Erna Leon Stokes, founder of MERCER7
To me, West Village is home as I lived there for years before relocating to London in 2010. New York never disappoints as its always evolving, and new places pop up all the time which keeps the city fresh and so exciting.
One of my favourite things to do in New York is… meeting up with my friends for spontaneous brunches or gallery openings. New York is such an inspiring city and everyone is always open and welcoming. And of course, I love to shop. The selection of stores is second to none. Some of my favourites include Oak NYC which has a great selection of jackets, and Forty Five Ten which has the most stunning curation of clothes. Even Zara (in Hudson Yards) looks super curated and always has a beautiful display to choose from. Ayr does great denim, while Kirna Zabete stocks great brands like GANNI and Nanushka. I also love IF boutique in SoHo and Assembly on Ludlow Street on the Lower East Side – I love their contemporary pieces and vintage finds.
For a long weekend, stay at… PUBLIC Hotel. I stayed there a couple of years ago and absolutely loved it. It is owned by Ian Schrager (who co-founded and co-owned the iconic Studio 54), so the style and design is really cool. The light in the communal workspace is beautiful and the rooftop bar is the place to be for evening drinks – the city views are amazing. Other favourites include Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn (housed in a converted factory) and The Standard in the Meatpacking District. If you’d rather have a whole apartment to yourself, Sonder has a great selection to choose from; it’s much better than Airbnb as it’s basically a hotel but in an apartment building.
For dinner, go to… Mexican restaurant La Esquina – I’ve been eating their tacos for 18 years! Just be sure to call way in advance for reservations. I also have to mention Café Habana, a New York institution that also serve delicious tacos. Extra Virgin in West Village is another neighbourhood favourite, but for something more upscale, try The Waverly Inn.
Grab a coffee at… Café Leon Dore on Mulberry Street in downtown New York. They serve Greek coffee, frothy iced drinks and tasty Greek pastries. Magnolia Bakery is also a must – their banana pudding is one of the most delicious treats ever. I also love Cafe Gitane and Ruby’s.
Go for drinks at… Gitano Jungle Room in Lower Manhattan. It’s technically a restaurant, but they have a really cool bar and lounge where you can sit back and enjoy delicious cocktails. Aria Wine Bar is another of my old favourites. For something a little different, The Back Room and Please Don’t Tell are great speakeasy bars.
If you visit one museum, go to… The Whitney Museum of American Art in the Meatpacking District. The rooftop bar has the most amazing city views, too. The Guggenheim is also incredible. If you’re in a mood to visit little galleries, then head over to Chelsea.
For a night out, head to… Paul’s Cocktail Lounge at The Roxy Hotel, opened by DJ Paul Sevigny (Chloe Sevigny’s brother). Le Bain at The Standard has the best views and cocktails, while Birdland Jazz Club on 44th West is great if you’re into jazz. There’s always someone cool performing, and it feels really old-school New York.
One of my favourite neighbourhoods is… West Village. That and Nolita – I spent a lot of time there and even had a little shop when I designed clothes and had my own label. I also love the Meatpacking District. It used to be a fish market back in the day, but the area took off when Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney opened their flagship stores there. Everything boomed and now, you’ll find lots of high-end stores as well as Soho House New York.
The hidden gem to know is… The Vessel in Hudson Yards. It’s an impressive piece of architecture everyone should see. It’s just insane, I’ve never seen anything like it. You can get a great picture on the spiral staircases.
Sasha Sabapathy, founder of Glow Bar London
I lived in New York for five years in my 20s and loved it. Before moving there, I used to spend my summers there as I had friends in the city, and pre Covid I used to visit a few times every year.
One of my favourite things to do in New York is… walk around with my phone in my bag. It’s important to spend time soaking in the city, feeling the energy and paying attention to what’s around you. The city is constantly changing and evolving so you never know when you’re going to come across a new shop or café, or see an amazing art installation.
For a long weekend, stay at… The Bowery Hotel. It’s in an amazing location – downtown on the edge of NoHo and the Lower East Side which has great restaurants, shopping, coffee, matcha spots and my favourite SoulCycle studio. The rooms are comfortable with great mattresses and pillows – essential for a good night’s sleep in the city. Get a seat in the cosy part of the hotel bar which has plush sofas, a roaring fire and the best dirty martinis in the city.
For dinner, go to… Cosme. It’s a modern Mexican restaurant in Gramercy and booking a table there is one of the first things I do when I know I’ll be visiting. Order the duck carnitas tacos and the cornhusk meringue, then get a couple of honey margaritas which are insane.
Grab a coffee at… The Butcher’s Daughter in Nolita. It’s more wellness oriented than other places, but the food is amazing. Luckily, New York has an abundance of amazing cafés, which was one of my favourite things about living there. No matter where you are, you’ll find incredible coffee.
Go for drinks at… The Wayland. It’s a laid-back cocktail bar and they serve the most amazing drinks. I love their Garden Variety Margarita which is green juice with high-quality tequila. It’s a must.
If you visit one museum, go to… The American Museum of Natural History. You can spend hours, or even a whole day, in there and not get bored.
For a night out… hit the bars. New York’s bar scene is significantly better and more authentic than its clubs. I don’t know anyone really who goes to the clubs in the Meatpacking District or Uptown. Make a list of bars and bar hop to see where the night takes you – going with the flow is usually the best way to have a good night! Dive bars are also great at the end of the night so if you’re in the East Village, head to Josies or Holiday Cocktail Lounge.
One of my favourite neighbourhoods is… The West Village. I’m a downtown girl at heart, so I’d say keep most of your exploring to below 14th Street. The Lower East Side, East Village, Nolita And NoHo are also all worth a visit – I always feel inspired there.
The hidden gem to know is… The Doughnut Project in West Village. They make the best doughnuts I’ve ever eaten, and I don’t think you can leave NYC without having an excellent doughnut. Order the olive oil and black pepper flavour, you won’t regret it.
Sheena Murphy, founder of Studio Nune
I’m originally from the UK but I moved to New York from Seattle to go to design school in 2010, and stayed for eight years. I still have a studio in Brooklyn and do a lot of work around the city.
One of my favourite things to do in New York is… walking and, of course, eating. The city has so much to offer and is an incredibly walkable city, particularly Manhattan. The concentration of incredible food places is mind blowing, too – there are great spots on nearly every street corner. It’s like no other city I’ve ever been to.
For a long weekend, stay at… Sister City on the Lower East Side. The rooms are chic and pared-back, with everything you need for a comfortable stay. It also has a great rooftop bar with amazing views and an extensive drinks list – think every type of cocktail you could want. If I’m not there, I go to Freehand Hotel in West Village. It’s a great spot for couples or solo travellers.
For lunch go to… Miss Ada in Fort Greene, Brookley. It’s probably my favourite place in NYC right now. The Musabaha hummus will blow your mind but, honestly, everything on the menu is incredible. Romans near Fort Greene Park is another great spot and I love the energy of the place. The food is amazing too; order the fava bean puree and the rigatoni with hen of the woods.
For dinner, go to… Dudley’s on the Lower East Side. It’s so nostalgic for me because our studio used to be on the same street, so we’d always go there for lunch and for drinks after work. It’s a great neighbourhood place with outdoor seating. Order the brown rice bowl. Another favourite is Cosme – it’s not cheap, but my husband and I always visit as a treat if we ever overlap on a trip. Their corn husk meringue will ruin any dessert you have after experiencing it.
Grab a coffee at… Rucola in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. It was our local spot and one of the reasons we moved our studio to that area. It’s a café and bar that serves delicious eggs in the morning and pasta in the evening. Order the eggs with broccoli rabe for breakfast or any pasta dish and you’ll leave a happy camper.
Go for drinks at… Elsa Bar in Brooklyn Heights. It was designed by Home Studios who are hospitality masters, and it’s a really cosy neighbourhood joint with excellent cocktails and a fun bathroom. For an old-school NYC vibe, head to Hotel Delmano in Williamsburg – they serve tasty nibbles and classic cocktails.
For a night out… I’d go pretty much anywhere but, these days, I love to find a local Tex-Mex joint with sugary margaritas and hang out with friends.
One of my favourite neighbourhoods is… the Lower East Side. It’s cool, gritty, creative and heavy on good restaurants.
The hidden gem to know is… Vinegar Hill House in Vinegar Hill. This place was near my first apartment in Brooklyn and a favourite with those who knew it was there. It’s tucked away on a quiet street with a sweet outdoor space and great drinks. When I used to eat meat, I’d order the cast iron chicken, which is still one of the best things on the menu.
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