Our 2nd cheap NYC guide features 30 top attractions that you must-see! Touristy or not, these are some the classics spots and neighborhoods that have changed New York’s history. Come uncover New York with us!
Today, for our 2nd Cheap NYC Guide, I’m going to take you through some of the best spots located in Lower Manhattan.
But wait! If you haven’t seen my 1st Cheap NYC Guide, take a look at it and see how you might want to start exploring our beautiful city!
I have created my own touristic route to take my friends and family around the most iconic highlights in the city. These are all entertaining, fun and CHEAP routes that I want to share with you.
Second Route: Lower Manhattan
Before I start, it is necessary to give you some tips. First, NYC food stores and restaurants are not required to offer restroom services, so I have included this item in my tour routes. Second, you can access the WIFI networks in all subway stations, NYC Parks and Starbucks for free (which also have restrooms. YAY!).
Finally, if you like something you want to buy and you can afford it, just BUY IT. You probably won’t have time to go back or even remember where you saw that precious item.
This route explores 6 areas of Lower Manhattan: Union Square, Astor Place, Washington Square Park, SoHo, Chinatown and Little Italy. It starts off at Union Square – where our 1st guide ended – located between 17th and 14th Streets and Union Square West and East Avenues.
Here you can enjoy a year-round farmers market every Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays between 8am – 6pm, called Union Square Greenmarket. During the peak seasons you can find regional farmers selling their products like fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, award-winning farmstead cheeses, artisan breads, jams, pickles, lavender teas and countless gifts, a profusion of cut flowers and plants, wine, ciders, maple syrup and much more. Shop early because the vendors sometimes leave, once they have sold out their products.
Around this area you can also find all type of stores including the largest Barnes & Noble store if you are looking for books, toys, music and more. A cereal store at Kellogg’s NYC where you can mix your favorites breakfast cereals for just $2 – milk not included. Also, a delicious Jewish Chocolate Rugelach pastry at Breads Bakery and Dylan’s Candy Bar, home to the largest selection of candies and candy-related gifts from around the world. And if you are into sports, your to-go spot is Paragon Sports.
If you’re traveling during the Winter holiday season, and you want to take home some unique gifts, visit Union Square’s Holiday Market that happens through December 24th. You’ll find local craftsmen and artists, open Monday to Friday from 11am – 8pm, Saturdays from 10am – 8pm and Sundays from 11am – 7pm.
*Restroom Spots: Around here you can find restrooms at Whole foods, Burlington, Best Buy, Starbucks, Barnes & Nobles, among others.
Astor Place & Washington Square
If you are starting to feel hungry, I recommend you walk downtown through Broadway and at 8th Street, turn left (East) towards Astor Square until you hit St. Marks.
Here you will find delicious cheap Asian food including Japanese BBQ, Thai Food and Ramen. During this trajectory, you will find one of New York City’s most iconic pieces of public art—and heck, one of its most iconic landmarks, period—The Astor Place Cube. I dare you to push it to make it turn around!
Just a few block from this iconic landmark, you’ll find the theatre where Stomp has been performing for years. If you haven’t heard about them, it’s about time! Founded in the UK, back in 1991, today they are world famous, creating the most impressive percussion acts with unexpected objects and body parts!
Get ready to feel your bones shake!
After you are done, return to Broadway, walk to 4th Street and turn right (West), walking all the way to Washington Square Park. The park is dominated by the Washington Square Arch at the Northern gateway and the fountain. It’s one of the city’s popular spots for residents and tourists and you might recognize it form the movie August Rush.
Once a cemetery, now is a parade ground, a gathering spot for avant-garde artists, a battleground for chess enthusiasts and a playground for canines and children.
*Restroom Spot: Available public restrooms in the park.
If you were not temped by St. Marks food options, check MacDougal Street, located at the Southwest corner of the park. This area is NYU’s Students favorite food spot and therefore, very affordable. If you are into Italian food, Artichoke Basille’s Pizza offers huge pizza slices for less than $5.
If you prefer Asian food, Saigon Shack has cheap Vietnamese food, but is a very popular spot so be prepared to wait. And if you prefer vegetarian food, try by Chloe.
SoHo & Chinatown
By now, I’ pretty sure you’re full and in the need another good walk. Walk back to 4th Street towards (East) until you hit Broadway again and start walking downtown. After a few blocks, you will cross Houston Street and enter SoHo (a.k.a. South of Houston).
This area is known for its designer boutiques, fancy chain stores and high-end art galleries, making it a trendy top shopping destination. I invite you to walk around the smaller streets and explore their uniqueness and secret little businesses.
Once you have absorbed all SoHo’s vibes, walk back to Broadway until you hit Canal Street, where you will be officially in Chinatown.
There is just so much to see here, that if after the tips below, you’re still curious to explore more of the food scene, book your tickets for the Tenements Tales and Taste Tour! You’ll enjoy the story of the millions of immigrants and taste several delicious dishes like pretzels, dumplings, potato knishes, waffles, homemade cheeses and even beer, of the many groups that have lived there.
At Canal Street turn left (East) and start walking through it. You will encounter several NY gift shops which are perfect to get some cheap souvenirs back home. While you’re walking you will be approach by several Chinese people offering “handbags and watches”.
Just be aware for they are all fake and illegal!
Among the treats I recommend around Chinatown are Taiyaki NYC, where you can try their fish-shaped waffle ice cream and Chinatown Ice Cream Factory where you will find my two favorite flavors: black sesame and lychee ice cream.
If you like pastries, go to Taipan Bakery and try the delicious Coconut Bun for only $1.25, cash only. It is very popular, so hopefully you are lucky enough to get a warm one. And if you want to have an authentic Chinese meal, go to Great NY Noodletown on the corner of Bowery and Bayard Street. Remember that they’re cash only.
To find several food options in one place, there is a “hidden” food market called Canal Street Market. It’s located on the corner of Canal Street with Lafayette.
*Restroom Spot: The restaurant Great NY Noodletown has available restrooms as does Canal Street Market.
In the middle of Chinatown, at Mulberry Street with Canal Street facing North, you will find the entrance to Little Italy. This couple of streets welcomes a heavily touristy crowd to its high concentration of souvenir shops and traditional Italian eateries and bakeries.
Tenement buildings, once home to the immigrants who settled the area in the late 1800s, line the narrow streets. Mulberry Street, the main thoroughfare, turns into a pedestrian mall on summer weekends and each September they celebrate San Gennaro Festival.
One of the store that I love visiting every time I’m there is Mulberry & Grand, founded by Emily Guggino. There is always something new to tempt you into purchasing it! A lovely curated collection of inspired accessories.
By now, you have visit almost a third of the city, all the way from 59th Street at Central Park down to Canal Street, in Chinatown. And, the good news is: it has only taken you two days. YAY! And, there is still so much more to see!
Did you enjoy the 1st and 2nd Cheap NYC guides with the top NYC attractions? If so, stay tuned for our 3rd Route, where we’ll explore the West Side. Spots like the famous High Line, the delicious Chelsea Market, the Meatpacking District and one of the coolest neighborhoods in Manhattan, the West Village.
Text Credit: Written by our contributor Magdalena Concha
Photo Credits: Courtesy of Noel. Y. C. (@NYCLovesNYC) and Union Square Greenmarket
*Last Update on March/2020.*