Spending only 2 days in New York to see the best places is no easy feat, but with a great itinerary, it’s possible.
Whether it’s a weekend in the Big Apple, or during the middle of the week, here’s a 2-day program of New York, including many of its famous landmarks.
Your activities will depend heavily on where you will be staying. Some will be in Upper Manhattan with a view of Central Park. Others prefer the hipper side of Brooklyn. Taking these into account, day one will involve a path that begins at Brooklyn Bridge and ends at Times Square. But for day two, I’ll start the itinerary in upper Manhattan, by Central Park.
Get up, early riser! The first half of your 2 days in New York journey will begin by crossing the great Brooklyn Bridge, when there aren’t many people, yet.
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😎 Credit for this cool photo of the Brooklyn Bridge @connorr_martinn. 😎 ⠀ From Al Capone to Jay-Z, Brooklyn is an iconic neighbourhood that's been endlessly referenced in pop culture. It is home to many cultural institutions, museums, restaurants and bars that everyone can enjoy, from hipsters and intellectuals to visitors who'd like to have a bite of the realer side of New York. ⠀ ⠀ Eat pizza. See art. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. What do you like to do in Brooklyn 🤩?⠀ ⠀ Have a pic to share with us? Tag us or use #TWISPER for a chance to get your pic reposted 😉.
It’s the start of your 48 hours in New York – the city that never sleeps. But early morning is when most tourists aren’t out yet, so I highly recommend that you start the itinerary by crossing the Brooklyn Bridge.
One of the most famous bridges in the world, the Brooklyn Bridge was conceived in the 1850s by Prussian-born engineer, John Augustus Roebling, who wanted to create a bridge to make the commute easier for the working class of New York.
It’s a nice walk, and it also offers a beautiful view of Wall St and its buildings.
Staten Island Ferry
This passenger ferry runs between Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan and St. George Terminal in Staten Island. As one of the best bargains in New York, it offers stunning views of the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, for free! Be aware of scammers trying to sell tickets!
A single route lasts for 25 minutes, and a distance of 8.4 km or 5.2 miles. The ferry at both stops leaves every half hour, on the hour (e.g. 12 pm and then 12:30 pm). Door-to-door, your return trip can last up to an hour, under normal circumstances. The ferry trips are quite frequent, even during the weekends.
Other things to be careful about: it can get foggy during the winter season. When it’s packed during rush hour, you might not be able to take the same ferry back to Manhattan, so add 30-45 minutes of extra time in your New York itinerary to make sure that you’ll be ready to visit the next places on the list!
After the ride, give yourself 15-20 minutes to travel to Wall Street. Historically called “de Waal Straat” back when New York was a Dutch settlement, Wall Street is now a world-famous district known for its importance in regulating the global financial market. It’s also the place to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum as a way to commemorate the tragic events of September 11, 2001.
Give yourself 2-3 hours to visit the whole place, because there are many notable landmarks. Here are some of them.
Charging Bull aka financial district bull
Weighing 3200 kg (7000lb), this bronze bull statue in front of the New York Stock Exchange mysteriously appeared on December 15, 1989.
Its sculptor, Sicilian Arturo DiModica, conceived and paid for this statue out of his own pocket. It symbolizes the grit and determination of New Yorkers (and Americans in general), especially after the Wall Street crash of 1987. For DiModica who arrived as a penniless immigrant in New York in 1970, the Bull represents the “power of the American people”. Lurching forward to thrust toward Wall Street, the Bull is on the offensive, ready to take down any hurdles across its path.
Here’s how DiModica got the Bull to where it’s currently at without the authorities’ knowledge.
For many of us born at least before 1995, we have a degree of familiarity with what happened on September 11, 2001. It was a tragic event that left many of us stunned, from everywhere across the world. Two hijacked planes crashed into the twin towers, killing everyone in the aircraft and injuring countless others in the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.
There’s a lot to process, on an emotional level. Take your time to visit this place, from the Survivor Tree (a tree at the site, which miraculously survived 9/11) to the museum. Visiting the whole area should take around 2-3 hours.
One World Observatory
Alternatively, or if you still want to stay for a bit longer in Wall Street, you can also go to the One World Observatory that boasts a 360-view of New York. It’s the main building of the rebuilt World Trade Center complex. They also have regular exhibitions happening, and going up through the elevator is a marvel of travel and speed. Book online, so you can choose your entry time. You can also have a drink or two at their bar!
Little Italy (lunch)/Chinatown
After Wall St, you can head over to either Little Italy or Chinatown for a nice meal. Both neighborhoods are close to Wall St so that you can choose based on your liking. New York is one of the food capitals of the world, so multicultural cuisine in New York is on another level.
After eating, you can take the subway to the High Line, for a bit of nature and a walk. High Line is a former elevated railway converted into a linear park that offers tours and exhibitions, alongside many different plants species native to the US.
Give yourself around 60 minutes to walk across 2.3km.
It’s a great way to unwind in a New York that’s usually filled with people. And it also offers an exquisite perspective of the city’s skyscrapers and red-brick buildings.
After taking some time off to chill at the High Line, you can head over to the Flatiron District to see the historic Flatiron Building, one of the first steel-framed buildings in the city. The building has been the subject of many Instagram selfies for its unusual design – a triangular-shaped tower built in 1902 to fit a narrow plot of land.
Empire State Building
Did you know that it only took one year to build the Empire State Building? This iconic skyscraper has been referenced in many films, including “King Kong” and “The Amazing Spider-man”.
Times Square’s midnight moment
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“Times Square is the ultra-urban, the very incarnation of remoteness from natural life. That the deer, dogs, and birds will pelt down in their furious race across the screens of the city, towering over the audience, seems to me to add yet another dimension to the film—bringing nature where it once was and showing its timelessness against the scale of human construction.” — Vergine Keaton, visual artist and director. Experience Vergine Keaton's 'I was crying out at life' in Times Square at 11:57p.m. nightly throughout January as this month's #MidnightMoment. Video credit: Tatyana Tenenbaum for @tsqarts
Finish the first half of your 2 days in New York by going to Times Square, the epicenter of New York. As one of my favorite places in New York City, the whole district looks especially fantastic in the evening, with all the neon and billboards scintillating into a light show, amongst the mayhem of the New York crowd.
Related reading: 8 things to do in New York in December
It’s the 2nd half of your 2 days in New York journey, and we will begin with one of The US’s famous green spaces – Central Park.
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Often called "Gothic Bridge" thanks to its ornate aesthetic, Bridge No. 28 – as it’s officially known – was designed in 1864 by Calvert Vaux. Spanning the bridle path between the northern Reservoir and tennis courts, it is an impressive piece of art for all to enjoy. Thank you to @leoizar for this breathtaking shot that is our #MondayMotivation. 📍 Mid-Park at 94th Street
It’s the second half of your 2 days in New York, and this time, we will start with Upper Manhattan. The human-made 843 acres of greenery is a great way to start the morning.
Visit the Conservatory Garden, go by the carousel, have a morning picnic during the summer, row the boat across the lake, or watch people pass by. There’s a memorial site for John Lennon at Strawberry Fields, and a zoo that opens at 10 am.
By the way, if you want to read more about NYC parks, Corey from Fifi + Hop has an amazing article on the best ones to visit, so check it out 😍.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
One of the greatest museums of the 21st century, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) contains some of the most significant collections that span across humanity’s recorded history and the entire world, from Egyptian tombs and Renaissance paintings to Japanese armor and Chinese porcelain.
Plan ahead with the exhibitions you want to visit and give yourself 3-4 hours to see them. It should give you enough time to experience what you want to see.
From May to October, the MET also features an excellent rooftop exhibition. It’s a bit of a secret, and you can take the elevator up in the back of the museum, buy a glass of wine, and look over Central Park.
Alternative option: Visit the Museum of Modern Art
If you’re into something more contemporary and avant-garde instead, maybe you can skip the MET and go for the MoMa, instead, especially if you want to see Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night.
The MoMa is also smaller and less overwhelming than the MET. It has a tendency that leans more towards modern art that’s experimental.
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After all the sightseeing, shopping centers in the US are also another type of tourist attraction, especially if you’re from Europe, where shopping centers pale in comparison.
As one of New York’s most famous landmarks, the Rockerfeller Center has so many things for everyone to do. There’s the world-famous ice skating rink. You can also have a panoramic view of New York and Central Park from the Top of the Rock Observatory (for a price, of course), if you have not had enough of the sight of the city. You can also see the gilded Prometheus statue. And of course, you can go (window) shopping in its expensive stores.
The Rockefeller Center is so grand and beautiful that it made into Chloe’s post on the most IG-worthy places in the Big 🍏! Check it out!
Take a tour of the Grand Central Station
One of the most iconic (and busiest) stations in America, Grand Central Station has over a million commuters passing through every day. This station would have been destroyed in the 1960s in favor of a more lucrative skyscraper if it weren’t for the lobbying of Jacqueline Onassis, former wife of John F. Kennedy.
This station is rich in history, from the fast clocks to the Whispering Gallery, and it’s worth getting a tour of the whole place.
After this, you can go to The Campbell Bar, a hidden, almost-speakeasy bar next to Grand Central Station. The cocktails are quite pricey, but the gilded-age décor and cool vibe make up for it.
It’s tough to include everything in an article on 2 days in New York.
But with this New York itinerary, you should be able to visit many of the famous landmarks that have turned New York into the iconic city as it is today.
What’s your favorite thing to do in New York? Let us know!