Fifth Avenue is one of New York, if not the world’s, most famous streets. It runs right down the middle of Manhattan, from 143rd Street, skimming the edge of Central Park until it hits Washington Square Park on 7th Street. I have stayed in and around Fifth Avenue many times now, so thought I would share some great things to do as you stroll down this iconic sidewalk in the city.
My guide to Fifth Avenue starts at Central Park and heads down Manhattan to Washington Square Park. I’ve not yet had time to go North of Central Park, or in fact head over to the Upper East Side – maybe next trip I’ll get some time to explore around there! As a warning, it’s worth pointing out that to walk the entire length of what I’ve listed out below will take you a LONG time and be pretty harsh on your feet! I have done it before, but my shoes were rubbing by the end and it took me pretty much all day. I think I walked about 15,000 steps! Hopefully my tips below are flexible enough to dip in and out of if you’ve got a couple of days in the city.
There is a reason this park tops many a list of best attractions in New York. On a sunny day, nothing beats it. It is HUGE – almost fifty blocks long, in a very ordered rectangular shape – and there is so much to do once you’re in. My top picks are:
- People watching at the Bethesda Fountain
- Boating on The Lake amongst the terrapins
- Watching baseball on a Saturday afternoon
- Visiting the John Lennon memorial at Strawberry Fields
- Catching up with the street artists along The Mall
- Exploring the meandering pathways between The Lake and Turtle Pond
- Grabbing a bite at The Loeb Boathouse
- Reading a book on any of the grassy knolls on a sunny day
From there, it’s a great spot to mooch on down Fifth Avenue, just come out of Central Park on the South East corner and you’re there.
This part of Fifth Avenue has some really upmarket shops. Expect to see Bergdorf Goodman, Michael Kors, Gucci, Giorgio Armani, Salvatore Ferragamo and more. As you get further down Fifth, the shops become a little bit more accessible to girls on a budget – H&M pops up on 51st and there was a Forever 21 (although I think it has now moved to Times Square).
As you get down to 50th, don’t forget to pop into the glamorous Saks Fifth Avenue – even if you can’t afford to buy anything, it’s a fun place to browse – with each floor dedicated to something different, from women’s high end fashion, to shoes, to handbags and beauty. It’s a classic department store and the bags are iconic – they almost make you want to buy something just to get your hands on one!
Opposite Saks is the famous Rockefeller Centre, or The Rock. It’s a beautiful art deco building with a pretty fountain and flowers leading up to the door. Inside you can go up to the viewing platform, called Top of the Rock, to get a fantastic 360 degree view of the city. It’s a truly iconic vista, that is the subject of many an Instagram shot. Be warned, it is very busy and it is well advised to book in advance. Tickets start from $30 for an adult and the last elevator goes up at 11pm.
New York Public Library
After your trip up The Rock, continue your architecture appreciation with a stop at New York Public Library. Sooooo many films have used this as a backdrop – most notably for me, Sex and the City, where Carrie is originally meant to marry Big. It’s such a beautiful building and it is nice to walk around the marbled stairways and peer into the working rooms. The only downside for me was that I didn’t actually see many books… which is strange for a Library, no?
The section of Fifth between the Library and Madison Square Park (14 blocks) isn’t the most interesting part of the road, so if you’re going to give your legs a rest, this is where I’d recommend a taxi or a subway!
Madison Square Park and the Flatiron Building
Madison Square Park isn’t huge, but it’s a super pretty green area in the city. On the weekends, there is a really tasty food market that opens up just on the junction between Fifth and Broadway, with loads of different stalls offering crepes, lobster, asian food and more. Yum yum. But I chose Shake Shack, in the Park, for my lunch. The queue was so long!! But it moved quickly and I grabbed a burger, fries and a Fifty-Fifty (half ice tea, half lemonade) for my lunch and sat outside eating it in the sunshine while squirrels and birds watched me from the trees above. Lovely!
The Flatiron building is another fantastic piece of architecture in the city. It’s an unusual triangular shape that dominates the skyline nearby.
Tip – as you stand in front of the Flatiron, look back to see the Empire State in all its glory.
*Shout out to the lovely Alice for this recommendation!*
As you move South of the Flatiron, the shops suddenly switch to focus on athletics wear, with New Balance, Nike and more. Ironic then, that around here is one of the best stops in New York to grab a doughnut! Head West on 19th from Fifth and you’ll soon come across Dough Doughnut shop. The sweet treats there are amazing – both to eat and to look at – and the coffee is also excellent. You can sit in or take away – you have definitely earned it after all that walking!
From here it’s another 11 blocks down to Washington Square Park. It’s a pleasant walk, as you start to get into the university part of town but it’s another chance to get a taxi or a Subway if your feet are tired.
Washington Square Park
Washington Square Park is a really cool area of town – a big, white marble archway dominates the park – and there is normally someone, or multiple people, playing music that drifts across the square. It’s a gathering place for arty people – musicians, magicians, dancers, students and street performers all come here to chill out. So expect a funky, laid back vibe – it’s a great spot to finish your day with some people watching!
Bit of a wordy post (sorry about that!) but I hope that’s given you a bit of a tourist’s insight to Fifth Avenue. New York is such an amazing city and I hope to get the chance to share more hot spots with you as I explore more of America.
Do let me know if you’ve been to New York and what you thought! Have you walked the length of Fifth Avenue? Do you have any tips for next time I’m here? I’d love to hear them.