New York used to be such an easy city to crack for the visitor. Not only was there that simple-to-master grid of streets but, really, who wanted to stray from Manhattan? Today, while that stretch from Wall Street to the Upper East Side and beyond still enchants, you really need to cross some bridges and head upstate. The city’s focus has fractured and shifted and you ignore the appeal of, say, Brooklyn at your peril.

Need to know

Get to grips with the basics

  1. Top tips: It’s never good to make the faux pas of failing to tip adequately in a city where the service industry revolves around client goodwill.
  2. Decisions, decisions: A word of advice: don’t go into a chop-salad bar (or the equivalent) without a reasonably firm notion of what you want. Staff and fellow customers won’t take kindly to delays.
  3. Be firm: There’s no use being a stuttering, socially awkward individual here: New Yorkers have far too little time for that.
  4. Where to be seen: There is a silent war going on in NewYork over the acceptable places to live in among its five boroughs. Fashionistas can’t live anywhere above 14th Street; those on the more traditional Upper East and West Sides might disagree.
  5. Express delivery: Different trains running on the same platforms on the New York subway can get a little confusing for new arrivals. Make sure you double check before hopping aboard.

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Hotels

Hospitality at its finest

  1. The Park Hyatt New York

    Lap of luxury

    For one of the hospitality industry’s most reliable brands this is a suitably indulgent flagship; French architect Christian de Portzamparc has done a fine job. Plus there’s the bonus of being right next to Carnegie Hall.

  2. The Ludlow, Lower East Side

    Diamond in the rough

    The hotel’s stylishly dark entrance and lobby bar are an upscale tip of the hat to the once gritty rock’n’roll neighbourhood. The 187 rooms offer a calming oasis without losing their cool Lower East Side vibe.

  3. Wythe Hotel, Williamsburg

    Local influence

    This is an establishment that not only remains the same but also continues to set the standard. Worth a visit for the rooftop bar alone.

Vocabulary

Local lingo

  1. Bodega: Cornershop
  2. Buck: Dollar
  3. Check: Bill
  4. Dime: 10¢ coin
  5. Entrée: Main course
  6. Nickel: 5¢ coin
  7. Schmear: Bagel spread
  8. The Village: West Village
  9. Walk-up: Building without lift

Food and drink

Smart bites and top stops

  1. Russ & Daughters, Lower East Side

    Homely Jewish fare

    This Jewish “appetising store” was opened by Joel Russ on East Houston in 1914 and hasn’t changed much since, serving fish-based takeaway fare and now run by the fourth-generation Russ family. There’s also a café around the corner.

  2. Tacombi, Nolita

    Camping out

    This kitsch Mexican taco joint does a roaring lunchtime trade. The refreshing menu features classics such as pork-belly tacos alongside lesser-known offerings such as Veracruzana fish.

  3. Café Colette, Williamsburg

    Creative corner

    Head to this New American bistro for rustic, creative food. Brunch options include poached eggs with roasted squash and hearty mains feature butter-bean-and-kale stew with grilled sourdough.

  4. Jack’s Wife Freda, West Village

    Low-key dining

    The café’s menu features an all-day selection of simple yet delicious dishes, including a fresh take on Israeli shakshuka and the Madame Freda sandwich with duck prosciutto and cheddar béchamel. Rustic hospitality is everything here.

  5. The Nomad Bar, Nomad

    Accessible grandeur

    With mahogany-lined walls, green-leather booths and a mirrored bar that rises up into a dramatic two-storey space, the Nomad Bar evokes opulence akin to that of the Nomad restaurant.

Retail

Shop talk

  1. The Monocle Shop, West Village

    Our embassy in New York

    Every item in our NY shop – from acrylic canvas carry-on bags to brass-plated paperweights – aspires to bring harmony to your hectic life and keep you looking good too.

  2. Dover Street Market, Kips Bay

    One-stop concept shop

    A beaux arts seven-floor mansion houses Rei Kawakubo’s multibrand shop that focuses on the avant garde. It goes through a biannual transformation of its space in January and July.

  3. Barneys, Midtown

    Head of department

    First established in 1923 as a menswear shop on Manhattan’s west side, Barneys’ original slogan was “For the man who knows”. Today the department store maintains its reputation as an arbiter of haute-fashion.

  4. McNally Jackson, Nolita

    Book and stationery master

    McNally Jackson Books captures a golden age of bookshops: a refined selection that includes art, photography and graphic design. Look out for the “espresso” book machine: a gizmo that can print a self-published book in six minutes (at a cost).

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