New York City is one of the world’s most popular focal points for shopping, fashion and entertainment, attracting shopaholics and style gurus from around the globe
During a recent trip to New York, I spent six days shopping, eating, sightseeing and partying. I tried and tested everything there is to see and do in New York (well, almost), so here is my verdict on all the best things to do and places to go. Enjoy!
BEST AREAS TO STAY
For peace and quiet: Midtown East (Murray Hill and Gramercy Park).
For the style conscious: SoHo and TriBeCa.
For the hustle & bustle: Midtown West (Times Square, Garment District & Theatre District).
For the bohemian life: Greenwich Village.
For a bit of posh: Upper East Side.
For a gay ol’ time: Chelsea.
For lots of night life: the Meatpacking District.
For business: Financial District.
The best avenue for shopping in Manhattan. Fifth Avenue (like most avenues in NYC) almost runs the entire length of Manhattan, stopping in Greenwich Village. Bergdorf Goodman, Versace, Tiffany & Co, Saks, FAO Schwartz and the stunning glass-cube Apple Mac store are all located along Fifth Avenue. I recommend you start at around Fifth Avenue and 60th Street and shop your way down to 33rd Street.
Another fantastic avenue for shopping. Again, start at around Madison and 60th Street and work your way down. Shops on Madison include Barneys, Ralph Lauren, Betsey Johnson, Chloe and Roberto Cavalli, to name just a few.
Boutique chic heaven. SoHo is a cross between Covent Garden and Fulham Road, with stylish clothes and footwear boutiques, trendy jewellery stalls and the odd fabulous little drinking/eating spots (see Best Restaurants, Bars and Clubs, below).
The sophisticated choice. Union Square has a really friendly neighbourhood look and feel. Whether it’s an open air concert or a bustling market full of delicious organic foods, the central square plays host to a number of neighbourhood activities and is surrounded by some fantastic shops and restaurants.
The bargain basement choice - sometimes slumming it is fun! Canal Street is New York’s version of Brick Lane or Petticoat Lane Markets. Starting from SoHo and leading through to China Town, this lively street predominantly sells fashion and sterling silver jewellery, ‘designer’ handbags and cheap souvenir tat.
This department store on 34th Street (between Broadway and 7th Avenue) is one of the best. Unlike other department stores in New York that only sell clothes, Macy’s has everything from lipstick to golf clubs. A big draw here is the visitors' discount card that all tourists are granted; pick one up at the Visitor Center before you start shopping - it entitles you to 11 per cent off everything you purchase from Macy’s (on top of any discounts that already apply).
BEST TOURIST ACTIVITIES
Like Piccadilly Circus’s brighter, richer and far more successful older sibling. Great for pictures, crap for shopping. However, if you like music, check out the Virgin Megastore at 1540 Broadway (between 45th and 46th Ave). It’s the largest entertainment store in the world and it’s open till 2am – not sure why, though.
Also in Times Square, you can see the filming of one of teenage America’s favourite music shows, MTV TRL. Don’t bother with the MTV store – it’s full of nothing much for a whole lot of money.
Attend a chat show
Spend an afternoon as part of the studio audience at one of America’s hilarious and lively chat shows. The Maury Show (storylines include bitter paternity tests, freak makeovers, talent shows and drag queen shows) is filmed in Madison Square Garden, NYC. The tickets are free; just email the address listed on the website. Shows are taped on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from autumn to spring.
Take a helicopter ride
On a clear day, a helicopter ride around New York City is the best way to see sights and monuments like the Statue of Liberty, Ground Zero and the Empire State Building. It’s also a fantastic chance to capture some stunning pictures of the city and it beats a mind-numbing tour bus hands down.
A picturesque, green part of New York City, with lots of trees and open spaces, which you gladly welcome after battling the jungle of skyscrapers and traffic. You can stroll through the park or take a horse and carriage ride (nice to do, but not the best value for money). During the Christmas season, you can go ice skating in the park, which is lots of fun.
A visit to NYC is not complete without taking in a Broadway show. There are so many to choose from and I honestly wish that I could recommend a few shows to you, but unfortunately during our visit, there was a massive stage-hand strike and the whole of Broadway was shut down. So sadly, we had to spend most of our evenings partying in the most popular clubs and bars of New York City. Darn it.
BEST RESTAURANTS AND BARS
A delightful little diner/café in Murray Hill (30th Ave and Lexington), which is perfect for breakfast or brunch (served Monday to Friday 8.00–11.45 am). The staff are friendly and the place is warm and inviting. I recommend the Penny Egg Sandwich, the pumpkin waffles and the home-cut fries. Oh, and absolutely anything from the bakery counter. De-lish!
A meateater's paradise, Virgil’s is a no-fuss, Southern-style cuisine restaurant that serves really good food that tastes perfectly home-made. I highly recommend the chicken wings - yum. Ideal for a mid-shopping spree lunch as it’s situated in Times Square (152 West 44th St).
Gordon Ramsay at The London
Delicious French-inspired fine cuisine restaurant at The London NYC hotel in Midtown East (151 West 54th Street). On first glance around the restaurant, some of the guests reeked of Eau de Pretentious, so the atmosphere lacked warmth, but the food was amazing so it’s well worth a visit. Reservations need to be made two calendar months ahead and they prefer guys to wear jackets.
A less formal Gordon Ramsay restaurant, also based at The London NYC. The atmosphere was livelier here and booking a table was also easier, as the two-month rule didn’t apply. The menu had a wider range of styles, with more Pan-Asian and European influences. It was also cheaper.
Situated at the corner of 39th Ave and Madison, Saluté! is an Italian restaurant perfect for evening drinks and dinner. If you’re just opting for drinks and nibbles, the restaurant has a large and lively bar where you can drink and share dishes like the antipasti and the calamari with friends.
A Southeast Asian restaurant in New York’s trendy Meatpacking District (403 West 13th Street), owned by Jean-Georges Vongerichten. The décor is striking, with plenty of Asian influences, and the food is truly delicious. I recommend the mouth-watering Crispy Salt and Pepper Skate. Cost: around $50-$80+ per person for a good amount of food and drinks.
Vintage New York Wine Bar
Located on Broome Street and Wooster in SoHo, this fab wine bar and restaurant is the perfect after-shopping drinking hole. The food is delectable and the wine list is well chosen. They also have a retail store and tasting room where you can taste before you buy some of the delicious wines and foods.
As in London, the club scene in New York varies greatly from day to day. For instance, a club’s guest list on a Friday can be completely exclusive, with a hip-hop/R&B play list, and on a Saturday it can have a completely different type of guest list and a purely house play list. It is also very dependent on who the club’s promoter is on any given day. Exclusive London staff visited six different clubs over a seven-day period and recommend the following.
Pink Elephant Club (min spend)
Décor: sexy plush damask, embellished velvet and dark cherry woods.
Ambience/guests: very exclusive, sophisticated.
Décor: Moroccan harem.
Ambience/guests: sultry, Northern African hang-out.
Décor: stunning, 60s mod-deco lounge.
Ambience/guests: unpretentious, New York’s bold & beautiful.
Bungalow 8 (min spend)
Décor: Miami art-deco paradise, complete with palm trees.
Ambience/guests: exclusive, table service, very glamorous, celebrity-studded. (Tip: dress fabulously like a film star and you’ll get in fine.)