5 days in New York is the perfect amount of time to spend in New York and enjoy its most iconic attractions at a nice pace. The city is huge, so you do need a well crafted New York itinerary in order to keep things organized. This way, you will be sure to see as much as possible during your time in town. 

I know you will be tempted to just swing it – but really, 5 days are not enough to allow improvisation. You need to book the attractions you want to visit, get skip the line ticket, follow a route. 

If you are hardly a fan of planning, you know you can count on me to do it for you. I have been to New York more times than I can remember. I have even lived there when I worked at the United Nations. In other words: I know the city. Hence, I am putting together a fabulous New York itinerary for you.

All you have to do is book your flights, your room and get skip the line tickets or guided tours if I recommend it. 

In this post, I will show you how to fully enjoy your 5 days in New York and share great tips to plan your trip.

4 days in New York

The Meatpacking District in Manhattan

Table of Contents

What You Need To Know About This 5 Days In New York Itinerary

Before telling you everything about your 5 days in New York, let me stress again that you need to book your tickets for the most popular attractions – that is, unless you have a fetish for long lines. 

I will point out whenever I think advanced bookings are required and link to the best booking sites.

For this New York itinerary, I will assume you are spending 5 or 6 nights and 5 days in New York. I recommend heading out as early as possible – though you don’t have to get out at the crack of dawn unless you want to. Lunch on the go is a good idea, and I recommend the best lunch spots in whichever area you will be visiting. 

GOOD TO KNOW: Keep in mind that the timings for the visits are just estimates. 

This New York itinerary is designed so that you can see attractions that are close to each other and minimize the time spent commuting from one place to the other.

I have included some of the most iconic attractions and some that will make your experience a wonderful one. As New York is packed with museums, I am going to give you a choice among the ones that are easy to add to this itinerary. 

GOOD TO KNOW: Feel free to skip the attractions you are not interested in!

For each of your 5 days in New York, I will show you the starting point for the day and share links to a map you can download to use offline if needed. 

Finally, keep on reading to find out what to see and do with 5 days in New York.

5 days in New York

The Staten Island Ferry

A Fantastic 5 Days In New York Itinerary

Day one – The Financial District 

The first of your 5 days in New York is all about the Financial District. Your are going to visit 9/11 Memorial and the World Trade Center; the Oculus and then continue to Wall Street. Finally, you will take the Staten Island Ferry.

Map of day 1 New York itinerary

Click here to download the map of your New York itinerary for the first day. Feel free to rearrange the order of the places you want to visit – I put the attractions in the order that seems the most logical to me.

Recommended lunch spots

Eataly. You will find it south of the Oculus, and you will have ample choice of Italian food.

9/11 Memorial

9/11 Memorial

9/11 Memorial

Visiting 9/11 Memorial when you have 5 days in New York is a must – at least to pay your respect to the victims of the two terrorist attacks.

The Memorial is made up of twin reflecting pools, which are meant to represent the footprints of the Twin Towers. The man made waterfall is the largest of its kind in North America. You will also be able to see the inscriptions of the names of those who died in the 1993 and 2001 terrorist attacks. 

GOOD TO KNOW: Factor in about 2 hours for your visit.

These are some good guided tour and skip the line options for 9/11 Memorial and Museum:

PRO TIP

If you really want a hassle free day, where your only worry is to get to the meeting point, you can opt for one of these two excellent tours below. They include guided visit to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, 9/11 Memorial, One World Observatory and the Oculus:

World Trade Center Observatory

There’s nothing quite like catching the views of New York from above. While I do not recommend helicopter rides – sorry, too much pollution going on there and they are terribly expensive – I can tell you to head up the World Trade Center Observatory. You really must when you have 5 days in New York!

With is 541 meters this is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. Built where the World Trade Center was located before the terrorist attacks of 9/11, from there you will get stunning views of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.

TIP: Factor in about an hour and a half for your visit.

These are some good skip the line options for the World Trade Center:

4 days in New York

The stunning architecture of the Oculus

Oculus

Built to serve the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, the Oculus is a fantastic shopping mall. Go there to grab lunch, to shop and to admire the incredible architecture. 

Wall Street

Wall Street is really close to the World Trade Center. You surely have seen it on TV or movies before. You can stop by to admire the statues of the Charging Bull and that of the Fearless girl. 

Staten Island Ferry

This ferry rides between Manhattan and Staten Island. It is free, so a nice thing to add to your New York itinerary without blowing your budget, and the views from it are impressive. There ride there and back lasts about one hour. 

TIP: One of the most common scams in New York is that of people trying to sell you tickets for the Staten Island Ferry. Remember it is free!

5 days in New York

Stunning views of the Statue of Liberty

Day two – Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Lower Manhattan

Your second day will be all about iconic places. You are going to visit the Statue of Liberty then explore lower Manhattan at your own pace.

Map of day 2 New York itinerary

Click here to download the map for your second day in New York itinerary.

Recommended lunch spots

Battery Park. You will get there after your Statue of Liberty tour and find plenty of eateries, delis and bakeries to grab lunch.

Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

With 5 days in New York, you really have to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The statue is the symbol of the United States, and an iconic attraction, and a donation from France (in the 19th century), not to mention a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

The tour starts with a ferry ride, from where you get to see the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan. Once you get to the site, you can go to the Pedestal to visit the museum. If you want to visit the crown you need specific tickets. The tour then continues to Ellis Island. 

GOOD TO KNOW: Tours of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island last around 4 hours. They really are the best ones but if you want a more budget friendly and quicker one, you can opt for a 60 minutes cruise around the statue. You won’t disembark but at least the views are incredible.  

TIP: Aim for the very first ferry to the Statue of Liberty, departing at 8:30 am. You should be back at around 12:30 pm so you will have plenty of time left to explore.

The ferry leaves from Battery Park. There will be a bit of a line to board so get there early.

These are the best tours of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island:

TIP: Book your Statue of Liberty tickets and tours well in advance to grab the earliest departure.

Chinatown

Chinatown is one of the most fun neighborhoods to visit in New York

Chinatown

Chinatown is one of the most fun neighborhoods to explore in New York. You will find lots of Asian style restaurants, nice shops and attractions. You are bound to enjoy the, the Chinese signs, and you can even shop for any sort of Asian goodies.

Little Italy

Located right across Canal Street from Chinatown, Little Italy is a great addition to your 5 days in New York itinerary. 

DISCLAIMER: I am Italian and a picky eater. The food your are bound to get in Little Italy is not Italian, but American Italian. Though it is not really what we eat in Italy, I have to say it is truly tasty. Definitely stay along for a meal! 

You may even want to do a food tour of Little Italy and Chinatown. Take a look at this food tour of Manhattan that lasts a whopping 3 hours here. Otherwise, opt for this guided food tour of Little Italy – check it out here.

New York in 2 days MET

The MET is a must see

Day three – Museums, Central Park and Midtown Manhattan

Day three of your New York in 5 days itinerary is mostly about museums. There are many interesting museums in town, but if you have 5 days in New York, you will have time to visit one, two at most. 

For this day, I am giving you three museums to pick from – all close to Central Park. From the museum, you can continue exploring – first go to Central Park, then St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Rockefeller Center and Top of the Rock, Grand Central Station and Times Square. 

Map of day 3 New York Itinerary

Here you can find the map for your third day in New York. I point to the MET as your starting point, but in case you want to visit a different museum, you can just move the starting point to that. Feel free to skip the attractions that don’t interest you.

Recommended lunch spots

The Plaza Food Hall. It’s at the southern entrance of Central Park and has several budget friendly places to grab lunch.

Sarabeths Central Park South. If you have the budget to splurge, this is one of the best restaurants near the park. 

OPTION 1: Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) the most famous museum in town, and of the best art galleries in the world. The incredible collection spans from ancient Egypt artifacts to contemporary art. 

The museum is so big that a full day is the recommended length of visit. You don’t really have that much time, so grab a map at the entrance and make your way to the exhibits that most interest you. 

GOOD TO KNOW: You can actually re-enter the museum on the same day. A great idea if you visit on Fridays or Saturdays. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: MET opens daily from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm. On Fridays and Saturdays it closes at 9:00 pm. Admission is $25. 

TIP: Get your ticket in advance here or here.

PRO TIP: If you are visiting New York on a Friday or Saturday, follow this itinerary in reverse and leave the MET as the last attraction.

OPTION 2: Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

This is my favorite museum in New York, and I love the iconic works of modern art on exhibit. You will be able to see the works of Vincent van Gogh, Warhol, Matisse, Gauguin, Picasso, Dali and Pollock. 

TIP: Get your ticket in advance. These are the best options:

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: MOMA is open every day from 10.30 am to 5:30 pm. It closes at 9:00 pm on Fridays and on the first Thursday of the month. Admission is $25.

4 days in New York

The Guggenheim is one of the funkiest buildings in New York

OPTION 3: The Guggenheim

This is one of the quirkiest museums in the world. You will enjoy the collection – mind you, it changes regularly so check the website to see what’s on. But more than anything you will enjoy the architecture. The building was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and first opened in 1959. 

Tickets to the Guggenheim can be bought online – they usually come with admission to special exhibits too. Here are the best skip the line options:

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The museum is open daily from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm. It closes at 8:00 pm on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Admission is $25. 

Central Park

With 5 days in New York, you have enough time to enjoy a walk through Central Park. This massive park is one of the few attractions in town that is free to visit and it is packed with things to do. Walk around in search of the best photo spots. You can even book your bike rental here.

Among the things to see in the park, there are: Strawberry Fields, aka John Lennon’s memorial; Bethesda fountain and terrace; Belvedere Castle; the Lake and Gapstow Bridge.

One of the things you shouldn’t do, on the other hand, is riding the horse pulled carriages.

Read more about responsible tourism on my post The Complete Guide To Becoming A More Responsible Traveler.”

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

New York’s cathedral is located on Fifth Avenue, near the south corner of Central Park. It is a Gothic style church, first inaugurated in 1878. Pop in for a quick look.

4 days in New York

Breathtaking views of the Empire State Building from Top of The Rock

Rockefeller Center and Top of the Rock

This series of Art Deco style buildings is close to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The complex was commissioned by oil magnate Rockefeller. It is famous for the ice rink and the Christmas tree – make sure to go if you visit New York for Christmas. Connected to the center you will find the Top of the Rock, a 1930s Art Deco skyscraper. The views from there are spectacular. 

GOOD TO KNOW: Admission to the Top of The Rock is timed. You need to book your ticket before going.

These are the best options:

Grand Central New York

Grand Central – more than just a station

Grand Central Terminal

This is one of the main transport hubs in town and chances are you will go through during your 5 days in New York. It actually is a stunning building dating back to 1913, where you will find shops, restaurants and more. Should you care to learn more about it, opt for self-guided tour of Grand Central that you can book here. It lasts about one hour. 

Times Square

The shiny Times Square is a famous place that everyone includes in their New York itinerary and you should do the same. It’s very central, so you don’t have to go out of your way to visit.

TIP: Beware of people wearing cartoon characters costumes and demanding payment when they pose for a photo. It’s a scam. 

3 days in New York

Incredible views of the Empire State Building

Day Four – The Empire State Building and the Village

This day is once again about amazing views and nice neighborhoods. Your starting point is Bryant Park. From there you will go to New York Public Library, the Empire State Building (a must if you have 5 days in New York) and then the High Line. Finally, you will explore Greenwich Village. At night, you have the option to see a show. 

Map of day 4 New York Itinerary

Here is a map for today’s itinerary. You will mostly be walking but it will be pleasant.

Recommended lunch spots

Chelsea Market. On 75 Ninth Avenue (between 15th and 16th st.), this is a perfect place for a quick, budget friendly meal. Personal tip: Miznon, an Israeli chain serving the best stuffed pita you can imagine. 

Bryant Park

Once a hub for drug dealing and prostitution, the park was finally turned into its lovely form a few decades ago. It’s less touristy than Central Park, and a favorite of locals to exercise and just chill. It’s close to the public library. If you happen to visit in the summer, make sure to go to the movie on Mondays. 

New York Public Library

Located on Fifth Avenue, New York Public Library can be easily recognized for its magnificent facade. It’s on the way to the Empire State Building so you can easily add it to this 5 days in New York itinerary. It is a large building with an impressive collection of books in any subject you can think of.

GOOD TO KNOW: Guided tours of the library are held Mondays to Saturdays at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm.

Empire State Building

With 5 days in New York, you have no excuse not to visit the Empire State Building. The views from the observation deck are out of this world. The skyscraper, completed in 1931, used to be the tallest building in the world back in the day. 

GOOD TO KNOW: Factor in about 90 minutes for your visit.

TIP: Book in advance! You will find a line to get to the elevator for the Empire State Building observatory, so having tickets before going is necessary. Try to be there as early as possible.

These are the best tours and skip the line tickets to the Empire State Building:

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The observation deck opens every day from 8:00 am to 2:00 am. 

Flatiron Building

This building in the shape of an iron is located on Fifth Avenue, at the end of Madison Square. It was completed in 1902 and measures 87 meters. It’s easy to include it in this 5 days in New York itinerary.

new york in 4 days

The many lights of Broadway

High Line

You can walk the High Line for free, and this is a great attraction! It goes through Midtown Manhattan from Chelsea Market all the way to Greenwich, so it fits perfectly in this 5 days in New York itinerary.

It used to be a railway viaduct. Abandoned in the 1980s, it opened again in 2009 after being remodeled by Dutch landscape architect Piet Oudolf.

TIP: This tour of the High Line and Chelsea Market lasts 2 hours and comes highly recommended. This one continues on to Greenwich.

Greenwich Village

You will surely know this neighborhood from the TV series Sex And The City – Carrie Bradshaw apartment is located there. It’s a lovely area to walk around, certainly something I recommend doing if you have 5 days in New York.

You can certainly roam around on your own, but there also are some great tours. Here they are:

Washington Square Park

No better place to end your day of exploration. Washington Square is really close to Greenwich Village. Stop by to admire the Marble Arch and to observe the many artists and local families – it’s a favorite hangout spot. 

OPTION 1: Broadway 

For a fun night out during your 5 days in New York, go see a musical in Broadway. There are 41 theaters (some with century-old signs) plenty of choice. Mind you, it is not cheap.

TIP: Tickets to broadway shows are sold online. Here you can get tickets to the Lion King and here those for Aladdin.

OPTION 2: Metropolitan Opera House

If you would rather see opera or ballet, opt for the Metropolitan Opera House instead. It is located in Lincoln Center. The massive modernist buildings is quite a sight, and inside the stage is so large that you are bound for a proper show. 

Brooklyn Heights

The views of Manhattan from Brooklyn Heights

Day 5 – Brooklyn

Spend your last day in New York exploring Brooklyn. This is one of the most charming parts of town and with 5 days in New York it’s a real must.

Make your way to lower Manhattan to cross the bridge, then head to Brooklyn Heights. You can continue to DUMBO and Bushwick for a street art tour. Finally walk back to Manhattan from Williambsurg Bridge. 

Map of day 5 New York itinerary

Here is the map for your last day in town. Bushwick is actually quite far off so if street art is not your thing skip it. 

Recommended lunch spots

Westville Dumbo. In the DUMBO area, lovely spot for a salad or a sandwich.

Height’s Falafel. In Brooklyn Heights. It doesn’t look great but falafel are delicious and it is very cheap. 

Brooklyn Bridge and Brooklyn Heights

Brooklyn Bridge connects lower Manhattan to Brooklyn across the East River. Completed in 1883, back then it was the first suspension bridge in the world. Make sure to walk it or bike it as the views from it are stunning.

Once you get off the bridge, head to Brooklyn Heights Promenade for (my favorite) views of Lower Manhattan. 

Brooklyn Heights is the first suburb of New York City. You will see many Victorian style buildings and historic churches. The highlight is Brooklyn Promenade.

If you care for a guided tour, these are some good options: 

DUMBO

DUMBO (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass) is one of the coolest areas of Brooklyn. It comes up regularly on any Instagram feed. It’s your chance to take that photo!

street art in brooklyn

You can find lots of street art around Brooklyn

Bushwick

Lovers of street art: Bushwick really is for you. You will find murals, art galleries and much more. Go on a guided tour to make the most of it. You can check out these:

Williamsburg Bridge

Opened in 1903 to connect Brooklyn to Manhattan, you will recognize it immediately as it is all pink. The views of the city and of Brooklyn Bridge from Williamsburg Bridge are stunning. 

BONUS: The Bronx Gospel

Chances are that if you have 5 days in New York there won’t be time for this. But if you happen to be there on a Sunday, you may want to try to add a trip to the Bronx to your New York itinerary – at the cost of having to sacrifice something else, most likely. 

Known for the Yankee Stadium and Bronx Zoo (which however I do not recommend visiting), in the 20th the Bronx was a badly disadvantage borough of New York, sadly known for the gang activities. The hard work of the administration turned it into a much better place and it is a nice area to visit and to walk around. 

The most popular thing to do in the Bronx on a Sunday is attending mass to see a Gospel choir. This has honestly very much become a tourist attraction, and you even have to reserve your ticket to go. But it is actually fun to experience. You can reserve your tickets here. Please note that the tour also goes to the rest of the Bronx, including Apollo Theater and Columbia University. 

Once you are done with the tour, you can stay in the area for some of the best brunch in New York

Brooklyn

Walking around New York – a fantastic way to discover the city

Using A New York Pass

If you are spending 5 days in New York, the New York Pass may be a convenient way to save on attractions while getting and skip the line access. City passes usually come with a metro card. You can get your pass here or here.

The New York CityPass gives you admission to many of the places mentioned in this New York itinerary, such as the Empire State Building, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Top of the Rock Observation Deck or Guggenheim Museum; the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. 

GOOD TO KNOW: Make advanced reservations for the various attractions.

Practical Tips To Make The Most Of New York In 5 Days

Where to stay in New York

You will find no shortage of places to stay in New York – though be prepared for the crazy high prices. If you have 5 days in New York, I think it is better to stay somewhere in Manhattan – it’s definitely easier to move around from there.  

These are some good places to stay in Manhattan:

When to visit New York

New York in the winter is amazing – if you like snow and aren’t bothered by the cold weather, it is definitely a good time to go. Sure enough though, it is easier to explore the city when the weather is warmer and the days longer, like in the spring and early fall. 

How to get to New York

It is easy to get to New York from anywhere in the United States and the world. I recommend flying to JFK for the best connections to the city. Skyscanner is the best site to search for cheap flight. For flights from Europe, Air France often has very good deals.

Getting from JFK to Manhattan

You have several ways of getting from JFK airport to Manhattan.

Taxi is the easiest way to get to Manhattan. Expect to pay a flat rate of $52 plus the tolls and a $4.50 surcharge on peak hours (between 4:00 and 8:00 pm on weekdays). 

UBER costs more or less the same as a taxi. Honestly, if you don’t have internet to use the app just hop on a taxi.  

Shuttles are among the cheapest option. They start at around $20. You need to book in advance. Book yours here.

The AirTrain is the most budget friendly option – a ticket to Manhattan costs $8. There are 3 different AirTrain lines.

2 days in New York City

Moving around New York is fairly easy

How to move around New York

This New York itinerary is meant to minimize the use of public transport from one attraction to the other, but you will have to use the subway to get to the starting point every day as a minimum. 

The best way to move around New York is by subway – it’s open 24/7 and a ticket costs just $3 USD. If you are getting a New York CityPass you will be happy to know it includes public transportation. If not, I recommend getting the Metro Card. Rides turn out to be a bit cheaper ($2.75 USD instead of $3) and it’s easier using a card you can top up and reuse than having to fiddle with change every time. 

Luggage storage in New York

You can store your bags in many locations around town. LuggageHero is a good site to search for luggage storage locations. They have storage facilities in Grand Central Terminal, Port Authority Bus Terminal, Penn Station, and Times Square.

Other useful tips

Get a guide book

A good guide book is definitely something you may want to take with you. Here are a few good ones:

Get a data plan for your smartphone

If you are staying for 5 days in New York, do verify whether you phone plan allows you to use data overseas – you will need internet to use Google Maps or other apps. Make sure to download the maps I have included so that you can use them offline, just in case. 

Mind the scams

Make sure to watch out for scams in New York. Like in any other place where there are lots of tourists, these are common. These are the most obvious scams to watch out:

  • taxi scams;
  • people wearing cartoon characters costumes demanding to be paid whenever you snap a photo – especially in Times Square
  • people trying to sell you tickets for the Staten Island Ferry (which is free).

Mind the pickpockets on the subway.

Get a good travel insurance

Whether you spend 5 days in New York ore 5 weeks, you will want to have a good travel insurance. Get yours here.

Check out my post Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.”

Further readings about the United States

Are you planning a trip to the United States? Make sure to read my other posts:

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Find out how to make the most of New York in 5 days - via @clautavani

 

 

 

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