Best 5 self guided walking tour in NYC – with free maps to follow step by step
In this guide, you will find 5 great self guided walking tours of NYC to discover most of the city attractions.
I have developed them to cover the most interesting neighborhoods and areas of Manhattan, with easy maps to follow.
This is an area of NYC that is often overlooked, however, it is booming with art installations and cultural events.
For this reason, I have included in this list also a great walk to cover Brooklyn and the neighborhood of Bushwick.
And on a hot day, extend your walk to Coney Island, the beach side of the city.
Lastly, all these self guided walking tours of NYC are free to follow.
Table of Contents
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- Best districts to stay in Manhattan for families, couples, art or nightlife
- 5 great area to stay in New York City, from budget to boutique
- Top itineraries of New York, from 1 to 7 days
- Greenwich Village walking tour [self-guided in 11 stops]
- Central Park Walking Tour [self-guided through the best locations]
- Harlem walking tour to see the best of the Afro-American culture [self-guided with a free map]
- Brooklyn self-guided walking tour to see the best street art and interesting places
Before digging into the 5 walks, it’s worth mentioning that New York is divided into 5 boroughs, of which Manhattan is the most famous and visited one.
The other boroughs, in the map below, are Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn (all reachable by Subway) and Staten Island (reachable by ferry).
One of the walks covers some of the most interesting parts of the Brooklyn borough. Keep in mind that Brooklyn is really a vast area that would need weeks to discover all.
The other 4 walks in this guide cover the Manhattan neighborhoods/areas of Midtown, Greenwich Village, Harlem and Central Park.
Greenwich Village walking tour – self-guided
Greenwich Village has something for everyone to love.
The best way to enjoy it is through a self-guided tour.
Start off at Washington Square Park for some chess, a refreshing walk and some playing at the playground, if travelling with kids.
Next, head to the Museum of Interesting Things which has an array of quirky exhibits.
Learn about some old school medicine at Bigelow Apothecary and Jefferson Market Garden Library.
Art comes in many forms, and you can see something interesting at Keith Haring’s Bathroom Mural.
Check out legendary TV places like Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment, as depicted in ‘Sex and the City’.
There is also the ‘Friends’ apartment block from the show of the same name.
Freedom is important and there is no better place to learn about it than the Gay Liberation Monument.
Musical theatre and cocktails are the perfect combo, which you can find at Marie’s Crisis.
Other places along this tour include St. Luke’s in the Field Garden, the Narrowest Building in New York and Bleecker Street.
Check out the detailed self-guided walk to Greenwich Village, including an easy-to-follow map and more inside info about the stops.
Midtown Manhattan walking tour – self guided
Times Square is the starting point of this walk (view the shared Google Map).
Although this self guided walking tour of NYC is not as long (3.5 miles or around 5.5 km), it is filled with plenty of attractions and sights to see that will keep you busy for the entire day.
You should begin at Times Square before visiting:
- New York Public Library: built in 1895, this beautiful building should be visited only for its famous reading room with decorated wood ceilings
- Grand Central Terminal: used as a film location in many movies because of its grand facade and concourse. You may remember it in 2007’s I Am a Legend and in 2012’s The Avengers
- Chrysler Building: a 1930 art déco skyscraper that once stood as the tallest building in the world, a symbol of New York
Next, visit the Empire State Building, one of New York’s most impressive Art déco structures.
Buy in advance the skip-the-line tickets to the 108th floor observation deck and 86th floor gallery (morning queues are in-famous!)
Walk southward along 5th Avenue for a few blocks and you’ll reach the 1902 Flatiron Building, designed by architect Daniel Burnham in an unusual triangular shape.
It was once tallest skyscraper. Today, it is renowned for its Neo Renaissance style and unique design.
Two blocks to the east is Fotografiska, a favorite among the photography community.
In its iconic Renaissance gallery, this gallery/museum hosts superb photo exhibitions.
Is there still an hour or two left?
Discover the history of graphic design in political and advertising posters at the boutique Poster House Museum.
Finish off your intense day at the Barcade, where you can enjoy a beer and some food, pub style, between the vintage 80s video-games.
Alternatively, for a more sophisticated night, have a cocktail at the Thyme Bar, located in an old war cellar, and book your dinner at COTE, a sophisticated Michelin starred restaurant serving Korean food.
Central Park Walking Tour – self guided
Central Park is truly iconic, and there is so much to check out there.
Start at Hallett Nature Sanctuary and Gapstow Bridge.
Next, head to the Central Park Zoo for some wildlife.
Take the kids to the Adventure Playground for a fun time.
You can then head to Beatles’ legend, John Lennon’s memorial spot, Strawberry Fields Memorial.
You should definitely add to your list the Bethesda Terrace, which overlooks the Ramble and the Lake.
Check out some historic culture at The Obelisk (Cleopatra’s Needle).
What stands out is the little curious crabs sculpted at the bottom of the Obelisk.
Next, if travelling with kids, head to Ancient Playground which has a sandpit, a pyramid to climb and some swings.
Take a break and get something to bite at the lovely Dig Cafe, just outside the park.
Experience nature at its best at the Conservatory Garden, Huddlestone Arch and The Pool.
Check out the full itinerary on the map in this self-guided walk in Central Park, including a description of the stops, up to the northernmost part of the park.
Harlem walking tour – self guided
Harlem is as iconic as its name and a self-guided tour will prove this to you.
Start with a gospel at the Greater Tabernacle Baptist Church.
Next, check out the ‘Royal Tenenbaums’ house, opposite the church.
The College of New York is a great place to visit while in Harlem because of its iconic architecture and gardens.
Get some retail therapy at West 125th Street and then get some fun times at Marcus Garvey Park.
Fill your ears and soul with music by visiting Ginny’s Supper Pub and the Shrine. You will find some gospel and jazz music going on in these spots.
To learn about the history of Jazz, visit the National Jazz Museum in Harlem.
For some old architecture, check out the iconic houses on Strivers Row and Astor Row.
Learn about the black culture at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
Before your tour ends, make sure you visit the Holcombe Rucker Park, where many basketball legends once played.
Check out the descriptions of the visited places as well as a detailed map in my self-guide to a walk in Harlem.
Brooklyn walking tour – self guided
The Brooklyn borough is jam-packed with sights and sounds.
You must always start at the iconic Brooklyn Bridge where you can place your love locks for memory.
Next, get some church in you with a visit to Plymouth Church.
Learn about trains and the history of mass transportation at the New York Transit Museum.
Head over to the Mosaic House and see an abode like no other and then replenish your body with some Govinda’s Vegetarian Lunch.
The Bushwick Collective murals are a must-see on this tour.
Visit the oldest Dutch house in NY by going to the Vander Ende-Onderdonk House.
Alternatively, why not spending some time at Coney Island, the beach side of New York?
While there, you will visit its Luna Park, the Boardwalk, Pat Auletta Steeplechase Pier, Coney Art Walls and the Aquarium.
Grab a bite at Hook & Reel or the Oceanside Grill.
We’ve got you covered with a detailed map and a full description of the stops in this guide to a walk in Brooklyn.