When hitting up New York City, you can feel overwhelmed when trying to pull an itinerary together. If you’re on your first trip to the Big Apple, you just have to give in to the fact that you’ll barely see the tip of the iceberg and will have to head back for another good nose around. It’s a magical city that never sleeps, with fun around every corner and delicious places to eat, drink and be merry! It will leave you wanting more…

You may wish to avoid getting into endless queues and tourist traps when exploring, but there are a handful of sights you have to see on your first trip to New York City. Add these to your list of things to see in Manhattan and relax in the knowledge that you’ve done some world famous sightseeing… and then feel free to dive off the beaten path to find your own special parts of this brilliant city.

6 sights you have to see on your first trip to New York City

1. Top of the Rock

You may think you need to get into an Empire State of mind by climbing the Empire State building… but let me stop you there. Skip this building and make a beeline for the Observation Deck up the Rockefeller building, also known as the ‘Top of the Rock‘.

Why should you head up to this view instead? Up at the Top of the Rock, you get to see the Empire State Building looming in all its glory before you, which makes for a real New York sight. Plus, you get to see Central Park behind you, stretching out into the distance. If you’re up the Empire State Building, the famous park is actually blocked by the Rockefeller, so here’s where you have to go to get a perfect panoramic. See more of the experience here.

2. The High Line

Head over to the Chelsea Market, and once you’ve tasted your way through the many stalls, head up to the High Line. In the 1930s this elevated walkway was a train line which cut from 34th Street to St John’s Park Terminal, at Spring Street. Instead of demolishing the old train line, the late 1990s saw the High Line’s preservation and reuse as public open space.

Now walk through leafy greens and flowers to get great views of wide NYC roads, high rise buildings, and the odd famous building. See if you can spot the Chrysler Building or Empire State Building peeking through the buildings. When you’re done, find one of the steep staircases down to street level and zip back up to high heights on a brill rooftop bar to sip frozen margaritas and spy on sunset rooftop parties. See more about the elevated oasis here.

3. Central Park

When you’re feeling a touch dusty from the night before, walk off your hangover by taking to the famous Central Park. It’s huge. Like seriously MASSIVE – and you can lose many hours walking through and people watching.

Climb up on high rocks that spring out of the ground and crane your neck at the concrete jungle that surrounds, take a moment of peace at the John Lennon memorial, or get active by taking a paddle boat out across the lake.

4. Walk 5th Avenue

Once you’re done with Central Park, take 5th Avenue and walk all the way down past the Empire State Building to the Flatiron Building. Not only do you get to see more architecture (the Flatiron Building is incredible), you’ll also get a good dose of shopper’s paradise! Sure, the price range might be a touch on the high side here, but you’ll get to see the fantastic window displays of Saks and pretend to be Audrey Hepburn outside Tiffany’s.

When it’s your first time in New York, walk everywhere. It’s the best way to see the city and get in that exercise when you’re traveling, plus you can pick up a pretzel if you’re ever in need of sustenance. And when you’re done with the window shopping or your wallet’s taken a battering, hail a cab and high-tail it out of the crowds.

5. Have a quick gawp at Times Square

This is an absolutely crazy hub of activity, but everyone should experience Times Square once in their lives! With giant billboards and electric signs flashing high up on the skyscrapers, people everywhere and about a billion Sephoras as far as the eye can see, it’s city life at its best and worst. I would highly recommend popping by early in the mornings as the crowds can get pretty intense (avoid at all costs on a Saturday!), but enjoy it for what it is and get that quick selfie before retreating to a quiet, dark room to regain sanity.


6. Stay a while at Ground Zero

I feel that this is simply an incredibly important place to visit, take a breath and remember. Back in 2001, the terrorist attack took down the Twin Towers that used to be such an iconic addition to the New York skyline. It was an absolutely horrific event that claimed many lives, so those who are in New York should take a moment at Ground Zero. I visited the site late at night which meant that I couldn’t get very close (they cordon the memorial off after 9pm), but it was nearly deserted. Peaceful.

So if you’re heading to New York for your first time, hot dang are you in for a treat! Some of these touristy sights may leave you sick of the crowds, but it will help you get to grips with Manhattan and give you some awesome views.

Once you’ve made your way through the list, high-five yourself, finish channeling your inner Carrie Bradshaw, then dive into the many hidden secrets of NYC. Or even take a long walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, spy the Statue of Liberty on the Hudson river and begin a new adventure in Brooklyn, baby!

Who else is in love with this great city? What was your favourite thing to do?


Sophie Saint was one of the original travelettes, from 2009 – 2017. After fleeing the UK with ink barely dry on her graduation certificate, she traversed the world with a backpack and spent a few years living in Melbourne – one of her favourite cities in the world.

She finally returned to the UK after a few years where she now whiles time away zipping off for European escapes, crocheting and daydreaming of owning her own hostel somewhere hot to live out eternal summers. See what she’s up to over on her blog saintsonaplane.com and instagram: @saintsonaplane