1 Week NYC Itinerary For Free: Travel Plans, Sightseeing, Maps & Tips

How to explore NYC for free

Image of author Sabrina
Sabrina
17. September 2019
347 ratings

Do you want to experience a full week in New York City for free? In this article, we show you how to make this possible. Even when you are traveling on a small budget you won’t have to miss the best attractions in New York. We created an itinerary for 7 days in New York City on a budget. Without paying any entrance fees but having lots of free things to do in NYC and free admissions. 

In New York City, there are a ton of free sights and opportunities to visit the best museums for free, attend the hottest events without paying a single dime and touring the city without spending any money. Check out our list of free attractions, museums, and events in NYC.

Finding your best itinerary for your trip within our recommendations isn’t easy, which is why we created a whole week of adventures for you, so you don’t have to worry when which attractions are free of charge. We make your trip planning as easy and convenient as possible. On top of that, there will be insider tips, maps and an entire route for every single day of your trip.

Regular advice about how to save money in New York City, cheap flights, hotels, and low budget restaurants can be found in our article about Low Budget Tips for NYC.

Important note: This itinerary also works for 3, 4 or 5 days in New York. Just leave out the days you don’t like. Of course, every day can be switched back and forth depending on your day of arrival.

Some tips are only valid on a weekday.

For further information click on the attraction or tour within the daily overviews.

Day 1 – Monday: Times Square, free Bustour & Rooftop-Bar

Times Square:

After your flight to New York, start your first day in the city right by visiting the heart of Midtown. Times Square is the perfect place to dive right into the big city life of NYC. Take in the noises, the vibrant atmosphere, and the impressive billboards. Most of you probably only know this place from famous movie scenes or TV Shows.

Check out the famous red steps of TKTS and take some great pictures facing the entire area of Times Square in Manhattan.

Free Bus tour in Manhattan:

Save your money on the Hop on Hop Off buses and take a free bus tour in Manhattan instead. How? Hop on the Bus M20 on 7 Av/W 41 St and ride from North to South all the way to State St/Whitehall St through Manhattan.

From there transfer to the M15 back to Midtown and get off at 1 Av/E 26 St to get to 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar. If you purchase an unlimited metro card for 7 days or longer, the busses (not express busses) are included.

No entrances fees at a Rooftop Bar:

To finish up the perfect start into your vacation in NYC visit one of the biggest and most popular rooftop bars in Manhattan. At 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar near the Flatiron Building, you can see the Empire State Building and The Skylark on Times Square without spending money on an observation deck like Top Of The Rock or One World Observatory. For us, there is no better feeling than enjoying the city from a rooftop bar with a glass of wine.

Just because there are no free observation decks in New York, it doesn’t mean you cannot enjoy the view of the city from the top.

Are you looking for more rooftop bars near you? Check out our guide about the best rooftop bars in New York City.

Insider-Tip:

As an alternative for the day, we recommend exploring the city with Big Apple Greeter. This community was created by volunteers who are hosting three hours long tours for NYC visitors and explain the basics just like the Subway System. It’s free of charge but tips or donations are always welcome. It is advised to save your spot 3-4 weeks in advance to make sure that you’ll get a greeter for the day of your choice.

Day 2 – Tuesday: Free Ferry Ride, Statue of Liberty, Wall Street and Memorial

Staten Island Ferry & Statue of Liberty:

On your second day in New York, we are heading south. The day starts with a free ride on the Staten Island Ferry. The 20 minutes ride on New York City’s most popular ferry offers you both a free boat trip in NYC and a close-up view of the Statue of Liberty.

Riding the Staten Island Ferry is one of our favorite free attractrions in NYC

Battery Park:

Right next to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, there is Battery Park that has to be explored. This park is not only super beautiful but also has great importance when it comes to the history of the city of New York. The first Dutch immigrants arrived here when New Amsterdam was founded. Don’t miss Castle Clinton National Monument, the main sight at Battery Park.

Charging Bull, Wall Street & NY Stock Exchange:

Not too far away from Battery Park, you can find Wall Street and the NY Stock Exchange. Make your way from Broadway towards Wall Street. The Charging Bull at Bowling Green Park is near the New York Stock Exchange. Due to security, unfortunately, there is no option to see the Stock Exchange from the inside.

Trinity Church & St. Paul’s Chapel:

Pretty close to Wall Street you can find Trinity Church, one of the most famous churches in the city. During the attacks on September 11, the church was a place for firefighters to rest and recharge while saving the victims of these dramatic events in 2001. Today you can find several memorials inside the church that remember the people who died on  9/11.

Oculus:

Leave Broadway and walk towards this odd, white building that was named The Oculus. Inside you’ll find the Westfield Shopping Mall, several subway lines, restaurants and coffee shops. From here you can either walk all the way to Fulton Center (without leaving the Oculus) or walk towards the water into Brookfield Place. All underground. Brookfield Place is another shopping center in Lower Manhattan luxury shops and a food market.

One World Trade Center & 9/11 Memorial:

Right in front of the Oculus, there’s the One World Trade Center & 9/11 Memorial. Heading up to the Observation Deck is a little pricey so just enjoy the view from here. It’s the tallest building in New York and super impressive to look at.

Adjacent to the One World  Trade Center there’s the 9/11 Memorial. The footprints of the former World Trade Center remind of the twin towers, the victims of the terror attacks and the massive rescue that followed after September 11. It’s a very emotional experience.

The 9/11 Memorial Museum: Free admission

The 9/11 Memorial Museum is highly recommended and one of the highlights that you can experience in NYC for free. Every Tuesday the museum offers Free Admission Tuesday where you can grab your tickets starting at 4:00 PM every Tuesday. Make sure to get there early and reserve your tickets online.

 Brookfield Place & Hudson River Promenade:

At the end of your tour through Lower Manhattan and the Financial District head over to Brookfield Place and the Hudson River Promenade. There is lots of shopping inside Brookfield Place as well as restaurants and bars. Outside by the water, you will be able to watch the sunset which you shouldn’t miss while being in NYC.

Day 3 – Wednesday: Hudson Yards, High Line Park & Brooklyn Bridge

The Vessel & Hudson Yards:

On day three we are going all the way up. We are starting at Hudson Yards, New York City’s newest neighborhood and the place to be for very wealthy people. Back then this area was shady and unsafe, while today Hudson Yards is upcoming and super trendy.

Even though this area won’t offer much on a small budget, there’s still one attraction you shouldn’t miss and believe it or not but it is free of charge. The Vessel at Hudson Yards.

Climb the 2.500 steps to the top and enjoy the views of Hudson Yards, New Jersey and parts of Midtown.

Tickets for the Vessel are free

To visit the Vessel, you’ll need tickets, but the tickets won’t cost you anything. There are only a limited number of tickets available per day. Make your online reservation in advance to secure your visit.

CHECK TICKETS

The High Line Park:

Right after the impressive and probably exhausting workout at the Vessel, your adventures continue on the famous High Line Park. Walk your way Downtown to Meatpacking District. The High Line was built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. On your way, you will pass by different neighborhoods, landmarks, art and locals selling everything from souvenirs to ice cream.

The High Line Park is a public park and admission free.

Meatpacking District & Chelsea Market:

Following the path of the High Line, you will reach Meatpacking District. A place to go out at night and shopping during the day. Before you walk further into the neighborhood make sure to check out Chelsea Market. You don’t need to spend any money here even though you possibly could.

In the past this was the place where the delicious Oreo Cookies were invented, today you’ll get to experience food spots, wine bars, coffee shops, a flea market and oftentimes there are sample sales inside Chelsea Market as well.

Brooklyn Bridge & Brooklyn Bridge Park:

Head over to the Subway Station 14th Street and take the A or C to Fulton Street Subway Station. From there you will walk your way to the iconic Brooklyn Bridge.

Insider-Tip: Cross the bridge with the bike. Rent a Citi Bikes (even though this won’t be free of charge) and ride all the way to Brooklyn. On your way back, take a walk. Check out our New York Citi Bikes Guide.

But before you cross the bridge back to Manhattan, enjoy the night at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Take pictures of the skyline, check out the area and maybe grab a coffee.

Day 4 – Thursday: SoHo, Little Italy & Chinatown

SoHo & Broadway:

Day 4 of your free week in New York City starts at my favorite neighborhood in the city. SoHo! The artsy and hip area is well known for its cast-iron architecture, great restaurants, and shopping. Most likely you will feel like you’ve been to SoHo before because SoHo is a very popular filming location for Hollywood blockbuster, commercials and TV shows.

Little Italy:

From SoHo to Italy. Literally. Even though Little Italy has become super touristic it is still a fun place to go to and it won’t cost you anything. Follow the path on Mulberry Street until you’re getting into Little Italy. Northern from Little Italy there is Nolita „North of Little Italy” – which is a great place to check out as well.

Chinatown:

Are you ready to continue our world journey? Let’s head over to Chinatown. Everything on or near Canal Street, Mott Street, Pell Street, and Doyers Street is considered as worth exploring in Chinatown. Authentic restaurants, fish markets, and fun souvenirs shops are part of the Chinatown experience.

Insider-Tip: Every first Thursday of the month the entrance to the Museum of Chinese in America is free.

Free admission to the New Museum of Contemporary Art:

It’s only a quick walk from Chinatown to the New Museum of Contemporary Art. Every Thursday you will also get free admission there. It starts at 7:00 PM.

Day 5 – Friday: Bryant Park, Public Library & 5th Avenue

Grand Central Station:

Start your day just like many other locals will start their day. Welcome to Grand Central Station. It’s going to be busy and crowded when thousands of commuters will pass through Grand Central, but it will be worth it. After checking out the main hall walk your way to Grand Central Market, the Oyster Bar, and the Whispering Gallery.

New York Public Library with a free tour:

Only 5 minutes walking distance away you will reach your next location on our itinerary. The beautiful New York Public Library. Please don’t miss out on the stunning Rose Main Reading Room on the third floor.

Insider-Tip: There is a daily free tour through the entire library starting every hour from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM.

Bryant Park:

Step out of the library and take a break at Bryant Park which is literally right around the corner. It’s the best place to relax and enjoy the special atmosphere.

Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center & St. Patrick’s Cathedral:

The good thing about Midtown is that most attractions are pretty close together and you can just walk everywhere. Our next stop is Radio City Music Hall and Rockefeller Center. Did you know that the Comcast Building is the tallest building of the complex?

Across the street of Rockefeller Center, you can visit St. Patricks Cathedral on Fifth Avenue. The church is a decorated Neo-Gothic-style Roman Catholic cathedral church and you can enter it for free.

Museum of Modern Art: Free admission

Do you enjoy art? The Museum of Modern Art is the mecca for art enthusiast in Midtown. NYC’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)  is not only the most popular museum in the city but also is also devoted to stunning works which makes it so famous all over the world.

Important note: The museum will be temporarily closed to expand its galleries from June 16 through October 21, 2019.

On “Free Friday Nights” at  4:00 PM you can visit the MoMa for free. Just make sure, that you arrive around 6:00 PM because that’s when most visitors are either already inside or are leaving the museum already.

Option: Instead of heading to the MoMa you can also visit the Museum of Arts and Design at Columbus Circle.

5th Avenue:

Known as the most expensive shopping area in the world, 5th Ave is also one of the main sightseeing attractions, that won’t have to cost you a single Dollar. From Tiffany, Gucci and Prada to Louis Vuitton you can enjoy window shopping for free.

Day 6 – Saturday: Roosevelt Island Tram, Central Park & Museum

Roosevelt Island Tramway:

While traveling to NYC on a budget one of our favorite things to do is riding the Roosevelt Island Tramway which that spans the East River and connects Roosevelt Island to the Upper East Side of Manhattan. For the price of $2.75 (when owning an unlimited metro card), you will get to see stunning views of the East River and Manhattan. Roosevelt Island is a peaceful escape of the hustle and bustle in the city which is why today we are starting our sightseeing tour for day six at the island.

Central Park:

After returning from Roosevelt Island we are heading to New York City’s biggest and most popular park. Central Park is an excellent choice during every season of the year. Climb the Umpire Rock an outcrop of Manhattan schist and enjoy the views and quietness. On Sheep Meadow you can lay on the grass and soak in the sun, explore the 13 bridges that are located in Central Park, or maybe you are interested in exploring the Strawberry Fields, a memorial dedicated to the legend, John Lennon.

During the summer there are free concerts in the park, Shakespeares in the park and many other events and shows.

Check out more information about our favorite park in our Central Park Guide.

Free admission at the American Museum of National History

Pretty close to Central Park you’ll be able to visit the American Museum of National History. Even when you’re not the museum type of person, the American Museum of National History is for everyone. It is impressively big, offers many interesting exhibitions and was the filming location of the movie “A night at the museum” with Ben Stiller.

Every day you’ll  “Pay What You Wish”. This can be anything between $1 and up.

Insider-Tip: On Saturdays, there is also “free admission” at the Guggenheim Museum starting at 5:00 PM. You pay as well as you wish and should be here at least 30 minutes early.

Day 7 – Sunday: Gospel, Madison Square Park or Governors Island

Gospel Choir:

Make your Sunday morning in New York City a special one and head to Harlem for a gospel mass. From 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM most churches Uptown have the best gospel choirs singing during the mass. It is a magical experience that you won’t forget. Attending a mass is free of charge (donations to the church are welcome) but please be respectful with the community and dress properly and turn off your cell phones.

We recommend attending a mass at the Abyssinan Baptist Church, Bethel Gospel Assembly and the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine.

Flatiron District Free Tour:

Another option to start your day is a free tour of the Flatiron District. Meet up point is every Sunday at 11 AM in front of the Flatiron Building. The 90 minutes walking tour operated by Flatiron 23rd Street Partnership. takes you through the neighborhood and points out the main highlights of the area such as the New York Life Insurance Building, the MetLife Clock Tower and Madison Square Park.

Governors Island:

Super interesting for visitors on a low budget is one of my favorites spots in NYC. Governors Island is perfect for a quick city escape. The ferry charges $3 and on the weekends before 11:30 AM you can even ride for free. Enjoy the city views, beach clubs and food trucks and a lot of green spaces. Governors Island is great for families with kids. There is so much to explore and to do on the island.

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