So You Want To Go To Downtown Manhattan: Here’s Everything You Need To Know

Experience what it's like to be a native New Yorker by skipping the tourist traps and staying below 14th street, writes Vicki Notaro.

The beauty of New York City is that it can be anything to anyone. Want the Gossip Girl high-end experience? Don’t leave the Upper East Side. Fancy a more Girls-like trip? Hit up Brooklyn. Want to see the infamous sights, sounds and shops? Midtown is your mecca.

However, if you want to experience an altogether cooler, less hipster and certainly quieter part of the island, lower Manhattan is the place to be. Comprised of several different neighbourhoods all beneath Union Square, which one you pick is completely up to you….

If you’re more of an artsy type, try the East Village. Bordered by Soho and the Lower East Side and Alphabet City, the East Village is a little more bohemian than its western counterpart Greenwich Village. It’s chock full of cool restaurants, bars and stores, but is a little more edgy and less high end than its neighbour.

Greenwich Village is a nice mix of students attending nearby NYU, and professionals working in the city. Washington Square Park is its beating heart, its famous arch a must-see in the city, and 5th Avenue begins right by it dividing the city east and west.

Soho and Tribeca are expensive and hip, gentrified recently enough and full of creatives and fashion industry insiders, while the Meatpacking district still has meat trucks trundling through at dawn, but also achingly cool boutiques and bars and all the advantages of the Highline, a park created on an old railway line spanning 10th Avenue.

NoLita is north of Little Italy, and it’s more up and coming, full of independent retailers, coffee shops and bagels in the basements of brownstones. Nearby Chinatown is like another world, not a touristy tribute to Chinese culture like San Francisco’s, but incredibly authentic with almost 800,000 Chinese immigrants living and working there.

The Financial District is high rise and concrete and stainless steel rule, but there’s a sense of going off-grid down there, with great hotels and lots to see and do, as well as access to the Brooklyn Bridge, Battery Park and lots of boat services that cruise the Hudson and the East River.

Where to stay

I’ve been to New York a dozen times and stayed all over, but I have three downtown favourites.  The Roxy, formerly the Tribeca Grand, is in a fantastic location on Avenue of the Americas, walking distance from Chinatown and Soho. It looks amazing, used to be owned by Jay Z and the food and drink offerings are sublime. Plus if you’re lucky, you’ll have a view of the Freedom Tower at World Trade Center Plaza out your window.

If you’d rather the buzz of the Village, The Walker hotel is for you. It’s right by bustling Sixth Avenue but on a quiet street itself, has a gorgeous Art Deco design and it feels like it’s in the middle of absolutely everything.

Or if it’s glam you’re after, try The Standard Meatpacking. It’s actually situated on the Highline, and while it looks weird from the outside, it’s incredibly hip inside. There’s a stunning bar on the top floor with amazing views, a beer garden on the ground level and always someone interesting around if you love people watching.

Don’t miss:

Bottomless brunch at Poco – endless mimosas for 2 hours with a brunch dish for only $32 each? Yaaasss.

Brunch at Beauty and Essex – quite simply the best meal I’ve ever had. Get the caesar toast and the BBQ fries, you won’t regret it.

Dinner at the Blue Ribbon Grill – a high end menu heavy on steak and seafood with a chilled out vibe, it’s romantic and good craic all at once.

A slice at Joe’s Pizza – famous faces often frequent this tiny Village store, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Bradley Cooper.

Chilling in Washington Square Park – the iconic arch is a must-see, and the people watching here is amazing.

Drinks at Whiskey Tavern – this Chinatown bar is a party place with a filthy-delicious menu of comfort food. Grab a table, stay all night.

This article first appeared in STELLAR’s July issue. Our August issue is on shelves now! 

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