My Kind of Place: Midtown Manhattan, New York City

If you can make it anywhere, it’s in the city that never sleep’s big-hitting district.

Union Square, at the south end of Midtown Manhattan. The area boasts many iconic sights, including the Empire State Building. Getty Images
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Why Midtown?

The “concrete jungle that dreams are made of” line is applied to New York City as a whole, but if narrowing down to an area, Midtown Manhattan packs in most of the easily grasped New York images.

The Empire State Building, Madison Square Garden, the Rockefeller Center, Grand Central Terminal, the Chrysler Building and the Broadway theatres are all here. But the trade-off for easy access to the big hitters is perhaps a lack of distinct character. It’s an area where a little research or local advice on the good spots to eat goes a long way. But that judicious cherry-picking is worth it for the dazzle factor.

A comfortable bed

The Langham Place has an understated class about it. The dark-wood panelling, TVs in the bathroom mirror and amenities boxes that include pretty much everything provide a calming respite from the big-city intensity. The steam room, sauna and spacious rooms with complimentary soft drinks help, too. Rooms cost from US$710 (Dh2,608).

The higher-floor rooms at the Lotte New York Palace have astonishing views out over the Rockefeller Center and St Patrick's Cathedral. All have electronic bedside lighting and curtain controls, oodles of space and a sense of recently refreshed luxuriousness. King rooms cost from $324 (Dh1,190).

The Pod 51 is a good budget option. Rooms are (very) small, but there's a hip, youthful and arty vibe. Doubles cost from $113 (Dh415).

Find your feet

Many of the spots with the biggest wow factor can be strung together in an easy walking route. The New York Public Library’s main building in Bryant Park is a vision in marble, and the literary, publishing and cartographical treasures on display brim with historic importance.

The Grand Central Terminal is farther along 42nd Street, with its spectacular ceiling acting as a map of the heavens and its market being a great place to get snacks.

Next up should be the Chrysler Building, still New York’s most beautiful skyscraper. There are some great views of it along 42nd Street, but it’s worth going inside, too. The lobby is audacious, topped by an enormous ceiling painting paying homage to the wonders of the industrial age.

Finish off at the UN Headquarters overlooking the East River, which is teeming with bizarre artworks donated from various nations. The $20 (Dh73), one-hour tours must be pre-booked, but take you into the General Assembly Hall and Security Council Chamber.

Meet the locals

Most visitors get to hear about the TKTS ticket booth just north of Times Square, which sells half-price tickets to Broadway shows. They don't get to find out about the horrendous queues until it's too late, though. Locals know that the queues die down by 7pm – just before performances start at 8pm. The options will be more limited, but that doesn't matter too much if you haven't set your heart on anything in particular. Also, note that there's a separate – and much shorter – line for non-musical plays.

Book a table

Le Bernardin has long been one of New York's most sought-after bookings. Gorgeously moody interior design blends with three-Michelin-starred French menus. Four-course prix-fixe menus cost $140 (Dh514).

For a more relaxed option, head to The Smith, a buzzy, brasserie-style joint that serves updated American classics. It opens out into the street, and feels like a part of its community, with the $23 (Dh84) chicken pot pie with cheddar chive biscuit top being a marvellously tasty comfort-food option.

Shopper’s paradise

Anyone with the faintest interest in shopping knows about Fifth Avenue. Many will come to New York and never see fit to leave its seemingly endless procession of flagships and department stores. Of the latter, Saks has the most legendary status and lavish window displays.

The biggest department store of them all, however, is the mammoth Macy's on Herald Square. It errs towards mid-range affordability.

What to avoid

Dispel any romantic visions you may have of Times Square. It's an irredeemable hive of awfulness, fit only for being harassed by people handing out leaflets and squadrons of "entertainers" dressed as Mickey Mouse. And needless to say, the Madame Tussaud's waxwork museum there is a total waste of money.

Don’t miss

The battle for the best view of the city skyline is keenly fought between the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock observation decks. They cost $32 (Dh118) and $30 (Dh110) respectively, with the latter arguably just winning out – and that's partly because you can actually see the Empire State Building from there.

Getting there

Emirates and Etihad fly direct from Dubai and Abu Dhabi respectively to New York JFK airport from Dh4,200 return, including taxes.