The quiet side of New York City

by aoholly

New York is all about the buzz. But now and then you just want some quiet, a moment for reflection. And when you do that in New York, you discover a whole other side to the city

New York is all about the buzz; the cabs blaring their horns, the steam rising from the subway, the people always in a hurry someplace else. But now and then you just want some quiet, a moment for reflection. And when you do that in New York, you discover a whole other side to the city. So take a while to tune out the bustle and enjoy a more mellow experience.

New York Public Library

The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, or ‘main branch’ of the New York Public Library is a magnificent Beaux Art building, which houses 15 million items - everything from ancient manuscripts to baseball cards. It’s also a place where the hush of the readers sweeps over you as soon as you walk in through the front door.

You could take an organised tour of either the building or the current exhibitions, or wander around by yourself. Exhibitions usually include some photography and there is a permanent display of the original toys which inspired the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. A must-see is the Rose Main Reading Room, which was renovated about 10 years ago, a place to experience silent contemplation in splendour.

Entry is free, the library is open daily including some late evenings.

(Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street, New York, NY 10018-2788, (917) 275-6975) 

Take Tea in the Algonquin

Also on a literary theme, the Algonquin Hotel is of course famous for gatherings of the Round Table, a collection of writers including Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, and Robert E. Sherwood, who met for lunch every day to exchange ideas and gossip.

You can still dine in the ‘Round Table Room’, but if you just want to chill out and soak up the atmosphere, the hotel lobby is a wonderful place to find a cosy corner, and silently watch at least some of the world go by. You can take tea, quietly read a book or watch the well heeled residents (and the hotel cat!) as they come and go. You may find you’re so comfortable you never want to leave.

Tea and coffee served in the lobby from noon to 4pm. (Cocktails available all evening)  Pot of tea $5

(59 West 44th Street, New York, NY 10036, 212 840 6800,

The Robert Lehman Collection at the Met

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is not necessarily the first place you would go seeking peace and quiet. The secret is to select one of the less popular or well known collections and not attempt to see anything more.

The Robert Lehman Collection is set in a gallery with natural light pouring in, giving a feeling of space and relaxation, with smaller rooms designed to reproduce the feeling of seeing the works as they were in Lehman’s home. The collection allows you to view a range of art in an intimate, personalised setting, instead of the usual rather overwhelming feeling of the museum as a whole. Particularly strong are works from the Italian Renaissance, and a small selection of art from Europe in the 19th century provides a change of pace.

The Met is open Tuesday to Sunday (and holiday Mondays).  Entry $20 (with concessions for seniors, students and children).

(1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street, New York, New York, 10028-0198, Information: 212-535-7710)

The Conservatory Garden in Central Park

Even the park’s own website describes this garden as one of the hidden wonders of Central Park, and it provides instant respite from the busy neighbouring streets.

Sited at the quieter northern end of the park, this is the only formal garden in Central Park and its loveliness envelops the visitor in fragrant elegance all year round. There are six acres of planting divided into French, Italian and English styles, with a fountain and a reflecting pool for the chance to really lose yourself in nature.

Access the garden through the Vanderbilt Gate at 105th Street and Fifth Avenue. It is open from 8am til dusk.

Dine at HanGawi Restaurant

HanGawi has been described as a ‘temple of tranquility’ and that couldn’t be more apt. From the moment you step from the busy street into the welcoming warmth of the interior and remove your shoes, you are transported to another world.

HanGawi is a Korean vegetarian restaurant, but that description doesn’t really prepare you for the experience. Each morsel of food takes you to away to mountain tops among the clouds, while the attentive staff sooth away your 21st century worries. A meal here will leave you satisfied, but feeling light as air.

(12E 32nd Street (between 5th and Madison Ave), New York, NY 10016, 212 213 0077)

Peaceful hotels

To complete a serene trip to New York, try one of these quiet hotels:

The Library Hotel - if you’re keen to pursue the literary theme, you’ll simple love the Library Hotel. With books everywhere, including the themed rooms and the Reading Room, with a Poetry Garden and a Writer’s Den, there’s simply no excuse for not emerging wiser and more relaxed.

Rooms start at $180

(299 Madison Avenue & E 41st St, Manhattan, New York, NY 10017)

Affinia Shelburne - Murray Hill is a quiet residential district, allowing you to wind down in peace at the end of a day’s sightseeing and shopping. The Affinia Shelburne is stylish with extra indulgent touches including a pillow menu and the ‘Spaffinia’ spa with a range of in-room massages and treatments available.

Rooms start at $187

(303 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10016)