Grand Central, Empire State, Greenwich Village
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- Technical DifficultyThis is the average user-submitted rating on the technical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
This walk takes you through some of Manhattan’s most iconic landmarks – from the bustling Grand Central Terminal to the towering Empire State Building. See the world’s biggest store and indulge in a 30-day cured pastrami sandwich from one of the city’s most famous Jewish delis.
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Route Description for Grand Central, Empire State, Greenwich Village
Begin your walk inside one of New York City’s most iconic landmarks, Grand Central Terminal. Commonly called Grand Central, this train station covers 48 acres in the center of the City. It has 44 platforms – more than any other rail station in the world – serving passengers both east and west of the Hudson River. A visit to Grand Central could be an entire sightseeing day in itself, so make sure to plan at least an hour here if you want to get the full effect.
Start off in the Main Concourse. This cavernous center hall is 84 m long, 37 m wide and 38 m high. The structure is predominately made of granite, so much so that the building emits relatively high levels of radiation. Find a spot, outside of the flow of traffic, and spend a few minutes looking around – there’s something to see in every direction. At eye level, you’ll immediately be greeted with a buzz – the hustle and bustle of daily commuters, friends meeting up at the four-faced brass clock at the central information booth (worth an estimated $10 million), and tourists snapping photos, chattering amongst themselves in languages from all over the globe.
Look straight up – the astronomical ceiling was first designed in 1912, replaced in the late 1930s, and by the 1980s it was so dirty from tar and nicotine smoke all you could see was black. After a 12-year restoration the original design was finally revealed again in 1996, but they left a small dark patch untouched as a reminder of what once was. You can still see that today in the northwest corner.
From here, there are a number of places still left to be discovered. Head downstairs to see the many restaurants and the famous Oyster Bar. And just outside the Oyster Bar you’ll find a vaulted hallway covered in Guastavino tile. If you stand in one corner and whisper something, the person in the opposite corner can hear you perfectly. This is just one of Grand Central’s many secrets!
Leave Grand Central at the 42nd Street exit. Head south one block on Park Ave until you come to 41st Street and take a right. Continue about 200 m until you reach 5th Avenue and the corner of Bryant Park. Enter the park here. Directly in front of you is the New York Public Library Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. This is the main branch and flagship of the New York Public Library system. Opened in 1911, the building features not only an impressive collection of material, but also a number of architectural elements. The most famous is the Rose Main Reading Room – complete with massive windows, stunning chandeliers and thousands upon thousands of reference material lining its shelves. If you have time, try to walk around here for a few minutes.
Continue the route by walking behind the library to explore the rest of Bryant Park. The white-collar professionals that work in the surrounding area often frequent these well-manicured grounds, and you’ll find elegant cafes and eateries as well as spots to play board games and relax on a warm sunny day. Meander through the park and exit at the western corner (6th Avenue and 40th Street). Continue right to head up 40th Street towards Times Square. We’re going to spend more time here on the next route, so take a sharp left onto Broadway after about 100 m.
Broadway is one of New York City’s most iconic streets, famous for the many theatres that line the route. Again, we’ll get to that section in the next route, so continue down Broadway in the direction of 39th Street. As you walk make sure to look up, down, and around – there’s always something happening here.
Continue to follow Broadway. After about 500 m you’ll arrive at Herald Square, and Macy’s will be on your right hand side. This is the world’s largest store (and you definitely don’t want to go in there during the holiday shopping season!). Pop in here for a quick look (but expect to get lost inside) and then take a left onto West 34th Street towards 5th Avenue. If you’re planning on doing some shopping during your trip, this is a great spot – there are more stores here than one can count.
After about 200 m, the Empire State Building will be on your right. For forty years this was the world’s tallest building, but today still stands an impressive 443 m with 102 stories. You can visit the observation decks on both the 86th and 102nd floor. We recommend checking this out – as the view is spectacular.
Exit the Empire State Building to the right and take your first right onto 5th Avenue. Follow 5th for about 20 m and turn left onto East 30th Street. After one block, take a right onto Madison Avenue. Continue on Madison Avenue for about 200 m until you reach the Madison Square Park. On your right-hand side will be the
National Museum of Mathematics.
Enter Madison Square Park and stroll around, enjoying a nice break in the greenery of the park, check out the artwork on display and see which flowers are in bloom. Exit the park the opposite corner from where you entered. You should be on 25th Street and 5th Avenue. Veer to the left to follow Broadway in the direction of East 23rd Street.
Directly in front will be the iconic Flatiron Building. Completed in 1902, this was once one of the city’s tallest buildings with 20 floors and still remains one of the most photographed buildings with its unique triangular structure. Stay on Broadway as you pass the Flatiron Building and follow this street for about 400 m, until you run into Union Square. Again, this route is flanked with stores in every direction, so if you’re looking to shop this is a great option!
Enter Union Square from the northwest corner. If you’re lucky, there may be a local market in the park. Cut through the park, so that you exit on the opposite corner from where you entered. At this point you should be at the corner of East 14th Street and Park Avenue South/Broadway. Cut over to the left and take your first right onto 4th Avenue.
Follow 4th Avenue for about 400 m and take a left onto East 8th St./St. Marks Place. As you walk this route, make sure to admire the beautiful architecture – from historical stone brick to towering modern skyscrapers. Follow St. Marks for about 200 m. You’re now entering the Ukrainian Village. There are tons of small restaurants and cafes here, but we’re going to give you a serious insider hint for a place to eat in this area shortly.
When you hit 2nd Avenue take a right to continue on our route or if you’re in the mood for some insanely good vegetarian/vegan fast food (yes, really, it’s shockingly good) continue on St. Marks, take a left onto 1st Avenue and then your first right onto 9th Street. About 25 m up on the right you’ll find a tiny burger joint called Superiority Burger, serving hand crafted fast food that you’ll never believe is meatless.
If you’re not taking us up on this offer, continue down 2nd Avenue for about 600 m until you run into Houston Street. This marks the end of this route. If you want to check out an iconic New York City deli, take a left onto Houston and follow it for roughly 300 m, and turn right onto Ludlow Street. On your right-hand side will be Katz Delicatessen. This Jewish deli is an NYC institution, serving up corned beef and pastrami that has been cured for 30 days. Yep, it’s pretty good.
Insider Hints for Grand Central, Empire State, Greenwich Village
- Grand Central has so many things to see, but don’t forget that it’s also a working commuter hub. Try not to stand in the middle of the pathways when admiring!
- Don’t pay extra to visit the 102nd floor in the Empire State Building – the view isn’t much different from the 86th floor.
- St. Marks Place is an iconic cultural hub of the West Village. Check out the super unique shops they have there.
Getting to the Grand Central, Empire State, Greenwich Village Trailhead
Start at Grand Central Terminal, it is accessible by Subway, Bus, and Amtrak.
Grand Central, Empire State, Greenwich Village Elevation Graph
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