Brooklyn Bridge by Simone RodaManhattan is probably the world’s most dynamic island in the most exuberant city. If you haven’t seen the skyscrapers of New York City, the cozy neighborhood of East Village, or strolled the Great Lawn in Central Park, pay a visit to the Big Apple. You won’t regret it.

New York City, alive 24 hours a day, is best experienced from the streets. All first-time visitors should absorb the energetic atmosphere by sauntering down the sidewalks of the city. I found restaurants, coffee shops and fast-food joints on almost every street corner, offering everything from Italian to Indonesian cooking. Even though lots of eateries have good and affordable food it’s not a bad idea to buy fresh fruit, bread and yogurt from a supermarket to minimize expenses.

Head toward Battery Park, the starting point for nice (and cheap) excursions to the Staten Island. Pass the blocks of Wall Street where today’s traders and businesswomen strive for tomorrow’s success and board the Staten Island Ferry, serving more than 70,000 passengers a day. Don’t forget to keep your camera for the lower Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty. On Staten Island, the bus to the nearest beach leaves regularly from the main bus terminal. When returning to Manhattan, saunter along the East River to admire New York City’s most famous bridge, Brooklyn Bridge.

In the afternoon, lovers of musicals should definitely line up by one of the TKTS discount booths on West 46th Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue. Monday to Saturday 3-8pm, theater goers can buy tickets to the evening’s performances for 25-50% of the normal price. Sometimes there is a wait of more than an hour, other times a transaction is over in 15 minutes. I bought our tickets for $50 each (normal price is $100) within half an hour. Although the most popular musicals sell out fast, it’s a great way to see a Broadway musical without needing to pay full price.

End your day in one of New York City’s inexpensive hostels. Budget travelers will like Bowery’s Whitehouse Hotel of NY on 340 Bowery, centrally located near Greenwich Village. Prices start at $28 per person, which are the best rates in the city for private rooms. One of my favorites, Hostelling International, at 891 Amsterdam Avenue and West 103rd Street is one block from Broadway Avenue and three blocks from Central Park. It has shared rooms from $29.

If the following day happens to be a Sunday, rise early and take the subway toward Harlem. Jump off at 116th Street where the Baptist Churches stand closer together than in any other part of the city. View the classical brownstone houses lining the streets whilst you look for an open church. The gospel services/music begins at ten and can be heard from the street. I discovered a beautiful Baptist Church at St. Nicholas Avenue between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd and Lenox Ave/Malcolm X Blvd not far from Central Park. An old lady seated in the entrance ushered us in, pointing at a free seat. I was a bit late, but no one seemed to mind. I had never heard gospel before and everything was such a contrast to the reserved atmosphere in Swedish churches — in a good way.

When the service is over, order take-away from a nearby Chinese restaurant and continue to Central Park for lunch by Harlem Meer and enjoy the original ambiance of New York City.

Written by Erica Johansson

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