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2-Day New York City Itinerary: essential tips

You want to take a trip to the Big Apple, but you only have two days to do it. How can you choose between so much to do? Don't worry, if you organise yourself well you can make the most of the best New York has to offer.

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

5 min read

2-Day New York City Itinerary: essential tips

Times Squre | ©Andreas Kruck

Choosing New York as a destination is already a tip of the iceberg. And it doesn't matter if you're only staying for a couple of days, I guarantee you'll have an unforgettable experience. You'll have plenty of time to take pictures in the most emblematic places in Manhattan, and even take a selfie next to the Statue of Liberty!

You still don't know what to see and do in New York? Here's the travel guide that will make it all easier for you:

Day 1: The best of Manhattan

Tourists in Time Square| ©Andreas Komodromos
Tourists in Time Square| ©Andreas Komodromos

If you only have a short time in New York, the key is to choose areas of the city where the attractions are close to each other. This way you can take advantage and see several things at once. You may not be able to get into everything, but you'll be able to see it from the outside and get some great photos along the way.

Walk around Times Square

If you start your day from Times Square you have a great advantage: many of Manhattan's other popular destinations are within walking distance. The walk takes no more than 15 minutes in the direction of Broadway.

Times Square is often crowded with tourists, so if you go early in the morning you will feel less crowded and can take your pictures in peace. Also, from this meeting point many tour buses depart withtours of different areas of the city. Take advantage of them and kill more than two birds with one stone.

Take a stroll through the south side of Central Park

The famous Central Park, in the heart of Manhattan, is about 341 hectares. You may not have time to see it all, but you'll see the highlights.

From Times Square you can take the C underground line to Strawberry fields, the iconic John Lehnon Memorial. Or if you prefer, you can walk the same route for 30 minutes. This way you'll see a few things along the way like the famous Tavern of the Green or Greyshot Arch.

Then head back the other way, first heading a little further east. There you take pictures by The Lake. Then cross the Bow Bridge and take The Mall trail which you're sure you've seen in more than one film or TV series.

If you're up for it, you can also rent a bike inside the park especially for this route and you'll be able to cover more sites in less time (plus it's quite an adventure!). If you prefer to visit another of the city's parks because you're already familiar with this one, you can check out the best parks in New York here.

Rent a bike in Central Park

The MET, the most complete museum in New York City

Entrance to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City| ©Patxi Moraleda
Entrance to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City| ©Patxi Moraleda

You can't visit the Big Apple and not spend at least a couple of hours at the Met or Metropolitan Museum of Art. More than two million pieces of art from all over the world will leave you open-mouthed. This is undoubtedly one of the best museums in New York.

The Met opens its doors at 10AM. Buy your tickets early or get the best tourist card in New York... so you don't have to wait in line and you can get in to see the most emblematic works of its permanent collection.

A stop at Rockefeller Center

Whether it's Christmas because you want access to the giant glowing tree and skating rink or just to climb to the Top of the Rock, you can't miss New York's largest shopping complex.

Walk out of Central Park to Fifth Avenue and take a 13-minute walk to the façade of St. Patrick's Cathedral. Take a few photos to remember. Then step inside for a few minutes and take in the interior. Admission to the cathedral is free and you can enter until 6PM.

When you come out of the cathedral then continue to the front, there you have Rockefeller Center. In addition to climbing to the top I recommend you stop for lunch here. Find herethe best places to eat near Rockefeller Center where you can recharge your energy to continue your walk around Manhattan.

Book your ticket to the Top of the Rock

Back to Broadway for the show

Close the day by returning to Times Square and be impressed by the neon lights. And while you're at it, why not see a musical? The soundtrack, the characterisation, the staging... the best of the best.

There are manymusicals to choose from. Most performances start around 7:30 pm. Make sure you buy your ticket in advance so you get a good seat.

Day 2: Beyond Manhattan

DUMBO neighbourhood| ©Hellotickets
DUMBO neighbourhood| ©Hellotickets

Be prepared because Manhattan is not all that New York has to offer. On the second day I recommend you get off the island a bit and visit two must-see places that every tourist in New York should not miss: the Statue of Liberty and the famous Brooklyn borough.

To the Statue of Liberty

With yourStatue of Liberty tickets already purchased, skip the lines and take the ferry out to Liberty Island. You'll see the skyline take shape as you head away from Manhattan. Take a picture of the backdrop of Manhattan and a selfie with the Statue of Liberty.

Once you arrive at Liberty Island you can go inside the monument and learn about its history at the museum. You also have access to the observation deck from which you can see the views of Manhattan in the distance.

On your way back I recommend you stop with the ferry at Ellis Island and take a few minutes to visit the Immigration Museum. You'll learn all about the great waves of immigration that made New York the multicultural city it is today.

The 9/11 Memorial and Museum

As you head back to the south side of Manhattan, it's a good idea to take a walk around the World Trade Center and next to it, the 911 Museum. There you will witness the impact of this tragedy and how the events of 9/11 had consequences not only for the American people, but for the rest of the world.

As I have recommended before, buy your tickets to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in advance and skip the lines.

Book a tour of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the 9/11 Memorial

Toast to your trip and say goodbye to Manhattan at the top of the Empire State Building

Say goodbye to Manhattan and celebrate that, despite your short visit, you managed to see more than you thought you would. Make the most of it and do it in style by climbing the Empire State Building. If you have one, we recommend you use your tourist card to avoid the queues. And take pictures, lots and lots of pictures. Manhattan's nocturnal landscape deserves to be remembered and immortalised.

You have time to go up before 1:15AM, as access remains open until 2AM.

Book your ticket for the Empire State Building without queuing up

Head to Brooklyn

Brooklyn Bridge at night| ©Jörg Schubert
Brooklyn Bridge at night| ©Jörg Schubert

Southeast of the island of Manhattan is the bridge that connects it to the famous borough of Brooklyn, home to well-known artists and much of New York's population. Crossing it on foot takes about 45 minutes and by underground from Memorial 911 you can take the A line. I recommend the former for a more authentic experience.

Once in Brooklyn, you'll notice a strong architectural identity as opposed to Manhattan. For this I mainly recommend the neighbourhood of DUMBO. It is approximately a 15 minute walk once you cross the bridge. Take a walk to explore Brooklyn and marvel at the industrial warehouses now converted into flats that we all dream of owning one day.

Once there, you can also explore Williamsburg and New York's Jewish Quarter.