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Cities in the Spotlight: New York City, USA

Updated: Dec 27, 2022

In today's installment of Cities in the Spotlight we are heading to the USA and we are looking at New York City.


New York City Information

New York, often called New York City to distinguish it from New York State, or NYC for short, is the most populous city in the United States. New York City is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the State of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban area. With over 20 million people in its metropolitan statistical area and approximately 23 million in its combined statistical area, it is one of the world's most populous megacities. New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, significantly influencing commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports, and is the most photographed city in the world. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important centre for international diplomacy, and has sometimes been called the capital of the world.

Situated on one of the world's largest natural harbors, New York City is composed of five boroughs, each of which is a county of the State of New York. The five boroughs—Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island—were created when local governments were consolidated into a single city in 1898. The city and its metropolitan area constitute the premier gateway for legal immigration to the United States. As many as 800 languages are spoken in New York, making it the most linguistically diverse city in the world. New York is home to more than 3.2 million residents born outside the United States, the largest foreign-born population of any city in the world as of 2016. As of 2019, the New York metropolitan area is estimated to produce a gross metropolitan product (GMP) of $2.0 trillion. If the New York metropolitan area were a sovereign state, it would have the eighth-largest economy in the world. New York is home to the highest number of billionaires of any city in the world.


New York City Historical Significance

New York City traces its origins to a trading post founded on the southern tip of Manhattan Island by Dutch colonists in 1624. The settlement was named New Amsterdam in 1626 and was chartered as a city in 1653. The city came under English control in 1664 and was renamed New York after King Charles II of England granted the lands to his brother, the Duke of York. The city was regained by the Dutch in July 1673 and was renamed New Orange for one year and three months; the city has been continuously named New York since November 1674. New York City was the capital of the United States from 1785 until 1790, and has been the largest U.S. city since 1790. The Statue of Liberty greeted millions of immigrants as they came to the U.S. by ship in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and is a symbol of the U.S. and its ideals of liberty and peace. In the 21st century, New York has emerged as a global node of creativity, entrepreneurship, and environmental sustainability, and as a symbol of freedom and cultural diversity. In 2019, New York was voted the greatest city in the world per a survey of over 30,000 people from 48 cities worldwide, citing its cultural diversity.

Many districts and landmarks in New York City are well known, including three of the world's ten most visited tourist attractions in 2013. A record 66.6 million tourists visited New York City in 2019. Times Square is the brightly illuminated hub of the Broadway Theater District, one of the world's busiest pedestrian intersections, and a major centre of the world's entertainment industry. Many of the city's landmarks, skyscrapers, and parks are known around the world. The Empire State Building has become the global standard of reference to describe the height and length of other structures. Manhattan's real estate market is among the most expensive in the world. Providing continuous 24/7 service and contributing to the nickname The City That Never Sleeps, the New York City Subway is the largest single-operator rapid transit system worldwide, with 472 rail stations. The city has over 120 colleges and universities, including Columbia University, New York University, Rockefeller University, and the City University of New York system, which is the largest urban public university system in the United States. Anchored by Wall Street in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan, New York City has been called both the world's leading financial centre and the most financially powerful city in the world, and is home to the world's two largest stock exchanges by total market capitalization, the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ.


Travel to New York City

*taken from Lonely Planet*

Epicenter of the arts. Architectural darling. Dining and shopping capital. Trendsetter. New York City wears many crowns, and spreads an irresistible feast for all.

Nexus of the Arts The Met, MoMA and the Guggenheim are just the beginning of a dizzying list of art-world icons. You’ll find museums devoted to everything from fin de siècle Vienna to medieval European treasures, and sprawling galleries filled with Japanese sculpture, postmodern American painting, Himalayan textiles and New York City lore. For a glimpse of current and future greats, delve into the cutting-edge galleries of Chelsea and the Lower East Side, with their festive opening-night parties (usually Thursday night if you want to join in), or head to new frontiers in Brooklyn and Queens.

Urban Wanderers With its compact size and streets packed with eye candy of all sorts – architectural glories, Old World cafes, atmospheric booksellers – NYC is a wanderer’s delight. Crossing continents is as easy as walking a few avenues in this jumbled city of 200-plus nationalities. You can lose yourself in the crowds of Chinatown amid bright Buddhist temples and steaming noodle shops, then stroll up to Nolita for enticing boutiques and coffee tasting. Every neighborhood offers a dramatically different version of the city, from the 100-year-old Jewish delis of the Upper West Side to the meandering cobblestone lanes of Greenwich Village. And the best way to experience it is to walk its streets.

The Night Is Young When the sun sinks slowly beyond the Hudson and luminous skyscrapers light up the night, New York transforms into one grand stage. Well-known actors take to the legendary theaters of Broadway and world-class soloists, dancers and musicians perform at venues large and small across town. Whether high culture or low, New York embraces it all: in-your-face rock shows at Williamsburg dives, lavish opera productions at the Lincoln Center, and everything in between. This is a city of experimental theater, improv comedy, indie cinema, ballet, poetry, burlesque, jazz and so much more. If you can dream it up, it’s probably happening.

Culinary Capital There’s never been a better time to dine in New York. It's a hotbed of seasonal and locally sourced cuisine – with restaurants growing vegetables on roof gardens or upstate farms, sourcing meats and seafood from nearby sustainable outfits, and embracing artisanal everything, from coffee roasting and whiskey distilling to chocolate and cheese making. Bars have also taken creativity to new heights, with pre-Prohibition-era cocktails served alongside delectable small plates – indeed, gastropubs are some of the most creative places to eat these days. Of course, you can also hit a gourmet food truck or dine at one of the city's 75 Michelin-starred restaurants.


Must See Sites

Central Park; One of the world’s most renowned green spaces, Central Park comprises 843 acres of rolling meadows, boulder-studded outcroppings, elm-lined walkways, manicured European-style gardens, a lake and a reservoir — not to mention an outdoor theater, a memorial to John Lennon, an idyllic waterside eatery and a famous Alice in Wonderland statue. Highlights include the 15-acre Sheep Meadow, where thousands of people lounge and play on warm days; Central Park Zoo; and the forest-like paths of the Ramble, popular with birdwatchers. In warm weather there are free outdoor concerts on the Great Lawn and top-notch drama at the annual Shakespeare in the Park productions held each summer at the open-air Delacorte Theater. Other recommended stops include the Shakespeare Garden, on the west side between 79th and 80th Sts, with its lush plantings and excellent skyline view.

Brooklyn Bridge Park; This 85-acre park is one of Brooklyn’s best-loved attractions. Wrapping itself around a 1.3-mile bend on the East River, the post-industrial site runs from just beyond the far side of the Manhattan Bridge in Dumbo to the west end of Atlantic Ave in Brooklyn Heights. It's revitalised a once-barren stretch of shoreline, turning a series of abandoned piers into landscaped parkland with jaw-dropping views of Manhattan. There's lots to see and do here, with playgrounds, walkways and lawns galore.

Ellis Island; Located in New York Harbor, Ellis Island is the US's most famous and historically important gateway and is home to one of the country’s most moving museums. It pays tribute to the indelible courage of more than 12 million immigrants who passed through this processing station between 1892 and 1924, after journeys that often took weeks and were spent under difficult conditions. More than 100 million living Americans are the descendants of these arrivals hoping to attain the American dream for themselves and their children. The Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration delivers a poignant tribute to their experiences. Housed inside the restored Main Building of the former immigration complex, you'll find narratives from historians, immigrants themselves and other sources that animate a fascinating collection of personal objects, official documents, photographs and film footage. Visitors keen to trace their ancestors’ details can avail of searchable historic records.

Grand Central Terminal; Completed in 1913, Grand Central Terminal – commonly, if incorrectly, called Grand Central Station – is one of New York’s most venerated beaux-arts beauties. Adorned with Tennessee-marble floors and Italian-marble ticket counters, its glorious main concourse is capped by a vaulted ceiling depicting the constellations, designed by French painter Paul César Helleu. When commuters complained that the sky is backwards – painted as if looking down from above, not up – it was asserted as intentional (possibly to avoid having to admit an error). The original, frescoed execution of Helleu's design was by New York–based artists J Monroe Hewlett and Charles Basing. Moisture damage saw it faithfully repainted (alas, not in fresco form) by Charles Gulbrandsen in 1944. By the 1990s, however, the mural was in ruins again. Enter renovation architects Beyer Blinder Belle, who restored the work, but left a small rectangular patch of soot (in the northwest corner, below the crab) that stands testament to just what a fine job they did.

American Museum of Natural History; Founded back in 1869, this venerable museum contains a veritable wonderland of more than 34 million objects, specimens and artifacts – including armies of menacing dinosaur skeletons, herds of stuffed wildlife, and a crystal garden of gems and minerals. This New York icon is rightly recognized as one of the world’s top museums of natural history, and it’s a great place to get face to face with a T rex or a blue whale and realize the humble scale of the human race compared to nature’s giants.

Empire State Building; The Chrysler Building may be prettier, and One World Trade Center taller, but the queen bee of the New York skyline remains the Empire State Building. NYC's former tallest star has enjoyed close-ups in around a hundred films and countless skyline snapshots. Heading up to the top is as quintessentially New York as pastrami, rye and pickles.


Must Try Food & Drink

Reuben; Reuben is a melty sandwich consisting of a combination of corned beef, rye bread, sauerkraut, Russian dressing, and Swiss cheese. According to one out of many theories, it was invented in 1914 at Manhattan's Reuben Delicatessen by its owner, Arnold Reuben, when an out-of-work actress ordered something new, and Arnold made her a Reuben sandwich. The combination of meat and cheese is not kosher, but the sandwich can be found in Jewish delis because it's a part of Jewish food culture and it's mostly eaten by people who are not strictly Orthodox. Just like most popular food, Reuben also has numerous variations such as Rachel sandwich, grouper Reuben, West Coast Reuben, Montreal Reuben and Reuben egg rolls. Savory, sloppy and extremely satisfying, Reuben remains a staple of New Yorker cuisine.

Moscow Mule; A classic cocktail that was created in New York City in the 1940s, Moscow Mule consists of vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice. Because it contains ginger beer, Moscow Mule is a type of buck (a mixed drink with ginger beer or ale, spirit, and citrus), so it is often referred to as Vodka Buck. The cocktail is traditionally served in a copper mug, on the rocks, with a lime wheel garnish. Vodka is typically associated with Russia, while mule was supposedly added to the name because ginger beer adds a kick of flavor, hence the name Moscow Mule.

Waldorf Salad; Waldorf salad had been invented in 1896 by Oscar Tschirky, a dining room manager at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Originally, the salad consisted of apples, celery, and mayonnaise, and was a huge success. Interestingly, finely chopped walnuts were added to the salad much later, in 1928, although most people associate the salad with walnuts as the key ingredient. Today, Waldorf salad is usually served cold as an appetizer, on a bed of lettuce, while ingredients such as chicken, raisins, or grapes are sometimes added in the modern versions of this elegant dish.

Manhattan Clam Chowder; Although New England clam chowder boasts with its salt pork, mollusk, potato, and onion mixture, New Yorkers have their own Manhattan variety of the dish, a light tomato stew similar to minestrone, filled with carrots, onions, potatoes, celery, and lots of large, chopped chowder clams accompanied by aromatic herbs such as thyme, oregano, and pepper. It is said that the flavor significantly improves after a day, so if making it at home, it's best to let it sit and reheat it the next day. As for its origins, some claim that it was invented in Rhode Island regardless of Manhattan in its name and that the original recipe was inspired by immigrants from Italy or Portugal. Since the dish has tomatoes in it, and they were thought to be suspicious, if not poisonous in New England until the mid-1800s, Manhattan clam chowder would have to date back from at least the period after those years. It differs from the New England version as it doesn't have any milk in it, and the New England version doesn't contain tomatoes, so the dish is sometimes called red chowder, while the New England version is called white chowder. The rivalry between the two is so great that in 1939, a bill was introduced in the state of Maine in order to make it illegal to add tomatoes to the dish. Regardless of the dispute, Manhattan clam chowder is a unique and special stew that must be tried, and it's never bad to have two different versions of a universally loved dish.


Travel Guide Books

Lonely Planet

Rough Guides


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