2-Day New York City Itinerary: essential tips

Want to take a trip to the Big Apple, but only have two days? Well, if you organise yourself well, you can make the most of it and see the best New York has to offer.

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

6 min read

2-Day New York City Itinerary: essential tips

Times Squre | ©Andreas Kruck

Choosing New York as a destination is already a great tip. 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 at Manhattan's most iconic landmarks, and even take a selfie next to the Statue of Liberty! 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 your time in New York is short, the key is to choose areas of the city where 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 will take you no more than 15 minutes towards Broadway. It's also one of the stops if you book the New York sightseeing bus, a great option to consider if you're spending a short stay in New York, as you'll be able to move comfortably between the main sites.

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

Book the New York City Sightseeing Bus

Take a tour of Central Park South

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

Visit the MET, the most comprehensive 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 10 am. Book your guided tour of the MET as soon as possible or buy your tickets in advance so you don't miss out. Another option to skip the line is to book the best New York City Sightseeing Card. This way, you can enter directly to see the most emblematic works of its permanent collection.

Book a guided tour of the MET

Make a stop at Rockefeller Center

Whether it's Christmas time 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 6 p.m.

When you leave 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 here the best places to eat near Rockefeller Center or book a food tour.

Book tickets for the Top of The Rock observation deck

Book a contrast tour

Another option if you're only going for a couple of days is to book the contrasts tour because it's a convenient and easy way to get to know the popular neighbourhoods of Harlem, Bronx, Queens and Manhattan and discover their cultural diversity.

All this with a local guide who will show you each of the places in detail in this five-hour tour.

Book the contrasts tour

Return to Broadway for a show

Close the day by returning to Times Square and be wowed 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 plenty ofmusicals to choose from. Most performances start around 7.30pm. Make sure you buy your ticket in advance so you get a good seat.

Book your ticket for a Broadway show

Day 2: Beyond Manhattan

DUMBO neighbourhood| ©Hellotickets
DUMBO neighbourhood| ©Hellotickets

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

Head to the Statue of Liberty

With yourStatue of Liberty tickets already purchased, skip the lines. First book a ferry cruise to the Statue of Liberty and watch the skyline take shape as you sail 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 appreciate 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.

Book a ferry cruise to the Statue of Liberty

Visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum

As you head back to Manhattan's South Side, it's a good idea to take a tour of the World Trade Center and the 911 Museum next to it. 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 in advance and skip the lines.

Book the 9/11 Memorial

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 DUMBO neighbourhood. It's about a 15-minute walk across the bridge. Take a walk to explore Brooklyn and be amazed by the industrial warehouses that have been converted into flats that we all dream of owning one day. Also, be sure to visit the Broadway Museum.

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

Book your ticket for the Broadway Museum

Discover the Guggenheim Museum

To round off the afternoon, book your skip-the-line tickets to the Guggenheim Museum and catch up on modern and contemporary art with an impressive collection that will dazzle you with works by Pollock, Kandinsky, Picasso and Renoir.

Also, pay close attention to the Frank Lloyd Wright building, an architectural masterpiece that will impress you.

Book tickets for the Guggenheim Museum

Say goodbye to Manhattan at the top of the Empire State Building

As you've seen, there's plenty to see and do in New York. It's time to 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 if you haven't got one, don't hesitate to book your ticket for the Empire State Building. 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