4 days in New York is a long time: there's plenty to see and do in the Big Apple, but choosing your itinerary wisely and booking your tickets in advance will help you play it safe and make the most of your time.
Here's what not to miss in the city so you can get the most out of your trip.
Day 1: A tour of southern Manhattan
The island of Manhattan has a lot to offer. Film sets, street art, history, food, New York's best museums and more. After all, it's the image of New York that comes to mind when you hear about the Big Apple.
Start your first day in the South and learn all about the history of the city. Here's how.
Sail the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
Starting the day with a cruise up the Hudson to the Statue of Liberty is a smart decision. Early in the day there are few tourists touring the islands, so you're sure to enjoy the ride much more.
There are two ports for the ferry: Battery Park and neighbouring Jersey City. The frequency is 25 to 30 minutes, with the first leaving at 9:30 AM and the last at 3:30 PM. On this tour you not only discover the importance of the monument that France gave to the United States on the centenary of its independence. You also have a stop at Ellis Island, the island that hosted at least 40% of the ancestors of today's American population.
A moment to remember: visit the 9/11 Memorial & Museum
When you return to Manhattan the ferry will drop you back at Battery Park. From there you can walk 12 minutes over Greenwitch Street to the 9/11 Memorial.
Although it's a bit of a bittersweet experience, I assure you it's worth it as you'll end up an expert on the history of the Big Apple. Moreover, both the Memorial and the Museum, which are two different things, present this historic moment in the most respectful way.
When you arrive you will find yourself face to face with the Memorial built at Ground Zero, a space to remember those who are no longer here. From there you can visit the 9/11 Museum, a space where you will learn all about the social and political impact that the fall of the Twin Towers had on the United States and the world.
A stroll through Chinatown
In southern Manhattan, in addition to the financial district, you'll find architectural and gastronomic evidence of all the immigration that has taken place over the course of the city's history.
Start by taking a stroll through Chinatown. You can get there in about 16 minutes on the 4 underground line. The neighbourhood offers restaurants with flavours exported from China and South Asia, Buddhist temples that will surprise you and even a museum where you can learn about the history of the Asian-American population in New York. Canal Street and Mott Street are the main streets I encourage you to wander down.
Be careful not to linger and forget about lunchtime! You already know that Chinatown offers amazing places to eat and enjoy the best of Asia without leaving New York. You have both vegetarian and fusion cuisine options. Try new things and take the opportunity to taste the authentic flavour of one country by visiting a different one.
Little Italy and SoHo
Just a 6-minute walk away you have another neighbourhood, or at least what's left of it, where a stop is a must. Absorbed with the passage of time by Chinatown, but just as relevant to understanding New York's history: I'm referring to Little Italy. Walk along Mulberry Street, the street that still preserves evidence of the traces of the Italian-Americans who populated this neighbourhood during the 20th century.
Walking northwest you have another area worth visiting: Soho. This is a neighbourhood whose architectural structure is sure to catch your attention. Admire the Cast-Iron Buildings on your tour and take the opportunity to pop into a shop or two.
It is also home to some of the best places to eat in New York.
Take in an NBA game in Brooklyn
To end the day, how about booking tickets to an NBA game? But I recommend you do it at the Barclays Center and get out of Manhattan for a bit. It will take you about 25 minutes to get there by underground from Soho.
Day 2: Exploring the Bronx Borough
Although it doesn't have as many attractions as Manhattan, the Bronx is a borough you should definitely visit. The Bronx Zoo is considered the largest zoo in North America and you also have the New York Yankee Stadium.
Start your day at the zoo
Around 650 species await you at the Bronx Zoo.
The Zoo opens at 10:30am, so I recommend you plan on getting there from your hotel in advance. For example, it will take you about an hour by public transport from midtown Manhattan, so have an early breakfast and a snack in your backpack.
By the way, the connections between underground lines in New York are very good, so if you're going to visit more than one borough, it's a good idea to get a transit pass. The 7-day unlimited-use MetroCard is a good option, and if you use it twice a day it's worth the price. It costs $33. Here's a New York City Subway Guide to help you find your way around.
Savour Italian cuisine in Belmont
In addition to Manhattan, the Bronx has its own little slice of Italy in the city. So if you can't get enough to eat when you leave the zoo, I recommend a trip to Belmont, the Little Italy of the Bronx.
Take the exit from the zoo to Belmont and walk from there for an estimated 10 minutes. The neighbourhood will greet you with a variety of pizzerias where you can enjoy an original taste and take a break after your long tour of the zoo.
Visit the Botanical Gardens
Once you've recharged your batteries, I recommend a trip to the Botanical Gardens, located right next to the zoo. Take a tour of the main gardens and greenhouses, particularly the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, and then take pictures next to the Rock Garden and its waterfall.
If you go in spring, I recommend visiting the Orchid Show, as the flowers are spectacular.
End the day with a visit to Yankee Stadium
The New York Yankees, based in the Bronx, are a well-known team in professional baseball. So to end the day, I recommend a visit to their stadium. You can take the bus from the Botanical Gardens. It will take you about 45 minutes to get there.
In case your trip is during the baseball season, you can even book tickets and watch a game. A complete experience.
By the way, Yankee Stadium (on the outside) is one of the stops on the very famous Contrasts Tour, which is something I highly recommend if you prefer to discover New York's best neighbourhoods with an expert guide.
Day 3: Brooklyn: a borough with charm
New York's most populous borough with a strong identity... how can you not give it a try? You can see and do so much in Brooklyn!
Cross the Brooklyn Bridge for a more authentic experience
Starting the day with a bit of exercise is a great way to get active, don't you think? So cross from Manhattan to Brooklyn on the iconic bridge that connects the two boroughs.
Your walk starts right in front of New York City Hall, from where you have a view of the Brooklyn Bridge. Take pictures with the Brooklyn borough and the bridge in the background. Then head towards the Brooklyn Bridge View and cross it. It will take you about 30 minutes to get to the other side.
When you get to Brooklyn Bridge Park take pictures this time with Manhattan in the background.
Eat at the Time Out Market
Travel and sightseeing take up a lot of our energy and that's why lunchtime is our best ally. Make the most of your time in Brooklyn and take a trip to Time Out Market.
In this food hall you can find food from all over the world. Perfect if you're still not sure what you want to eat, let the options come to you through your eyes. From Brooklyn Bridge Park it's only a 3 minute walk. This is just one of the best places to eat in Brooklyn, but stroll around the area and you'll find many delicious cafes and restaurants.
Appreciate the best of the Brooklyn Museum of Art
The Brooklyn Museum of Art is the third largest museum in the Big Apple. You'll find art of diverse origins such as Egyptian, Italian and Near Eastern.
To get there, take the metro line 2 or 3. The station is right at the entrance of the museum. The museum is open from 11am. Ideally you should spend at least 2 hours there. The great thing about this museum is that you have until 8 PM to explore, so you can take your time. Just remember to book your tickets online beforehand, so you won't have to wait to get in.
For your tour of the interior I recommend you follow this handy guide. This way you won't miss any of the more than 1.5 million objects on display in the museum.
Day 4: Back to Manhattan
They say you always go back to where you were happy, and Manhattan is certainly an island where everyone who visits is blown away. Dedicate the last day to the most emblematic places in the Big Apple. Your photos will be the envy of everyone on Instagram.
Take an early morning stroll through Central Park
All there is to see and do in Central Park can take you a whole day or more, so consider leaving some things for the next time you come back. In this case, I recommend a more limited but equally enjoyable tour.
Start by visiting the John Lennon memorial, Strawberry Fields, by entering Central Park West between 71st and 72nd Streets. Then head towards the Bow Bridge as you skirt The Lake and take pictures from different angles.
Exit the park by taking the famous The Mall trail. If it's autumn or spring, you're sure to be amazed by the scenery. Finally, change direction and head towards the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) where the best is just beginning.
Lose yourself among the works at the MET
Start your tour of Central Park around 8 AM so that by 10 AM, the MET's opening time on Fifth Avenue, you'll be ready for your visit. It's even better if you buy your tickets online or use one of the tourist cards you can buy to visit New York that includes it, so you'll get straight through without waiting in line.
You have to keep in mind that the MET is a huge museum, so I recommend you to check this guide to visit it. This way you won't miss anything important and you'll save time for other attractions in the city.
I recommend you spend at least two hours touring the permanent and temporary collections. Another thing to keep in mind is that backpacks and suitcases are not allowed in the museum, but there are free lockers available at the museum where you can get rid of the weight you are carrying.
Walk in the direction of St. Patrick's Cathedral
When you leave the MET, you can head straight down Fifth Avenue towards New York's New York Gothic cathedral: St. Patrick's Cathedral. The walk takes about 30 minutes, during which you will be able to appreciate the buildings and shops with the most expensive rents in the city and perhaps the world.
When you arrive you will be able to appreciate its design both from inside and outside, as long as a religious ceremony is not taking place.
On the way out, I recommend you take a walk through Rockefeller Center, especially if you are in New York in December and you are a fan of the Christmas atmosphere (in that case, don't hesitate to take a look at the article on Rockefeller Center at Christmas). It's right across the street from the cathedral. You can even take a lunch break there and then continue to wander around the shops and Fifth Avenue a bit more. Right there you can (and should) climb the Top of the Rock for the best aerial views of Manhattan.
Get a panoramic view from The Edge
One of Manhattan's newest skyscrapers, The Edge is located next to the Hudson Yards and close to the C and E underground lines.
The Edge is one of the most affordable observatories in New York today. In fact, tickets to the Edge are better value if you buy them online, rather than at the box office.
Take advantage of other nearby attractions such as The Vessel and the Hihg Line park at Hudson Yards. Stall until just before sunset and then head up to the observatory. You'll be amazed and you might even get a little dizzy. But it's well worth it, I guarantee it.
Admire the illuminated signs in Time Square
To finish off the day, walk to Times Square. You're only a 10-minute walk away. From the intersection of 7th Avenue and 45th Street I promise you'll have a blast.
Take pictures by the red stairs, buy a Krispy Kreme doughnut and admire the neon signs that never sleep. There are also some giant shops to visit such as **Forever 21, Levi's, H&**M, etc.
Save the night for a musical experience
While you're in the area, make the most of it and go and see an authentic Broadway musical! But don't buy your tickets on the street, there are a lot of scams. Book online so you can still walk around the area until show time. After all, it's your last day in the city and you'll want to take advantage of it to do some shopping.