What is the main street in New York, the most famous of all? Simple, the Fifth Avenue: you will find this general (and somewhat approximate!) tourist information on all guides. But can Fifth Avenue be defined as just a street for shopping in New York? Anyone who has been to NYC can safely say a stroll on sidewalk of Fifth Avenue - while the yellow wave of taxis whizzes on the asphalt - it is something more than a simple passage from one part of the city to another.
The road in its entirety is approximately 7 miles long, but in just 4 miles of Fifth Avenue - they can be covered on foot in 1 hour and a half without ever stopping (a very unlikely hypothesis, so it is good to take into account at least half day to do things right) - you will encounter most of Manhattan's most famous attractions: not just the more exclusive shops, but also the best museums in the city, skyscrapers, historical monuments, parks, the most suggestive squares and much more.
We could have made a simple list of things to see on Fifth Avenue, but since for us it is one real experience and not a simple road along which to look for addresses, we have decided to offer you a itinerario that you too can follow so as not to miss anything.
- Historical notes
- Fifth Avenue Itinerary
- Museum Mile
- Grand army plaza
- Shops on Fifth Avenue: shopping time ...
- MoMA: a stone's throw from Fifth Avenue
- Rockefeller Center
- St. Patrick Cathedral
- New York Public Library e Bryant Park
- Empire State Building
- Flatiron Building
- Washington Square Park
- Organized tour on Fifth Avenue
- Route map
- Sleeping on Fifth Avenue
Why is Fifth Avenue so popular? To answer this question we need to go back in time, in the second half of the nineteenth century, when along this road the aristocratic families of New York: their elegant residences were distributed not only in the stretch that borders Central Park, but also in the segment of Midtown which today is mainly commercial. The construction of the first hotels (Astoria and Walford) in the first decade of the twentieth century marked a turning point in the fate of this street, which later became Fifth Avenue as we know it.
To get a clue as to what residential Fifth Avenue must have been like before it became a shopper's paradise, you need to reach the stretch where the stately homes and museums the oldest overlook Central Park: but we will see it shortly ...
Fifth Avenue Itinerary
Beginning to travel along 5th Avenue map in hand from North to south, jump straight from Harlem to where Fifth Avenue meets Central Park - this first stretch is noteworthy just to understand the actual extent of the street.
At the same time it may be interesting to know that Fifth Avenue divides New York into two parts: East Side e West Side. The road segment we will travel together covers an area from the Upper East Side to Midtown.
Let's start our itinerary right from Central Park: Fifth Avenue runs along the entire eastern side of the largest urban park in New York. We can start walking along it in the shade of the trees, decide to enter the park to visit the most beautiful areas, or lift our noses to see the elegant residential buildings that belonged to theNew York elite of the previous two centuries on the other side of the road.
But we are not here to simply pass the time: some stages of high cultural level. The first interesting stretch of 5th Avenue runs from 105th to 82nd and is called Museum Mile (1.2 miles to be precise), due to the high concentration of museums that can be found along the way. Here they are in detail, from north to south:
- The Museum of the Neighborhood (1230 5th Ave): contains 6.500 objects and other evidence of 800 years of Latin American, Caribbean and Hispanic art;
- The Jewish Museum (1109 5th Ave and 92nd St): the beautiful Renaissance-style palace that belonged to the philanthropist Felix M. Warburg now houses one of the most important collections of Jewish art and culture in the world;
- Guggenheim Museum (1071 5th Ave): we talked about the rich collection of modern art by Solomon Guggenheim and the evocative contemporary building that houses it in the article Guggenheim Museum in New York;
- Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) (1000 5th Ave): hard not to notice along the way. The MET it is the largest museum in New York and contains an impressive number of collections, totaling nearly 500.000 works preserved. The monumental grandeur and labyrinthine organization of the museum discourage hit and run visits, so it is good to choose what to favor during the visit, perhaps with the help of our article on the Metropolitan Musem of Art.
Other museums present within the Museum Mile are the Cooper hewitt (2 E 91st St), theAfrican Art Museum (1280 5th Avenue) and the Frick Collection (1 East 70th Street 5th Avenue). And, as we will see shortly, not far from the Museum Mile is another very important New York museum that is worth a visit.
Grand army plaza
We have left Central Park and the Museum Mile behind and we are approaching the most commercial and mundane 5th Avenue: it opens before our eyes Grand Army Plaza. From here on, on Fifth Avenue it is not so unlikely to meet public figures, VIPs and New York actors: for example, I met Sebastian Arcelus, an actor known for his participation in two beautiful TV series such as House of Cards and The Leftovers. Here in Grand Army Plaza there are shops and attractions for all tastes:
- you can take a look at the European Renaissance style facade of the luxurious Plaza Hotel which, since 1907, has occupied the western side of Grand Army Plaza, opposite the Pulitzer Fountain. In 1988 it was named a "National Historic Landmark". It is one of the most luxurious and desired hotels in the city: the Beatles and many other celebrities have stayed there, and it appears in many films set in Manhattan;
- you can go and visit To Old Russia (781 Fifth Avenue), a splendid old antique gallery specializing in Russian jewelery;
- even if you are not a fan of Steve Jobs, why give up taking a look at the latest Apple models in the chaotic and futuristic Apple Store? Until the beginning of 2017, the shop was buried under a large transparent cube, a design choice that I thought was very attractive. Now the Apple Store will have its headquarters immediately next door, where previously there was a beautiful and historic toy store, the FAO Schwarz. UPDATE: In 2018 this fairytale shop reopened at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, not far from the old location.
Please note:: Currently the Apple Store is temporarily located behind the store at 767 Fifth Avenue, pending the opening of the new store inside the General Motors Building
Shops on Fifth Avenue: shopping time ...
Leaving Grand Army Plaza behind, you enter the Most exclusive Fifth Avenue, the one that is in all the rosiest dreams of lovers and shoppers: you can walk this piece of road even just to browse through the sumptuous shop windows of well-known international brands which follow each other for half a mile, up to the 49th. Not just the well-known Saks Fifth Avenue, therefore: here are some of the most famous shops, in which you can enter to make some purchases (if our financial resources allow it!) or simply to take a look.
- Bergdorf Goodman: this department store (located at 754 5th Ave on both sides of the street) is among the most popular of all Fifth Avenue, not only for the presence of prestigious brands, but also for the fashion look of its windows, which during the Christmas holidays offer a truly unique spectacle in the eyes of those strolling along the street;
- lovers of Louis Vuitton they can head straight to 1 E 57th St, where you will find one of the most exclusive and affluent shops on all of Fifth Avenue. The collection of bags, suitcases, clothes and accessories is distributed on 4 plans, punctually very crowded. Also particular is the semitransparent building that houses the shop: it is difficult for your eye to let it slip among the many shops;
- Tiffany & CO (727 5th Ave) is not just a fine and luxurious jewelry store. Already because of the important granite facade, with the statue of Atlas carrying a clock instead of the world on his shoulders, you will understand that Tiffany cannot be considered just one among the many luxury boutiques of Fifth Avenue. Tiffany was in fact made immortal by the film Breakfast at Tiffany's, based on the novel by Truman Capote, and this made it unique. The only disappointment that awaits you? You will not be able to have any breakfast… at Tiffany's, but only buy a diamond ring, a watch, or something very expensive that is in the catalog of the collection.
- in the same complex stands the Trump Tower, a lavish skyscraper 202 meters high, is in turn very visited, but limited to the first 5 floors: here are concentrated restaurants, shops and boutiques, in a truly luxurious context, complete with a waterfall on pink walls and a roof-garden.
- in front of Trump Tower between the shop of Prada and former Ceo ofis located Mikimoto (730 5th Ave) small and luxurious gallery where you can find jewels that will lighten your wallet considerably but will surely make sure your she can't tell you no! A little further on you will also find the boutique of Harry Winston (701 5th Ave) which is reputed to be the jewelry of the VIPs.
- not far from the shop windows of Ferragamo and Versace, you will find the boutique of Cartier, another well-known French watch and jewelry manufacturer. The elegant windows of Cartier House (653 5th Ave), recently restored, give a "European" look to the street, but the touch of class is seen at Christmas, when the building is decorated with a big red ribbon.
- Saks Fifth Avenue (611 5th Ave) is housed in a magnificent 10-story period building and is known by all for its celebrated Shoe Salon, a shoe paradise. You will find many other designer pieces among the many floors of this huge luxury megastore, and you will be enchanted by the beauty of the finishes of each single room.
- other well-known Fifth Avenue stores are Banana Republic, American Girl, Victoria’s Secret, Henri Bendel and many others.
MoMA: a stone's throw from Fifth Avenue
At 53rd Street you can decide to deviate from your shopping itinerary to visit another museum, perhaps the most famous in New York: the MoMA. Exit Fifth Avenue and join the large glass facade of this must-see museum of modern and contemporary art, one of the most important in the world. If you want to know more, read our in-depth article dedicated to Museum of Modern Art, where you will find information on timetables, prices, tickets and major works of art in the various galleries.
Another unmissable destination in Midtown, and as it happens is a minute's walk from our Fifth Avenue: we decide to take another small detour. The area of Rockefeller Center it includes, among other attractions, the Top of the Rock observation deck, the Art-Deco style theater Radio City Music Hall, the famous Rockefeller Plaza: at Christmas the square shines with its huge decorated tree and skating rink, which attracts thousands of New Yorkers every year. Even in the Rockefeller Center it is possible to continue shopping: I recommend a visit to Lego Store and Nintendo Store, if you are a fan of games and video games.
St. Patrick Cathedral
Among so many shops, opulent palaces and skyscrapers, it seems a bit strange to find a religious building along our itinerary: St. Patrick Cathedral, built in a neo-Gothic style starting in 1853, it is the largest Catholic cathedral in the whole of the United States. The large influx of tourists makes it unsuitable for prayer, but the altar and the impressive stained glass rose window are not to be missed.
New York Public Library e Bryant Park
We are slowly moving away from the commercial heart of Fifth Avenue, but the things to see don't stop there: at 42nd Street is the impressive New York Public Library, a 1911 beaux-arts style building that houses 16 million books, as well as an innumerable collection of magazines, maps, films and various types of documents. The library premises are worth a visit, especially the Rose Main Reading Room, especially as admission is free!
After seeing such an exceptional show (I am a bibliophile, you will forgive me), you can rest among the tree-lined paths or in the lawn of Bryant Park, an oasis among the skyscrapers that is immediately behind the library: go and see the French-style carousel and enjoy something warm on the outdoor tables, while people of all ages circle in the skating rink in the center of the park.
Empire State Building
Just under 10 minutes from the New York Public Library is another Fifth Avenue staple:Empire State Building, the Art Deco style skyscraper in New York that everyone, absolutely everyone knows. For over 30 years, from 1931 to 1967 it was the tallest building in the world, but even today reaching one of its two viewpoints is one of the notebook activities of visitors to the Big Apple. I point out an article on the Empire State Building that will give you all the useful information.
Above the pleasant green space of Madison Square Park, stands out Flatiron Building, the New York skyscraper that has the shape of an iron, but is more reminiscent of the prow of a ship plying Fifth Avenue. This unusual triangular building was built in 1902, and until now it has been the seat of offices: on the ground floor there is instead the Flatiron Prow Artspace, a small art gallery.
Washington Square Park
Quote Washington Square Park not only because it concludes our itinerary on Fifth Avenue, but also because it is a square to visit absolutely. The reason is not only the architectural interest aroused by the Stanford White Arch, but also the extreme artistic and musical vitality that distinguishes this urban space: street artists, chess players and creatives have found a second home here. And then, we arrived in one of the most charming neighborhoods in New York, Greenwich Village… but that's another story.
Organized tour on Fifth Avenue
I recommend this organized Fifth Avenue themed tour, for those who want to take advantage of the experience of one guide for your shopping session: you will be accompanied to the most exclusive shops and, as an additional option, you can avail yourself of the support of one professional stylist for choosing the perfect dress ... so you can say: I bought it on Fifth Avenue!
Sleeping on Fifth Avenue
If you'd like to feel like a wealthy and trendy New Yorker for a few nights you can look for one Fifth Avenue lodging, but keep in mind that, starting with the aforementioned Plaza Hotel, the hotels along the road are all very expensive.
All accommodations available on Fifth Avenue
If you are not interested in finding a hotel along the Fifth road but you don't know where to start to find one in Manhattan, don't forget to read our tips on where to sleep in New York: there are many targeted tips for finding accommodation in the neighboring neighborhoods.