest train terminals. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for seniors, students, children and military members. Visit http://docentour.com/gct/ for more information.

-          Grand Central Terminal

Highlights include the famous ceiling (spot the grey square where they wanted to show just how dirty it was before they cleaned it) and the Whispering Gallery located just outside the Oyster Bar – it’s amazing.

Getting there:

4, 5, 6, 7, S to Grand Central Terminal.

If walking, head for the intersections of 42nd Street and Vanderbilt Avenue.

Map here.

 

Grand Central Terminal (outside)

 

Free Attractions

1. Brooklyn Bridge walk

This iconic bridge is a hive of activity. Never mind all the cars, cyclists and pedestrians using the bridge; some of the sights that have been witnessed include people filming, photo shoots and visitors attaching love lockets to the bridge (not something we’d like to see take off as it has had serious consequences in Paris)! Keep an eye out for the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, One World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty, as those with keen eyes should be able to spot them all whilst walking across.

Getting there:

4, 5, 6 toBrooklyn Bridge-City Hall.

Start the walk from Centre Street by City Hall.

Map here.

 

Brooklyn bridge

 

2. Staten Island Ferry

The Staten Island Ferry is a firm favourite; not only is it a free boat ride, but it is also a great opportunity to catch some great photographs of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Lower Manhattan. It is primarily a commuter ferry, so expect to see lots of people and try to avoid at peak commuter times.

Getting there:

1 to South Ferry Station

4 and 5 to Bowling Green

J and Z to Broad Street

R to Whitehall Street

If walking, head for Whitehall Street.

Map here.

 

Statue of Liberty

 

3. High Line

It’s essentially a garden above the streets; what’s not to love? Set amongst the streets of New York on a disused freight railway line, the High Line is carefully looked after by Friends of the High Line, who take care of the plants, maintain the facilities and organise educational programs, talks and tours, food vendors, events, and art installations.

The High Line is open from 7am every day until 7pm from 1st December-31st March, 10pm from 1st April-31st May and 1st October-30th November, and 11pm from 1st June-30th September.

Getting there:

C, E to 23rd Street

A, C, E to 14th Street

If walking, there are plenty of spots along the High Line to start. The two best places to start or finish are the intersections of 30th Street and 10th Avenue, and Gansevoort Street and Washington Street.

Map here.

 

The High Line

 

Shopping

1. Woodbury Common

There is no shortage of shopping in New York, but for the biggest discounts on designer goods you’ll want to head to Woodbury Common, which is about an hour from Manhattan. It may involve a journey, but it is worth it once you’ve taken a look at the designer names that have stores there.

Getting there:

If you get Woodbury Common tickets from us, you can get a return coach from central Manhattan, where we have various pick-up and drop-off points. Plus we include a VIP coupon book so you can take advantage of some additional discounts!

Map here.

 

Woodbury Common

 

2. Century 21

If you only want to do a bit of shopping whilst you’re in New York, Century 21 is one of the best places to go. Offering up to 65% off RRP, they stock some great quality items from great brands. We got in touch with Century 21 and asked them why British travellers should pay them a visit and here’s what they had to say:

For more than 50 years, Century 21 Department Store has provided top designers at up to 65% off retail. You’ll find everything from men's, women's and children's apparel to footwear, handbags, housewares and more at this landmark shopping destination. Century 21 is a must-see for tourists and a mainstay for veteran New Yorkers. Come in and score big on all the top designers at New York's #1 Zagat-rated off-price store—you might even catch a celebrity or two!

– Heather Feinmel, Century 21 Department Store

Getting there:

There are two Century 21 stores in Manhattan.

Downtown: N, R to Cortlandt Street. If walking, head for the intersection of Broadway and Cortlandt Street. Map here.

Lincoln Square: 1, 2, 3 to 66 Street/Lincoln Center. If walking, head for the intersection of 66th/67th Street and Broadway. Map here.

 

Century 21 exterior

 

3. Artists & Fleas

If you prefer browsing markets to rifling through bargain department stores, Artists & Fleas have two great markets in New York that are packed full of quirky pieces that you won’t find anywhere else. The Chelsea Market location is best for those staying in the centre and is open every day, whilst their weekend market in Williamsburg, Brooklyn is becoming a real favourite with visitors to New York and is just a 7-minute train ride away. Ronen Glimer from Artists & Fleas has kindly summed up what the market is all about:

For anyone who loves the thrill of discovery and shopping local art, fashion, design and vintage as an alternative to traditional retail...Artists & Fleas is the place.

-          Ronen Glimer

Getting there:

Chelsea Market: L, A, C, E to 14th Street.
1, 2, 3 to 14th Street.

If walking, head for the intersection of 15th Street and 10th Avenue.

Map here.

Williamsburg: L to Bedford Avenue, then head along N 7th Street between Wythe Avenue and Kent Avenue.

Map here.

 

Churoncalla

 

Food

1. Burger Joint

Eating at Burger Joint is an experience as much as it is a good burger; although they have two locations in New York, their beginnings as the secret burger bar in Le Parker Meridien hotel have made them famous. Here’s what they had to say when we asked why people should pay them a visit:

Burger Joint is rated one of the best (if not "the best") burger in all of New York City. It's a fun spot that serves a fantastic burger in a divey atmosphere. It appeals to everyone!

-        Marisa Zafran, Burger Joint

 

The burger joint

 

Getting there:

Le Parker Meridien – F to 57th Street; N, Q, R to 57th Street/7th Avenue

If walking, head for the intersection of 56th Street and Avenue of the Americas.

Map here.

Don’t be fooled; they’re behind the red curtain!

Greenwich Village – A, C, E, B, D, F, M to 4th Street.

If walking, head for the intersection of 8th Street and MacDougal Street.

Map here.

 

The Burger Joint Queue

 

2. IHOP

If you like pancakes, breakfast, or pancakes for breakfast, then IHOP is the place to go. As well as pancakes they do eggs, bacon, hash browns, crepes and waffles, and their unlimited coffee will set you up for the day America-style. Here’s why they think IHOP is worth including in your New York itinerary:

For over 56 years, IHOP has been delighting guests with the very best in breakfast and other menu items – including our world famous buttermilk pancakes – in over 1,600 restaurants in the United States and around the world.  With our never empty coffee pot, great service and expertise in all things breakfast, we’re the leaders in providing a great breakfast experience any time of day!

-        Craig Hoffman, IHOP representative

Getting there:

L to 3rd Avenue

If walking, head for the intersection of 14th Street and 3rd Avenue.

Map here.

Buttermilk Pancakes

3. Daisy May's BBQ USA

Daisy May’s BBQ USA is fantastic if you’re after a taste of traditional American BBQ fare. It’s a very casual atmosphere and as a British visitor you’ll really feel like you’re having dinner in somewhere that’s considered a local. The beef brisket is delicious, and you won’t have mac and cheese quite like their mac and cheese.

Getting there:

A, C, E to 42nd Street/Port Authority Bus Terminal or C, E to 50th Street, then walk towardsthe intersection of 46th Street and 11th Avenue.

Map here.

 

Food

 

Pizza

1. L&B Spumoni Gardens

Pizza holds a very special place in the heart of New York, and some of the finest slices can be enjoyed at L&B Spumoni Gardens. Although it is a fair trek into Brooklyn from Manhattan, it is well worth the trip – after all, Man v. Food’s Adam Richman had a great time there! We asked them why UK visitors should pay a visit and this is what they had to say:

If travelers are looking for a true New York experience, something as unique to New York as the Statue of Liberty and Times Square and have an appetite for true and authentic New York style pizza then L&B should absolutely be on their to-do list. Though we're a ways away of the usual tourist spots L&B is a reflection of real New York and we're happy to serve up our version of New York to tourists and locals alike.

-          L&B Spumoni Gardens

Getting there:

to 86th Street, then walk along 86th Street where the restaurant lies between W 10th and W 11th Street.

Map here.

 

L&B Spumoni Gardens

 

2. Lombardi’s Pizza

Frequently appearing in lists of New York’s best pizza places, Lombardi’s Pizza had to be included in our guide. The food is simple, but delicious – we recommend sharing a pizza and selecting two toppings so you can enjoy a variety of flavours.

Getting there:

4, 5, 6to Spring Street or J, Z to Bowery, then walk to the intersection of Spring Street and Mott Street.

Map here.

3. 2 Bros Pizza

If you like your pizza to be cheap and cheerful, 2 Bros Pizza is for you. Their list of locations is as long as their stores and can be found across Manhattan and now in Brooklyn too, so never fear; a slice of $1 cheese pizza is never far away.

Getting there:

Check out their website for details on all of their locations, but if you’re around Times Square then these two are closest:

Port Authority:A, C, E to 42nd Street/Port Authority Bus Terminal, then walk to the intersection of 40th Street and 9th Avenue. Map here.

8th Avenue: A, C, E to 34th Street/Penn Station or 7, N, Q, R to 42nd Street/Times Square, then walk to the intersection of 38th Street and 8th Avenue. Map here.

 

Culture shocks

Even though the USA is seen by many to be our closest cousins, there are still plenty of cultural surprises to be discovered when visiting! Here are the three we think are worth mentioning.

1. Tipping and tax

Everyone knows that you need to tip in the USA, but be prepared for just how much it will cost you. As a general rule of thumb:

·       tip 15-20% in restaurants, in bars and for taxi drivers

·       tip $2 per bag for bellhops

·       tip $2 per day for housekeeping.

Don’t forget that the price you see on a menu or on a clothing label does not generally include tax; this is added at the till and is 8.875% (as of December 2014).

The key thing to remember is to take both tipping and tax into account whenever you’re about to open your wallet so that you can properly budget for them.

 

2. Loos

When you see one, go. Public loos are sparse, and although you can probably rely on a Starbucks or McDonald’s, you’ll probably feel better about using the loos at an attraction or when eating out.

 

3. Turn on the TV

There’s nothing wrong with turning on the TV for a bit whilst on holiday, especially when you’re in the USA, which is home to some worldwide hit TV shows. Although the shows themselves are great, you will be amazed by the advertising; it is very different to advertising in Britain and feels almost constant! Although not necessarily a positive thing, you will certainly be seeing another side to America.

 

If you’re interested in enjoying some of these great New York experiences and more besides, take a look at our range of New York attraction tickets – Attraction Tickets Direct can pass on some great discounts on attraction tickets, tours and Broadway show tickets for one magical stay in New York.

Image credits: Jin Lee, Grand Central Terminal, Century 21, Artists and Fleas, The Burger Joint, IHOP, L&B Spumoni Gardens

Attractions , New York , Sightseeing , New York Travel , Travel Guides