Text and photos: Sofía Verzbolovskis
One of your first stops in New York should be Manhattan’s Chinatown, a neighborhood that is distinguished by its cacophony of signs, colors, smells, and food. These days, the Flushing Chinatown in Queens and the Sunset Park Chinatown in Brooklyn are as expansive and vivacious as the original one in Manhattan. Despite the investment and development that has overtaken Manhattan, however, its Chinatown still feels like its own entity: a city within a city. Crowds of people live and walk its streets daily. Joe’s Shanghai, Bassanova Ramen and Nom Wah Tea Parlor are some of the most popular places to eat, but the options are endless. When you’ve satisfied your hunger, take a stroll through Columbus Park and surround yourself with locals playing Chinese board games and music. Then, head to the World Trade Center’s 9-11 Memorial and end the day with a visit to Spanish Architect Santiago Calatrava’s ribbed Oculus. You will often overhear people unsuccessfully try to reach a verdict as to what is it that they see in this unique structure: Is it a bird? A fish skeleton?
Walk the quaint streets of Soho, the most fashion-forward neighborhood of New York. Stop at Opening Ceremony to browse the latest collections of up-and-coming designers, then take a coffee break at La Mercerie, a beautiful French restaurant and café inside the Roman and William Guild luxury design store, a remarkable boutique that has exceptional furniture and décor options for the home. Transition from shopping to seeing some of New York’s notable architecture by walking downtown to Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall—or take the subway if you need a break. One of the most iconic New York experiences is crossing the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn and looking back at NYC’s unparalleled skyline. You will arrive in the Brooklyn neighborhood of DUMBO (short for Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass), where you will be met by cobblestone streets, independent art galleries, and bookstores such as Power House Arena and Berl’s Poetry Shop. The neighborhood makes a picturesque location for a leisurely stroll. If you have time and want to go a little off the beaten path, head to the tiny Vinegar Hill neighborhood, made up of historic brownstones and narrow streets. The five or six streets of this little swath of land is worth the detour; you can also visit Vinegar Hill House if night falls and drinks and food are essential!
Nowhere is NYC’s energy more palpable than at Grand Central Terminal, which overflows with hustle and bustle in the heart of the city. It is also an architectural gem; the main hall features an intricate and stunning painted ceiling and its arched passageways recall the glories of the past. It also boasts world-class eateries such as the landmark Grand Central Oyster Bar and the contemporary Nordic restaurant Agern and the adjacent Great Northern Food Hall. No matter where you eat, you can walk off lunch by heading east toward 59th St and 2nd Ave.
An often-overlooked thing to do in New York is a tramway ride to Roosevelt Island. Yes, there is a tram in New York! Though it is a quick ride, it takes you high over midtown Manhattan to Roosevelt Island where you can visit the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park at the southern tip of the island. The superb views of NYC make it the perfect spot for a picnic overlooking the United Nations complex and the east side of Manhattan. During the spring and summer months, the park is also a place for concerts and a myriad of other cultural events.
The triangular 22-story Flatiron Building is an essential, must-see New York landmark.Thanks to its unique shape, if you stand to one side, it appears completely flat. After visiting the Flatiron Building, take a little break at Madison Square Park and have lunch at the famous Shake Shack, known for its delicious hamburgers and milkshakes, and end with an espresso at Stumptown in the ever-trendy Ace Hotel. Then, head a couple of blocks uptown to get a 360-degree view of Manhattan from the Empire State Building. Finish your day discovering Koreatown. Though Koreatown spans just a couple of blocks (its main stretch is on 32nd St between 6th and 5th), it is an explosion of colors, signs, and people. There are many excellent restaurants to choose from, whether you want classic Korean barbecue, dumplings, or fried chicken. Her Name is Han is a block away from the energy of Korea Way, but I highly recommend it—though it is known for its hot pot, every single dish is exciting, bold, and will leave you wanting more.
Of course The Metropolitan Museum of Art is not to be missed, but do not forget to visit its annex, the Met Breuer. Located on 75th Street and Madison, it opened in 2016 in Marcel Breuer’s iconic building (which used to host the Whitney Museum). The Breuer specializes in spotlighting modern and contemporary artworks from the Met’s enormous collection. The lower level is home to Chef Ignacio Matto’s Flora Bar, which has great dishes such as tuna tartar, lamb ribs with yogurt and mojo verde, and potato and raclette croquettes.
If you want a more casual meal, take the 6 train to East Harlem’s 116th stop and head to Chef Julian Medina’s taco and ceviche joint, La Chula. Then, end the day in West Harlem, enjoying an out-of-this-world cookie at Levain Bakery. At night, don’t miss the live music and low-key vibe at Paris Blues, a legendary Harlem establishment that has nourished the community over 50 years with fantastic and intoxicating music.
Of the five boroughs that make up New York City, Queens embodies the intersection of cultures and traditions like no other. Astoria is home to a predominantly Greek community, but walk the streets and you will quickly realize how multinational it really is. The first thing I would do in Astoria is head to Socrates Sculpture Park, a unique large-scale sculpture park that hosts outdoor movie screenings on long summer nights.
A 3-minute walk from the park will take you to the Noguchi Museum, dedicated to the work of Japanese-American sculptor, Isamu Noguchi. The museum has an idyllic outdoor patio that is perfect for unwinding. If you still want more art, I would recommend the Museum of the Moving Image. For cinephiles, this museum is the ultimate place to spend a few hours. It is the only institution in the United States dedicated to the past, present, and future of film and media. If this snippet of Queens leaves you wanting more, take the R train to Roosevelt Avenue in the heart of Jackson Heights, Queens’s most ethnically diverse neighborhood. (Can you believe there are over 167 languages spoken just in this neighborhood?) The culinary scene is mind-blowing; Tibetan dumplings, Thai and Indian food, and Ecuadorean and Colombian cuisine are all on offer in the space of just a few blocks.
Williamsburg, in Brooklyn, epitomizes hipster culture. Throughout the last two decades, Williamsburg has transformed from a gritty industrial area to a synonym for artistic cool. Here you can find great street art, delicious food options, fantastic views (go to rooftop bars like the William Vale or the Wythe Hotel), and a dynamic nightlife. Head to South Williamsburg, which used to be home to a large Latino and Puerto Rican community, and visit Toñitas, the last Caribbean Social Club, where you can get a feel for what the neighborhood was like years ago. With $2 beers, a jukebox, and a pool table, it is as good as it gets.
If food is on your mind, every Saturday from April to October you can find a fantastic open-air food market called Smorgasburg, with over 100 local vendors. There you can revel in a vast variety of flavors—grilled lobster, delicious pizza, Thai and Chinese food, local ice cream from The Good Batch, and more.
Copa Airlines offers three flights a day on Mondays, Fridays, and Sundays, and four on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays to New York from North, Central, and South America and the Caribbean through its Hub of the Americas in Panama City.
If you would like to plan your trip and get more information on what is happening in NYC, go to: www.nycgo.com