New York is one of those cities that one never tires of – there’s always something to do, eat or see. Like any major cultural capital, the city brims with artistic souls, well-designed spaces and a vibrant culinary scene. That being said, New York still manages to maintain its own distinct atmosphere with its elevated skyline and its ever-present buzz, which imbues all its visitors with a kind of creative energy.
Below is a concise list of my favourite places in New York. I chose these places based on the emphasis each establishment places on novelty of experience, craftsmanship and good design. The list is by no means comprehensive and it will change over time but for now I hope it highlights the city’s best spaces for food, coffee, design, art, and style (among other things).
HUDSON HOTEL / Hotel / Upper West Side
The boutique hotel, conveniently located by Columbus circle, offers a great location and stylised interiors at an affordable price – ideal for any seasoned traveller. Guests enjoy access to a trendy bar situated right by the main lobby and can remark on the neon green tones that tastefully dominate the interior’s colour scheme. Rooms are quite small but are rather cosy and take on a cabin atmosphere due to the mahogany wall panelling and the crisp natural scents.
WYTHE HOTEL / Hotel / Williamsburg
As one of the first trendy boutique hotels to open in Williamsburg, the Wythe has been instrumental in revitalising the neighbourhood’s cultural scene. Within the hotel’s rustic minimal space, one can dine at the Reynard, have a drink at the Ides rooftop bar, watch a film in the screening room, view an art installation in the lobby or participate in one of the hotel’s many cultural events. The Wythe appears to be a true lifestyle establishment given the way it seamlessly knits together several elements of what makes life so enjoyable.
THE WILLIAM VALE / Hotel & Rooftop Bar / Williamsburg
The William Vale is a beacon of polished modern architecture in an area that often idealises the aged industrial aesthetic. The hotel’s glass exterior and domineering height, for better or for worse, inject some newness into the neighbourhood by imitating the Manhattan skyline that lies opposite, just beyond the East River. The hotel’s rooftop bar, Westlight, has become the talk of the town thanks to the spectacular views of the city’s skylights. The bar also exemplifies detail-driven design with its floor-to-ceiling glass walls and sleek furniture.
APARTMENT BY THE LINE / Concept Store / Soho
This well-curated retail space is subtly tucked away on the third floor of an unassuming Soho building, located on Greene Street. The space is quite literally an apartment, except all items displayed are for sale. One can find pieces from the latest fashion collections as well as an impressive offering of antique furniture, photography, homeware and books. Enrich the experience by taking some time to wander about the space and absorb its atmosphere. Also, take advantage of the knowledgeable staff as they guide you toward making the perfect purchase.
WANT LES ESSENTIELS / Concept Store / West Village
The Want brand stresses the importance of simplicity and functionality in its designs. The same can be said of the brand’s physical space. Located on a charming corner in the West Village the store welcomes guests into its chic space, which celebrates fashion, art and design. Besides acquiring a well-made Want product, visitors can admire a painting by Jules Olitski, look through an art book on Frankenthaler or have a cup of Earl Grey in the tearoom.
STILL HOUSE / Concept Store / East Village
Situated on a quaint street in the East Village, this concept store is known to stock high quality jewellery and a variety of homeware. The store’s neutral colour scheme gives rise to a calm and balanced ambience – a nod to Japanese aesthetic sensibilities given the culture’s fixation on one's relation to everyday objects.
TOTOKAELO / Concept Store / Soho
Located on Crosby Street in the bustling Soho neighbourhood, Totokaelo still draws in visitors from all over with its calm and unassuming minimal interior. The store’s clean long lines, ample interior space and thoughtfully curated selection of elevated basics and objects for the home make it a retail destination like no other.
DASHWOOD BOOKS / Bookstore / East Village
The iconic bookstore has gained a reputation for having the most impressive collection of books on the topic of photography. Browse through the store to find limited edition monographs of eminent photographers as well as more affordable published material on upcoming artists.
LE LABO / Perfumery / Williamsburg or West Village
In almost every creative hub in the world, Le Labo has managed to establish itself as a formidable producer of fine fragrances. The brand’s success can be attributed to its sentimental story telling, which is present in the aged industrial interiors of its stores and in the crafted engineering of its ‘soulful’ scents.
NITEHAWK CINEMA / Cinema / Williamsburg
This independent cinema, located in hip Williamsburg, is for those in search of a good movie with more to eat than some popcorn. One can fill up on octopus carpaccio, succulent hamburgers and craft cocktails while viewing the most anticipated indie films of the year.
THE GUGGENHEIM / Museum / Upper East Side
First and foremost, the Guggenheim is an architectural gem. Designed by Franklin Lloyd Wright in 1959, the art museum has become a landmark for mid-century modern architecture. Its unique rotunda structure, the first of its kind, creates a distinctive art-viewing experience whereby one can see and hear everyone else interacting with art. The museum also houses a magnificent art collection, especially by the avant-garde modernists of the 20th century.
THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART / Museum / Upper East Side
The Met is known for impressing visitors with its grandeur and opulence. Situated on the leafier parts of 5th Avenue, the museum boasts a sizeable collection of art from a wide range of historical periods. In particular, make sure to view the large immersive works of the abstract expressionists in the Modern & Contemporary collection, which includes the likes of Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, Helen Frankenthaler and William de Kooning. Also, there’s usually a not-to-be-missed exhibition by the Costume Institute. Before leaving, take advantage of the spectacular views of Central Park from the museum’s rooftop.
LISSON GALLERY / Gallery / Chelsea
Since its opening in London in 1967, the Lisson gallery has gained a reputation for pioneering the wide acceptance of minimal and conceptual art in the art world, which one often takes for granted in the 21st century. The impressive roster includes the likes of Lee Ufan, Peter Joseph and Jason Martin who are among my favourite artists.
GRAMERCY TAVERN / Restaurant / Flatiron District
Located in the historic Flatiron District, the Gramercy tavern is easily one of New York’s most revered restaurants. The restaurant is the brainchild of legendary restaurateur, Danny Meyer, whose vision for the restaurant was to create modern interpretations of classic American flavours. The restaurant succeeds in fulfilling its vision in addition to providing guests with a buzzing aura, which makes them feel as though they are dining among New York’s epicurean set.
LOCANDA VERDE / Restaurant / Tribeca
Located in the luxurious yet understated Greenwich Hotel, Locanda Verde continues to stun diners with its hearty and refined Italian dishes. The restaurant’s industrial chic décor - a nod to Tribeca’s heritage – symbolises the casual elegance of its cuisine. The restaurant also boasts an impressive wine list.
ESTELA / Restaurant / Nolita
This restaurant is renowned for serving up some of the best brunch in the city. Admittedly, it isn’t your typical brunch fare but one can expect innovative flavour combinations as the founders, Thomas Carter and Ignacio Mattos, have sought to merge Mediterranean cuisine with the diverse flavours of New York. Standout dishes from the brunch menu include the lamb ribs and the egg, pancetta and avocado sandwich.
NICKEL & DINER / Restaurant / Soho
This casual spot is a contemporary reinterpretation of the classic American diner. The cuisine is eclectic so one can expect to see traditional Italian pasta, fried chicken and roasted Icelandic cod all on the same menu. The diner also gets the design right with the long glossy counter, the streamlined leather booths and the patterned square-tiled floors.
ROSE BAR / Bar / Flatiron District
This plush bar is only a 5-minute walk from the Gramercy Tavern and is located within the chic Gramercy Park Hotel. Guests can expect a dark and intimate ambience with a notable cocktail menu and a stunning display of contemporary art on the walls, from the likes of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Damien Hirst.
FIG.19 / Speakeasy / Lower East Side
Tucked behind a typical white cube art gallery sits this sophisticated speakeasy bar. Within this dim and sensual space, visitors can expect to have rounds of well-crafted cocktails into the late hours of the night in the company of charming bartenders and a cool crowd.
SUNDAY IN BROOKLYN / Restaurant / Williamsburg
This unassuming neighbourhood restaurant has become synonymous with decadent brunch due to its photogenic features in several noteworthy magazines and websites. Luckily, the buzz is well deserved as the restaurant’s dishes live up to their rich, eye-pleasing reputation. Favourites include the banana bread and the charred avocado toast.
DAILY PROVISIONS / Cafe / Flatiron District
This neighbourhood cafe, another venture by Danny Meyer, is the perfect place to get your freshly baked goods and sandwiches throughout the day. The cafe is small and intimate and allows for some leisurely reading or for a stimulating conversation with a stranger. Top recommendations would be the slow-roasted rotisserie chicken sandwich and the cake in a cup (shown below).
THIRD RAIL COFFEE / Cafe / East Village
This cafe is among the many coffee shops that enliven the city’s specialty coffee culture. Their East Village location, fitted with exposed brick walls and a display of eye-catching photography, communicates the cafe’s close ties with the creative community and the raw quality of their coffee.
VAN LEEUWEN / Cafe and Ice Cream Shop / East Village
From humble beginnings as an ice cream truck, Van Leeuwen has come a long way to establish a collection of stores on the East and West coasts. Their airy cafe in the East Village is the perfect place to work or catch up with a friend while indulging in their rich artisanal ice cream. I would recommend The Earl Grey Tea flavour, which is made by infusing the tea from the Rishi Ancient Tea Trees of Yunnan with oil from bergamot citrus.
TOBY'S ESTATE COFFEE / Cafe / Williamsburg
This cafe transforms coffee making into an art with its emphasis on sourcing the highest quality coffee and then roasting the coffee to bring out its full complexity. The cafe even has a ‘Brew School’ where enthusiasts can learn more about brewing great coffee. The Williamsburg location is a converted warehouse, which feels like an airy study due to its light-filled interior and its towering oak shelves. The ambience is so calming and homelike that one could easily spend an entire day here.