When it comes to budget city breaks, New York probably isn’t one that comes to mind.

With expensive attractions, smart hotels and a fast pace of life, it’s easy for costs to add up fast.

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But with WOW Air offering one-way tickets from London for just £139.99, New York has opened up as a true budget getaway destination.

Once there, you can save your hard-earned cash with this savvy guide to bargain things to do, places to eat and accommodation.

The best bit? Some of the recommendations are even free!

So whether it’s your first visit and you want to tick off all the big tourist sites, or you’re returning and want to know what’s hot right now, here’s how to see the city that never sleeps without making a dent in your bank balance. 

View from One World Observatory, Lower Manhattan, Manhattan (Picture: NYC & Company)
View from One World Observatory, Lower Manhattan (Picture: NYC & Company)

Things to do

New York is a wonderful city to explore on foot and it’s so different depending on the time of year.

I visited in February and experienced two seasons in just a few days – the weather transformed from beautiful spring sunshine and highs of 16C, to snowy blizzards thanks to a severe cold snap.

Central Park (Picture: Chloe Gunning)
Central Park (Picture: Chloe Gunning)

Central Park is a great place to explore, whatever the weather. 

Covering a huge chunk of central Manhattan, the park is home to a beautiful boating lake, zoo, and plenty of footpaths and running tracks. 

People watching is a must as you pass energetic runners, fashionistas, adorable dogs of all shapes and sizes and tourists riding past in a horse-drawn carriage.

Central Park in the snow (Picture: Chloe Gunning)
Central Park in the snow (Picture: Chloe Gunning)

You get a distinct feel for the different neighbourhoods in New York City as you wander around on foot, and it’s great to explore its other boroughs too.

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A walk across Brooklyn Bridge, with its iconic structure and panoramic views of the skyline, is a must for any first-time visitor to the city.

Once in Brooklyn, head to Dumbo – a trendy neighbourhood with a number of cool coffee shops, brunch spots and bars.

View from Brooklyn Bridge (Picture: Chloe Gunning)
View from Brooklyn Bridge (Picture: Chloe Gunning)

New York’s Highline is another top spot for those happiest on two feet.

The former railway has been converted into a walking route with art installations, parks, areas to relax and, depending on the time of year, live entertainment and pop up eateries. 

View from the Highline, New York (Picture: Chloe Gunning)
View from the Highline (Picture: Chloe Gunning)

Brand new to the city is Westfield World Trade Center.

While a trip to a shopping centre may not sound like a budget attraction, it’s a draw purely for the incredible architecture. 

You’ll be amazed by the all-white whale-like structure, designed by Santiago Calatrava.

Westfield, World Trade Center, New York (Picture: Chloe Gunning)
Westfield World Trade Center (Picture: Chloe Gunning)

You could spend several days just wandering around the city but you’ll probably want to squeeze in a few attractions too.

Grab a New York CityPASS, which will set you back around $116 (£93.06), and you’ll have access to a selection of the city’s most popular museums, art galleries and attractions.

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You can pick six attractions with each ticket.

A visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a must – it features art and artefacts spanning over 5,000 years.

You can check out everything from Egyptian antiquities to works by Picasso and Jackson Pollock.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (Picture: Chloe Gunning)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Picture: Chloe Gunning)

Your CityPASS also offers the chance to take in NYC from above with entry to both the Empire State Building Experience and Top of The Rock at the Rockefeller Center.

It’s impossible not to be impressed by the glittering lights of the city during a nighttime visit to the Top of The Rock.

With so many skyscrapers, and the nearby glow of Times Square, it’s one of my favourite views of the city.

New York at night from Top of the Rock (Picture: Chloe Gunning)
New York at night from Top of The Rock (Picture: Chloe Gunning)

The CityPASS also includes entry to The Statue of Liberty and the 9/11 Memorial Museum – a moving and important addition to New York’s museum scene.

Alternatively you can opt to go see the Guggenheim Museum, take a sightseeing cruise or visit the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, instead.

Pick a clear day and views from the One World Observatory in Freedom Tower are truly mind-blowing.

View of Freedom Tower, New York (Picture: Chloe Gunning)
View of Freedom Tower (Picture: Chloe Gunning)

Tickets start from $34 (£27.27) for adults.

This includes a self-guided tour featuring the story of constructing the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and a video experience that really captures the essence of New York.

View from One World Observatory, New York (Picture: Chloe Gunning)
View from One World Observatory (Picture: Chloe Gunning)

Fancy seeing a show, but your dollars won’t stretch to Broadway?

Grab a cheap ticket to off-Broadway shows including Stomp, Avenue Q or Blue Man Group instead.

You’ll get the buzz of New York’s theatre scene and still be able to afford an ice cream during the interval.

You can find more things to do and see in NYC at nycgo.com.

Where to eat

People walk through the central atrium at the shopping mall at Brookfield Place, originally known as the World Financial Center, a complex of office buildings across from the World Trade Center site, New York City.
Inside Brookfield Place (Picture: Getty)

The food scene in New York is constantly changing, and a highlight of any visit to the city.

There’s a boom right now in stylish food courts serving a number of high-quality fast foods.

It’s a great way to grab a bite to eat without paying expensive restaurant prices.

Tartines at Brookfield Place, New York (Picture: Chloe Gunning)
Tartines at Brookfield Place (Picture: Chloe Gunning)

Stop by Brookfield Place in the Financial District and choose between fresh sushi at Blue Ribbon, handcrafted cupcakes at Sprinkles, and delicious French sandwiches at Tartinery.

City Kitchen at Row NYC, near Times Square, serves flavoursome tacos, juicy burgers topped with everything from blue cheese to peanut butter, and epic doughnuts.

Or if you fancy a drink and a snack, head to District M for delicious pizzas, live DJs and a creative cocktail menu.

Pizza at District M, New York (Picture: Chloe Gunning)
Pizza at District M (Picture: Chloe Gunning)

Taking the city by storm right now are the giant XL dumplings at Drunken Dumpling in the fashionable East Village.

The farm-to-table eatery often has a queue winding round the block as people queue for their supersize soup dumplings.

Once steamed, you’ll need a straw to drink the soup before demolishing the flavoursome fillings.

XL dumplings at Drunken Dumpling, New York (Picture: Chloe Gunning)
XL dumplings at Drunken Dumpling (Picture: Chloe Gunning)

Meanwhile, those with a sweet tooth will want to indulge in the cookie dough treats being served up at DO, Cookie Dough Confections near Washington Square Park.

Choose your flavours, add your toppings and prepare for a sugar high.

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Or for those wanting to really tap into New York’s diversity, head to Queens for an authentic Mexican meal.

Fill up on tacos al pastor, enchiladas and enough guacamole to last you a lifetime at Tortilleria Nixtamal.

Don’t forget to order a margarita – you’re on holiday after all.

Tacos at Tortilleria Nixtamal, Queens (Picture: Chloe Gunning)
Tacos at Tortilleria Nixtamal (Picture: Chloe Gunning)

How to get there

Wow Air flies daily from Gatwick Airport to Newark Airport via Reykjavik.

From Newark, it’s a short train ride into the heart of Manhattan.

The city is very walkable but you can cut out lengthy walks by picking up a week’s subway pass for just $31 (£25).

The subway is easy to navigate, runs 24/7 and is perfect for those on a budget as it cuts out expensive taxi fares.

Where to stay

Arlo Hudson Square Hotel, New York (Picture: Arlo Hotels)
Arlo Hudson Square Hotel (Picture: Arlo Hotels)

New York is a city where you really get what you pay for, and every square foot comes at a price.

Micro-hotel group Arlo has recently opened fashionable digs in the districts of Hudson Square and NoMad, offering super-trendy rooms.

They suit those who want a cool spot to stay with plenty of communal areas to hang out in.

Both of these hotels have great rooftop bars and a schedule of entertainment and activities including everything from yoga to live jazz.

Arlo Nomad Hotel, New York (Picture: Arlo Hotels)
Arlo Nomad Hotel (Picture: Arlo Hotels)

While efficient with space, both are very comfortable, and features floor to ceiling windows – the corner rooms in the Arlo NoMad offer some of the best hotel views in the city.

For those wanting to be bang in the centre of the action, the chic Kimpton Muse Hotel is just a stone’s throw away from Times Square.

This stylish 4-star hotel offers free tea and coffee in the mornings, and complimentary wine in the early evenings – perfect for the budget-conscious.

Kimpton Muse Hotel, New York (Picture: Kimpton Hotels)
Kimpton Muse Hotel (Picture: Kimpton Hotels)

Chloe Gunning is a creative producer and blogger. You can follow Chloe’s travels at wanderlustchloe.com and on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

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