36 hours in New York City: Everything you need to do and see

travel to new york city
Planning to travel to New York City? Here's what you should do. Source: Daniel Slim / AFP

If you’re a student in the US or Europe, you’ve surely thought about what it must be like to travel to New York City. Famed for being the greatest city in the world, New York has plenty to offer on every front, from the arts to history and culture. More than that, it’s perfectly walkable and student-friendly — most of the time. 

However, planning to travel to New York can be an overwhelming experience. There’s so much to see and do, both during the day and after dark — after all, there’s a reason why New York is known as the city that never sleeps. Unfortunately, this means that for the most part, you won’t be able to explore every crevice as a student on a budget. 

In this, knowing the best places to visit in New York is a must — especially if you want to make the most out of your time. Here are the essential things every student should do in 36 hours for an unforgettable and quintessentially New York experience. 

Travel to New York City: How to spend 36 hours in the city that never sleeps


Visit Central Park for a refreshing start to your New York trip. Source: Alexi Rosenfeld/AFP

Start your day in Central Park

Central Park is one of the most famous landmarks in the world. Almost every corner has been featured in films, TV shows, video games, books, and more — all romanticising the park in all its glory. Because of this, Central Park certainly should be an unmissable part of your visit to New York. 

However, the park is huge and impossible to cover within a day, much less in the span of one morning. We recommend renting a bicycle, which will give you the chance to zoom across most of the park’s iconic spots, from The Carousel and Bethesda Fountain to the Imagine mosaic. 

If you’re short on time, book a bike rental in advance. You can do so here

Visit the Met

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is, arguably, one of the best galleries in the world. From its iconic steps that have been featured in movie scenes and red carpet premieres to its impressive collection of beautiful art, you’ll be enthralled exploring its halls after an eventful morning in Central Park.

There, you’ll see The Met Collection — which spans 490,000 works worldwide and throughout history. 

Visit an observation deck

No travel to New York City is complete without visiting its must-see monuments. Still, making your way through them all can be time-consuming, especially if you’re only in the city for a short amount of time. 

The best way to get around this? Book a trip to an observation deck. 

These can be a little pricey, but well worth it for the view. Upon making your way to the top of the building, you’ll be met with a fantastic, birds-eye view of the city in all its glory. 

While the New York skyline is incredible at any time of the day, the night view is especially unique. Booking a viewing at sunset is just as special for a chance to see the day slowly begin to fade as nightfall looms.

A classic observation deck to visit is Top of the Rock , which has been featured in movies. Another popular location is SUMMIT Vanderbilt One for a unique experience and view of the city. 

SUMMIT Vanderbilt One offers one of the most unique observation deck experiences in New York. Source: Spencer Platt/AFP

Catch a Broadway musical

You can’t travel to New York City without watching a Broadway musical. There are plenty of exciting musicals, plays, and improv shows that are constantly playing in New York, giving you a multitude of options to choose from. 

If you’re a student, though, it’s likely that your travel to New York City is on a budget — and Broadway shows can be expensive. Consider downloading the TodayTix app, which lets you browse Broadway shows according to discounts, lotteries and offers available daily. 

Should you be in the area, keep an eye out for the TKTS Booth in the middle of Times Square. This kiosk often sells last-minute theatre tickets for a cheaper price, giving you the chance to catch a show without breaking the bank. 

If that’s still too pricey for you, visiting the TKTS Booth means you’ll get to visit Times Square too — which is an experience in itself. However, beware of pickpockets and getting separated from your group, as the centre can be quite chaotic and overwhelming for a first-time visitor. 


Catch sight of Lady Liberty

Start your second day in New York by catching sight of one of its most famous landmarks: the Statue of Liberty. The best part? You can do this for free. 

Make your way towards the edge of Manhattan where you’ll come across Battery Park. There, you’ll find the Staten Island Ferry, which makes trips to Staten Island and back every half an hour or so — at no charge. This loops around the Statue of Liberty, Governors Island, and more — giving you a perfect opportunity to snap a quick picture while you can. 

While you’re there, you can also visit some important landmarks nearby, such as the 9/11 memorial pools. 

Walk across the Brooklyn bridge

End your travel to New York City by traversing across the Brooklyn Bridge — which, arguably, gives you one of the best views of the city. There are plenty of plaques and signposts that detail the bridge’s history and significance, as well, so you’ll have time to discover more about its significance in between snapping photos. 

If you have some time to spare, we recommend that you venture into Brooklyn and visit a deli for a sandwich. These are large, meaty, and stuffed to your heart’s content — giving you a classically New York memory to cling onto by the time you have to leave.