New York City: Home of delicious bagels, excellent pizza, the Statue of Liberty, a lot of people who all walk very fast, and today’s guest post contributor! Jeremy and I visit New York City frequently to see our family, and we’re often overwhelmed by its sheer size. Coming from little San Francisco, where you can literally walk from one side to the other in a day, it’s hard to know where to even start to explore this gigantic city.
So, we asked an expert: Steph from Jet Set Steph, who has lived in New York City for 6 years. Steph recommends tackling just one section of New York at a time. She broke the city into one, manageable, bite-size chunk: Lower Manhattan. And thus, the self-guided walking tour of Lower Manhattan was born.
This self guided walking tour of NYC covers 4.6 miles and takes you through Tribeca, the Financial District, the South Street Seaport, and a smidge of Chinatown! And because we’re literally never not eating, we also included brunch, dinner, drinks, and even dessert 😉
Table of Contents
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Let’s get started!
Brunch in Tribeca
Your self-guided walking tour of Lower Manhattan will start in Tribeca, an upscale neighborhood where celebrities such as Taylor Swift, Beyonce & JayZ live. But sadly, not Alex Trebek. And the neighborhood isn’t named after him, either. Disappointing.
If I’m being honest, I treat every trip to Tribeca as an excuse to low-key stalk Twsift. If you see her, tell her I said hay girl and that I forgive her for her latest song and her white feminism, because I can tell she’s really trying to do better. By the way, one of my favorite Beyonce music videos, 7/11, was filmed at her apartment in Tribeca. So cool!
- Stalk Tswift | Address: 155 Franklin Street, New York, NY
- Stalk Bey | Address: 195 Hudson Street, New York NY
I’m kidding, those aren’t actual stops. We haven’t even started the tour yet! So put down your all-black outfit and your paparazzi camera and don’t call the cops on me because I’ve definitely never tried to sneak into a building by putting on my most fashionable outfit and my “I belong” face/lipstick and walking directly behind anyone who enters and giving a quick “Morning” to the security guards like we already know each other. Never.
So let’s start the tour, shall we?
What’s a day in New York without brunch? Begin your day at Two Hands on Church Street in Tribeca with some of the best #basic fancy toast you can find. Fuel up with an avocado toast on sourdough with chile and lime, smashed peas with ricotta, or mushroom toast with cashew cream and arugula pesto. As an important bonus, this is the perfect spot to post your first Instagram photo of the day. (Ps: tag us! @practicalwanderlust 😉 /shameless plug)
- Two Hands | Address: 251 Church St, New York, NY
Hudson River Park
From the restaurant, head west until you reach the waterfront of the Hudson River. Take a right on Leonard, a left on Hudson, and a right on Harrison and you’ll hit pier 25.
Running along the west side of the island is a 550-acre riverside park called the Hudson River Park. Spaced throughout the park are piers that offer fun (and often free!) activities, like rock climbing, trapeze, kayaking, or living vicariously through other people’s adorable pets (aka dog parks). Check out this sweet interactive map to explore all of the rad activities in the park, and be sure to check the events calendar to see if there’s a pop-up dance party or free movie playing.
Walking along the river is a great way to enjoy some open spaces and greenery, which helps us New Yorkers sometimes forget we live in a concrete jungle.
Continue south along the river for about 15 minutes, until you hit Vesey Street.
One World Observatory
Exit Hudson River Park onto Vesey Street and head to the One World Observatory at the One World Trade Center. Here, you’ll find some of the best views in the city, 102 floors up. Here is a fantastic post about what you can except (with some amazing pics to boot)!
Purchase tickets online to save a few dollars – adult prices start at $34. You know what they say about Instagram photos: the best things in Instagram aren’t free. Or something.
- One World Observatory | Address: 285 Fulton St, New York, NY | Tickets: $34 & up, purchase online here
9/11 Memorial & Museum
Visiting the 9/11 Memorial & Museum is my #1 recommended thing to do for tourists and locals alike. This sacred space has tackled the difficulty of capturing the history of the attacks while honoring the victims in the most perfect way. From the One World Observatory, head southeast on Fulton St and turn right on Greenwich Street.
After the museum, take a moment to visit the Memorial and the twin reflecting pools.
Tickets can be purchased in advance here, which we recommend as it will save you quite a long wait in line.
- 9/11 Memorial & Museum | Address: 180 Greenwich Street, New York, NY | Tickets: $26 & up, buy online here
Trinity Church Cemetery
I often find it difficult to pick back up into the hum of the city after my experience at Ground Zero, and if you feel the same way, continue south down Greenwich towards the very tip of Lower Manhattan.
If you want to add a bit more morbidity to your day, swing by the Trinity Church Cemetery by hanging a left off of Greenwich at Cedar Street. Then, turn right at Trinity Place and head towards the giant steeple. You can’t miss it: the building looks out of place by about 400 years. Look for the cemetery, located within the trees of the church grounds.
This gorgeous old church, built in 1697, is a beautiful respite from the bustling city and a great place to sit and think about death for a while. The cemetery is the only remaining active cemetery in all of Manhattan.
Also, it’s home to some of the most famous graves in New York. There’s the oldest: five-year-old Richard Churcher, who died in 1681. And then there’s the weirdest: James Leeson, an innkeeper and mason who died in 1794. His stone has a bunch of weird symbols carved into it that everyone figured was probably some cult or satanic thing, but it turns out it’s just a Masonic Code that means “Remember Death,” which I find almost more unsettling.
You’ll also find the graves of Alexander Hamilton (of Broadway fame. You guys, I’m kidding!), John James Audubon, Alfred Tennyson Dickens, and a lot of Astors. Also, Cuba Gooding Sr, who died this year :(. Here’s a full list of some of the most notable and historical figures buried here.
- Trinity Church Cemetery | Address: 75 Broadway, New York, NY
After your brief graveyard visit, continue south on Trinity Place until it becomes Greenwich. Then, keep going until you reach Battery Park on the most southern tip of Manhattan.
The gardens and flowers of the Battery Park City Parks make for a perfect place to stroll and reflect.
- Battery Park | Address: State Street and Battery Place, New York, NY
There are a couple of excellent museums around Battery Park if you’d like to cool off (or warm up, depending on the time of year) while learning some things about some stuff.
- National Museum of the American Indian | Address: 1 Bowling Green, New York, NY | Admission: FREE!
- The Museum of Jewish Heritage | Address: Edmond J. Safra Plaza at 36 Battery Place, New York, NY | Admission: $12
Ellis Island & the Statue of Liberty
Battery Park is where the majority of the ferries pick up and drop off for visits to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, so feel free to hop on a boat if you’d like to interrupt your walking tour with some sightseeing!
We love this tour that combines a 30 minute tour of Battery Park with an audio tour of Ellis Island & the Statue of Liberty, or this hour long ferry tour around the islands, or this fully guided 4-hour shabang. Or, save some cash and just buy entrance tickets + an audio tour for $25 here.
If you’re not in the touring mood, just snap a picture of the Statue of Liberty from afar!
Wall Street & The New York Stock Exchange
From Battery Park, head north on Broadway until you see the infamous Charging Bull statue, which represents the spirit of hardworking and determined Americans. Or the patriarchy. Art is in the eye of the beholder, so I’ll let you decide.
You’ll also see the much newer but just as infamous Fearless Girl, standing up for women everywhere. Up until recently, she was joined by the contentious Pissing Pug statue, which represents the fragility of masculinity and was sculpted with the tears of privileged white men.
Anyway, contemplate these various statements on today’s society, take a picture for the ‘gram, and keep doing.
Continue along Broadway and you’ll soon see the façade and entrance of the New York Stock Exchange. Here it is: Wall Street.
Pretend you are important enough to be ringing the bell that day and do a few “harrumphs” and “indubitably’s” to fit in with the other suits.
South Street Seaport
Take a right onto Wall Street and walk east towards the East River. Turn right on South Street and head north until you reach the South Street Seaport, a historic area that was recently renovated after the destruction of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
With events and markets popping up every week, the Seaport has long been edging its way towards becoming the next “it” neighborhood.
Walk the picturesque cobblestone streets before checking out the recently opened Garden Bar, a flowery oasis that will transport you from New York to The Secret Garden. Or, enjoy happy hour specials at local favorite Fresh Salt. Or how about searching for Seaport’s hidden speakeasy, Mr. Cannon? I can’t tell you where it is, because it’s secret. Ssh!
- Garden Bar | Address: 19 Fulton Street, New York, NY
- Fresh Salt | Address: 146 Beekman Street, New York, NY
- Mr. Cannon | Address: It’s a secret! Just kidding, it’s 206 Front St, New York, NY
Fancy Dinner in the Financial District
While you could no doubt spend the rest of the evening at the Seaport, there’s an incredible French restaurant that has transformed the dining scene in this area. It’s well worth a trip for dinner.
Walk north on Fulton, take a right on Nassau and a left onto Beekman to visit the restaurant, tucked into the fancy schmancy Beekman Hotel. Augustine offers high-end French dishes in a polished interior that is surprisingly not stuffy, considering that it’s in the heart of New York’s Financial District! That said: it is not cheap. If you want cheap, hit up a Halal cart down the street.
But what’s a day in New York without splurging on something truly delicious? This is one expense that’s worth it.
Be sure to try the beef tartare, the roasted leg of lamb, the polenta with roasted peaches and elderflower, or the bone marrow. Yum.
- Augustine | Address: 5 Beekman Street, New York, NY
Doyers Street, The “Bloody Angle”
You’ll walk off your dinner by turning right off of Beekman onto Park Row. Continue for 15 minutes. You’ll pass City Hall on your left.
Continue past the courthouses. Take a right onto Worth Street, a left onto Chatham Square and a left onto the tiny Doyers Street.
This odd little street is one of New York’s oddities: it sits at a 90-degree angle, for starters, which defies New York’s rigid grid system. But its the history of this little street that makes it so weird. You see, Doyers Street is known as the Bloodiest Street in America. Like, the streets used to be stained red with blood. Human blood, mind you. Ick.
The history of the street is rooted in the history of the local immigrant population in Chinatown, rival gangs, and that early-1900’s grit. More murders were committed on Doyers Street by warring Chinese gangs than anywhere else in America, and the corner of Doyers Street became known as “Bloody Angle.” To make it even more fascinating, there are tunnels running beneath the Angle – allowing the then-warring gangs to move around under the city in secret, or escape the scene of a murder.
Here’s some gruesome imagery to guide you on your path down Doyers Street:
Gangsters carrying hatchets would wait around one side of the Bloody Angle until their victims blindly turned the corner. Then they would pounce, slash, and escape via the underground tunnels, leaving the cobblestone street soaking in the victim’s blood. (Source)
Yikes. Oh, but there’s more:
“Law-enforcement officials say more people have died violently at Bloody Angle, the crook at Doyer Street near Pell,” Jane Lii wrote in The New York Times in 1994, “than at any other intersection in America.”
But don’t worry: there hasn’t been any gang violence here for years. At least, since the 1990’s. Things are all good now. You’ll be fine.
Drinks at a Cocktail Apothecary
You’re actually heading to the scene of the old Chinese Theatre for your 2nd to last stop on the walking tour. Here, you’ll find an absinthe den/apothecary themed cocktail bar, Apotheke. Get a drink to soothe your frazzled, hatchet-wielding-gang-member-addled nerves.
From its tucked-away location to the Belle Epoque theming and events like Prohibition Wednesdays and Absinthe Sundays, Apotheke delivers a true NYC nightcap experience. Your expertly crafted drink will be created in front of you like a theatre performance, poured into a drink vessel that you might have passed right by in a thrift store, and presented to you as if it were a medicinal tincture rather than a delicious cocktail. As a giant bonus, you can take a mixology class here and learn to create your own mustache-twiddling concoctions!
- Apotheke | Address: 9 Doyers St, New York, NY
If you’re feeling brave, pop into one of the famous post-murder escape tunnels to make your own getaway. It’s a lot less scary than it sounds: there are pretty much just businesses there now. But still, cool, right?!
You’ll find an entrance to the tunnel in the middle of Doyers Street, next to the shop Coco Fashion. The tunnel will take you out onto Chatham Square on Bowery.
Dessert in Chinatown
If you’re not feeling up for wandering through the tunnels, how about some ice cream to cap off a long day of exploring Lower Manhattan? You’re in Chinatown now, so end your tour with a lychee, black sesame, or durian (really? durian??) ice cream from the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory! You’ve earned this ice cream, dammit. It has been a day.
- Chinatown Ice Cream Factory | Address: 65 Bayard Street, New York, NY
Congratulations! You’ve walked 4.6 miles and seen the hits of Lower Manhattan in Tribeca, the Financial District, the South Street Seaport, and a touch of Chinatown on our self-guided walking tour of Lower Manhattan. I hope you enjoy your visit in NYC!
Get the Printable Lower Manhattan Walking Tour PDF!
Finding a detailed self-guided walking tour of New York city online is great and all, but pulling out your phone to check every step isn’t a good idea (in fact, we advise against it – that’s how everyone we know has had their phone stolen, including us. Basic travel safety 101).
Instead, we’ve made a printable map of the self-guided Walking Tour of Lower Manhattan! It’s formatted and shortened to fit onto one easy to print page: directions on the front, map on the back. Super handy!
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About Our Guest Post Contributor: Steph is the blogger behind Jet Set Steph. She was bitten by the travel bug at an early age growing up in Singapore and hopes to share her experiences to encourage more people to book their next adventure. Currently working a full-time job in New York City, Steph takes every chance she gets to hop on a plane and touch down somewhere new – and to share it with all of you! You can follow Steph’s adventures on her blog, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Psst: Interested in writing us a guest post? Click here.
What are you most intrigued by on this New York self guided walking tour? Leave us a comment below!