New York City. The Big Apple. A city so passionately immortalised in imagination through movies, TV shows, and pop culture that it seems familiar even if you have never been there. The iconic Manhattan skyline is instantly recognisable (even after being permanently altered by 9/11), its museums and art galleries are warrens of wonder. New York is truly a sensual feast.
And now there’s Hudson Yards, a 28-acre neighbourhood playground of the ultra-rich, built from scratch on the West Side. Set atop rail yards, it is the largest private real estate development in the U.S., where swanky residential towers glint in the sun, and offices, a hotel, shopping centres, restaurants, and art installations vie for attention. New Yorkers have a love-hate relationship with the district—‘open to all, but not for all,’ claimed Forbes earlier this year. A local I met on a river cruise censured it as being for the tourist (like me). It only made me curious—what is it that people do at Hudson Yards?
Hudson Yards sure attracts early birds and perhaps those who revere their workout even on vacation. If you’re one of them, sign up for a SoulCycle ‘cardio party’ at 35 Hudson Yards. Hop on an indoor bike and follow the choreography of your instructor set to some seriously high-energy music. But if you’re like me, get on the High Line (thehighline.org), the 2.3-kilometre elevated railroad-turned-public park, from its southern entrance at Gansevoort St. and walk all the way to Hudson Yards. I see art installations on the way and great views onto the city and the Hudson River. There’s also The Spur, a newly opened section of the High Line (feeding directly into Hudson Yards), with planted balconies, vertical gardens, and cascading wooden seating steps in an open piazza. You’ll also notice The Plinth, a dedicated space for monumental art installations; the inaugural artwork is Brooklyn-based sculptor Simone Leigh’s Brick House, a 16-foot magnificent bronze bust of a African American woman. If you need a shower and change after that walk/workout, reserve a slot at 3Den, a pay-as-you-use space which has pristine bathrooms, nap pods, and free coffee—well, leisure doesn’t come cheap at Hudson Yards (www.goto3den.com; level 4, 20 Hudson Yards, where all the shops and restaurants are located; $6/Rs430 for every 30 minutes).
All shops nad restaurants at Hudson Yards are located at a shopping complex called The Shops & Restaurants. Since you’re staying, grab a late breakfast of artisanal pastries and savoury entrées at celebrity chef Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery (level 5) then roll up at BLVD, a luxurious spa inside Neiman Marcus (level 7) for a spot of pampering. If you’re here to spend, begin at Neiman Marcus (level 5-7) itself, it is the department store’s first foray into NYC. Drop in at Forty Five Ten (level 5) where art meets fashion, and upcoming talent and luxury designers rub shoulders. Elsewhere (depending on your wallet size) you have everything from Chanel, Dior, and Fendi to H&M, Uniqlo, and Zara. Japanese brand Muji has a large space on level 2 alongside Batch, a chic home furnishings store where the collection changes every two months. There are the usual suspects in beauty (Sephora, M.A.C, Origins, etc.), or pop in at Atelier Cologne (level 2) to create your personalised perfume.
Wander down to street level into the lively Mercado Little Spain, celebrity chef José Andrés’ upscaled version of a Spanish market reminiscent of Barcelona’s La Boqueria. It features two sit-down restaurants and an all-day diner, but the focus is on the central mercado (market). Trawl the farm stands and grocery stores for fresh produce, sausages, cheese and bread. Then do an impromptu food crawl through the kiosks, sampling an empanada here, some tapas there, and churros to finish off, interspersed with Spanish wines at one of the three bars.
Shake off the post-lunch languor at Snark Park (level 2), which features immersive exhibitions designed by Snarkitecture, a New York-based design studio. The debut installation I saw, Lost and Found, was a monochromatic maze dotted with columns, seating spaces, totems adorned with mirror tiles, faux fur, and latex, and much more (www.hudsonyardsnewyork.com/discover/snark-park). The space also has a retail area with limited edition merchandise like T-shirts and toys, as well as a Kith Treats ice cream and cereal bar. Get your coffee at the California-favourite Blue Bottle Coffee (level 2) or the Aussie-style Bluestone Lane (level 3).
There’s no missing the Vessel, the gleaming, copper-coloured centrepiece of Hudson Yards. Designed by the British architect Thomas Heatherwick (who drew inspiration from India’s stepwells for this installation), the 16-storey, honeycomb-like structure is a spiral staircase of sorts. I think of the The New Yorker calling it a “shawarma-shaped stairway to nowhere,” and lace up my trainers to climb some of its 154 flights of stairs comprising nearly 2,500 steps. I catch my breath at one of the 80 landings for unexpected perspectives onto the city. At the top, I look back at Downtown and Midtown Manhattan and then, turn around for a sweeping view of the Hudson River. As the sun sets, the burnished copper glows eerily. A shawarma? Maybe. But I can’t help feeling it is impressive too (entry free, buy time-specific tickets at interactive kiosks on-site or reserve online; hudsonyardsnewyork.com/discover/vessel).
The Shed hopes to be an exciting stop on NYC’s cultural landscape. The multi-disciplinary arts centre physically transforms itself to accommodate each performance, installation, or exhibition. Its enormous shell made of translucent Teflon-based polymer can be pulled up over the entire eight-storey venue or rolled out to encompass the surrounding open courtyard. The space hosts theatre and music performances, and art exhibitions. Upcoming events include concerts by the electronic music composer Arca, conceptual artist Agnes Denes’ first comprehensive exhibition in NYC, and inventive choreographic works of William Forsythe. In November, Verdi’s haunting Requiem will be staged alongside moving images by the late avant-garde filmmaker Jonas Mekas (theshed.org).
Wind down at Milos Wine Bar on Level 5 and choose from nearly 100 varieties of Greek wines. Head up to Estiatorio Milos to taste Greek and Mediterranean seafood specialties by Chef Costas Spiliadis. At street level, try the Spanish riff on seafood at Mar at Mercado Little Spain; don’t miss the navajas al azafrán (razor clams cured in saffron sauce), gambas al ajilo (fat red shrimp sautéed with garlic), and the seafood paella.
Neighbouring Chelsea is known for its vibrant art scene and there is plenty of gallery hopping to be done. Pace Gallery is one the largest with two spaces (540 West 25th Street opens mid-September); currently ongoing is a retrospective on American sculptor Alexander Calder and an exhibition of American painter Loie Hollowell’s abstract biomorphic paintings (pacegallery.com).
Other galleries worth checking out include Gagosian Gallery, David Zwirner, and Hauser & Wirth. Located in a 19th-century heritage building, the Chelsea Market occupies an entire street block between West 15th and 16th Streets. It houses cafés, small restaurants, food stores, and even an artisanal flea market. Have a sit-down breakfast at Sarabeth’s Bakery, or queue up for tacos at Los Tacos or for sausages at Dickson’s Farmstand. Later, get bite-size treats at Doughnuttery, and finally fuel up at Ninth Street Espresso; chelseamarket.com.
South of the market is the Whitney Museum of American Art, which exclusively showcases 20th-century and contemporary American artists. The Whitney Biennial reflects the artistic zeitgeist and is currently on until September 22; whitney.org.
The 43-storey Times Square EDITION opened earlier this year offering understated luxury and a Michelin-starred chef behind its three restaurants (editionhotels.com; doubles from $509/Rs36,000). Boutique hotel lovers, check into the dog-friendly Staypineapple located in Midtown, with rooms done up in bright colours (staypineapple.com; doubles from $198/Rs14,000).
Move over Empire State Building; NYC has a brand-new observation deck opening later this year. At 1,100 feet above the ground, Edge at 30 Hudson Yards will be the highest outdoor deck in the Western Hemisphere. The glass-floored ‘balcony’ juts out 65 feet and is skirted by a nine-foot wall of angled glass allowing you to literally lean over Manhattan (advance reservations at hudsonyardsnewyork.com/discover/edge).
There are direct flights between Mumbai and Delhi to New York. Hudson Yards is on Manhattan’s West Side between 10th and 12th Avenues, from W 30th to W 34th Streets. It’s easily accessible on foot or by public transport —the No. 7 Subway connects to Times Square and beyond (hudsonyardsnewyork.com).