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How to spend 24 hours in New York

Woman in New York on Broadway

Craving a bite outta the Big Apple? My Contiki travel bud and I managed to tackle this incredible city in one action-packed day. 40,000 steps, six espressos and two pairs of aching feet later and we wouldn’t regret a thing. If you’re looking to spend 24 hours in New York, I’ve got you covered.

It was probably one of the most fulfilling all day/nighters of my life and one that I will always remember! Note that there are so many interesting things to do in New York, that a super-organized itinerary is absolutely necessary if you want to accomplish the task of mastering this city in just ONE DAY.

Start South (AKA Brooklyn). We decided to start at the very bottom of the tourist map and work upwards towards the final and most popular destinations such as the Rockefeller Center and the Empire State Building. Top tip: both of these spots are open until late – the Empire State is open until 2am – so there was plenty of time to do a midnight trip to the top and see arguably one of the best views of the city at night.

Keep reading for the only 24-hour itinerary you need in your life…


We start early, leaving the hotel bang on 7am and commence as far south on the map as possible. I recommend catching the subway about 07:00-07:30, it was surprisingly quiet and we virtually had the carriage to ourselves! Within a smooth half an hour we arrive at Brooklyn. Exit the station and a 12-minute walk takes us to Brooklyn bridge, one of the top tourist spots in New York.

We walk across Brooklyn and over Manhattan Bridge. DONE and DONE. I’ve heard that Queens is a must-see area and the markets are meant to be amazing for shopping, but we quickly improvise as we’re keen to get more into the cultural centre so we quickly circle off the bottom quarter of the map.

En-route to Chinatown, Noho and Nolita. We see signs for Little Italy, which leads to the next, very important task, on our list: coffee!

Little Italy is busy and buzzing, with an open-air market selling all sorts of souvenirs and clothes. Chinatown definitely felt more like a nightlife area with plenty of cool restaurants. We wander around, soaking it all up.

We head north and embark on the long walk up to the One World Center and 9/11 Memorial. The memorial of both towers is something that simply has to be experienced, even if you only have 24 hours to spend in New York City. I had heard that it was two big fountains but I was left utterly speechless and overwhelmed as I took in the full memorial.

Two never-ending fountains flow into the ground before us and the are area is peaceful and calm – juxtaposed by the sheer horror that was 9/11. The names etched into the walls are incredible to look at. I honestly recommend this to every human being as the vast space and sheer size of the towers is just incomparable.


Hotdogs outside Trump Tower? Why not. After grabbing a delicious bite to eat from one of the many food trucks, we take on the Financial District and Wall Street.

Then it was onto Broadway, and what a stretch that was! Expensive shops are located near the top of the strip with the cheaper $10 handbag and $5 jean shops emerging as we walked. A definite must-do is a stop at Bloomingdales in New York. Surprisingly, the store was virtually empty and we had the complete attention of idle shop assistants spritzing perfume as we strode past and handing out sachets and beauty freebies.

We walked up towards Nolita, Noho and Soho. After Soho we cut through Lower Manhattan and up to the New Museum on Bowery – a little expensive by the lift to the top of the museum provides some AMAZING views. Afterwards we carried on through Greenwich Village, making a stop at the arty neighbourhood of Noho – once home to artists like Andy Warhol!


If you’re wondering what else you can do in Manhattan – head to the Rockefeller Center, before going for cocktails and dinner. This is where the fatigue began to set in and we crashed out on comfy booths in a Mexican fajita joint downtown.

We caught a cab up to Fifth Avenue, but unfortunately it was all shut by 8pm. So, we went to Times Square – all lit up and looking fabulous – to take as many pictures as possible from the different view points. We spent a good hour just chilling and taking pictures, discussing life and travel goals, amidst the buzzing backdrop of one of the busiest crossings in the world. It was truly beautiful.

The last leg was the longest, as we set out to find the Empire State Building! But ‘bitches get the job done’ became our motto for this incredible mission. Believe it or not, it wasn’t easy to spot one of the most iconic buildings in the world among the many skyscrapers! We’re not the first and certainly won’t be the last to struggle to find this grand beauty. We hung out until around midnight and the place was packed with tourists, fitting in a glimpse of those views before the day ended.

Times Square

Image source:Luca Bravo

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Phew! What a taste of the Big A. Incredible memories, stunning sights and more walking than I’ve ever done in my life. What can I say? New York, I love you, and am coming back for ya!

Need more inspiration? Check out Contiki’s top five things to do in NYC…

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