Big Apple Dreams: A Guide to Classic New York
Ask any New Yorker and they’ll tell you that the city ain’t what it used to be; rent prices have gone up, gentrification has taken hold and many of the city’s old haunts are no longer there. But not everything has disappeared, so why not step back in time to its glory years?
These old-school venues, from bars to restaurants, museums and sightseeing hotspots are steeped in New York history, in what some might call “Old Manhattan.” These hotspots are also vintage relics of a long-lost era (so, don’t be surprised if you’re the youngest person there). Here is a walk through historical New York.
Restaurants and bars
Bemelmans Bar was first founded in 1947. This old bar is the best place to order up a Manhattan. It was first founded by artist Ludwig Bemelmans, who illustrated children’s books and penned his illustrations all over the walls. The vintage look is a step back in time. Another great New York classic is Katz’s Delicatessen, a staple on the Lower East Side, where you can savor a pastrami sandwich on rye bread with pickles and a celery soda. This establishment has been in this same location since 1888, and is one of the shooting locations from When Harry Met Sally, starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.
The Campbell Apartment is an old New York vintage favorite. Its appearance is inspired by the Gilded Age, during the rise of the industrial revolution. Originally, it was the office of financier John W. Campbell. Next, it became a studio used by CBS Radio, and later it was the Metro-North Railroad‘s jail. It is now a bar with incredible vintage woodwork and classical paintings. This is where you can have an old-fashioned New York cocktail away from the crowds.
If you’re looking for an authentic milkshake, the Lexington Candy Shop is a classic Manhattan restaurant in the Upper East Side. Try out some memorable favorites, from a vanilla milkshake to a hamburger and fries, and stop by for Sunday brunch to have pancakes with maple syrup and bananas.
Art museums and galleries
New York City has over 100 museums, 32 of which are in Manhattan. A few of the iconic ones include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which holds the world‘s record for selfies taken in a museum. The Met features over 150,000 objects, from ancient Egyptian artifacts to impressionist paintings by Claude Monet. Nearby, also in the Upper East Side is the Whitney Museum of American Art, which features modern and contemporary art from the 20th century onward. Expect to see current exhibits, featuring American artists, alongside a permanent collection that boasts a sprawling collection of paintings by Frank Stella, Barnett Newman and Jackson Pollock.
Also nearby is the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum with its spectacular rotunda architecture designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. And just a short walk away in midtown, The Museum of Modern Art boasts six floors of modern art, featuring many works by Pablo Picasso. But for the latest and greatest in contemporary art, hit up the New Museum, which is located downtown in the Lower East Side.
A trip to New York City is not complete without a visit to the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island, just a short ferry ride from New York Harbor. The copper, neoclassical sculpture was a gift from France to America in 1886, representing Libertas, the Roman goddess embodying liberty. While you cannot go inside the structure today, wandering around the island is possible with regular ferry rides taking you to and from the harbor. It’s also worth a trip to the Rockefeller Center in midtown, a shopping and restaurant complex established in 1939. Rockefeller Center is most famous for its annual lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree and its public ice skating rink, which freezes over every winter.
Nearby, take an elevator ride to the top of the Chrysler Building, which has 77 floors and 32 elevators that bring tourists to the rooftop for stunning views of Manhattan. Afterward, stroll through the bustling Times Square to find a tourist district boasting Broadway theaters, American diner-style restaurants, and fashion boutiques. But the real gem is Greenwich Village, a neighborhood in downtown Manhattan which was at the heart of the counterculture movement of the 1960s. Even today, the district has legendary jazz clubs like the Village Vanguard which is alongside the famed Washington Square Park and several art galleries.
Bonus tip: Want to see all the old sightseeing attractions with one easy ticket? The CityPass New York will help get you around everywhere from the Empire State Building to the Guggenheim.
Recommended stay: Roger Smith Hotel, 501 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10017, USA.
Words: Nadja Sayej