In the shadow of the skyscrapers of Midtown sit some of Manhattan's most colorful and vibrant neighborhoods. Busy Flatiron is one of the borough's most active shopping and entertainment districts, situated between Union Square and Madison Square Park, two of the most popular meeting places for Manhattanites. Just to the east is quiet Gramercy, a residential neighborhood centered around the park of the same name and holding some of the most pleasant streets in Manhattan. North of Madison Square Park, the bustle of Midtown spills over into this historic neighborhood, filled with shops and grand old buildings.
Union Square was completely revitalized in the 1990s and is now one of the city's premier shopping, dining and entertainment districts. The loosely-defined "Flatiron District" extends east from 6th Avenue and north of Union Square, centering on the famed Flatiron Building on 23rd Street. Tranquil, exclusive Gramercy Park is open only to immediate area residents, though the old brownstones surrounding the park and on Irving Place are some of Manhattan's most attractive streetscapes. Toward the north is Kips Bay, an affluent residential neighborhood. There's also a sub-neighborhood comprising approximately 26th-29th Sts. on and around Lexington Av., which is nicknamed "Curry Hill," due to the agglomeration of Indian stores and restaurants there.
You can get in via many different subway lines. The 6 line runs under Park Avenue, stopping at 28th St., 23rd St., and 14th St./Union Square, with the 4 and 5 stopping at Union Square as well. The N and R lines run under Broadway, stopping at 28th St., 23rd St., and 14th St./Union Square, with the Q also stopping at Union Square. The F and M lines run under 6th Avenue, stopping at 14th St. and 23rd St. The L train runs under 14th St., stopping at 1st Av., 3rd Av., Union Square, and 6th Av. Additionally, PATH trains to Hoboken and Jersey City, New Jersey stop at 14th and 23rd Sts. on 6th Avenue. There are plenty of local buses, but they can be slow, especially on crosstown routes and on Park Av. South. Time allowing, walking is highly recommended.
The Flatiron District contains three great examples of classic New York skyscrapers, all within a few blocks of one another:
- Flatiron Building, 23rd St (Broadway and 5th Ave; Subway: to 23rd St). An iconic building, considered the oldest remaining skyscraper in Manhattan, the Flatiron was completed in 1902. 285 ft (87 m) tall.
- Metropolitan Life Insurance Building, 24th St and Madison Ave. A lovely building with a tall clock tower just across Madison Ave from Madison Square Park.
- International Toy Center, 200 5th Av. (between 23rd and 25th Sts). Actually two buildings connected by a pedestrian bridge, this complex was long a hub for toy manufacturers.
Museums and galleries
- Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace, 28 East 20th St, ☎ . Tu-Sa 9AM-5PM, closed Federal holidays. A designated National Historic Site, Roosevelt lived at this site from his birth in 1858 until the age of 14 years. The building is not the original - that was demolished in 1916 - but a reconstruction erected by admirers only three years later in 1919 after Roosevelt's death, and subsequently furnished with many of the original fittings and memorabilia of the 26th US President by Roosevelt's wife and sisters. $3 adults, children under 16 free, guided tours available.
- Museum of Sex, 233 Fifth Ave (at 27th Street), ☎ . Su-F 11AM-6:30PM, Sa 11AM-8PM. $14.50.
Parks and gardens
- Union Square (Subway: to 14th St-Union Sq). An important and historic intersection in New York City, situated where Broadway and the Bowery came together in the early 19th century. Union Square Park (3.5 acres) is known for its impressive equestrian statue of George Washington, erected to Henry Kirke Brown's design in 1856. In April 1861, soon after the fall of Fort Sumter, Union Square was the site of a patriotic rally that is thought to have been the largest public gathering in North America up to that time. A newer addition, added in 1986, is a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in the southwest corner of the park. Union Square is also known for its Greenmarket and also its history as a focus for political demonstrations, most recently protests of the 2004 Republican National Convention. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Union Square became a primary public gathering point for mourners and those seeking information about missing loved ones. People created spontaneous memorials in Union Square, and the square was the setting for vigils held to honor the victims of the attacks.
- Madison Square Park (between 5th and Madison Avs. from 23rd to 26th Sts; Subway: to 23rd St). A lovely small park which offers beautiful views of the Flatiron, Metropolitan Life Insurance, International Toy Center, and Empire State Buildings. There is also a popular Shake Shack kiosk that serves burgers and shakes in the southern end of the park.
- Gramercy Park. A private park open only to immediate area residents and guests at hotels on the perimeter who have access to keys to the gate.
- People’s Improv Theater, 123 E 24th St, ☎ . Dedicated to the instruction, performance and development of original comedy. Wednesdays are free!
- Irving Plaza, 17 Irving Pl (between 15th and 16th St), ☎ . A popular concert venue that regularly hosts rock and hip-hop concerts as well as the occasional comedy show.
- Gramercy Theatre, 127 East 23rd Street (at Lexington Ave), ☎ . An old theater that now serves as a small rock concert venue.
- ABC Carpet & Home, 888 Broadway (at 19th St). A sprawling NYC department store occupying two landmark buildings, it is considered by many to be an iconic institution in the Flatiron district of Manhattan. Its offerings include furniture, rugs, lighting, accessories and more.
- Adorama, 42 W. 18th St (b/t 5th and 6th Avenues), ☎ , toll-free: . One of the country's largest suppliers of cameras, film, and photographic accoutrements of all kinds. Staffed largely by Orthodox Jews, Adorama is closed on Friday nights, Saturdays, and all Jewish holidays except Hanukkah, but packed to the rafters every other day. And they provide very good service.
- Eataly, 200 5th Ave (corner of 23 St.). This is a branch of an Italian shopping center, which styles itself as a place to "savor high quality traditional Italian food products and beverages along with local produce and artisanal products." Many different products are for sale, including not only produce but cheese, wine, olive oil, and sweets, and there are also several places to eat hot food. Anyone who enjoys shopping or window-shopping for food-related products is likely to enjoy walking through.
- Kalustyan's, 123 Lexington Av., ☎ , fax: +1 212 683-8458. M-Sa 10AM-8PM, Su/Holiday 11AM-7PM. Probably the most complete source for Eastern Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and South Asian foodstuffs in Manhattan, though some of the spices and such cost more than you'd pay at the smaller Dual in the East Village. While you're there, make sure to go upstairs and get some mujadara. Some of the other prepared products are just OK, but the mujadara is great. Eat in or take out.
- Paragon Sports, 867 Broadway (at 18th St.), ☎ , toll-free: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Monday-Friday: 10AM - 8:30PM; Saturday 10AM - 8PM; Sunday: 11AM - 7PM. This is generally considered one of the better sporting goods stores in Manhattan. It's pretty large and has a lot of equipment you might want for your next trip. It pays to check whether anything is on sale. For example, there are often some good sales on hiking boots. The sales staff is generally helpful and will work with you to help you find what you want. They often recommend items they themselves use, and not the most expensive items.
- 2nd Ave Deli, 162 E 33rd St. (between Lexington and 3rd Avs.), ☎ . This famous kosher delicatessen, which used to be on 2nd Av. and 10th St., reopened at its new location a few years ago. The place is a real throwback, which really feels like an old-school Jewish deli. The menu is more extensive than old-school delis were, however, and includes what used to be considered "appetizing" (i.e., pareve - neither meat nor milk) foods. Try their tongue, corned beef, pastrami, and kasha varnishkes, and enjoy their freebies of artisanal cole slaw, pickles, and gribenes (chicken fat cracklings). The food may be bad for the heart, but it's good for the soul.
- 11 Madison Park, 11 Madison Av. (at 24 St.), ☎ . Has one of the most beautiful rooms of any restaurant in New York. Long well-liked for its upscale American cuisine and helpful service, it has in the last few years been graced with a new chef who has been getting rave reviews from many quarters. Call ahead for reservations.
- Blue Smoke, 116 E. 27th St. (at Park Av. South), ☎ . Danny Meyer's barbecue restaurant. This is also an important venue for live jazz. Reservations recommended.
- Gramercy Tavern, 42 E. 20 St. (between Broadway and Park Av.), ☎ . Thought of as Danny Meyer's flagship restaurant, serves upscale American food at higher prices than 11 Madison Park. Expect to pay over $100/person for dinner in the main dining room. The actual Tavern is more informal and more moderately priced. Gramercy Tavern is known as one of the more difficult reservations to obtain in Manhattan.
- Dos Caminos Park, 373 Park Avenue South (between 26th and 27th Streets), ☎ . Lunch M-F 11:30AM-4PM; brunch Sa-Su 11:30AM-4PM; dinner Su-M 4PM-11PM, Tu-Th 4PM-12AM, F-Sa 4PM-12:30PM. One of two up-market Mexican restaurants in Manhattan by the same name and under the same ownership (the other's in SoHo) Sticky, saucy ribs and guacamole to die for.
- Union Square Café, 21 East 16th St, ☎ . Lunch M-Sa 12PM-2:15PM; dinner Su-Th 6PM-10:15PM, F-Sa 6PM-11:15PM. One of New York's best-loved restaurants, serving great American and Italian cuisine with flair and crisp style. Osso buco, tuna burgers, roast vegetables and corn pudding are fine examples of the dishes created using the best local and seasonal produce from the Café's neighbor, the Union Square Farmers' Market. Mains in excess of $30 average. Reservations recommended.
- Live Bait, 14 E 23rd St (where Madison ends, near 5th and Broadway). Great and cheap oysters, clams and other seafood, raw and cooked as well as southern fare like jambalaya. Not afraid of the tabasco here. One of the few places in town that serves Abita Springs beer from Louisiana.
- Penelope, 159 Lexington Ave (at East 30th Street), ☎ . Cafe/restaurant/bakery with a cozy, inviting atmosphere. Homestyle food and casual but friendly service. Inexpensive. Wine and beer served. Long lines for weekend brunch.
- Vatan, 409 Third Ave (at 29th Street), ☎ . A prix-fixe vegetarian Indian restaurant with wonderful food. The decor is a little hokey, but the food makes it worthwhile.
- Casa Mono, 52 Irving Pl, ☎ . A delightful Spanish wine bar and restaurant by Mario Batali. The food is smashing.
- Saravanaas Bhavan, 81 Lexington Ave, ☎ . Excellent South Indian food at good prices. This is a vegetarian kosher restaurant and a branch of one in Chennai (Madras), India. Expect to wait a half hour or so on weekends.
- Shake Shack, Madison Square Park (Subway: ), ☎ . Awesome roadside food stand in Madison Square Park serving hot dogs, burgers, frozen custard, beer, and wine. Though reputed for their burgers, they also serve what is widely regarded as the best Chicago-style hot dog in New York.
- Raines Law Room, 48 West 17th Street (between 5th & 6th Avenues), e-mail: email@example.com. M-Th 5PM-2AM, F-Sa 5PM-3AM, Su 8PM:1AM. Drinks are prepared in a beautiful, half-hidden back room (they call it 'The Kitchen') surrounded by gleaming examples of every tool a barkeep could wish for. 'The Lounge' is modeled after a 19th Century English town home with Chesterfield sofas and a wood-burning fireplace. Servers are summoned with the touch of an electric bell. 'The Parlor' consists of elegant banquette seating areas enclosed by dark curtains. Reservations are recommended.
- Hotel 17, 225 E 17th St (between 2nd & 3rd Avenues), ☎ . Slightly north of East Village, a favorite with hipsters, Europeans, bargain-hunters. $60–$80 for shared bath rooms, $90–$100 for private bath rooms..
- Wolcott Hotel, 4 West 31st St, ☎ .
- Hotel Deauville, 103 East 29th St, ☎ . Check-out: 12PM. Good price for the location. Family-run business, with friendly staff. Around $140.
- Hotel 31, 120 East 31st St. Twenty-four hour concierge, daily maid service, cable T.V., telephone and helpful multilingual staff.
- The MAve Hotel, 62 Madison Avenue (at 27th Street), ☎ . Comfortable, stylish place. This space was originally built in 1902 but still feels modern with vibrant murals on the walls and sleek bamboo floors. Offers a complimentary breakfast. Occasionally, Groupon has deals for this hotel. $170 and up depending on the season.
- Hotel Giraffe, 365 Park Avenue South, ☎ . Free high speed Wi-fi and complimentary refreshments in the Grande Lobby 24 hours a day including breakfast in the mornings and wine and cheese receptions in the evenings except for Sunday nights.
- Hotel Chandler, 12 East 31st St, ☎ . Deluxe rooms on the edge of Koreatown. In-room high-speed internet. Health club, sauna and day spa. $250–500, though ask for deals.
- Inn at Irving Place, 56 Irving Pl, ☎ . Near Gramercy Park, the inn, built in 1834, consists of two landmark townhouses.
- Mangia, 22 West 23rd St, ☎ . Free Wi-Fi.
|Routes through Gramercy Flatiron|
|Bronx ← Midtown ←||N S||→ East Village → Financial District|
|Long Island City, Queens ← Midtown ←||N S||→ Greenwich Village → Downtown Brooklyn|
|Theater District ← Midtown ←||N S||→ Greenwich Village → Downtown Brooklyn|
|END ← Chelsea/Greenwich Village ←||W E||→ Williamsburg, Brooklyn → East Brooklyn|