New York is an exciting city, with lots to see and do, but you can get a lot of enjoyment out of a 4-day New York itinerary.
Sure, you won’t see and do everything there is to see and do in New York –but it’s an expensive city and we don’t all have a huge amount of time and money to spend. Many of us, myself included, might only have a few days to explore the Big Apple, so we need to make the most of that time. In fact, all of my trips to New York have either been 4 or 5-day trips, so I feel like I am well-practised at making the most of 4 days in new york!
This 4-day New York itinerary is based on my experience of all of my previous trips: what worked and didn’t work well. I wrote this with an NYC first-time visitor in mind, and as such, it covers the main sights that most visitors will have on their NYC bucket list, but also a couple more unique NYC experiences. This itinerary would also work well for someone who hasn’t been to New York for a long time and wants to rediscover the city.
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. These are links to products or experiences I recommend and if you were to buy something after clicking on them, I might earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Any earnings go towards the upkeep of this blog, which I appreciate.
Table of Contents
4-Day New York Itinerary – At A Glance
If you follow my 4-day New York itinerary, you’ll get to experience the following in NYC:
- Day 1: Greenwich Village, Flatiron Building, Madison Square Park, New York Public Library Fifth Avenue, The Empire State Building, Grand Central Terminal, Top Of The Rock and Hudson Yards
- Day 2: Lower East Side, Little Italy, Chinatown, 9/11 Memorial & One World Trade Centre, Financial District, Staten Island Ferry & Brooklyn Bridge
- Day 3: Central Park, the Upper West Side, Times Square and Broadway
- Day 4: Harlem, the Upper East Side, the Metropolitan Museum Of Art, the Guggenheim Museum and Bemelmans Bar in the Carlyle Hotel
This 4-day New York itinerary assumes you’ll have four full days, so it could work for either a 4 days + 4 nights duration or 4 days + 5 nights.
In order to maximise the time spent in the city, I’ve put quite a lot of activities into the first two days, but, mindful that it can be exhausting to explore all day for four days, the second two days have a slower pace.
4-Day New York Itinerary – In Detail
Here’s my 4-day New York itinerary in detail, with recommendations for places to eat lunch and dinner throughout.
Day 1 – Greenwich Village, Midtown & Fifth Avenue
Start your day by exploring the cutest neighbourhood of NYC: Greenwich Village. In the 1950s and 60s, Greenwich Village was the bohemian capital of New York City, the nucleus of art, counter-culture and the LGBT community. It has been increasingly gentrified over the last few decades and these days, the quiet, leafy streets of Greenwich Village feel somewhat sedate.
You could follow my free self-guided walking tour of Manhattan, which starts in the East Village and then heads westwards into Greenwich Village.
Things to do in Greenwich Village include
- Wander the pretty streets – this area has many attractive tree-lined streets
- Walk the High Line, which is an elevated walkway starting at Gansevoort Street and Washington Street and heading north into Chelsea (although you’ll need to either start early or only do a short bit of this if you want to fit in the rest of what I have planned for Day 1!)
- Washington Square Park, a vibrant city park that contains the Washington Square Arch monument
- Stonewall National Monument, which is The Stonewall Inn, where there was a significant protest against harassment of LGBT people in 1969.
- The Village Vanguard, a legendary club that showed folk music, beat poetry and now jazz music.
- See the ‘Friends building’. The building that was used for the exterior shots of Monica & Rachel and Joey & Chandler’s apartments in the TV show is on the corner of Grove Street and Bedford Street
- See Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment from Sex And The City. The exterior of her brownstone building was shot at 66 Perry Street (even though she is supposed to be living on the Upper East Side).
For something nice, I really liked Gotham Restaurant on East 12th Street, but it’s not low-cost. A cheaper alternative could be Joe’s Pizza, a classic NYC pizza joint that sells by the slice.
Head into midtown. I suggest you do this on foot (again, you can follow my Manhattan walking tour) – I think walking is the best way to really get the feel for a place. But you could take the subway or buses if you prefer; and taxis if you have the budget.
Tip: if you don’t know NYC public transport, try the Citymapper app, which can help you plot a route via subway, bus or train.
Midtown contains many famous landmarks in NYC, which you can see in this order if you head north from Greenwich Village sticking close to Fifth Avenue (an attraction in its own right for shopaholics):
- Union Square Park – a smallish park known for its chess players
- Flatiron Building – the iconic 1902 tower with a narrow angled front
- Madison Square Park – surrounded by skyscrapers, this small park is a lovely spot to take a rest (and you have Eataly right next to it if you need some refreshment)
- Empire State Building – the enduring landmark of NYC dominate midtown
- New York Public Library – the calm beaux-arts style building is a rare
- The Chrysler Building – an art deco showpiece and my favourite part of the new york skyline
- Grand Central Terminal – has an impressive interior – even if you have no intention of catching a train, it’s worth checking out
- SUMMIT One Vanderbilt is a new viewing experience with an art installation as well as wonderful views across Manhattan
- Rockefeller Centre & Top of the Rock – the best viewing platform in my opinion with both indoor and outdoor floors offering 360-degree views of NYC
- St Patrick’s Cathedral – nestles between the skyscrapers, this catholic Cathedral is known for its Gothic Revival style steeples
- Some of NYC’s high-end shops, including Saks Fifth Avenue and Tiffany’s.
Some of these are likely to be of more interest than others, so you can pick & choose which landmarks you spend time on vs simply taking a look and moving on.
If you’re choosing which observation deck to go up, my personal recommendation is Top Of The Rock. While the top of the Empire State Building is a classic (and also one of the romantic things to do in NYC), I think the view from the Top of the Rock is better because it has the Empire State in it – slap bang in the middle of the southward view towards downtown.
You’ll have worked up an appetite, so why not reward yourself with a classic New York steak? Keens Steakhouse has quirky old décor and amazing cuts of meat. It’s the perfect place to relax in the evening.
If you have any energy after dinner, head west from Keen’s towards Hudson Yards where you’ll find a couple of the newest attractions in NYC:
- The Vessel, an interactive artwork structure made of open-air stairways
- Edge, the highest sky deck in the Western Hemisphere, with views across Manhattan. It is open until 10pm if you want to see the city lit up like Christmas.
Day 2 – Lower Manhattan, Staten Island Ferry & Brooklyn Bridge
Today, you’ll explore the historic area of lower Manhattan or downtown Manhattan. It is one of the oldest areas of the city, dating from the 17th century. The land was originally inhabited by Indigenous Americans, but Dutch colonists built a city they called New Amsterdam (later renamed New York by the English). This area of NYC remains the financial and civic heart of the city.
You can follow my self-guided walking tour of lower Manhattan on Day 2 of this 4-day New York itinerary if you like.
Start your day in the Lower East Side, which was an area known for immigration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Visit the Tenement Museum to learn about the experience of working-class immigrants living in cramped conditions in tenement buildings.
Katz Deli is an old lower east side favourite. It’s one of the many well-known movie locations in NYC, having been the setting for a memorable orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally. Come early to avoid too much of a queue (and because we have a lot planned in the afternoon). And if you do have to queue, know that the hot sandwiches are worth it!
Continue on foot into some of the other neighbourhoods of Lower Manhattan, including:
- Little Italy, named for the Italian immigrants who formed a community around Mulberry Street here in the late 19th century
- Chinatown – a buzzy community that, unlike Little Italy, is still home to many Chinese Americans. My favourite spot is Columbus Park, where you might see people playing Mahjong or Xiangqi (Chinese chess)
Next, head to the 9/11 Memorial and the Freedom Tower. If you’re following the lower Manhattan walking tour, this will take you past New York City Hall on the way.
The 9/11 Memorial is comprised of two square pools that are on the footprint of the two towers of the World Trade Centre, which fell on September 9, 2001. The names of the 2,977 victims are engraved on marble around the edges. There’s also Survivor Tree’ a pear tree that survived the terror attacks and was re-planted in the Memorial in 2010.
One World Trade Centre opened in 2014, with the One World Observatory at the top (although time-wise, you might have to skip this one).
After the 9/11 Memorial, go deeper into the financial district to check out:
- Wall Street
- The New York Stock Exchange
- Charging Bull
From Battery Park, you could catch the free Staten Island ferry to Staten Island and back again. It’s a nice ride, and you get a view (from a distance) of the Statue of Liberty. For a better view, you’d have to book a boat tour to Ellis Island & the Statue of Liberty.
End the day with a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. The brick towers are iconic and walking along the bridge will give you plenty of opportunities to look backwards and take in the skyline of lower Manhattan as you get further away from it.
There’s a really special place for dinner just under the Brooklyn Bridge. The River Café is a Michelin-starred restaurant that serves amazing food with a view of the Manhattan skyline and the Brooklyn bridge – it a wonderful at sunset as the sky goes pink and the lights come on. It’s perfect for a special meal.
However, it is pricey, and you need to be smartly dressed, so if that feels like too much of a stretch, consider one of the other places in the Dumbo area of Brooklyn, including Juliana’s Pizza or The Migrant Kitchen.
You could spend the evening in the Dumbo area enjoying the view of Manhattan and the Brooklyn bridge.
If you want to see even more, of the skyline, jump on the subway or get a taxi to Westlight, the rooftop bar on top of the William Vale Hotel in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The cocktails are great, and the view of midtown Manhattan is breathtaking! It’s one of the best things to do in New York at night.
Day 3 – Central Park, Upper West Side & Times Square
On the third day of this 4-day New York itinerary, your schedule will be less busy – and if you’ve been walking as much as I recommend, your feet might thank you for going slower today.
Start by exploring Central Park at a leisurely pace. It’s a big park (843 acres!), with a variety of landscapes, including trees, boulders, meadows, ponds, a lake and a reservoir.
Some of my favourite spots to check out include:
- The Mall and Literary Walk
- Naumburg Bandshell
- Bethesda Terrace & Bethesda Fountain
- The Lake, on which you can go row-boating (another one of the romantic things to do in NYC)
You could of course bring your own lunch in the form of a picnic that you eat in Central Park. The Sheep Meadow is a popular spot for picnics.
If you prefer a sit-down meal, why not go for a classic central park restaurant: Tavern On the Green (which features in the movie Ghostbusters, if you’re interested in movie locations in NYC).
After lunch, have a mooch around the affluent Upper West Side and admire some of the iconic apartment buildings that line the park, including The San Remo, whose residents have included Rita Hayworth, Bruce Willis and Bono, and The Dakota, where John Lennon lived and was killed in 1980.
If you’re a history fan, why not visit the American Museum of Natural History, which has a pretty broad mission to ‘to discover, interpret, and disseminate information about human cultures, the natural world, and the universe’. I feel like we all know it for the dinosaur exhibits, though!
Other things to do in the Upper West Side are:
- Satisfy your sweet tooth at Levain Bakery, renowned for their cookies
- Check out another landmark NYC building: The Ansonia
- Catch a performance at Lincoln Center for The Performing Arts
- Shop for delicacies at Zabar’s, a gourmet food emporium
- Stroll through Riverside Park, on the waterfront of the Hudson River
I’m a fan of Jean-Georges, an upscale restaurant just off Columbus Circle on the SW corner of Central Park. Their salmon sashimi is incredible – I had it on one trip to NYC and then I had to return the next time I was in the city!
However, it’s rather expensive, so might not be for everyone. There are some lower-cost alternatives in this area, including Bareburger and Joe G Pizza.
With the night lights on, why not have a quick wander through frenetic Times Square (it’s not somewhere to dwell long, in my opinion) – another great thing to do in NYC at night.
NB. If you wanted to do a Broadway show (such as The Lion King) while you’re in this area of NYC, you’d have to either have an early dinner or a late one, to work around the show time.
Day 4 – Harlem & The Upper East Side
On the last day of your 4-day New York itinerary, head to Harlem, in Upper Manhattan
Harlem is named for the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands because the first European settlers here were Dutch. In the 20th Century, its African-American community grew and the area is known for the Harlem Renaissance, an intellectual and cultural revival of African American music, dance, art, fashion, literature, theatre and politics in the 1920s and 1930s.
In the morning, have a wander around the area. You might want to check out:
- Martin Luther King Boulevard and Malcolm X Boulevard, named after the civil rights activists
- The Apollo Theater, a former burlesque theatre and music hall on 125th Street
- El Museo del Barrio, which documents Latino, Caribbean, and Latin American cultures
- Graffiti Hall of Fame in East Harlem
Lunch / Brunch
Try to get a table at the Red Rooster (you’ll need to book well in advance), which serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. The Red Rooster is known for its American comfort food and its live music. The Sunday Gospel Brunch involves a full-on gospel choir performance. I was blown away by the performance when I visited – I’d never heard anything like it live. It is definitely one of the more unique things to do in NYC.
Tickets are $12, on top of the food.
After lunch, saunter on down into the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I quite like to wander around here, admiring the handsome streets and smart apartment buildings of this elite neighbourhood, imagining what it might be like to live here.
Check out Madison Avenue, which lent its name to the ‘Mad Men’ nickname for advertising execs in the 1960s, and of course Park Avenue, a sought-after address. On 60th street, you’ll find the high-end department store, Bloomingdales.
There are some great museums and galleries, here, too.
- Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is a uniquely shaped building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Its main exhibitions of modern art are shown for a season and then change. You can check what’s coming up online. I didn’t love the collection I saw when I went, but I did love the interior of the building.
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art (or, simply, the Met) is a major museum with a huge collection of art from ancient times to contemporary works. It is also known worldwide for its glamourous Met Gala.
- The Frick Collection is an art collection known for its Old Master paintings and European sculpture and decorative arts. The museum is temporarily closed at the time of writing, but only for renovation, so it is expected to reopen.
On your last night in NYC, have a drink in Bemelmans Bar, possibly my favourite cocktail bar in the world (and I’ve been to a few!).
Stepping inside feels like going back in time: it has intimate tables with leather banquettes and low lights. Exquisite cocktails are served by immaculately-dressed waiters; a jazz pianist plays live music.
Bemelmans is part of the stylish Carlyle Hotel on 76th Street and Madison Avenue. It gets its name from the artist whose illustrations decorate the walls and lamps: Ludwig Bemelmans.
As you’d expect in a luxury hotel like this, the drinks are not cheap (priced in the $20s and $30s) and there are cover charges which kick in from 5:30 pm and increase at 9/9:30 pm when a jazz trio plays. So, this is why I suggest you go early, then go on to dinner later in the evening.
How about Italian for dinner? Caravaggio is an elegant Italian restaurant on 74th and Madison Avenue
Map: 4-Day New York Itinerary Things To Do
Here’s a map showing all the things to do for each day of this itinerary.
How To Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left-hand corner of the map to view the layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each one. If you click the star next to the map’s title, it will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu, go to ‘Your Places’ or ‘Saved’, then click Maps and you will see this map in your list.
4-Day New York Itinerary FAQs
Is 4 Days Long Enough In New York? / How Many Days Is Ideal In New York?
There’s no correct answer to these questions. New York is a big city, so you could definitely spend more than 4 days there and not get bored. And you could also have a great time with only 1, 2 or 3 days in New York. However, I think four days is a decent amount of time to get to know the city Centre, focussing on Manhattan. And it’s especially good if it’s a 5-night trip so that you have four full calendar days in between arriving and departing.
I’ve done several 4-day trips to New York and had a great time on all of them. This itinerary is based on my experience across 4x 4-day/-night trips to New York, learning from what worked and didn’t work on those trips.
What Should I Pack For A 4-Day Trip To New York?
The most important thing for an itinerary like the one I have laid out above is comfortable shoes because it involved a lot of walking around New York City.
In terms of clothes, it’s going to depend heavily on what season you go in. The winters can be very cold (with lows of 26-27 degrees F / -3 degrees C in January and February), so you’ll want layers, a good coat, scarf and gloves.
And the summers can be super-hot (average highs of 85 degrees F / 29 degrees C in July), so you’ll want clothes to help keep you cool (and also sunscreen).
I most prefer NYC in Spring (eg April-May) and early Autumn (Fall), especially September. There’s a chance of rain in these shoulder seasons, but generally, the milder temperatures make it far more comfortable to explore the city, whether on foot or using public transport. In these seasons, light layers are good, so you can adjust to the weather, plus a waterproof if you get caught out with showers.
How Much Does It Cost To Go To New York For 4 Days?
Sorry to keep saying ‘it depends’, but of course, it does depend on lots of things including the kind of accommodation you like and the kinds of activities you want to do. If you want to try several of the amazing observation decks and tours in NYC, you could be looking at around $40-50 each. Add some meals out and the costs will start adding up.
As a very rough guide, if I was trying to go to New York on a low budget, while still doing some activities and eating out at modest places, I would probably plan for the following:
- $150 a night minimum for a budget hotel, which might well have a shared bathroom (I always think hotels are the first place to cut spend)
- $75 a day for food, excursions and getting around
But I feel like there’s no upper limit on what you could spend in NYC!
How To Get To New York
New York has three airports you can fly into:
- John F. Kennedy International (JFK) is the main international airport for NYC and is based in Queens. You can connect via the AirTrain to the subway, but you can also get a taxi for a flat rate to anywhere in Manhattan.
- Newark Liberty International (EWR) – although this airport is in New Jersey, it is relatively easy to get to and from if you’re staying in Manhattan. Trains go to and from Penn Station and Newark Airport Express buses from mid-town
- LaGuardia (LGA) – more popular for domestic flights, and based in Queens, LaGuardia connects to the central parts of NYC by bus
Where To Stay In NYC
For all my recent New York visits, I have stayed in AirBNBs in NYC, but I’ve started to wean myself off these back to hotels, mainly because I typically travel solo these days.
If I was going back to New York soon, I’d check Booking.com, because they have a wide range of hotels, apart-hotels and also hostels.
Here are a couple of pretty special-looking places that have been recommended to me:
- Arlo NoMad in Midtown offers rooms with big windows and outstanding views of the city
- The Dominick Hotel in SoHo has a suite called the Landmark Sunset Suite with bedroom views of the World Trade Center and Lower Manhattan skyline and two bathrooms with soaking bathtubs with views of the city or Hudson River.
You could also check out this guide to the best places to stay in New York from a fellow travel blogger.
The Last Word
I hope this itinerary for 4 days in New York has been helpful in showing you how you can maximise your time in this exciting city!
If you’d like to get a little more off the beaten path, do check out my post on unusual and unique things to do in NYC.
And, if you’re going to be in New York as a couple, you might want to read my guide to the most romantic things to do in NYC.