New York City (2023) – AMAZING 4 Day Itinerary

New York City is an exciting city to visit but it can also feel overwhelming, especially for first-time travelers – just like we were before our recent trip to the Big Apple. We have created this amazing 4 day itinerary that will deliver you with the ultimate experience of New York in terms of culture, food, sights and everything else that the city has to offer.

New York City high rise buildings during the day

When to go: We went to New York City in the beginning of June when the crowds have not yet arrived and the weather was just perfect – not too warm, but warm enough to walk around comfortably in t-shirt and jeans. However, public spaces and the subway in New York are heavily air-conditioned to the extent that we were freezing in our summer outfits. We started carrying a jacket and scarf even on the warmest of days and would recommend you do the same.

Cheapest time to visit: The cheapest time to go to New York is from January until March offering the highest discounts on flights, hotels and entertainment. The most expensive time to visit are the summer months and the month of December, especially the days leading up to Christmas and New Years Eve. However, weather-wise you are better off in the period of May/June and September/November with less rain and more sunny days.

How to get there: We took a United Airlines flight from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport to Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), New Jersey. Of course you can also travel to one of New York’s other airports including John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) or LaGuardia Airport (LGA; primarily serves domestic flights), which are both located in Queens.

United Airlines in-flight meal including egg, fresh fruit and a chocolate muffin

Newark Airport to Manhatten: From Newark Liberty International Airport, you will have three options to get to Manhatten:

  • AirTrain Newark – our recommendation: walk to the main hall of the airport and then look for directions for the AirTrain. There will be ticket machines where you will be able to buy (by card or cash) a ticket for around $15 per person. With that you will first board the AirTrain and get off after 3 stations at Amtrak’s Newark Liberty International Airport train station. Here you will change to the NJ train line, which will get you to Penn Station in 45 mins. From there you can take a subway to your hotel.
  • call a Lyft or an Uber for $50. You can calculate an additional 10-20% on top of that for tipping. It’s the most expensive but the most convenient and fastest option getting you to Manhattan in about 25 minutes, depending on traffic.
  • Newark Airport Express bus: you can board the shuttle bus from terminals A, B and C. The cost is $18 for one way and $30 for a round trip. You can buy the tickets online in advance or on the bus (only cash). The bus runs every 20 minutes and should get you to midtown in about 45 minutes, depending on traffic.

Where to stay: We stayed at the Queens Hotel located in Queens, where we paid €117 per night for a double room. The room was clean and air-conditioned and although the personnel did not speak English, they were accommodating (e.g. giving us a kettle upon request). The location was convenient – each morning we walked 10 minutes to Woodside subway station and took a direct subway to Manhattan. Of course, you could also get a hotel located in Manhattan, but expect to pay nothing less than 200€ per night.

Public Transport: distances in New York are huge, so you will definitely need to make use of the public transport system, even if your hotel is located in Manhattan. Here are your two best options:

  • OMNY – our recommendation: OMNY (One Metro New York) is the contactless fare payment system for public transport in New York. You tap with your own contactless card or smart device (we used our WISE card via Google Pay) and pay the full fare of $2.75 (€2.50) per ride no matter where you go. OMNY is capped so once you have reached $33 (12 trips), you will no longer have to pay for any further rides. Be aware that the time frame for this is Monday to Sunday and that if you let someone else tap in within 15 minutes after you, only the first tap counts towards your unlimited rides.
  • 7 Day Unlimited Metro Pass: you can also purchase a 7 day unlimited metro pass for $33 at the subway vending machine, which are located in the subway stations. However, none of our European cards worked here including Google Pay, so make sure to have cash ready. The advantage of the metro pass is that it gets activated on the day of your purchase. The disadvantage is that you pay $33 up-front even though you may not take as many subway rides. We paid $30 in subway rides per person, so it may just be worth it for the convenience.
Day 1
Lox Bagel and Draft Latte on Tap
Lox Bagel and Draft Latte in Queens, New York City

After an eight-hour flight and the stress of figuring out the New York subway system, we first needed to unwind. Of course, we wanted to do this New-York-style, which is why we went to Moa Coffee, a local coffee place just around the corner of our hotel and ordered a Lox and a half cold brew and half oat milk draft latte on tap. Yes, you have heard correctly. We have only been to New York a couple of hours and already stumbled upon a coffee innovation we didn’t even know existed! Coupled with a classic Lox – a bagel topped with cream cheese and brined salmon, we reset our energy stores.

Bedford Avenue
Popeye's on Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn

Since we were pretty jet-lagged, we decided to take it slow on our first day and hence headed to Brooklyn. Our first stop was the famous Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Not only is it Brooklyn’s longest street, it supposed to offer the best shopping experience with lots of restaurants, bars and boutiques to pop into as well. Apparently, we walked the wrong part of Bedford Avenue, because our experience was not that. Although we walked along it for an hour, we only saw cars that looked like they’ve been through an episode of “Pimp My Ride” blasting loud hip-hop music as well as exotic supermarkets but none of what was promised.

Reuben Sandwich at Junior’s Brooklyn
Reuben Sandwich in Junior's Brooklyn

The good thing about Bedford Avenue is that it led us to Junior’s Brooklyn. Not only did we have our very first original American diner experience here, we also tried a Reuben Sandwich for the very first time. It is literally a mouthful as you can see on the picture consisting of grilled rye bread with corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing. It was as delicious as it looks like! Make it even more delicious by topping it with Junior’s original mustard. Since Junior’s is world famous for their New York cheesecake, you have reason enough to stay and kibbitz (argue) over dessert.

Brooklyn Heights Promenade
Brooklyn Heights Promenade view over Manhattan skyline

You can end the day by walking to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. There you can indulge in a breathtaking view over the Manhattan skyline along the East river. Head to the fruit streets (Cranberry, Orange and Pineapple) of Brooklyn Height afterwards to experience the Brooklyn you see in the movies. Circa 1880 Lady Middagh disliked the pretentious street names (named after wealthy families) of her hood and decided to change them all in into fruit names overnight.

Day 2
Walk the High Line Park
Street Art in High Line Park in New York

The High Line Park is a public, elevated park in New York that is constructed on an old railway line in the West of Manhattan. It runs along the former National Biscuit Company (Nabisco), which now houses Chelsea Market. The trains that ran here used to deliver flour to Nabisco, which contributed to the creation of the original Oreo cookie. Now you will find an open food-court here. Make sure you don’t miss the 10th Avenue Square Overlook, a window down to the street and a place for public performances.

Have lunch at Chelsea Market

Chelsea market is an amazing food hall housing giants such as Los Taco’s No.1, New Yorks best taco spot or Miznon, a great Middle Eastern joint. We can highly recommend the cactus taco alongside a tamarind drink. Don’t get intimidated by the long queue, it is moving fast and absolutely worth it. Head to Seed & Mill. for a creamy halva dessert. Don’t miss the market’s iconic fountain, which was created using the original piping and drill bits of the Oreo creator Nabisco company.

The Vessel
The Vessel in New York City

The Vessel is a honeycomb building close to the High Line Park and Chelsea Market. Due to many suicides, the Vessel is closed indefinitely, but you can still admire the building that was created as part of the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project. It is comprised of 154 interconnected flights of stairs and served as the screening location for the TV Show ‘Westworld’ starring Evan Rachel Wood. Opposite you will find a big mall offering lots of shopping and eating options among them Magnolia’s Bakery.

Gap Ad on Broadway in New York City

One of New York’s most famous attractions: Broadway awaits you a few streets further ahead. Originally named ‘Heerenstraat’ or ‘High Street’ after a similar street in Amsterdam, the British renamed it “Broadway” after taking over the city, because of the streets unusually grand width. Today you can get discounted Broadway tickets to shows such as ‘The Book of Mormon’, ‘Chicago’ and ‘The Lion King’ there. Although not the cheapest endeavor (avg. $130), it certainly makes for a unique New York experience.

Times Square
Times Square in New York City

Following Broadway, you will definitely want to stop at Times Square and have a look around at the most famous billboards of the world. Times Square was originally called Longacre Square but was renamed after the New York Times moved their office to West 43rd Street, where it continues to be. You will find fast food joints and shops around Times Square but can also stay for some people-watching. Once again, you will have an opportunity to buy discounted Broadway tickets here.

Banana Pudding at Magnolia’s Bakery

Magnolia’s Bakery became famous through ‘Sex and the City’, where we watched Carry indulge in their famous vanilla cupcakes. Now, people line up for their banana pudding and boy, you should too. Banana pudding in hand you can explore the merch at the NBC studios store right next to Magnolia’s, take a pic of Radio City Music Hall and then sit down in front of the famous Rockefeller Center, where you will wonder whether to head back and get a second serving.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral
St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a Catholic Cathedral in Midtown. It is a parish church and houses the Archbishop of New York. We were surprised to see QR codes provided on each pewter for accessing the history of the church and the gospel reading, giving a donation or even liking the church on Facebook. Catholic churches in Europe are definitely not as modern to provide QR Codes or Facebook pages to like. The church is nice to look at from the outside even though the rose decorations may be fake.

Grand Central Station
Oyster Bakery Restaurant entrance at Grand Central in New York City

Grand Central Station is the most filmed location of New York. After taking a picture from one of the staircases above, take the staircase down where a food mall will await you. If you’re hungry, you can have a burger and curly fries at Shake Shack. Don’t miss to walk to the ‘Oyster Bar Restaurant’, where you should stand opposite each other and each say something into the ceramic arch. The whispering galleries will allow you to talk to each other despite being on opposite ends of the corner- magical!

New York Public Library
New York Public Library inside

The New York Public Library is located on the Eastern side of Bryant Park not far from Grand Central Station. It has been featured in movies such as ‘Ghostbusters’, ‘The Day after Tomorrow’ and ‘Sex and the City’. If you are looking for books here, you will be disappointed. Instead, it offers reading rooms of which most of are not accessible to the general public. It is still a nice visit with picturesque, historical rooms to admire. If you are looking for books, you can head to the opposite side and access the New York Public Library there.

Dinner at Sarge’s Delicatessen
Matzo Ball Soup at Sarge's Delicatessen

After all this walking, you have definitely earned your dinner at Sarge’s Delicatessen, an old-school 24-hours Jewish delicatessen joint. You should start your dinner with a Matzo ball soup followed by a corned-beef and pastrami sandwich. The waitress will serve you complementary gherkins and coleslaw salad. At the end of the meal you can consider taking some good old Jewish babka for the way back.

Empire State Building
Empire State Building in the evening

Although you are probably super tired after a long day of sightseeing, you should hopefully find a little bit of leftover energy (especially after the dinner at Sarge’s!) in you to take a small trip down to the Empire State Building and admire the 102 story Art-Deco skyscraper at nighttime. It was constructed in 1931 and was intended to be the worlds first 100+ story building. Over the 13 months of construction five workers died in a slip-and-fall accident.

Day 3
Breakfast at Russ & Daughters
Rugelach and Hamataschen at Russ & Daughters in New York

Since it’s New York, you really want to make the most out of indulging in bagels and other Jewish delicatessen. Russ & Daughters is another famous chain selling world-class bagels and Jewish classics such as Rugelach and Hamataschen. We opted for the Pumpernickel bagel (what else) with a classic schmear of scallion cream cheese. Although it was delicious, we had to wait for it for quite some time, which was not really worth it. If the queue is shorter you can also head to Katz’s, another famous New York delicatessen, right next to it.

Chinatown & Little Italy
Chinatown in New York City

Fresh produce, succulent ducks hanging in windows, and Chinese restaurants such as Wah Fung No. 1. Touching SoHo, Tribeca, Little Italy, and the Lower East Side, Chinatown began being populated by Chinese immigrants in the 1850s. You can shop for produce here, have a quick Chinese take-out, dine in or pay a visit to the Museum of Chinese in America. We headed further to Little Italy. Its a short street and therefore a quick visit. In 1910, almost 10,000 Italians lived in Little Italy, but in the 20th century, many of them left the neighborhood.

Wall Street
Financial District in New York City

Head to the financial district and explore Wall Street, the New York Stock exchange (only from the outside) and the Charging Bull, otherwise referred to as the Bull of Wall Street. After you’re done, walk into one of the many supermarkets to pick up a ready-made lunch. We can recommend City Acres, where we picked up some Tso’s chicken with rice and some roasted brussel sprouts and squash. With out lunches packed, we went to the Battery for the next part of our day.

The Statue of Liberty Cruise
City Acres Lunch including rice, chicken and roasted veggies

We have purchased tickets for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island cruise in advance. If you want to walk up to the crown of the Statue of Liberty, we recommend you book your tickets 3 months in advance. We booked tickets for the pedestal visit two weeks in advance. You will have to choose a specific time slot when booking. The ferry that leaves from Battery Park will drop you at Liberty Island first, where you can have lunch while looking at the New York skyline. Afterwards you can climb up the copper lady and admire New York from above.

Ellis Island
Statue of Liberty

Ellis Island makes up the second part of the Statue of Liberty cruise. From 1892 to 1924 Ellis Ellis Island was America’s most active immigration station. This is where immigrants first landed when coming to America. Here they were inspected, their health was assessed and if successful, they were granted entrance to the US. The whole process took only 3-7 hours. The museum of immigration tells you everything about that important part of American history.

NY Slice at Joey’s Pizza
New York Cheese Slice at Joey's Pizza

There is pizza and there’s a NY slice. The latter you can only enjoy when you’re in New York. The most authentic place to enjoy a NY slice in is Joey’s pizza. You will find many joints of Joey’s pizza all over New York, but beware since not all of them are authentic. We recommend you go for the classic cheese slice or for the pepperoni slice. Go wild sprinkling garlic powder or chili flakes on them. If you don’t feel like a true New Yorker biting into that delicious triangle then we can’t help you further.

Day 4
9/11 Museum & Memorial
Picture of Manhattan Skyline at 9/11 Museum

The 9/11 Museum is definitely a good museum to visit when you’re in New York simply because 9/11 is so closely tied to the city’s history. The museum is closed on Tuesdays. Booking tickets in advance was not necessary for us. If you don’t go to the museum, then make sure to visit the memorial: two immense waterfalls, created by Israeli architect Michael Arad, are positioned to outline the boundaries of the towers. These remarkable water features pour into expansive reflecting pools. Chosen from a radius of 500 miles around the World Trade Center site, each surrounding tree contributes to the solemn atmosphere.

Central Park
Central Park view over lake

If you head to Central Park, don’t expect the quite and calmness that a park usually offers. This is after all the world’s most famous park in the world and therefore it can get quite busy in here. Make sure you visit the famous ‘Friends’ fountain, the Shakespeare garden and the Alice in Wonderland statue. You can also head to the 72ns Street and rent a rowboat or take a gondola tour. ‘Bergdorf Goodman’ and the ‘Plaza Hotel’ are also close-by if you are interested in a little foyer/window shopping.

Lunch at 7th Street Burger

The best New York burgers can be found at 7th Street Burger. They are so good, we even sacrificed a long and freezing subway ride at the end of a long sightseeing day just for a serving of a so-called smashed burger. Don’t make the mistake of ordering one, just get two from the start or go for a side of delicious fries. 7th Street Burger also sells amazing dessert options. We haven’t tried them but if they’re as delicious as their smashed burgers, you will not regret it.

Dumbo sign in Brooklyn, Manhattan

Since our first day was relatively short, we did not cover everything that Brooklyn had to offer and so decided to go back to visit Dumbo and the Brooklyn Bridge. You could also cover these two things on the day you visit Brooklyn if that is more convenient to you. Featuring cobblestone streets, repurposed industrial warehouses, and an unmistakable atmosphere reminiscent of vintage New York City, Dumbo embodies the essence of a bygone era and is surely not to be missed. You can walk around the streets, enjoy coffee or ice-cream in one of its hip joints or shop its stylish boutiques.

Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge with view over Manhatten

When it opened in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge was the world’s largest suspension bridge. Today, when you walk the bridge it is Alicia Keys that accompanies you all along the way. Street sellers and ‘professional’ selfie takers blast ‘Empire State of Mind’ through their speakers while you head back to Manhattan. Even though this was not planned and even though this experience might have been tacky, it still felt like the perfect ending to our 4 day New York City trip.

Check out our Seinfeld Guide for New York City as well as our Friends Guide for New York City for more things New York.