When it comes to New York icons, yellow cabs are up there alongside Lady Liberty and the Empire State Building. But if you ask me, the best way to get around the Big Apple isn’t by taxi – it’s on foot.
Walking gives you so much more freedom than if you’re stuck in a cab or whizzing below ground on the subway. You can duck down interesting-looking side streets on a whim, stop for an impromptu coffee when you spot a cute pavement café, or pop into a neighbourhood park for a pretzel alongside lunching office workers.
The following are two of my favourite walking routes through the city. Each can easily be done in a morning or afternoon, although you could stretch them over a day to make the most of each neighbourhood’s shops, cafés and restaurants.
So, grab a comfortable pair of shoes and let’s hit the streets!
Route One: Greenwich Village
Start off in Washington Square Park, a leafy square that’s usually filled with families, friends and chess aficionados. From here, head west along Waverly Place (admiring the redbrick townhouses as you go), then turn north onto 6th Avenue. At number 414, you’ll find C.O. Bigelow – the oldest apothecary in America. Have a browse and maybe pick up a tin of their cult rose lip salve, before heading back out and zig-zagging across the Village’s tree-lined streets until you reach the corner of Bedford and Commerce Streets. Keep an eye out for number 75½ Bedford – at just nine-and-a-half feet wide, it’s the narrowest house in the city.
Walking further up Bedford, you’ll notice crowds congregating at the intersection with Grove Street. Look up and you’ll recognise the building on the corner; it acted as Monica’s apartment building in Friends. Walk east on Grove Street and you’ll notice a pretty little enclave behind a wrought-iron gate between numbers 10 and 12. This is Grove Court, a private courtyard with six white-shuttered townhouses – originally, they were undesirable ‘backhouses’ for labourers, but nowadays their quiet location means they’re prime real estate.
From here, head north up Hudson Street and enjoy aimlessly wandering the Village’s streets, which now take on more of a grid feel – much easier for navigating. You’ll find pavement cafés on every street, as well as some of the city’s best restaurants (the famous Spotted Pig is on the corner of Greenwich Street and 11th). For shopping, head along Bleeker, home to big names like Diptyque, Marc Jacobs and Burberry, as well as cool labels like Maje and Zadig & Voltaire.
Route Two: Brooklyn Bridge and DUMBO
This route begins on the Manhattan side of Brooklyn Bridge. City Hall-Brooklyn Bridge subway station is about a minute’s walk away if you’re coming from further uptown. Amble slowly across the bridge – as well as fantastic views of Brooklyn and Manhattan, the bridge itself is pretty spectacular, with its Gothic arches and criss-cross network of steel cables. There are benches dotted all along the walkway, which are great for taking a breather (and people-watching).
Once you’ve crossed the river, take the first pedestrian exit off the bridge, which will lead you down to Washington Street in the DUMBO (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass) neighbourhood. Walk down Washington Street and you’ll be able to see the bridge’s steel arches – they perfectly frame the Empire State Building in the distance, creating a brilliant photo op.
DUMBO is a tiny neighbourhood, so easy to get around on foot. Head west along Water Street and you’ll come across a lovely French bakery and chocolate shop. If it’s lunchtime, make your way to Grimaldi’s, just round the corner on Old Fulton Street – it’s one of NYC’s most famous pizza joints. For pudding, wander across the road for a scoop of butter pecan from Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, set in an old fireboat house.
Once you’re finished with DUMBO’s cobbled streets, stroll down to the riverside Empire Fulton Ferry park (part of Brooklyn Bridge Park, which carries on south along the river) for knockout views of Manhattan and the two bridges.
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