The Brooklyn Bridge in late fall, with the Manhattan Skyline in the background

Dubbed the city that never sleeps, New York has it all: world-renowned shopping, Broadway shows, legendary bars, world cuisine and award-winning museums. Use our guide to take a bite out of the Big Apple

New York is top of the heap again. After a couple of lean years – the city was hard hit by the downturn – it has once again claimed the number one spot in the US in terms of visitor numbers with 45.6m last year. This year has also seen a number of high-profile hotel openings and multi-million dollar neighbourhood facelifts, which have seen areas once regarded as no-go being completely revitalised. The Pier 1 lawns at Brooklyn Bridge Park opened in March, and have transformed the waterfront area beside the bridge into a promenade. It marks the first stage of an 85-acre waterfront park with playing fields, sports courts, playgrounds, and running and bike parks. Coney Island, long a byword for end-of-the-pier-style decay is also set for a facelift following an announcement by Mayor Bloomberg of a $30m investment in a brand new amusement park. The city is always encouraging people to go beyond Manhattan and discover the outer boroughs, and with good reason: there are some great sights and neighbourhoods, including the Yankee Stadium (The Bronx); and the Brooklyn Museum, Coney Island and Dumbo Arts District (Brooklyn), which all offer tours.

What to see and do

The Empire State Building is arguably the must-see sight in New York. Take the express elevator to the 102nd floor observation deck – on a clear day you can enjoy unparalleled views all the way to the outer boroughs. There are more views at the Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Center, but the main pull here is the ice skating rink, featured in numerous movies including Home Alone. The Centre is also home to Radio City Music Hall and NBC studios, both of which are open for behind-the-scenes tours. The Museum of Modern Art, has a number of exhibitions running concurrently including London Transport Posters 1920s-1940s until 10 January 2011. The museum is adjacent to Central Park, where you can also enjoy a trip to the zoo. A great way to get a real perspective on the city is a helicopter ride , which flies you round the perimeter of Manhattan. Or the New York Water Taxi, which takes in the iconic sites of Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty.

Where to eat

Hard to know where to start in a city with every cuisine in the world on offer, but Spice Market in the Meatpacking District is one of the finest, serving delicious South East Asian cuisine in a beautiful setting. There is superb French brasserie-style cuisine at Plein Sud in the Smyth Hotel, in Tribeca. The biggest opening this season is Jonathan Benno’s first solo venture since leaving Thomas Keller’s Per Se. Lincoln, in the heart of the Lincoln Center, sees the former head chef move from classic French to Italian cooking.

Where to drink

In true New York style, the less on the radar the bar is, the hipper it is, so the fact that at Please Don’t Tell you have to ring ahead to get the address and you enter through an anonymous phone box, probably makes this the hottest spot in town. Hotel bars are some of the best places to get a pre-dinner drink: The Mercer, in SoHo, The Hudson Hotel, in Mid Town  and the Soho Grand Hotel, are all good spots with large, welcoming lobbies and roof terraces.

Where to stay

The two newest – and hippest – hotels to open in the city are Andaz Wall Street and Andaz Fifth Avenue. Fashion 26 is a new hotel bang in the heart of the trendy Chelsea neighbourhood and includes a rooftop bar. 60 Thompson is one of the best hotels in town, with arguably the finest Thai restaurant, Kittichai. It also has a rooftop bar and is a wonderful spot in the heart of SoHo. One of the best-situated hotels Uptown is the Jumeirah Essex House, opposite Central Park. The New York Palace Hotel is opposite St Patrick’s Cathedral and steps from Macy’s. It also has a stunning triplex suite (as featured in the TV series Gossip Girls).

Day trips

There are a number of tours designed to get under the skin of New York City’s five boroughs, including A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours, Harlem Spirituals, which includes a tour of gospel and jazz venues; and Hush Hip Hop Tours which takes in key venues in the birthplace of hip hop in Queens, Brooklyn and The Bronx.

Who cruises?

★ Carnival Cruise Lines – Tel: 0845 351 0556; www.carnivalcruise.co.uk
★ Cunard – Tel: 0845 678 0013; www.cunard.co.uk
★ Holland America Line – Tel: 0845 351 0557; www.hollandamerica.com
★ Norwegian Cruise Line – Tel: 0845 201 8900; www.ncl.co.uk
★ Princess Cruises – Tel: 0845 355 5800; www.princess.com

Fact File
Population 8.4 million
Climate Bitterly cold in winter and often staying cold until late March/early April, boiling hot in summer. The best time to go is fall (Autumn) or late spring
Currency US dollar (US$). £1 = US$ 1.6
Time Zone GMT –5
Dialling Codes 001 212
Useful Websites www.nycgo.com