The ultimate New York Travel Guide 2021

Our New York Travel Tips for First time Visitors

Are you traveling to New York for the first time and want to get an overview of what you should pay attention to? Here, I show you step by step the most important information you need to know for your New York trip. There’s a lot to see and do in New York, from world-famous landmarks like the Empire State Building to a wide selection of unique museums and New York-style foods that you should definitely try.

Now, sit back and enjoy our New York Travel Guide to help you have a wonderful time in New York City!

By the way, we now have over 1,600 spots in the city on our site. So, if you’re looking for suitable tours, bars, restaurants, and awesome spots to visit, then you’re in the right place!

Everything you need!

Hello you 👋 Here you will find everything you need for your New York trip!

These are our best New York Travel Tips for first time visitors:

New York at a Glance

Best time to travel to New York

Visiting New York is worthwhile at any time of year, but I personally like the warm months best. Summer in New York can be very hot and humid. So, for many, the best times to visit New York is April and June, and September and October.

Spending Christmas in New York or enjoying the pre-Christmas season in New York City is also a wonderful experience. The ice rinks are open, the city is beautifully decorated, and, if it snows, the dream vacation at wintertime is perfect!

Paying in New York

You can pay for almost everything with your credit card, even the smallest amounts. Credit cards are accepted in hotels, stores, restaurants, and bars. Don’t have one yet? Then, check out the best credit card to have in the USA here.

New York for First Time Visitors: Everything You Need to Know for Your Trip (70+ pages)

 Here you’ll find everything you need for your New York trip: the most important checklists, travel and visa questions, everything you need to know about the boroughs, airport transfers and our money-saving tips.

It’s packed with all the things you need to consider when preparing for your trip. And we provide you several free tools that will make your time in New York unforgettable. Starting with our travel planner myNY, over the Hotel Finder for New York, the Transfer Hero and the New York Pass Advisor, which simply and quickly save your travel money. It is also available here:

Available at Payhip        Loving New York at Fiverr

Best Way to Travel in New York

Finding your way around New York is quite easy, even if it doesn’t look like it at first. The streets’ checkerboard pattern makes finding your way around easy. These are the best ways to get around New York:

Metro / Subway:
If you have longer distances ahead of you, then the Subway is your friend, because here you can travel really cheap. It’s easy to use! The MetroCard is available at every Subway station. You can buy single rides or the popular MetroCard for 7 days; that way you can travel for a week in New York at a fixed price. You can learn more about using the Metrocard in New York here.

Taxi: In New York, you can choose between the Yellow Cab and Uber. You can check out our tips and all the information you need to know in our following blog: Taxi in New York City.

By bike: With many of the New York sightseeing passes (you can find out more about this budget tip in my New York Pass comparison), the bike rental is included. We ourselves really love using New York’s Citi Bikes. This city bike program has over 1,000 stations throughout New York City, and it’s super-cheap. We’ll show you how it works in the Citi Bike New York article.

On Foot: You’ll be surprised how much walking you’ll do in New York. After all, there’s something to see on every corner. So be sure to bring comfortable shoes!

Where to Stay in New York?

Which neighborhood is best for you depends on several things: your interests, how close you want to be to the attractions and what your travel budget is. In the image below, I’ve drawn you my favorite neighborhoods of New York including the main attractions nearby.

And, on the subject of safety: In all of Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and large parts of Queens, you don’t have to worry about being out and about in the evening. New York City is one of the safest cities in the world!

Find your perfect hotel in no time!

More than 100 hotels and over 70 neighborhoods to choose from –and after just 4 quick questions, I’ll show you which hotels in New York are best suited for you!

Where Should you Stay in New York?

where to stay in New york

Manhattan – it doesn’t get more central than this: Manhattan is the most famous borough of them all. Plus, it contains 95% of all the attractions New York is known for. Everything is within easy reach, and you are right in the middle of it all. On the other hand, the hotels are a bit more expensive than in Brooklyn or Queens.

Here, you can find my 33 hotel tips for Manhattan.

Brooklyn – urban and relaxed: For a long time, Brooklyn was the insider’s tip: now it’s “completely” normal neighborhoods. However, you’ll quickly notice one thing: life is much more normal, because it’s more of a residential area. It’s super relaxed, pleasant, and just as diverse as Manhattan. Above all, you can enjoy the Manhattan skyline from here!

Here, you can find my 20 hotel tips for Brooklyn.

Queens – the new trendy neighborhood: Queens is a bit more “normal” than Brooklyn is, but, lately, we’ve noticed that it is getting more and more gentrified. The hotels in Long Island City (not to be confused with Long Island!) are especially popular because they are cheaper compared to Manhattan—and they have a perfect connection to the Subway, which makes Queens a great alternative to Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Here, you can find my 20 hotel tips for Queens.

What to See in New York?

One thing to know in advance: just because there is so much to see in New York, a little planning makes absolute sense. For highlights like the Empire State Building (here), the Edge Hudson Yards observation deck (here) or the One World Observatory (here), I recommend buying the tickets online in advance. This will not only save you waiting time on site, but you can also be sure that you will actually be able to visit your desired sights.

👉 These are our 33 best attractions in New York.

These are my tips after more than 20 visits to New York:

  • Observation decks: New York City has no less than five (!) major observation decks to offer, and each one is a dream in itself. My two favorites are The Edge Hudson Yards and the One World Observatory, because from here you have a sensational view of New York from above and you can see the Empire State Building. From the end of 2021, another cool option will be added with the glass One Vanderbilt. One more thing about the Empire State Building: It’s the most visited observation deck in New York, so it’s always busy. Avoid the crowds in the morning – and if you really want to go to the Empire State Building in the evening, choose Thursday, Friday or Saturday. During those times, a saxophonist plays on the observation deck. Important: book the Skip-the-Line-Tickets (you can do that here). Then, you can easily save 1-2 hours of waiting time!
  • Visit the Statue of Liberty: The trip from Battery Park to the Statue of Liberty is super-popular. To save yourself long waiting times, make sure you take the first ferry of the day. Here, you can find the best Statue of Liberty Cruises right now.
  • Definitely take a boat tour, because seeing New York from the water is like being on vacation. Choices range from the free Staten Island Ferry or the NYC Ferry ($2.75 each way) to sailing tours (gorgeous) and the classic sightseeing tours that are included with all major New York passes.
  • Walk along the High Line from the Meatpacking District to Hudson Yards.
  • Visit Times Square in the evening – that’s when it’s at its most impressive.
  • Relax in Central Park or Bryant Park.
  • Plan a maximum of three attractions per day. After all, you don’t want any sightseeing stress.
Save up to 70% on tickets

New York Budget Tip

With the right New York sightseeing pass, you can easily save a lot of money on up to 100 tours and attractions. To find out if a New York Pass is worth it (or not), check out our free New York Pass Advisor to find out which New York Pass is best for you.

And on this page you’ll find our New York Pass comparison.

Itineraries in New York

You don’t know where to start? Then let us inspire you! We have some suggestions for you. By the way, the most popular is the 1 week New York itinerary.

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Check out our preview here.

Our Travel Guide is also available at

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What to Do in New York?

For me, an unforgettable New York trip includes the following things in addition to visiting the main sights:

Go Shopping

New York is also really good for shopping. There are many small shopping spots and addresses, but also the big brands can often be found with flagship stores. If that’s not enough, you can go shopping in one of the outlets and flea markets of New York.

The best shopping areas in New York are Broadway, SoHo, Chelsea, the Meatpacking District, and Williamsburg in Brooklyn. And, of course, 5th Avenue!

Avoid Times Square for shopping!

A real tourist trap are the stores around Times Square – they are not only overpriced, but also the quality is not right in most cases!

Here you can find our Guide to Shopping in New York with everything you need to know!

Visit a Rooftop Bar

I love the rooftop bars of New York . You can sit and relax, enjoy a sensational view of the city and listen to relaxing music. All this mixes with the so-typical sounds of the city in the background, and if you have something delicious to drink or eat on top of that, it can’t get any better! You can see where we like to go in our article on the 43 best rooftop bars in New York.

By the way, if you want to experience the view of New York when you get up early in the morning, check out my list of the 26 best New York hotels with a view!

Visit a Broadway Show

New York is known for its many musicals and Broadway shows – most of which are performed in the Theatre District around Times Square. Here are our tips on the best Broadway Shows in New York. If you already know which Broadway show you want to see, I recommend ordering the tickets in advance (here). If you’re still flexible, you can buy leftover tickets at TKTS in Times Square, for example.

Attend a Parade or Special Event

OK, hotel is booked, attractions are on the list, the myNY itinerary is ready, shopping spots are sighted and the first restaurants and bars are also noted. Now comes the last step on the list to the perfect travel planning for New York: the events, parades, and holidays.

They are the icing on the cake of every New York vacation and, therefore, could not be missed in our New York Travel Guide! Just check out our monthly specials that are relevant to you: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November and December.

Enjoying the Gastro Scene (in the Evening)

Now comes one of my favorite parts of planning our New York trips: the city’s many bars, restaurants, rooftop bars, and food markets. In our travel guide and insider guides on the website, we put a lot of emphasis on finding the best gastro spots and rooftop bars. So, feel free to browse through them, and if you like something, just add it to your myNY itinerary. Just click on the heart symbol, and you’re done!

Marvel at Grand Central Station

Be sure to take the time to see Grand Central Station. Not only is it the setting for many series and movies set in New York, it’s also very impressive and has a fantastic ceiling!

Stop searching🚦 These are the 50 Absolute Best Things to Do in New York (90+ pages)

TOP 50 Things to Do in NYCWe’ve chosen the 50 best spots, events and activities to showcase the full diversity of New York City. Even after more than 20 visits, the city never gets boring for us. And with our recommendations, you’ll have a really good time in New York, too, and you’ll have plenty left for your next visit. If you’re not planning a trip yet, you’re sure to get wanderlust after perusing this list! Also available here:

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Walking through DUMBO and Soho

The neighborhoods of DUMBO in Brooklyn and Soho in Manhattan are among the most iconic neighborhoods in the city and are fascinating for their combination of old New York with new New York.

What to Eat in New York?

What should I start with first? With the New York pizza slice, the New York cheesecake, the wonderful pastrami sandwiches at Katz’ Delicatessen, or at the Pastrami Queen? In addition, Wolfgang’s Steakhouse and Luger are two really good steak restaurants waiting for you and if you want to eat really good burgers: go to J.G. Melon, the hidden Burger Joint or Shake Shack!

I hope my New York Travel Guide helped you plan your first trip to New York. Was there anything missing? Feel free to write it in the comments!

I wish you a wonderful time in New York City!

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About the author
Steffen

I'm a true New York fan! Not only have I visited the city over 20 times but also have I spent several months here at a time. On this blog, I want to share everything I have learned and discovered, so you can have the best time in the greatest city in the world. By the way: Did you like my article? Then think about becoming a supporter of us on Patreon!

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