NYC is so much more than the Statue of Liberty or Times Square, and even though those places are pretty awesome (actually really awesome, don’t forget your camera when you go there) there are a few hidden gems in Manhattan that you might also want to visit. We have put together a walking tour through 6 of Manhattan’s hidden gems. Enjoy!
(Scroll all the way down for the walking tour map)
1. Breakfast at Freeman’s Alley Restaurant
Start your morning off with a delicious breakfast at Freeman’s Restaurant. This place is hidden at the end of a cute, unused alleyway and makes for the perfect start to your day. It opened in 2004 with the idea of making a “rugged clandestine colonial American Tavern.” Here you will find simple, rustic American cuisine that’s inspired by Old World traditions.
It’s located off Bowery Street, and when you peek your head into an empty alleyway and ask your fellow tourists “Is this the one?” the answer is yes. Walking past the alleyway you will never guess this adorable restaurant is hidden at the end.
Location: in the Lower East Side at the end of Freeman’s alley off Rivington Street between Chrystie and the Bowery.
2. Elizabeth Street Garden
After breakfast, take a short walk over to Elizabeth Street and explore the garden hidden between the busy streets of Manhattan. It’s located in a dense and highly packed neighborhood, making up the only calm green space the area has to offer. The Little Italy garden covers a 20,000 square feet area and was originally a school’s outdoor space, designed by the master school architect C.B.J. Snyder in 1903. The school was later torn down and no plans were made to rebuild it because of the community’s opposition.
The garden is today open to the public and is free to visit. It’s filled with statues and sculptures of all different shapes and sizes.
Location: on Elizabeth street between Spring Street & Prince Street
3. World’s first elevator shaft
Now that you have explored the garden, it’s time to do some walking and…get off the grass! Make your way up to Cooper Square and look up to the roof of the Cooper Union Foundation Building. There you will see a round, funnel-like structure. Wanna know what it is? It’s the world’s first elevator shaft, pretty cool right? It was put there in the 1850s during the construction of the building. There was just one small problem…the elevator had not yet been invented! At the time it was New York’s tallest building and the building’s owner, Peter Cooper, was very confident that the elevator would soon come around! In the meantime he used a pulley system to move goods between the floors.
He was right! Not long after was the first elevator created, another problem came along…it was square, not round like his shaft!!
Location: Between 3rd Avenue & Lafayette Street on east 6th Street & 7 street
4. Washington Mews
After the elevator shaft, enter Washington Mews. This private gated street, opened up its gates to the public just a few months ago. It was first developed as a “mews,” which is a row of stables made to serve horses in the area. It was created in the 18th century and was originally part of a large farm (a farm in the middle of Manhattan? I know we are thinking the same thing. The city has come a long way!). The gates were originally put up to distinguish mews from public streets.
Since the 1950s, the former stables have been serving as offices and housing for tenure professors at the New York University. Today, it makes for the perfect photo shoot location!
Location: between University Place & 5th Avenue just north of Washington Square Park
5. The Berlin Wall
It’s now time to do some serious walking, so fill up your water bottles and put on your jogging shoes (okay, it’s not that serious) for a 45 mins walk. Don’t worry, there’s no risk of getting lost here because you will walk straight up 5th Avenue. Do you see the Freedom Tower behind all other skyscrapers? Yes? Then you are walking in the wrong direction. Turn around and make sure it’s behind you at all times!
Time to see the Berlin Wall (yes, right here in NYC). There are 5 locations throughout Manhattan where you can find different pieces of it. But for this walking tour, we recommend the one on 5th Avenue. This piece was purchased from the Eastern German Government in 1990 and is located in the lobby of 520 Madison Avenue. It was last year moved from the sidewalk to indoors in an attempt to preserve the historic piece from decay.
Location: Lobby of the 520 Madison Avenue building
6. Speak-Easy lunch at the Burger Joint
It’s now time for lunch! This speakeasy style burger restaurant is hidden behind the black curtain in a luxury hotel’s lobby – close your eyes and follow the mouth-watering, amazing smell and you will find it. This is a true hidden gem that makes customers feel as if they are in on a secret (actually this whole tour is letting you in on a lot of secrets). You will eat an amazing and delicious burger surrounded by walls full of graffiti; bring a pen if you want to add your name to one of the walls.
Location: Inside the Parker Meridian Hotel on 56 Street between 7th & 6th Avenue
Our walking tour ends here, hope you had a fun time exploring some of NYC’s secrets! If your feet need a rest, walk 3 blocks up and you will be in Central Park, the perfect place to sit down and enjoy the sunshine.
Click image to open up the tour in Google Maps