Just back from... New York!

Central Park in fall, (photo by Sarah Clark)
Central Park in fall

For a city-lover, New York really is the Big Apple. The definitive urban metropolis, with personality and atmosphere to burn, glamour and grit in equal measure ­and a cinematic landscape to explore – not to mention entertainment, shopping and restaurants galore – it’s no wonder that New York is so many people’s favourite city. Insight editor, Sarah, gives her impressions of a fall holiday in NYC.

 

I’m lucky: being half-American, I have family based across the US, including in the prime location of New York’s Upper West Side. So I’d been a few times before and although it had been a while since NYC and I were aquainted, this time I wasn’t looking to do the big tourist sights or hit every area. Instead, I wanted to revisit some of my discoveries from last time, go to some of the places I’d heard so much about but never seen for myself, and of course, eat and shop well.

I would always heartily recommend seeing the major landmarks to first-time visitors to New York, but most evocative part of visiting the city is just walking the streets, soaking up the energy and discovering the different characters of each neighbourhood. It’s addictive, and with public transportation so quick and straightforward to navigate (well, the subway, anyway), you can easily cover wildly contrasting parts of Manhattan – or Brooklyn – in one day.

Here’s a whirlwind tour around the highlights from my Return to New York.

 

CENTRAL PARK

We arrived in mid-November, after what had apparently been an Indian summer and very mild autumn so far. As a result, we were in no way too late to witness the stunning “Fall Colors” that you usually associate more with New England, further north. Central Park was the ideal place to start a day in the city and it was a riot of vibrant colours, on a perfectly crisp fall day.

 

Central Park

 

FLATIRON DISTRICT

Having wandered up from Union Square, the Greenmarket held there and a lunch stop-off for a perfectly-New York burger, we explored the buzzy Flatiron District, named for the distinctive Flatiron building and packed with design companies, stores and funky eateries, often making the most of produce from the aforementioned Greenmarket. The Empire State Building – which also looks incredible lit up at night – looms up ahead.

 

Flatiron District

 

DUMBO

The artists have largely moved on and it’s not a cutting-edge discovery anymore, but DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) is still evocative of a particular kind of New York warehouse-now-design-studio cool. And with top-notch views of Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan’s East River skyline from the well-designed Brooklyn Bridge Park, it would be worth coming here even if we didn't know of a great place for brunch and of some cool shops to browse.

 

DUMBO

 

THE HIGH LINE

This was one of my must-dos. The High Line opened after my last visit to New York and having edited several guides to the city since, I was chomping at the bit to see this distinctive urban park for myself. Built on a disused elevated rail line, this public park is a pedestrian walkway that juxtaposes lovingly cultivated plant life, relaxing wooden benches for rest or contemplation, and intriguing sculptures with the busy, industrial landscape below. It also provided the ideal vantage point for this incredible sunset and a dropping off point into the hip and buzzy Meatpacking District, which is packed with great places to eat and drink.

 

Sunset in New York

 

ONE WORLD TRADE CENTER

The new One World Trade Center building – located by Ground Zero – has been erected since I was last in the city six years ago. It's truly impressive and moving to see this elegant skyscraper standing tall, and it feels feels right to take a moment to reflect on the sombre events of thirteen years previously.

 

One World Trade Center

 

GREENWICH VILLAGE

Whether your mental image of Greenwich comes from Bob Dylan or Friends, the low-rise brownstones and general bohemian (if pretty gentrified) romance of the place make the Village a charming area to wander in. Not so much a district for sights as for finding the perfect hipster or historic café and soaking up the ambiance.

 

Greenwich Village

 

CHELSEA MARKET

I’m not much of a food blogger, but this classic New York sandwich, subsequently wolfed down in Meatpacking’s Chelsea Market, deserved its camera time. The Reuben is increasingly familiar in London, but trust me, I’ve never tasted a pastrami-filled, heart-stopping beauty like this at home. And with everything from oysters to cupcakes under one roof, Chelsea Market is a food-lover’s dream. I was only sorry that we didn’t visit until our last day in the city! Honourable mention also goes to the Upper West Side’s Zabar’s – no pictures, but this is the only place to come for bagels and knishes, amongst other classic New York eats.

 

Reuben sandwich in Chelsea Market

 

Read our in-depth online travel guide to New York City...