New York is a city of superlatives. Besides being a world financial centre, the urban island of Manhattan teems with world-renowned restaurants, architectural masterpieces and venerable art institutions that make it one the world’s greatest cultural cities. Its hectic pace and its alluring promise of ‘if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere,’ draw visitors and new residents from all over the world, who come in search of a piece of this American pie.
New York has always been a city of the world and its multinational, multicultural inhabitants – who speak over 80 languages – infuse its concrete canyons with a buzz that is every bit as energising and electrifying as that depicted in countless films and TV programmes. With over 20,000 eclectic restaurants, 150 world-class museums and more than 10,000 stores brimming with brand names and bargains from across the globe, New York really does have something for everyone. Away from the mayhem of the 24-hour urban hustle and bustle, New York also boasts the bucolic oasis of Central Park, the breezy park-lined Hudson River and acts as jumping off point for the ritzy beach towns of Long Island. However, the epicentre of New York life always has been and still very much is the island of Manhattan, which is surrounded by four other distinct city boroughs – the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island – all of which have their own character and attractions.
New York’s location at the confluence of the Hudson River, Long Island and the Atlantic Ocean reflects the city’s importance as a port and as the disembarkation point for millions of immigrants to the USA. The first European settlement on Manhattan was by the Dutch, during the 1620s. They named the city New Amsterdam. In 1664, the British took over and renamed it New York. The settlement rapidly flourished, expanding from south to north along the island. Mass immigration in the 19th and early 20th centuries saw the emergence of distinct ethnic quarters, with the island of Manhattan rapidly developing into a unique cultural melting pot housing an entire world within its 58sq km (23sq miles). The cultural diversity stemming from the city’s rich history contributes to its importance as a multicultural capital.
Today, New York’s focus is on its more recent history – the events of 11 September 2001. The ramifications and aftershocks of the terrorist destruction of the city’s two tallest buildings – symbols of New York’s confidence and success – still permeate many levels of life. Determination to overcome America’s worst ever terrorist attack is felt throughout the city, in plans for memorialising the World Trade Center towers and revitalising nearby neighbourhoods. The event has done little to dent the appeal and vitality of the city. In fact, the world seems to have largely rallied around New York and, since the attack, tourists have tended to come not only for the shops, the theatre and the museums but also for new and thoughtful reasons.
New York is an excellent place to visit at any time of year, although it is particularly pleasant during the spring and fall, when temperatures hover around 21ºC (70ºF). New York winters tend to be unpredictable, although cold temperatures bring less snow here than to other nearby cities, while summers are hot and muggy, often lasting until September.