Curious New York: a weekend guide

By Danielle Contray

Photography by Alexander Spatari/Getty

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New York is a magical place, even if it’s your second, third or fifth visit to the city. From an urban park stretching along an elevated railway track to a tiny museum in a freight elevator, there are plenty of quirky spots in The Big Apple. Here’s a 48-hour guide for curious travellers seeking the unexpected in NYC. The best part? You don’t even have to take a full day off work.


Evening - Make your escape

With frequent flights to New York from London departing every day, you’ll be spoilt for choice with the British Airways schedule. You can minimise your holiday leave and maximise your first evening in Manhattan by catching an early evening flight from London Heathrow to JFK.

22:00 - Nightcap

Drop your luggage off at the InterContinental New York Barclay and walk over to Grand Central Station. If a trip to New York's biggest station doesn't sound like a particularly 'curious' recommendation to you, look again – the station has a 'secret' bar that’s the perfect Friday night spot. Book ahead for a candlelit table at The Campbell. Once the private office and reception hall of a Jazz Age financier, it was restored in 2017 and the sound of cocktail shakers has replaced the clack of typewriters. Hidden in a side room off the station, it's a novel way to take in a classic New York landmark.

Book a stay at the InterContinental New York Barclay

  • The new Whitney Museum of American Art has reopened in the Meatpacking District
  • Tuck into Michelin-starred Mexican fare at Casa Enrique

    Michelin magic

    Casa Enrique was the first Mexican restaurant in New York to earn a Michelin star – and with good reason. Chef Cosme Aguilar’s most popular dish, cochinito chiapaneco – tender baby pork ribs marinated in guaillo chillies – is worth the trip to Queens alone.

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  • Grand Central is full of surprises – from a hidden bar to a whispering gallery


08:00 – A taste of classic New York

Woken up bleary eyed? The charm and chatter of Lexington Candy Shop, the oldest family-run luncheonette in New York, will lift your spirits after a long flight. Located in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, this nostalgic eatery offers a glimpse into the city’s soda-fountain-filled past (you can even order an egg cream) and serves breakfast all day. Stacks of pancakes stuffed with the likes of blueberries and pecans tend to steal the show, while the Walnut Cinnamon Raisin French Toast is a favourite of the owners.

10:30 - Get arty

The Whitney Museum of American Art sits in trendy Renzo Piano-designed digs just round the corner. The expansive galleries display more than 3,000 painters, sculptors, architects, film makers and performance artists from the 20th and 21st centuries. You'll discover some new artists to love, but the galleries also house their fair share of Mark Rothkos and Georgia O'Keeffes. Look out for Calder’s Circus: a delicate sculpture that includes a pom-pom lion. The Whitney's major exhibitions are always popular, so remember to reserve tickets in advance.

13:00 - Live the high life

Gansevoort Peninsula, home to the first public beach in Manhattan, is just across the street from the Whitney. Sink into one of the sky-blue deckchairs and dig your feet into powdery sand. Gaze at the vast Hudson River fringed by skyscrapers. Then take to the High Line - an urban park that stretches along an old, elevated railway track from the Meatpacking District up 22 blocks to Midtown. Stop at an ice cream stand along the way – you’re on holiday, after all.

  • The wildflower field on The High Line runs between 28th and 30th Street. Photo by Iwan Baan, courtesy of The High Line.

17:00 - Foodie quest to Queens

The High Line descends to street level at 34th Street - and you can walk from here to Hudson Yards to catch the 7 train. Ride it all the way to Hunters Point Avenue in Queens and you'll be in the heart of New York's hipster district: Long Island City. You’ll need to make a reservation beforehand at Casa Enrique, but it’s worth it. It serves Michelin-starred Mexican food, from enchiladas to mole that's so bold that it, to quote the guide itself, 'thrills palates' and 'tempts wanton thoughts': get booking.

20:00 - Life on the Edge

After you’ve had your fill, make your way back to Hudson Yards where you’ll find the highest outdoor sky deck in New York. Edge’s outdoor deck juts out from 30 Hudson Yards, suspended in the sky, and boasts magnificent views. Boldly head to The Eastern Point where there’s space for one person to stand surrounded by angled glass panels overlooking the staggering skyline. Then, for even more adrenaline, stand on the glass floor and look down at the streets of Manhattan 100 stories below. For something a little more relaxed, you could also toast to the twinkling city with a glass of bubbly from the Champagne bar.


  • Swap Fifth Avenue for the West Village’s quirkier boutiques – such as Alexis Bittar

10:00 - Brunch bunch

New Yorkers take brunch seriously, but most restaurants don’t raise the gate until noon. Maximize your time by heading to Buvette, a sweet French spot in the West Village where doors open earlier in the morning. Order the much raved-about croque-monsieur or the fluffy steamed eggs, made via the espresso machine’s steam wand and served with prosciutto on country bread.

Noon – Browse boutiques and artefacts

Forget the chain stores that have proliferated in SoHo and on Fifth Avenue and head to the West Village. Fragrance shop Aedes de Venustas stocks an array of sought-after scents, including ones from its own label; Odin stocks high-end menswear; while Alexis Bittar is a jewel-box of a store displaying the designer’s signature Lucite pieces – New York style icon Iris Apfel is a fan. If you’ve got time, you should also head to Cortlandt Alley (around 15 minutes from West Village with the help of public transport) and check out Mmuseumm: NY’s smallest museum housing thought-provoking artefacts in a freight elevator. Previous exhibits include ‘objects of collapse’ and ‘Last Meal Receipts'.

16:00 - Homeward bound

There are plenty of flights back to London to choose from – hop on the 19:25 from JFK, which touches down in Heathrow at 07:20 – leaving you enough time to grab a caffeine fix on your way into the office.