How to visit New York on a budget, from hotels from under £200 a night to steak and fries for £23

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New York is expensive. But with planning and know-how, it is possible to eat, drink, explore and sleep in this wonderfully buzzy city without burning a big hole in your wallet. Some things are even free…

Stays under £200 a night

Walker Hotel Tribeca

It's possible to explore and sleep in New York without burning a big hole in your wallet. Above is a room at the Walker Hotel Tribeca, where rates start from £180 a night

It’s possible to explore and sleep in New York without burning a big hole in your wallet. Above is a room at the Walker Hotel Tribeca, where rates start from £180 a night 

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This hotel prioritises all the right things: huge, comfy beds; soundproofed walls; luxurious products and brilliant city views in a lively location a few minutes’ walk from a Canal subway stop.

Creamy flat whites and giant pastries are served downstairs at the brilliant Blue Bottle coffee shop. The beds are hard to leave but you should — this is the wrong city to visit if you’re hoping to spend most of your time in a hotel.

Rooms from £180 (walkerhotels.com).

Freehand New York

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Pictured is one of the bunk rooms at Freehand New York, a trendy hotel in the Flatiron District

 Pictured is one of the bunk rooms at Freehand New York, a trendy hotel in the Flatiron District

This trendy hotel in Manhattan’s Flatiron District is one of four created by the same team behind the NoMad. Original artwork is painted directly onto the walls in all 395 of its spacious rooms (which include bunk rooms sleeping four). Guests can enjoy the hotel’s cafe, restaurant and a rooftop bar with great city views.

Doubles from £160 (freehandhotels.com).

Boro

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Just a hop across the river from Midtown Manhattan is the Boro, a 108-room boutique hotel in the hip neighbourhood of Long Island City in Queens. Each room has floor-to-ceiling windows, rustic hardwood floors and comfy robes. Chic restaurants, bars and shops are on its doorstep.

Doubles from £159 (borohotel.com).

Things to do

High Line for free

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Follow the path along the High Line (above), which stretches for 1.5 miles - it doesn't cost a penny

Follow the path along the High Line (above), which stretches for 1.5 miles – it doesn’t cost a penny

Elevated above the streets of Manhattan’s West Side, the High Line is a 1.5 mile-long public park built on an old freight rail line. The path weaves between intriguing buildings and past art installations, landscaped gardens and chaise longues.

Admission is free; open every day 7am to 11pm in summer, and until 7pm in winter.

Museum mania

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Many of New York’s museums offer free admission days or nights. The 9/11 Museum, for example, is free on Mondays. Tickets are available on the website each Monday from 7am. The moving Memorial Pools are always free — and well worth a visit (911memorial.org/visit/museum).

The Whitney Museum of American Art offers pay-what-you-wish tickets on Fridays from 7pm-10pm (whitney.org).

The New York CityPass includes admission to the likes of the Guggenheim, the American Museum of Natural History, the Empire State Building, the Top of the Rock, the Statue of Liberty ferry and the Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise (£110, citypass.com).

Take to the water

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Hop on board the Staten Island ferry and enjoy a perfect view of the Statue of Liberty

Hop on board the Staten Island ferry and enjoy a perfect view of the Statue of Liberty

Join commuting locals and tourists on the Staten Island ferry that goes from Lower Manhattan and provides a perfect view of the Statue of Liberty and the dazzling skyline as it chugs across New York Bay and back again. Grab some bagels from Zucker’s Bagels on the walk to the ferry port.

Free ferries run both ways every 30 minutes, siferry.com.

Eating and drinking

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Skirt Steak

Queues of hungry carnivores snake around the block to dine at Skirt Steak, a new restaurant in New York's Chelsea district (pictured)

Queues of hungry carnivores snake around the block to dine at Skirt Steak, a new restaurant in New York’s Chelsea district (pictured) 

Above is a £23 serving of mouthwatering cuts of skirt steak with thin, crispy fries at Skirt Steak, the restaurant named after the only meat on the menu

Above is a £23 serving of mouthwatering cuts of skirt steak with thin, crispy fries at Skirt Steak, the restaurant named after the only meat on the menu

Steak and New York is a combination that can leave you hundreds of dollars out of pocket, even before you order drinks. But there’s a new place in town where a delicious cut of steak is the only thing on the menu.

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Queues of hungry carnivores snake around the block at this Chelsea restaurant (it doesn’t take reservations) for the set-course menu, which starts with bowls of salad featuring Boston lettuce, followed by mouthwatering cuts of skirt steak (or cauliflower steaks for veggies) served with peppercorn bearnaise and all-you-can-eat thin, crispy fries for £23.

Make sure you leave room for pudding. Diners choose from a rolling wooden cart and the Paris-Brest filled with hazelnut pastry cream and the chocolate raspberry tart are not to be missed (skirtsteaknyc.com). 

Panorama Room

Observation decks such as The Empire State Building can cost a fortune, so why not visit a rooftop bar instead? There’s no shortage of these in New York, but the latest is unique.

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On the 18th floor of the first hotel on Roosevelt Island, the Panorama Room has sweeping ‘never-seen-before’ views of Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx — arguably the best in the city.

Enjoy a cocktail (£14) on the terrace at sunset, then head inside to a vintage velvet sofa for shrimp cocktails (£18) and huge bowls of truffle fries (£14) as you watch the city light up (graduatehotels.com). 

Valerie

Iconic: For a classic New York brunch head to Valerie near Times Square (pictured)

Iconic: For a classic New York brunch head to Valerie near Times Square (pictured)

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In the heart of Midtown Manhattan, near Times Square, this is the place to go for a classic New York brunch.

Bloody Marys, Mimosas and Negronis (from £9) are served alongside smoked salmon benedict (£15), banoffee French toast (£14) and hanger steak and eggs (£20) in the dining room, which has antique smoked mirrors, burlesque murals and leather seats (valerienewyorkcity.com). 

Gotham

Want to visit an NYC dining institution of nearly four decades without spending a fortune? Head to Gotham, once described by architect and designer David Rockwell as ‘the living room for New York’, and order the famous cheeseburger for lunch.

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Business people, locals and tourists travel from across the city to sit in the traditional dining room, with white tablecloths and splashes of colourful art on the walls. The burgers (£23) are served dry-aged with crispy shallot aioli, redmond cheddar and fries (gothambarandgrill.com). 

Westlight

Take in the view as you sip a cocktail at Westlight, a glass-fronted bar in Brooklyn's Williamsburg area. Above is the Williamsburg bridge running into the neighbourhood

Take in the view as you sip a cocktail at Westlight, a glass-fronted bar in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg area. Above is the Williamsburg bridge running into the neighbourhood

There’s no better place to drink in the views than with a Manhattan cocktail at Westlight, a glass-fronted bar with a wraparound terrace, 22 floors up in the William Vale hotel in the Williamsburg neighbourhood of Brooklyn.

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The food is well worth trying, too — the bar’s ‘bites’ menu ranges from bowls of coconut curry cashews (£7) to succulent beef burgers (£18).

If the weather doesn’t play ball, you can head to the chic enclosed bar — every table has glorious views (westlightnyc.com). 

How to get there

Virgin Atlantic flies between London Heathrow and JFK daily. Returns from £389 (virginatlantic.com).

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