The real estate is priced as sky-high as the buildings, the shopping is exclusive and the nightlife can set you back a dollar or two. But wait - it is definitely possible to find things to do in New York that are a bit kinder to your wallet. Whether you’re traveling on a budget or you just want to see a different side to the Big Apple, we’ve brought together some of our favorites.
1) Central Park
You can’t come to New York and not visit Central Park at least once. It’s the most-visited urban park in the US, and it's the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Look out for Strawberry Fields (the memorial to John Lennon), the Great Lawn and the Chess and Checkers House, where you can challenge fellow players to a game.
2) Grand Central Station
These days railway stations can seem a bit humdrum. More functional than fantastic. But things are different at Grand Central Terminal. This vast, majestic building seems to promise a grand, elegant journey ahead, even if you’re just doing the daily commute. It’s a great place to come and people-watch while soaking up the atmosphere and admiring the ceiling mural. There’s a huge food court on the Dining Concourse, and a gourmet food market within the station.
3) The High Line
Only in New York. A disused railway line that stretched above Manhattan’s West Side was looking tired and run down. So what to do with it? The city decided to turn it into a unique garden, with art and nature side-by-side for strollers to stop and admire. The views of the West Side are some of the best in the city, the photo opportunities are endless, and it’s a pleasure to saunter along and enjoy the surroundings.
4) Brooklyn Brewery Tour
If you like craft beer, come along to the Brooklyn Brewery in Williamsburg on a Saturday or Sunday. You’ll find free brewery tours going on all afternoon, between 1pm and 5pm. While you’re here, check out all the bars, restaurants and cafés this buzzing neighborhood has to offer.
79 North 11th Street, Brooklyn.
5) Free Tours by Foot
Stroll through the history of New York, with an entertaining and amusing guide to show you the ropes. Free Tours By Foot offer over 35 walking tours covering New York's most interesting areas, including SoHo, Little Italy, Chinatown, Greenwich Village, Central Park, Harlem, Lower Manhattan, Chelsea and the High Line, Midtown Manhattan, Grand Central Terminal and more. You can also opt for a specialized tour structured around food, shopping, photography, architecture or history. All tours operate on a pay-what-you-wish basis, so cost is entirely up to you - it can even be free! Most tours take approximately 2 hours and cover 1.6 miles, and advanced reservation (name and phone number only) is required at freetoursbyfoot.com.
6) African Burial Ground National Monument
This national monument in Lower Manhattan commemorates over 400 people who were buried on this site from the 1690s until 1794. Free and enslaved Africans were buried here, and it’s a haunting and emotional monument. There’s also a visitor center, with a permanent exhibit about the burial site.
7) Brooklyn Bridge
It’s one of the busiest bridges in the world, but there’s a separate walkway for pedestrians, keeping the traffic at a distance. The Brooklyn Bridge connects Manhattan and Brooklyn over the East River, and it’s a pleasant stroll in both directions. You’ll get some great shots of the city skyline through its famous web of pylons, and feel the pulse of this vibrant city too.
8) Green-Wood Cemetery
This is one of the hidden gems of Brooklyn, and of New York as a whole. The cemetery is a beautiful and atmospheric place to while away a few hours. You’ll find free maps at the cemetery’s four entrances, or you can download their mobile app for a self-guided tour. Among others, the composer Leonard Bernstein and the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat are buried here.
500 25th Street, Brooklyn.
9) New York Public Library
This is the third-largest library in the world, and one of New York’s best free attractions. Wander the reading rooms to browse the endless shelves of books, or take a free guided tour to get an insight into the library’s stunning architecture. While you're there, take a moment to check out surrounding Bryant Park as well - in addition to regular fre events, it also offers free board games, chess sets, ping pong, arts and craft supplies, and classes.
5th Avenue at 42nd Street.