New York City Guide

A Manhattan View

Manhattan View

Arguably one of the most recognisable in the world, the Manhattan skyline is pretty impressive to behold. And there are a million and one ways to see it. You can climb to the top one of the very buildings that make the Manhattan skyline so memorable. Or, my personal favourite, you can drink in the view with a cocktail in hand at one of the many rooftop bars in NYC.

The Empire State Building vs. the Top of the Rock

Manhattan View 1

Top: The Chrysler Building seen from the Empire State Building
Bottom: The Empire State Building seen from the Top of the Rock

In my five months in New York, I made it to the top of the Empire State Building twice (once during the day, once at night) and to the Top of the Rock (at the Rockefeller Centre) only once. And despite going back up the Empire State for a second time, I would have to say the Top of the Rock wins hand down.

Manhattan View 3

Night at the Empire State Building

While the view is still beautiful, the main problem with being on top of the Empire State Building is that you can’t see the Empire State Building. That, and the view to Central Park is blocked by the rival Rockefeller Centre. From the Top of the Rock, however, you can see the Empire State Building to the south AND Central Park to the north. It is definitely my pick of the two.

Manhattan View 2

Looking north from Top of the Rock

And if you do decide to go with the Empire State Building, my one piece of advice is to avoid what is called the NY Skyride. What can only be described as an “interesting” experience, the NY Skyride is a simulated helicopter-come-spaceship ride through New York City. Sold to us as the perfect introduction to NYC, the only thing the Skyride will do is confuse your understanding of the city’s geography and make you laugh in disbelief that you paid for 30-minutes of Kevin Bacon’s voice narrating you through an 80s streetscape of Manhattan, complete with a surprise shark in the Hudson River. Proceed with caution.

Rooftop Bars

Cocktails at a rooftop bar is an absolute must-do when in New York. I was lucky to make it to quite a few during my stay. Here are my picks for the best spots to grab a drink with a Manhattan view.

Le Bain at the Standard (444 W13th Street, Meatpacking District, New York, between Washington Street & 10th Avenue)

Le Bain is a pumping nightclub and rooftop bar at the Standard Hotel in the Meatpacking District. This is the place to dance the night away against the beautiful backdrop of the Manhattan skyline. Ironically, the best view by far is from the bathrooms. And if you’re after a more laid back vibe, the rooftop is the place to be.

Chloe & Alex at Le Bain

Chloe & Alex at Le Bain

The Press Lounge at Ink48 (653 11th Avenue, Hells Kitchen, New York, between W47th & W48th Street)

The Press Lounge is great for some more laid back drinks with friends. With a view of the city from the West, the skyline is there to be seen in all its glory. This is the perfect place to see Manhattan during the winter as the enclosed area keeps the warmth in, while floor to ceiling glass allows for uninterrupted views of the city. You might want to prepare your wallets though, the view at the Press Lounge comes with a price. The drinks are great, but not cheap. For those of us whose wallets don’t stretch very far, this might just be the perfect venue to start the night with a view and a drink, before moving on to somewhere more affordable.

But no matter which way you do it, whether you’re the cocktail type or not, gaining a Manhattan view is something you just have to do when you’re in New York.

Also in this series:

A Coffee Lover’s Guide to New York City

Coffee

Good coffee is a rare commodity in America. In my five months there I made it somewhat of a mission to find where the good coffee was hiding. And I did manage to find some.

New York City is a bit of a haven for food and coffee lovers alike, but you do have to do a bit of research to find where to go. Here are my picks for the best coffee I found in NYC.

Manhattan

Ninth Street Espresso

My first good coffee experience in the US was three weeks into my trip at Ninth Street Espresso at the Chelsea Market in New York. It was like heaven in a cup. And I could not have been happier that New York was going to be my home for five months. With three locations in Lower Manhattan, this place is reserved for trendy New Yorkers and those that enjoy a good brew.

Coffee 1

Joe Coffee

Joe Coffee certainly has made a name for itself as one of the premier places to enjoy coffee in New York. I had heard and read a lot about the place before I got to try it so expectations were high. And I wasn’t disappointed. The best part, with eight locations scattered across Manhattan, you don’t have to go far to find a good coffee.

Irving Farm Coffee Roasters

I stumbled upon the Irving Farm Coffee Roasters one afternoon when I was touristing around the Upper West Side. I had heard nothing of this little cafe so it was a bit of a gamble going in. But I was very pleasantly surprised. Found at three locations in Manhattan, it is definitely worth a try.

Brooklyn

Brooklyn Roasting Company

This is another place I just happened to stumble upon in my travels. And if you do venture over the bridge to Brooklyn (which I highly recommend), then it is definitely worth a visit. The coffee is delicious and the place just oozes cool.

Photos: Lauren Waldhuter

Coffee 5

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Brunch, a New York City Institution

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The NYC brunch is no ordinary brunch. New Yorkers seem to forget that “brunch” is supposed to be a breakfast-come-lunch affair. Instead, brunch rarely occurs before midday and it often lasts all afternoon.

Restaurants cater to this phenomenon with many offering good value weekend specials. My favourite: the boozy kind. In my four months living in New York I managed to squeeze in quite a few brunch dates. And it quickly became my favourite thing to do in the city.

Often you can simply wander through the Lower West or Lower East neighbourhoods of Manhattan and stumble upon a good deal. Or you can do a bit of research beforehand and find exactly what you are looking for. Bookings are rare for groups smaller than 6, so more often than not you’ll have to wait for a table.

NYC is full of different places that serve up a good brunch, but these are a few of my favourite places where you can experience a true New York City brunch.

The Boozy Kind

It isn’t a true NYC brunch without some sort of booze. These brunch places offer weekend specials that include both food AND alcohol. Bottomless, unlimited alcohol. Sometimes with a time limit, sometimes without.

Tre (173 Ludlow Street, New York, between East Houston and Stanton)

Tre is a cute, Italian place with great food and a classy atmosphere. And for only $21.95, you will get a meal and unlimited Champagne, Mimosas and Bellinis.

On a nice day the courtyard out the back is the place to be. The tables are covered in cute checked red-and-white tablecloths giving it an authentic Italian feel. The champagne is quality so there is no need to mask it with any juice. And the food is delicious.

Water served in mason jars are sure to keep the Lower East Side hipsters happy. And while drinks are limited to an hour and a half, there is still certainly enough time to fit in more than a few glasses of champagne.

This is the place for a more classy boozy brunch.

Agave (140 7th Avenue, New York, between Charles and West 10th)

Keeping with the fancier theme, Agave is a boozy brunch complete with white table cloths. Located in the West Village, this Mexican restaurant offers frozen Margaritas along with the standard Mimosas.

A little bit more on the expensive side, $24.95 will get you 2 hours of bottomless wine, Mimosas or frozen Margaritas plus any egg item. Now this may sound like a disappointing offer (apologies to anyone who doesn’t enjoy a good egg dish), but their egg menu is pretty impressive. Even the vegetarian in me can’t help but be impressed with a menu that includes “Lobster Benedict”.

And if that doesn’t impress you, the 2 hours of bottomless booze should make up for it. It’s surprising how many frozen Margaritas can be consumed in that time.

So if you’re a fan of eggs, enjoy a bit of Mexican and like your Margaritas, then don’t miss out on this boozy brunch.

The Delicious Kind

While the boozy brunch spots I mentioned above do serve up delicious food too, the following places don’t have any alcohol included as part of the brunch special, but are worthy of a special mention for their food alone.

Cafe Mogador (101 St Marks Place, New York, between 1st Avenue and Avenue A)

Brunch at the Cafe Mogador is in high demand on the weekends, but is well worth the wait. Like Agave, it is another all-egg menu (sorry egg-haters), but this time with a Moroccan twist.

For the very small price of $14, you get the choice of an egg dish (the Moroccan Benedict is the most popular), a fresh orange juice and a coffee. And their coffee is good, a definite luxury in America.

And if you can’t bear to do a brunch without some alcohol, for a little extra cash you can add some booze. The Blood Orange Mimosas can be hard to resist.

Clinton Street Baking Co. & Restaurant (4 Clinton Street, New York, between East Houston and Stanton)

Clinton Street Baking Co. & Restaurant is another brunch that is in high demand on the weekends. I managed to get myself there on a weekday to avoid the long wait. It was under a friend’s recommendation that I spent a bit of time in this cute little cafe escaping from the weather one rainy day in New York.

They have fresh juices for the health conscious and milkshakes (made with ice cream from Brooklyn) for the not-so-healthy decadent types. And above all else, this place is known for having some of the best pancakes in New York. And they do not disappoint.

This little gem of a cafe in the Lower East Side is the perfect place for an afternoon of decadence.

Edi and the Wolf (102 Avenue C, New York, between 6th and 7th)

Hands down, Edi and the Wolf was the single most delicious brunch I had while in NYC.

For only $18 this trendy little place will serve you a delicious meal, a coffee, a choice between fresh OJ or warm cider (perfect in the colder months) AND a basket of baked goodies including croissants and pain au chocolat.

And the food was to die for. The baked goods were fresh and came out in cute miniature-sized pieces (always my favourite). The OJ was fresh. And the coffee was so good that I had to have a second.

This is a place for hipsters, coffee-snobs and food-lovers alike.

Brunch is a New York City institution. The best advice I can give is to do your research. You really haven’t done New York if you haven’t done brunch.

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Updated 11 August 2014.