Nothing will make you feel the tyranny of choice like trying to figure out where to meet a friend for drinks in Manhattan. There's just... so many options. It's likely to give you the same kind of panic attack that confronting a huge wall of nail polishes does when you go to get a mani-pedi. Like, what is even the difference between these two strikingly similar shades of burgundy gloss? And, are we the only ones who wind up just choosing a shade based on its name?
But much in the same way that we welcome a friend's inside tip on what the perfect shade of poppy is for our pedicure, we also love it when we get advice on the best places to eat, drink, shop, and stay in Manhattan, full as it is of wonderful places. And we figured you'd probably like some of this hard-earned knowledge as well. We have, after all, spent years working in downtown New York, so we know our way around this place by now. Read on, to find out our top picks for this magical city, where the only difficult thing about visiting is trying to fit everything you want to do into one single trip. Well, that, and relying on the subways to get you anywhere on time. (And because speedy public transportation can be such a bummer, we have kept this a list of mostly downtown spots; it's totally where we spend most of our time, anyway.)
Where to Stay
This borough is full of some of the best hotels in the world. It's honestly as hard to go wrong, as it is easy to spend a ton of money splurging for a suite at one of the city's best. But, hey, it's totally worth it to bend your budget a little bit to stay in one of these amazing places. Find out more, below.
Gramercy Park Hotel (Gramercy): One of the biggest draws of this stunning hotel is the fact that it offers guests a very hard-to-come-by key that grants access to the exclusive Gramercy Park, a treat on every New Yorker's bucket list. Add to that a fashion crowd-favorite bar, a picturesque garden terrace, and the best Italian paninis you’ll ever have (really), and the luxe park-view rooms will just seem like a nice bonus. A very, very nice bonus.
Ace Hotel (NoMad): It says a lot when a hotel located so close to Midtown gets as many locals frequenting its lobby as it does visitors. In addition to housing a great oyster bar and a gastropub from the great April Bloomfield, the hotel offers a rotating roster of music and other cool events.
The Roger (NoMad): This ultra-chic boutique hotel boasts some seriously Instagrammable decor with a lobby full of velvet couches, a marble bar, and geometric light fixtures. While the rooms can be on the smaller side, the daily wine hour and C.O. Bigelow-stocked bathrooms make up for it.
The Gregory Hotel (NoMad): This newish hotel caters to the style-loving crowds, thanks in part to having Caravan Stylist Studio, a glam squad outpotst, and Hair Craft Studio by Ray salon on site. They also frequently partner with brands (currently Nanette Lepore) to provide exclusive discounts and opportunities to its visitors.
The Bowery Hotel (East Village): You truly can’t beat the location of this lower Manhattan gem. While The Bowery may not look like much from the outside, it hosts a happening night scene in its lobby, boasts rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows, and houses one of NYC’s best Italian restaurants, Gemma, just off the lobby.
The Dream Downtown (Meatpacking District): The circular windows in each of the rooms are basically portals to the glamorous lifestyle of our dreams—but also to a view of the amazing pool area.
Where to Drink
Manhattan's bar scene is historically legendary, and still legendarily trendsetting. Here are some of our favorite spots to relax over the perfect, well, Manhattan. (And, you know, every other drink under the sun.)
Mr. Cannon (Financial District): In a city that loves to tout the most obvious of bars as speakeasies, this is a true speakeasy that requires you to walk down a hidden alleyway to ring a doorbell of the door marked by a rat. While you can’t go wrong with any of the expertly crafted cocktails, we suggest you go with the mojito that’s prepared tableside.
Apotheke (Chinatown): While this cocktail bar has been a mainstay in NYC for years, it doesn’t always get as much credit as it deserves. Borrowing from the apothecaries of the past, this hidden Chinatown treasure will remind you more of a dimly lit chemistry lab than a cocktail bar with its collection of elixirs, liquors, and herbs. Stop by on a Wednesday for live jazz and burlesque.
Mother’s Ruin (NoLiTa): Come for the happy hour, stay for the frozen margaritas and down-home feel. There are also excellent waffle fries to soak up all that booze.
Lucky Strike (SoHo): This is the most “neighborhood bar” you can get in SoHo. The food is good, and the wine by the glass is relatively cheap, but come here for the cozy atmosphere and classic New York people-watching.
Amor y Amargo (East Village): Get here as soon as it opens, since it's tiny and fills up quickly. Friendly bartenders and exceptional negronis make this one of the best bars in NYC.
The Wren (East Village): Perfection in the form of a gastropub. Show up early, because it gets very busy after 8pm. Catch up with a friend in the armchairs near the front, over a Wren Old Fashioned and a heaping pile of the best French fries you’ll ever eat.
Loopy Doopy (TriBeCa): This rooftop bar at the Conrad Hotel boasts the very Instagrammable Prosecco Pops and also some pretty sweet skyline views. We recommend going early in the week to avoid the crowds.
Amigos (Morningside Heights): If you’re a lover of Mexican food and don’t mind hiking up to 113th street, this is so worth it. Did we mention their insane unlimited taco and quesadilla deals and fishbowls?
Boiler Room (East Village): This gay bar is a New York City legend. From its no-frills vibe to the charming bartenders and happy hour that begins at 10pm (yes, you read that right), it’s a place you can always count on to have a good time.
Dear Irving (Gramercy Park): It’s rare to find a bar that accepts reservations in Manhattan. It’s even rarer to find one that’s actually cool and serves good crafted cocktails. Despite receiving many accolades, this bar, where you alert your waitress that you’re ready to order by ringing a tableside bell, remains somewhat hidden and serves the best Gibson in town garnished with the most delicious of pickled onions.
Dead Rabbit (Financial District): If you’re the type of person who has a hard time making decisions, you might be overwhelmed by the book-sized (with a story and all) cocktail menu that will be handed to you at the second-floor Parlor. If you shudder at the thought, know that you can’t go wrong with any of the superbly crafted options.
Sweet and Vicious (NoLiTa): This is a nicely divey alternative to most of the very chic (and expensive) bars in the area. The real reason to go, though, is the incredible, spacious backyard, which is where we like to hang out post-work, especially on Summer Fridays.
The Wayland (East Village): This is one of Manhattan’s most popular cocktail bars, and for good reason. The cocktails are spectacular with both classic options made from small-batch spirits and unexpected concoctions (a kale margarita anyone?) and the live music rivals those of long-established music venues.
Clockwork (Lower East Side): This is the graffiti-covered, punk dive bar with cheap drinks that your Midwestern family pictures you in when they worry about you living in the big ol’ scary apple. Don’t worry, Aunt Edna, New York City has changed a lot since the ‘80s—but Clockwork is stuck in the past in the best way.
Sophie’s (East Village): The platonic ideal of a dive bar, all the way down to the bathroom doors that don’t lock.
Corner Bistro (West Village): When you imagine what a New York bar looks like in a movie, you imagine Corner Bistro. Also, it has one of the best burgers in the city.
Air’s Champagne Parlour (Greenwich Village): Lovers of bubbles will love this tiny champagne parlor for obvious reasons. Others will appreciate it for its quirky decor (that includes wine-themed manga bathroom wallpaper), unpretentious approach to sparkling wine, and a Champagne omakase menu. Speaking of omakase, expect soon to descent down the stairs to find Tokyo Record Bar modeled after Japan’s quintessential record bars and featuring a great collection of vinyl alongside an impressive list of sakes and an izakaya menu.
Where to Eat
There are almost too many incredible places to eat in Manhattan. It's super-hard to narrow it down. So think of this as more of a list of all the places we love to eat most right now. It's a great place to start.
Rubirosa (NoLiTa): A spot that somehow maintains its homey character despite being a hotspot for tourists. The pizza is excellent, but the rigatoni is comforting and truly exceptional.
Mission Chinese (Lower East Side): Be prepared to eat. A lot. This isn’t “traditional” Chinese—you’ll find Kung Pao Pastrami (order it), Mapo Tofu (order it), and Salt Cod Fried Rice (order it) occupying a good-sized menu. Just... order everything. You won’t regret it.
Pardon My French (East Village): This locale is one of our favorite NYC brunch spots. You can expect classics like french toast and croque monsieurs, and the $30 bottomless deal is something you don’t want to miss.
Ruby’s (NoLiTa): This cozy Mulberry Street cafe is the perfect setting for any and all outings during those balmy summer nights. Its extensive menu features tons of delicious gluten-free and vegetarian options, as well as mouth-watering burgers and pasta dishes guaranteed to leave you sated and smiling by the end of your meal.
Jack’s Wife Freda (West Village): Jack’s Wife Freda is a true New York success story. Its original NoLiTa location got so popular, they opened a West Village one that manages to pack the same hole-in-the-wall charm into a much larger space. The menu is still the same, too, so your brunching needs will always, always be met. (Though we suggest taking a seat at the bar and chatting up the bartenders. They’re truly the best.)
abcV (Flatiron): You will be hard-pressed to find restaurants with more beautiful design aesthetic than those that fall under the abc umbrella. This newest, more casually leaning eatery from Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Paulette Cole boasts some of the most delicious breakfast fare around, including truly transcendent einkorn pancakes with coconut cream and rhubarb compote and poached farm eggs with wild mushrooms.
Hanjan (NoMad): Strongly recommend if you want to try some homemade style Korean food at a less crowded Korean restaurant, where you can actually have a conversation with friends. You must try the kimchi fried rice, spicy salmon sashimi salad over rice, spicy rice cake, and their summer seasonal menu cold buckwheat noodles.
Chinese Tuxedo (Chinatown): You will hear a lot of people refer to Chinese Tuxedo as the “new Mission Chinese,” which does a disservice to both. While the two admittedly do dabble in contemporary takes on Chinese cuisines, Chinese Tuxedo serves up an elevated take on classic and more mild-tempered Cantonese, rather than the wow-worthy Szechuan, staples like caramelized vegetables and dressed up seafood in a former Chinatown opera house.
Ushiwakamaru (Chelsea): When I first discovered Ushiwakamaru in 2011, the person on the other side of the line would always answer the phone in, what I assume was, Japanese. That speaks to the authenticity of this fantastic sushi joint that now is located in Chelsea and offers one of the best omakases in town. Sugarfish who?
Carbone (Greenwich Village): You won’t find a better Italian restaurant than this upscale joint. Everything is to die for and worth the wait and price, but if we had to absolutely pick one dish it would be the spicy rigatoni vodka.
Emily (West Village): In a city of stellar high-end burgers, you won’t find a better one than the one served at this pizzeria that just opened its first location outside of Brooklyn. Made of dry aged beef and served on a buttery pretzel bun slathered with the secret Emmy sauce and topped with caramelized onions and Grafton cheddar, it’s worth the $26 price tag. Don’t miss out on the exceptional Detroit-style pies either.
Galli (SoHo): I’ll try to restrain myself from fangirling over this restaurant, but it just may have the best Italian food you’ll find in SoHo. Pretty much everything on the menu is perfect, but the calamari is life-changing. Also, I’m not sure who’s in charge of the aux cord at Galli, but I’d love for him/her/them to DJ my next birthday party.
Streetbird Rotisserie (Harlem): No one does chicken like Chef Marcus Samuelsson, and his Streetbird restaurant uptown is proof. It’s basically the cooler, younger sibling of his famous Red Rooster, with food that’s just as amazing and décor that looks like it was borrowed from the set of a Spike Lee movie.
De Maria (Lower East Side): Sure, it has a very Instagram-friendly bathroom, thanks to that neon Virgin Mary sign, but the real reason to head here is the food, which is impeccable. The chili-turmeric bone broth is the only thing I want to consume once the temperature drops, and the spicy baby octopus and melt-in-your mouth lamb chops are some of our favorite dishes in the city.
Atla (NoHo): This Mexican restaurant is open all day, all the better to indulge in the excellent food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Our perfect three-meal menu? The cloud of coconut yogurt with blueberries, followed by the ranchero eggs for lunch, and the beautifully crisp fish Milanese for dinner. Oh, and why not get some herb-flecked guacamole, too?
Dirt Candy (Lower East Side): Quite possibly one of the best vegetarian spots in the city. Everything comes on small plates meant to share, so you can easily try eight different things and not feel guilty about it. Broccoli dogs and Tijuana Sunrises? Don't mind if we do.
Lovely Day (NoLiTa): This cozy Thai spot has killer food, romantic vibes, and is also easy on the wallet if you’re looking for a date spot on a budget. But, FYI, we mean cozy in the way brokers refer to apartments in Manhattan as cozy—aka extremely small. Expect to wait a bit for a table and, once seated, probably hear the convos of the people next to you. But, in our humble opinion, that just adds to the charm.
Cheeky Sandwiches (Lower East Side): Sometimes you just need gravy on a sandwich, you know? This little hole-in-the-wall New Orleans sandwich joint is a haven for decadent cheap eats. The chicken biscuit will change you.
Cafe Henrie (Lower East Side): We dare you to try to go to Cafe Henrie and not Instagram it. Not only are the meals photogenic-as-hell little healthy things—yogurt coddled eggs, chicken coconut bowl, etc.—but also there is a neon sign in the shape of a vagina by Petra Collins hanging by the bathroom. Instagram gold.
Hanoi House (East Village): Despite a glut of Vietnamese restaurants, it is often said that New York is without a truly great bowl of pho. This cozy and always packed restaurant changes all that. Get it with bone marrow.
Superiority Burger (East Village): This hole-in-the-wall is at the forefront of NYC’s veggie burger revolution. And while the namesake burger is the star of the show, the entire menu of creative sides and herbivorous riffs on other meaty classics like the sloppy joe will keep you coming back for more.
Coffee and Tea Spots
Because sometimes you want to drink without getting drunk.
Max Caffe (Morningside Heights): The chai lattes and avocado crostinis here can’t be beat. Plus, the hodgepodge vintage decor makes it the perfect place to cozy up for a few hours.
The Good Sort (Chinatown): If you like acai bowls and rainbow lattes, this place was made for you. The tiny cafe tucked into the winding streets of Chinatown will not disappoint.
Happy Bones NYC (NoLiTa): If you’re looking for a satisfying iced coffee in a cafe that has mastered minimalist aesthetic, this is the place for you.
Cha Cha Matcha (NoLiTa, Chelsea): The matcha craze has hit NYC, and no one has latched onto it quite like Cha Cha. Their second location just opened in Chelsea, so order that matcha latte and sip back and relax.
Cha An (East Village): Cha An is the place to go if you are looking for a slow tea time with a various range of tea collections. You can not only expect diverse tea experiences, but also some great Japanese appetizers, meals, and desserts to go along with.
Irving Farm Coffee Roasters (Gramercy Park): Located just a block away from Gramercy Park, you can enjoy a cup of coffee feeling cozy inside or outside on the bench for some fresh air. Our favorite is their iced vanilla latte.
Tea and Sympathy (West Village): Sure, you can go to The Plaza for the overpriced (but admittedly fun) tea service, but any Brit expat will tell you that Tea and Sympathy is where you go to get the real afternoon tea (with scones and cream, finger sandwiches, cake, and all) and English-style breakfast.
MatchaBar (Chelsea): This matcha bar serves fusions so good that it recently got the MatchaPapi endorsement (and funding). We suggest going for the iced white pear, peaches and cream, or watermelon-infused matcha and pair it with one of the many matcha-spiked pastries.
Chillhouse (Lower East Side): Not only can you drop into Chillhouse for a variety of yummy drinks such as a beet-chata or a matcha latte and an assortment of baked goods, but you can also indulge in a manicure or massage. What more could we ask for?
Where to Work Out
Even if you're just visiting, you might still want to get down and sweaty. Here's where to go.
Barre3 (West Village): This outpost of Barre3 has a reputation for being the most challenging Barre3 class in the country, and based on its cult following of editors, models, and the occasional celebrity, we believe it. The workout combines yoga, pilates, and ballet barre, emphasizing listening to what your own body needs rather than pushing it in an unhealthy way. It's a favorite among more than a handful of NYLON editors—and not just for the pretty West Village views.
New York Trapeze School (Chelsea): If you’re not afraid of heights and want an adrenaline rush, you’ll love NYTS. This isn’t the cheapest workout, but it’s definitely the most fun.
305 Fitness (Greenwich Village, Murray Hill): We said this once, we’ll say it again: This cardio dance workout is the best. It’s body-positive, fun, and gets you into a killer shape. Twerking is encouraged.
Pop Physique (SoHo, NoMad): In a city full of barre studios, this one stands out for its decor (quirky wallpaper, color coordinated dumbbells, and lots of millennial pink) and intensity.
DogPound (TriBeCa): If you feel like you’ve already been to this “gym” without ever stepping foot in New York City, you’re not alone. Known as the training grounds for models like Ashley Graham, Karlie Kloss, and Romee Strijid, this will be the hardest and most satisfying training session you will ever do. Consider yourself warned.
Cityrow (various locations): You think you’ve had a full-body workout, but talk to us after your first Cityrow class. Rowing is no walk in the park, and Cityrow’s trainers work you out, bringing you off the rowing machine and into pilates stretches and free weights before hopping back on, to row your heart out.
The Class by Taryn Toomey (TriBeCa): Christy Turlington and Jennifer Aniston reportedly swear by and regularly go here. It’s hard, you’ll scream, you might cry, but you’ll leave feeling a lot lighter than when you walked in.
Box + Flow (NoHo): Equal parts Zen and adrenaline, this class allows you to channel your inner yogi and Ali.
Aire Ancient Baths (TriBeCa): It’s hard to find a quiet place in NYC, which is why we love this underground bath sanctuary located in TriBeCa where you’re only allowed to whisper amongst yourselves. With four thermal baths that range in temperatures, a salt pool, jet bath, sauna, and a range of massage treatments, this haven serves as a perfect getaway from the city chaos.
What to Do
New York is one of the cultural capital's of the world, so indulge in some of that while you're here. We've kept this list clear of some of the obvious things (MoMA, The Metropolitan Museum, The Whitney, etc.), but those are totally worth hitting up too. But you already know that, don't you?
Gagosian Gallery (Chelsea): In the last decade, Gagosian has hit the mark over and over again with its thoughtfully curated shows, making it a must-visit destination when in Chelsea.
Pace Gallery (Chelsea, Midtown): The gallery has two locations and represents more than 70 artists including Agnes Martin, Tony Smith, and Chuck Close.
Frick Collection (Upper East Side): You will be amazed not only by the beautiful artwork exhibited but also by the beautiful architecture inside. It is a quick getaway from the busy streets of New York City that will make you want to stay forever.
David Zwirner Gallery (Chelsea): If you have already been to the big museums, try visiting David Zwirner Gallery, where it is less crowded and which lets you take time appreciating the artwork. Also, we recommend gallery hopping around the neighborhood.
Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art (SoHo): The Leslie-Lohman Museum is the first LGBTQIA art museum in the world. It has a rich collection of queer art from queer artists whose stories color queer history with rich pathos.
The Cloisters (Washington Heights): Less of a museum and more of a medieval cloister surrounded by gardens on stunning park ground, this extension of The Met is worth the hike uptown and walk from the subway.
Bowery Ballroom (Lower East Side): Bowery Ballroom is one of the least annoying music venues in NYC. The basement bar is always bustling with chatter and good vibes, while the artists that come through its main floor are the ones that are on the brink of breaking big.
Mercury Lounge East Village): If ever you want to catch the new acts music critics and label agents are getting a feel for, head to Mercury Lounge. It usually plays host to a musician’s first NYC show, which lends itself to an intimate setting and ability to chat with them afterward.
SOBs (SoHo): The slogan of SOB’s (Sounds of Brazil) is “Where legends are made,” and it’s far from an understatement. Opened by Larry Gold in the ‘80s, to give Afro-Latino music some shine in SoHo, the cozy venue has since evolved into a rite of passage for hip-hop and R&B stars on the rise.
Public Arts @ Public Hotel (SoHo): As much as I can’t get over the fact that a selling point for Public Hotel is that there’s no room service (Need something? Get it yourself!), its Public Arts performance space is cushy enough to make me ignore the faux-bougieness that resides in the hotel above it. It’s super-intimate and the floor is covered with rugs, making performances feel like they’re taking place in the home of the coolest girl at school.
Metrograph (Chinatown): This old-school, that screens archive-quality 35mm prints and newer films, is a favorite for its avant-garde film picks and series (psychedelic surf films, anyone?). The concession stand is also a highlight for its selection of similarly unexpected snacks like cold-pressed juice and Asian candy.
Sleep No More (Chelsea): Given that this interactive play, very loosely inspired by Macbeth, even had a cameo on Gossip Girl, it always surprises me how few people have actually seen it. Walk through floors-worth of intricately decorated rooms and watch the different scenes play out at your own pace. For the full experience, arrive early to get dinner at The Heath or drinks on the rooftop garden Gallow Green and stay at the Manderley Bar following the performance for live music and absinthe cocktails.
Movies on a rooftop (various locations): Rooftops are prime real estate in Manhattan come summer, which is why you should make sure you make your way to one should you find yourself here this season. And why not catch a classic movie while you’re at it? While there are many options, our favorite series include Rooftop Cinema at Azul on the Rooftop, Movies on the Roof with Peroni at Eately, and Social Food and Drink at Yotel.
Where to Shop
Our advice here is that even window shopping is fun at any of these establishments, but try and budget some money, because there's a lot of really beautiful things out there.
ABC Home (Flatiron): If we could, we would live in this stunning home store that houses the most design-forward and quirky furniture, tableware, and decor. Don’t dismiss the beauty section just because it’s a home store—they stock some of our favorite skin-care brands like Herbivore and Tata Harper.
Reformation (SoHo, Lower East Side): If you’re a fan of this sustainable fashion brand and have made many a online orders on its website, make sure to stop by one of the two brick-and-mortar stores that NYC is blessed to have.
McNally Jackson (SoHo): We can have an entire guide dedicated to just the bookstores we love in NYC. This one ranks high for us because of its knowledgeable staff that always knows what to recommend, great events with writers, and a coffee shop that we’ve spent many Sundays at with a European magazine in hand.
Lulu Frost (SoHo): One of our favorite jewelry brands just opened its first retail location in SoHo, and we couldn’t be more thrilled. In addition to its usual offerings, it houses a DIY charm bar, where you can build a custom necklace or bracelet with vintage charms, and a “Language of Flowers” floral counter, where you can assemble a bouquet in Victoria code in which every bloom holds a secret message (and comes with a decoder booklet).
Mulberry Iconic Magazines (NoLiTa): Here’s where you go to get the best art house, high-fashion, photography, and European editions of magazines.
Glossier Showroom Lower East Side): Ever wanted to try out every Glossier product without buying every Glossier product? Check out their showroom downtown. We suggest going during the week to avoid the crowds.
Search & Destroy (East Village): St. Marks Place is struggling to hang onto its punk roots, but Search & Destroy is surviving. Shop for your inner (or outer!) punk goddess here.
No Relation Vintage (East Village): You could spend a day getting lost in Levi’s collection at No Relation Vintage (the Manhattan outpost of Brooklyn’s L Train Vintage chain), much less the rest of the store. The outerwear section in the basement is a true gem: My go-to camo utility jacket that I got from there ran me just $10.
Bandier (Flatiron): If you’re looking to update your workout wardrobe, you need not look further than this retailer that carries all of our favorite athletic brands and plays home to a workout studio with some of the most in-demand instructors and boutique workouts.
Assembly NY (Lower East Side): A downtown cool kid's go-to, Assembly NY carries modern wares for men and women, from both their namesake collection as well as contemporary designers from around the world.
Tictail (Lower East Side): Stockholm-based online marketplace Tictail is your one-stop shop for clothing, accessories, and art by various emerging talent from across the world. With that being said, their gorgeous Lower East Side shop is filled with the best of the best.
Frankie Shop (Lower East Side): A favorite of fashion's most influential, the Lower East Side's Frankie Shop is a go-to for trend-focused minimalist pieces that won't break the bank.
Clover Grocery (Greenwich Village): This health and wellness specialty market makes this list just on the basis that it carries our favorite, and impossible-to-find outside of L.A., Sqirl jam. Plus, Moon Juice dust, STAMBA Superfood powders, and cucumber collagen water.
Marché maman (SoHo): The beloved coffee shop blessed us with the cutest of markets this summer as an extension of its original SoHo location. Expect everything from wildflower arrangements courtesy of Brooklyn’s Flower Girl to Merci Bisous children's clothing and MilkMade’s small-batch ice cream. Also, look out for rotating workshops ranging from calligraphy to flower arranging.
Coming Soon (Lower East Side): Thid gem houses so many pretty little unique things you really don’t need but will definitely convince yourself to buy.