The truth is that when most people the world over think or talk about New York City, Midtown is the area they have in mind. That’s because Midtown is a quintessential New York neighborhood, and no visit to the city is truly complete without spending some time exploring the numerous world-famous attractions located here. Midtown is home to the Empire State Building, the Museum of Modern Art, Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and the high-end shopping of fabulous Fifth Avenue.
Exploring Midtown Manhattan
Depending on how much time you have on your hands, you could spend much of your New York visit exploring Midtown and not regret it in the least—there’s just that much of significance worth seeing in this one neighborhood alone.
Where to begin? The Empire State Building is a must-see attraction. While there are several outstanding observation decks scattered throughout Manhattan, none of them can match the gravitas of the Empire State Building, which to this day is arguably the most famous skyscraper in the world. Nearby Bryant Park has a popular ice skating rink in the winter, a cheerful carousel in the summer, and multiple dining options year-round.
The sprawling Rockefeller Center complex consists of some 19 buildings, none of them better-known than the Art Deco masterpiece 30 Rock. There you’ll find the headquarters of the NBC television network, as well as the Top of the Rock Observation Deck, which has three distinct viewing platforms and 360-degree views of the city. Down the block from 30 Rock is the one-and-only Radio City Music Hall.
Also located within a few blocks of Rockefeller Center are popular attractions like the Museum of Modern Art, where you can see masterpieces such as Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night and Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon; the Paley Center for Media, one of the world’s finest repositories of television and radio programs; and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the immense Gothic Revival structure that has loomed over Fifth Avenue since the late 1870s.
The geographic designation “Midtown Manhattan” typically carries two meanings. On one hand, it can refer to the significant middle segment of Manhattan that runs from approximately 14th Street at its southern edge to 59th Street and Central at its northern terminus. In this sense, Midtown Manhattan is said to include over a dozen distinct neighborhoods, many of them prominent New York City destinations like Chelsea, the Garment District, Hell’s Kitchen, and the Flatiron District, just to name a few.
On the other hand, Midtown also names a specific area running from approximately from 42nd to 59th Streets between the East River and 6th Avenue and typically including a few blocks surrounding the Empire State Building, too. In this sense, Midtown Manhattan can be said to be bordered to the north by Central Park and the Upper East Side, to the south by the Flatiron District and Murray Hill, to the east by the East River, and to the west by Times Square and the Garment District.
Midtown Manhattan Dining
You’re likely to work up quite the appetite as you go about adventuring through ever-lively Midtown. Conveniently enough, the neighborhood is full of great places to eat. Here you’ll find every type of major chain restaurant imaginable, as well as some local favorites that serve up tasty food in a variety of cuisines. Just keep in mind as you peruse your options that, given its popularity with tourists and the high-end nature of many of its attractions, this can be a pretty expensive area for dining out.
Midtown has a little bit of everything to choose from, including plenty of fast-casual establishments, sushi places, French bistros, steakhouses, burger joints, taquerias, Asian fusion, and old-school Italian restaurants.
If you’re looking for a world-class meal you’ll remember for a long time, Le Bernardin on 51st Street is a terrific choice. One of the most acclaimed restaurants on the planet, Le Bernardin is currently helmed by superstar chef Eric Ripert. Aquavit on 55th Street, with its two Michelin stars, is another pricey-but-special pick to consider.
Midtown Manhattan Shopping
When it comes to shopping in Midtown, it’s all about getting your fill of one of New York City’s most famous streets: the incomparable Fifth Avenue. This glamorous address features high-end retail spaces, luxury brands, and massive department stores containing a little bit of something for everyone. Though New York has plenty of wonderful shopping destinations, in many ways Fifth Avenue remains the city’s defining commercial district.
If you want a shopping experience that’s New York through and through, head straight for Saks Fifth Avenue or Bergdorf Goodman, a crown jewel of the city’s shopping scene that’s occupied its space on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 58thStreet for nearly 100 years now.
In the mood for a unique Midtown shopping opportunity that won’t necessarily force you to break the bank? The world’s largest Uniqlo store is here, while Nike, Adidas, and even the National Basketball Association have flagship stores in the area. Families with small children will want to check out the LEGO Store, and tech aficionados won’t want to miss the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue, which is hidden underneath a transparent, glass-cube building that’s become an architectural landmark. It’s situated between the GM Building and Central Park, and is open 24-7.
Explore Midtown Manhattan Like a Local
- As if Midtown didn’t have enough world-class observation decks for you to choose from, there’s also another attraction offering spectacular views of New York. SUMMIT One Vanderbilt may be the city’s newest skyscraper viewing platform, but it’s already a favorite, as its fantastic location near Grand Central Station is tough to beat.
- When in doubt, take a guided tour of Midtown Manhattan. Given how the neighborhood is a prime destination for visitors from all over the world, there are many unique tours that run throughout the area, catering to all types of interests and budgets.