It’s rarely quiet in New York. There’s a pulsating echo of movement that surges through the streets and hangs over the skyline. It’s furrowed in the architecture and written on the walls, nothing is still. For travellers, New York is an adventurous invitation whisking you down the rabbit hole. Bright lights and big city magic. In a city built up from the gritty days of prohibition, waves of global immigrants and the call of stardom, the neon nights and edgy drama of New York is iconic.
Walking and Photographic Tours around a holiday city are a fabulous way to explore a neighbourhood. Even in cities we’ve lived in, we’ve jumped on local tours and joined walking groups, venturing around streets we’ve passed 100 times. With an expert guide, a city’s colourful past and even more colourful personalities jump out of familiar streets revealing forgotten chapters and fascinating stories. There’s a wonderful walk and photographic tour through the streets of New York beginning on Broadway and Houston Streets, breathing new life into New York’s charismatic corners as told by locals from the far corners of the world.
Meeting for the walking tour on Broadway even feels theatrical. The steep facades of the city buildings block out the sun, splintering charcoal shadows across the road. The walk heads south through Soho, New York’s famous shopping and dining district. Shorthand for south of Houston Street, Soho is probably the most famous commune in Lower Manhattan and best-loved for its sophisticated downtown eateries. The line between SoHo and Little Italy is blurry so if you’re looking for homestyle Italian flavours and oversized Pizza pies, you’ll find it here. Fire escape ladders hitched on to apartment blocks and shoes flung over telegraph wires, like a NYC trademark, criss-cross the backstreets. Famous also for stylish art galleries blended against the backdrop of bold graffiti art and street side murals, SoHo composes the most vivid street photography.
The walk continues through Chinatown, a densely populated neighbourhood with the highest population of Chinese outside of China. Its busy sidewalks are stacked with bubble tea shops, souvenirs and market stalls selling Chinese herbs, dried fish and rich sauces. Locals and tourists flock to the Asian and Chinese restaurants and the street-side eateries with hand-pulled noodles and fat dumplings are always packed. Walking the fringes of leafy Columbus Park, you’ll see locals spending the afternoons playing chess and mahjong, a world away from the Wall Street images of uptown New York.
Continuing along the Manhattan Bridge, the walk heads back north through the Bowery and into the Lower East Side. Here, the grungy alleyways and tenement-style buildings stand alongside affluent apartments and swanky boutiques. Though once the overcrowded bargain district of New York, the LES has now become the hip and happening quarter to visit. Its urban Jewish heritage on Orchard Street tells a grand tale. To explore it further, you can visit the ornate Bialystoker Synagogue, the Shteibl prayer house, and the Landsmanshaft, a mutual aid society for Jewish immigrants. The Lower East Side is a mix of language, poise, people and style. For a night out, head to Chrystle Street to see art from upcoming artists, sample rustic French cuisine and people-watch foreigners and locals celebrating their city.
The vibrant streets are striking. Along some, you’ll see the restoration of old buildings and chat with the labourers on their lunch breaks. Their stories of how both they and the buildings grew up in New York is fascinating. From the grungy alleyways and peeling paint, expressive murals pop with colour. It’s a city of repeat business for travellers and leaves first timers yearning for more. New York is full of iconic drawcards and signature landmarks, but the city pulls you in to discover the underground. It’s the walks through the streets of New York that highlight the hidden corners of a world continually recreating itself.