NYC is best seen by foot.

By Alison Fox
October 04, 2019
Marcaux/Getty Images

The five boroughs of New York City are huge, with miles upon miles of things to see, restaurants to try, and history to unravel. And with more than 650 miles of subway track and countless tour options, you’ll never run out of things to see and do in the city that never sleeps.

But there’s a benefit to slow travel — or stopping to smell the roses, so to speak. A simple walk around one of New York City’s neighborhoods is often the best way to experience its spirit.

As a licensed New York City tour guide (and lifelong New Yorker), I often tell people to skip the big bus tours and just take a walk. You’ll find the best Instagram photos, the best food, and the best hidden gems by exploring the city on foot — the way we New Yorkers do it.

Here are my favorite places to take a walk in New York City.

The Brooklyn Bridge

Getty Images

The view from the Brooklyn Bridge is almost as iconic as the view of the bridge itself. First opened in 1883, it’s a National Historic Landmark and a New York City Landmark, and at more than a mile long, it offers unobstructed views of the downtown skyline.

Walk from lower Manhattan and over to DUMBO before tucking into a pizza at Juliana’s (half red, half white if I’m invited).

Central Park South

Michael Lee/Getty Images

You could easily get lost in this 843-acre park that stretches across Manhattan; its sprawling lawns and hilly paths weave a labyrinth of greenery in the middle of the concrete jungle.

But one of my favorite spots to walk is the southernmost edge of Central Park. While it’s one of the most touristy parts of the park, I also find the stroll along the pond to be one of the most relaxing; and the view of the high-rise buildings that surround the park from nearby Gapstow Bridge happens to be one of the most breathtaking spots in the city.

SoHo Side Streets

Getty Images

Soho is full of quaint, narrow cobblestone streets paired an industrial edge that makes it one of the trendiest neighborhoods in the city. Full of designer boutiques, galleries, and hip restaurants, you could easily spend an entire day shopping to your heart’s content and getting lost in this downtown neighborhood. While major thoroughfares like Broadway and even Prince and Spring Streets are nearly always clogged with pedestrians (especially on weekends), the smaller side streets tend to be much quieter and very pleasant to walk down.

Stroll along Greene and Wooster Streets for some of the best boutique window shopping in the city before stopping in at Sadelle’s for an “everything 2.0” bagel and some salmon salad.

Greenwich Village

Marcaux/Getty Images

Greenwich Village conjures up images of counterculture in the 1960s, and today, it’s one of the most exciting and yet peaceful spots in the city, with no shortage of beautiful homes and amazing restaurants to keep you on your toes.

Venture down Bleecker Street and pop into Murray’s Cheese (one of the best cheese shops in the country); grab a classic pie at John's of Bleecker Street, founded in 1929; or try some gelato at the Italian spot Grom (I’m partial to the tiramisu flavor).

Later, head to the Washington Mews, a gated cobblestone block of converted horse stables from the early 1900’s that were once lofts for the area’s art community, including painter Edward Hopper who lived there until he died in 1967.

Brooklyn Bridge Park

Thomas Roche/Getty Images

Walk 1.3 miles through this waterfront park to take in unmatched views of the city and the East River. The 85-acre park was once an industrial set of piers that were turned into a public space complete with a sand beach and waterfront reading area. Don’t forget to leave room for an ice cream cone from Ample Hills at Brooklyn Bridge Park (it’s open during the warmer weather).

After, head up the block to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade for an elevated view of the city and plenty of space to go for a jog or simply take a seat on a bench and enjoy the view.

Fort Washington Park

Serge Yatunin/Getty Images

If you walk about a half-mile into Fort Washington Park, you’ll find the Little Red Lighthouse, a quaint reminder of the city’s past before high-rise buildings took over. The 40-foot-high lighthouse was first built in New Jersey in 1880 before being brought to New York in 1921 to be used as a navigational aid on the Hudson River. It was eventually decommissioned in 1948 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

Today, you can enter the park from a small pedestrian bridge on Riverside Drive, zig zag down toward the water, and pass underneath the George Washington Bridge until you reach the lighthouse, which sits right on the water’s edge.

Coney Island Boardwalk

Getty Images

A stroll along the boardwalk on Coney Island is like stepping back in time: the waves of the ocean crashing at one end and the thrills of amusement rides on the other. Hop on the Coney Island Cyclone roller coaster, which first opened in 1927, before going for a ride on Deno’s Wonder Wheel, built in 1920 (hint: make sure you grab one of the swinging cars).

Later, step off the boardwalk and onto Surf Avenue to grab a hot dog and crinkle-cut fries at Nathan’s Famous — no visit to Coney Island would be complete without it.

Madison Avenue

Getty Images

Nothing says luxury quite like Madison Avenue. The more touristy section in the 50’s and 60’s gives way to a quieter, understated affluence with high-end designer stores placed one after the other.

Window shop at Stella McCartney and Ralph Lauren’s flagship stores or swing by Christian Louboutin — they’re all within a few blocks of each other. Pop into The Met Breuer for an art break before grabbing lunch at E.A.T. (owned by Eli Zabar) — think New York classics like lox and eggs or mushroom-barley soup.

Malcolm X Boulevard

Federico Rostagno/Getty Images

The area around Malcolm X Boulevard and 125th Street is full of tree-lined blocks and enough good food to ensure you can go several days without ever eating the same thing twice. Start your day with brunch at Red Rooster Harlem (try the cornbread, you’ll thank me) and finish it with traditional soul food at Sylvia’s Restaurant, which is just down the block.

Take a walk down West 130th Street to see the beautiful brick row homes with covered porches and front gardens that will make you feel as if you’ve stepped right into a charming Southern town.

Carl Schurz Park

Danita Delimont/Getty Images

This Upper East Side park is full of calming greenery and you’ll find the East River tide lapping right below you. Sit on a bench and take in the views of Queens across the water or walk to the other side and spot the tops of Gracie Mansion, first built in 1799 and used as the official residence of the mayor of New York since Fiorello H. La Guardia moved there in 1942 (former Mayor Michael Bloomberg opted not to live there during his terms as mayor).

Advertisement