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Three Perfect Days: New York City

New York is the most written-about, sung-about, studied, chronicled and filmed city in America — maybe the world — and its stories, monuments and attractions are too numerous to count. So where do you start? Just go for a walk.

Author Layla Schlack Photography Chris Sanders

Grand Central Terminal

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DAY TWO | Today, you’re headed downtown — where the cool index is a little higher. First things first: Take the A train to 14th Street. You’re having breakfast a couple of blocks west, near the Hudson River, at Pastis. This French bistro–inspired hotspot was the first upscale restaurant in the Meatpacking District. The wide-open airiness of the space, accented by subway tile walls and pressed-tin ceilings, is a draw for the hip set. You load up on the English breakfast: eggs, thick strips of bacon, sausage, beans, mushrooms and roasted tomatoes. Just outside the door is the High Line, a former elevated railroad reinvented as green space. Climb the stairs and spend a few minutes walking among the wildflowers, appreciating the ingenuity it took to transform something so raw into something so beautiful.

Next, take your time wandering the streets of Greenwich Village, lost in the charm of brownstones and coffee shops. Once a bohemian stronghold, these peaceful, shady lanes today play host to wealthy professionals and professors, with a few celebrities mixed in, living in happy semi-anonymity. At Fifth Avenue and West 4th Street, you reach Washington Square Park, where students, kids, buskers and street performers mill around the oft-photographed fountain and old-timers play chess. After dropping $5 in a particularly talented jazz trumpeter’s hat, you head southeast to the Lower East Side for lunch.

Like pizza and bagels, burgers are a point of great contention among New Yorkers. This is a city where two restaurants make burgers that cost more than $100, and people will line up around the block for the perfect kobe slider. Newcomer Bento Burger has made its mark with a post-apocalyptic Tokyo roadhouse theme and quirky offerings like a Korean bulgogi pork burger. You settle on the Thai chicken burger with spicy papaya relish. It’s unconventional and surprisingly delicious.

Running with the cultural mash-up theme, you head a few blocks south to the Tenement Museum. This former tenement building was restored to show how European immigrants in the second half of the 19th century and early 20th century lived. The museum collected oral histories of people who lived in this very dwelling when the Lower East Side was teeming with hardworking newcomers from Germany, Ireland, Italy and Poland, and the tour shows visitors how the apartments evolved over the decades, as the city began requiring such luxuries as windows, indoor plumbing and electricity.

You check in at your second hotel: Thompson LES, where you’re welcomed by polished black floors and low-slung, modern furniture. The large rainfall showerhead is just what you need. After all,you’ve got a journey ahead of you, over the Brooklyn Bridge. The 128-year-old structure affords great views of the Manhattan and Brooklyn skylines, with parks stretching along the river and towering condos and warehouses-turned-artist-studios welcoming you to Brooklyn’s waterfront.

You step off and wend your way to the cobblestoned Fulton Ferry Landing. Nestled there is the River Café, which offers the best views of the city’s skyline, bar none. Manhattan looks a little more subdued from sea level, its lights twinkling in the dusk. You order the foie gras and Maine lobster, saving room for the signature dessert: a handmade chocolate bridge atop a rich hazelnut terrine served with Tahitian vanilla ice cream. After you finish, stopping short of licking the plate, a doorman in a tux summons a yellow cab to whisk you back to Manhattan.

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