Eager cyclists fly high across Brooklyn Bridge, newspapers hit doorways (and unlucky pedestrians) and a million coffee percolators begin to groan and splutter as Manhattan island rouses from sleep.
Every day here means infinite possibilities, opportunities and choices – starting with breakfast.
Omelette Provençal with tomato confit – is there any better way to start the day? In a cosmopolitan city filled with Francophiles, the best breakfast can be found at a bistro such as Lafayette, tucked away in NoHo. The coffee is strong and the croissants are crisp and flaky. Yellow cabs slide by the picture windows, rumbling off on adventures around Manhattan.
Washington Square Park offers a glimpse of the city springing to daily life: a man plays a wailing saxophone while businessmen rush under the triumphal arch, oblivious to children playing in the fountain. Grab an éclair at Patisserie Claude (187 West 4th Street; +1 212 255 5911) and loll on the grass under Hangman’s Elm, one of the island’s oldest trees.
Head south to the New Museum, a striking building created from seven stacked boxes on the Bowery. Less visited than some of its behemoth cousins (such as The Museum of Modern Art), it is beloved of New Yorkers for its rotating line-up of contemporary art, including experiments in virtual reality. Galleries radically transform, depending on who’s in residence.
The New Museum is close to an old institution, Russ & Daughters, a Jewish “appetizing” store that opened back in 1914. See avant-garde installations at the New then grab a classic bagel and lox with extra capers. If eating and walking isn’t your thing, Russ & Daughters also has a dedicated café on Orchard Street that sells everything from potato latkes to pickled herring. The babka ice-cream sandwich is “to die for”, as the servers say.
Once the purview of artists such as Andy Warhol, SoHo has established itself as the foremost shopping district in New York. In this labyrinth of towering loft buildings and picturesque fire-escapes you’ll find most of the major players (Rag & Bone, Michael Kors) with their sleek, ambitious showrooms. But on thoroughfares such as Elizabeth Street, there are also more intimate boutiques. McNally Jackson, an excellent bookshop on Prince, has a quiet basement where you can escape the crowds, as well as an on-site printing facility if, like many in New York, you happen to be a secret novelist.
When happy hour arrives, a charming place for a drink in SoHo is Raoul’s, which has been around forever. No longer dim and raffish, it was started by two brothers from Alsace. Order a Martini (or three) and you’ll be in love, ready to paint the town red.
Head for the West Village, where the worn tangle of side streets and alleyways that break from the city’s rigid grid layout are full of intimate restaurants and cosy jazz clubs – perfect for getting lost in and dreaming the night away.
Photography credits: Paul Wagtouicz (Lafayette); Karim Raoul (Raoul's); Dean Kaufman (New Museum)