For me, walking is the best way to experience New York City. There’s so much to see here, and so many different neighborhoods; each one offering their own unique flavour of city life. It’s amazing to think how much you can miss by jumping in a yellow taxi or catching an Uber. For this reason, I tend to spend most of my time in New York City travelling by foot, discovering new places. One of my favourite routes is the New York City High Line Walk.
The High Line is an abandoned railway running down the west side of mid-town Manhattan. Beginning in 2009, the railway line has been converted into a 2.4km stretch of green space. It now offers a respite from city life for locals and visitors alike. It’s also a valuable habitat for city wildlife.
It’s also a great way to see the city while avoiding New York’s infamous traffic congestion.
A Little History
The New York City High Line was opened as an elevated railway in 1933 providing a transport link to the factories on the lower west side. The railway was used to transport goods such as coal, meat and milk. As the line is two stories high it meant that trains didn’t disrupt road traffic.
The buildings here sit very close the railway line. This was so that goods could easily be loaded from the railway carts and into the factories and warehouses.
As lorry traffic increased, the railway was eventually abandoned in the 1980’s and stood derelict until the mid 2000’s.
The West Village – Humble Beginnings
Before starting your walk along New York City High Line at the southern point, spend some time in the West Village. The Metro Station on Christopher Street is a good starting point for this area and is around ten blocks from the entrance to the High Line.
The West Village is a fashionable neighbourhood, brimming with trendy eateries and independent lifestyle boutiques. It is the perfect area for grabbing some brunch before heading north on the High Line. There are also a few notable sites here which are worth a quick visit whilst you are in the area.
The Stonewall Inn
Cross the road at the Christopher Street Metro Station to find the Stonewall Inn. This modest and unassuming gay bar is the birth place of the LGBT civil rights movement in the United States. On June 28th 1969, an NYPD raid of the premises erupted into days of violence and protests against the poor treatment of the LGBT community in New York. In the aftermath of the riots, a number of gay rights organisations were founded and lead to the first Pride parade marching through NYC in 1970.
Today the Stonewall and the surrounding area is a National Monument. Head into the small park opposite the Stonewall Inn to see the Gay Liberation sculpture, four white statues which stand sentry here. The area today is leafy and quietly residential. Other than the plaques and monuments, there’s little to suggest that this place played such an important role in LGBT history.
Stars of the Small Screen
Fans of popular culture visit this area for another reason. There are two famous apartment blocks close by, which for many are highly symbolic of life in New York City.
The Friends Apartment
At 90 Bedford Street, on the corner with Grove street, is the building used for external shots in the american sitcom, Friends. As the home to the gang for 10 seasons, the majority of the series was set in this building although show itself was filmed in Los Angeles.
Unfortunately there’s no Central Perk, however the restaurant in it’s place (the Little Owl) offers Mediterranean food and a cosy atmosphere making this a great place to stop for lunch before walking the High Line.
Carrie Bradshaw’s Apartment
Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment from Sex and the City is a couple of blocks away on Perry Street (although in the series the apartment is on the Upper East Side). Unlike Friends, the outdoor scenes from Sex and the City were filmed here.
This one is a residential building and is someone’s home so please be respectful of the signs and don’t climb the stairs. There is a chain blocking the staircase but this hasn’t stopped some fans from climbing over, causing problems for the people who live here.
Play nice and be respectful!
Taking the High Line
Once you have finished browsing the West Village, head towards the southern most point of the New York City High Line to start your walk heading north. The entrance is at the junction between Gansevoort Street and Washington Street.
If you haven’t eaten yet, try Bubby’s which is right next to the High Line entrance. The restaurant is renowned for its delicious pancakes and there are often queues to get a table which is never a bad sign.
The High Line
Climbing the stairs to the High Line transports you to a very different version of New York. A city where strolling is perfectly acceptable and traffic has been replaced by foliage and nature. There’s no escaping that you are still in New York City; the city buildings tower above the weaving pathway, some of which have been shaped around the railway.
High Line Gardens and Art
Whilst walking along the High Line walk, you will pass through a number of garden zones, each with different plant types. There are 16 zones in total which you can experience if you walk the full length of the high line. You can find out more about these zones here.
The High Line has a busy art programme and the railway walk is home to a many works of contemporary arts created for the New York City High Line. Many pieces of art sit between the rusting railway tracks and blend beautifully with the surrounding nature.
Views of the Empire State Building
The High Line walk is a great way to see one of New York City’s most iconic attractions, the Empire State building. Elevated above street level, the High Line affords exciting views of the skyscraper between the surrounding buildings and plant life. In good weather you can capture some great snaps with Empire State building in the distance.
It’s also a great opportunity to see some of New York’s iconic architecture and as you head north on the High Line you will notice a change in the buildings around you.
This reflects the different New York City neighborhoods the High Line walk passes through starting with traditional brick buildings with iron fire escapes in the West Village.
Towards the end of the High Line, shiny skyscrapers and quirky modern designs replace the traditional architecture. In fact the Hudson Yards, where the High Line finishes is one of New York’s newest neighbourhoods
Look up and appreciate the architecture whilst you are heading north.
The High Line walk finishes in the Hudson Yards which were previously rail yards. The neighborhood has been completely redeveloped and is now a hub for food, shopping and site-seeing.
There are some great restaurants within the complex as well as a fashion mall.
This structure is quickly becoming a popular feature on social media, mainly because its quirky design looks amazing in photographs. The Vessel is a piece of interactive art and features 154 interconnecting staircases. Climbing these stairs offers stunning views of the city as well as different perspectives on the vessel itself.
The Vessel looks great from the ground but for visitors who would like to experience climbing the structure it’s worth booking ahead. Tickets are available free of charge at 9.30 each morning but only limited numbers are available. It is also possible to reserve your tickets for a nominal charge.
If you haven’t eaten already, there are some great places to eat in and around the Hudson Yards. Little Spain does what it’s name suggests, bringing you some of the city’s best Spanish food.
If you are looking for less culture, higher calories and a guilty pleasure, hit the Shake Shack on the top floor. The frozen custard is particularly good!
There’s plenty on offer here with food from across the globe available for you.
The High Line walk ends at the back of the Hudson Yards. In total the walk is around 2.4km, but there’s so much to see along the way that it’s really worth taking your time here.
The Hudson Yards are well connected making it easy for you to return home at the end of your walk. There is a number 7 metro station with the complex and Penn St Station is only three blocks away so there are plenty of transport options available to you.
If you were looking continue your walk there are a couple of options for you:
- Heading north into Hell’s Kitchen. Traditionally one of the city’s poorer neighborhoods, Hell’s Kitchen is now seeing massive redevelopment and gentrification.
- Travel East along 34th Street towards the Empire State Building, and along one of New York’s busiest shopping streets. Turn left at Broadway to visit Times Square.
Thank You For Reading – New York City High Line Walk
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