A week in New York

After a week-long visit to the city that never sleeps, I've gathered some tips, reflections, and nonsense to share.

New York, from March 2 to 9, 2024.

The journey itself was absolutely nothing special. We flew with SWISS and were not too impressed: the service was excellent, but the rows of seats are too close together, and the entertainment system is too old. The return flight was with United Airlines, and we found it much better, with plenty of space for our weary limbs.


Upon arrival at Newark, going through immigration took just 15 minutes. The security officers are strict but kind and can ask any question. Just stay calm, smile, and answer truthfully.

As for our ESTA, I believe they had it available once passport details were entered, so the copy I had printed was completely useless.

Transfer to/from the airport

For transfers to/from Manhattan, we always used the Booking.com shuttle service. It costs much less than any other option (in the order of $65 versus $100) and is often a service offered for free at the time of hotel booking.


Access to Manhattan is always (always) conditioned by traffic. The driving is generally cautious and regular even if it's always busy. From Newark, which from a traffic perspective is the worst of the three airports, it takes 45 minutes to reach downtown Manhattan (and vice versa) in good traffic conditions.

There are obviously many things to see in Manhattan, and it's good to arm yourself with comfortable shoes: we walked 114 km in a week. Here's what we visited (in random order)

  • One World Trade Center and Top of the Rock; there are various skyscrapers from which you can reach the top to see the incredible panoramas of NY, and prices range from $40 to $80. If you don't book for (at least) the next day, you risk not finding a spot. This happened to us with Summit One Vanderbilt, which would have been our first choice, and so we "settled" for Top of the Rock ($40), which is precisely the top of Rockefeller Center 30. Then visiting Ground Zero, we also decided to go to the top of One World Trade Center ($40) and it was an excellent choice because there was no line, and the view from up there is truly spectacular as you can see the entire area covered by the 9/11 disaster, part of the harbor and bay, and even the Statue of Liberty. Every hour there is an informative event where a staff member gives you a very nice introduction to the whole city; we then stayed for an additional half-hour with this person to ask questions about ground zero. For the record, the other famous places to go to the top in NY are obviously the Empire State Building and the Edge Observation Deck, which is perhaps the most innovative and "cool" experience
  • The Oculus is an impressive structure, built near Ground Zero by architect Calatrava and resembles the shape of a dove taking flight (that's the intention, but who knows). The "belly" of the dove contains a shopping center with very spacious areas
  • MoMA, the famous modern art museum of NY, obviously requires a visit, and we did not miss it ($28). Even if you already have tickets, you will still have to queue for half an hour (don't be scared: it's very long but moves quickly). The part that struck us the most was the permanent exhibition, where you can admire many masterpieces, from Magritte to Picasso - many more than I expected. The museum shop is very interesting
  • The Natural History Museum was not as interesting as I expected, perhaps remembering the movie with Ben Stiller. Everything is very fake and very much oriented towards children and youngsters
  • The free Staten Island ferry is a ferry that departs (and arrives) continuously and connects the port of Manhattan with Staten Island. The ferry is a free service because it primarily serves commuters. We embarked on this strange 20+20 minute trip during which we enjoyed the view of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline from a certain distance. Highly recommended
  • Grand Central Terminal is the central station and as such is huge, but can still be visited quickly. It's interesting to note that security is very lax, and you can access the tracks even without a ticket (great for taking photos)
  • The High Line is an elevated walkway, a couple of kilometers long, in the middle of the buildings in the southwest of the island. It absolutely deserves to be walked; take note, at the north end of the path, of the Vessel, a strange structure that has been closed because it inspired too many people to... use it to commit suicide. At the end (or beginning) of the path, you practically arrive at the entrance of the important Whitney Museum of American Art
  • Chelsea Market is an indoor market located in the charming Chelsea neighborhood; it consists, on two levels, mainly of restaurants of various sizes, more or less interesting. The atmosphere is very pleasant, it also hosts a local craft market and is definitely worth a visit. West Village is an area where one must lose themselves a bit to discover its most hidden and picturesque corners. Very interesting! Central Park in March isn't really much. We visited a good part of it but in the end, we have much more interesting parks in Europe, especially parks that have not been designed in every single detail, let's say. Not mandatory, unless in the nice season

Broadway and Musicals

I don't like musicals, but now I would go see a Broadway musical every day.

The schedule obviously varies over time so these tips are subject to change, but seeing Moulin Rouge was a wonderful, moving experience that left me astonished and ecstatic time and again. A show that defines the very term "spectacular."

We liked the experience so much that we also went to see a second one, Spamalot, loosely based on the Monty Python films. Hilarious, 2 hours and 20 minutes flew by!

If you want to see a show (and if you go to NY even for the first time, it's something you MUST do), do not buy tickets online. They cost too much! What you need to do is go to Times Square and queue up (quickly) to buy a ticket from the TKTS ticket office. The shows for which you can buy tickets are not all the shows, some are not in their catalog, but if yours is, you'll also save up to 50% on great tickets. The catch is that you can only buy tickets for the same day, with the show starting at 7 PM.


Since New York isn't just Manhattan (it's also the smallest district of the five that make up the city), we decided to get to know Brooklyn. There are interesting streets, like Smith St., and the neighborhood's vibe is definitely relaxed and offers an incredible variety of foods and venues. However, the most touristy but also the most fascinating part is definitely DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), the riverside neighborhood from which you can closely observe the two bridges (Manhattan and Brooklyn) and the Manhattan skyline. If you do it at sunset, the show is breathtaking. You then return to Manhattan on foot using the overpass, precisely, of the Manhattan Bridge. One photograph after another, practically.

A Show at the Comedy Cellar

I'm a big fan of stand-up comedy, so I couldn't miss visiting the Comedy Cellar on MacDougal St. The steps to access a show are as follows:

  • You book online on their website. There are several locations, and I chose the most classic of all (MacDougal). When you book, you don't pay anything.
  • The cost is a bit funny to calculate: it's $14 per person fixed, plus you must consume at least two things when attending the show; in the end, we spent about $50 each.
  • On the day of the show, go to the place a bit early and check in. You will be given a yellow envelope in which you must put phones and smartwatches. You keep the envelope with you.
  • Now go get in line and wait for the place to open.
  • As soon as you enter, they will tell you where to sit (and you will be cramped because obviously, they try to let in as many people as possible).
  • 4 or 5 comedians will perform and during the show, you can order drinks and/or food.

The show lasts about two hours: at the end, you will give your card to the waiter, pay the bill, and you can use your phone again to take some pictures of the environment. Definitely recommended if you like the genre.

Internet Access

When I go abroad, the first thing I do when I land at the airport is to buy a local SIM for data. In New York, it wasn't necessary: apart from a free urban network with decent coverage, practically all places have their open Wi-Fi which you can access. Obviously, still use a VPN when using one of these open Wi-Fis, but I needn't tell you that, right?


In New York, you don't go to eat anything special, especially if you come from a culture with renowned and high-quality food.

They say the pizza is particularly interesting. They say.

Maybe interesting restaurants have either an endless queue or an absurd price.

In the end, we got by on average like this:

  • breakfast at Paris Baguette
  • lunch at Shake Shack
  • dinner at a pub, like the Molly Wee

An exceptional place definitely worth trying is "Katz's Delicatessen." Try the pastrami sandwich, but don't be intimidated by its size (it could easily feed two). To make life a bit easier, there are seating areas in the back of the deli where you can be served at a leisurely pace.

Visiting Tiffany

We visited the entrance of the Trump Tower and, being guests in such a grand building, I decided to use the restroom. A security person told me it wouldn't be available for 17 minutes.

"Go to Tiffany's," he suggested.

So, we took the opportunity to enter the Tiffany building next to the Trump Tower without prior planning and, surprise, the place is definitely worth a visit: six floors filled with fabulous jewelry, artistic works, and other super expensive trinkets. The staff is very kind and seems not at all annoyed by all the wide-eyed, less affluent tourists.

And we even used the very fragrant bathroom.


If your culture doesn't typically include tipping, remember that tips are obligatory everywhere here. With POS payment systems, it's easy now; just press the "20%" button when paying (or less, if you prefer). It gets more complicated with cash, as the waiter might judge you based on what you give (it happened to us).

In some places, there's this bizarre method: you hand your debit card to the waiter, who goes off to swipe it. They return with another receipt where you must write down the tip amount and sign. You just have to trust them.


Everything is too expensive, about 50% to 100% more than in Berlin, where we live. The only items that cost less are sneakers or casual shoes, however you want to call them.

There's no VAT, but often an 8% "tax" is added, and you only find out the final price at payment - unless you ask beforehand.