New York Hidden Gems: Unveiling 14 of the Big Apple’s Best-Kept Secrets

Millions of visitors from the United States and beyond flock to the Big Apple each year for days of world-renowned museums, Broadway plays, and landmark attractions.

From Central Park to Lady Liberty, there are countless classic Empire City sights to see. However, once you’ve soaked in sweeping views of Manhattan and New Jersey from the Empire State Building. It’s time to move on to the best-kept secrets of the Big Apple. Follow along to learn everything you need to know about hidden gems in NYC.

Peel back the Big Apple’s secrets as you scope out Medieval gardens or score the chance to tour secret subway stations. Delight your inner child with a photo in front of the Ghostbusters firehouse. Or let your lips loose at the iconic Grand Central whispering gallery.

From freaky museums with funhouse mirrors and boardwalk memorabilia to living pieces of history like the Berlin Wall. Hidden NYC gems illuminate the dazzling diversity of this dynamic city.

Best of all, most of these unusual spots are open to the public! Ready to discover the sparkling gems of the City that never sleeps? Read on…

New York Hidden Gems

Packed those comfortable yet cute sneakers? Great, because it’s time to hit the ground running! Whether you choose to stroll, subway, bus, or tram, these big city hidden gems are just waiting to be uncovered.

Psst…on the hunt for Big Apple excitement with an expert guide? Check out our wide array of New York City walking tours and take in the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, and Chelsea Market on your own two feet.

Manhattan skyline in Manhattan New York City, NYC, USA

Piece of Berlin Wall

Open in Maps: 393 S End Ave, New York, NY 10280

Art or history? It’s up to you to decide when you swing by Battery Park City to glimpse a piece of the Berlin Wall. While there are actually five pieces of the Berlin Wall scattered throughout New York City, we are partial to the avant-garde artistic expression of the 12-foot high, 8-foot wide, 2.75-ton section of the Berlin Wall at Kowsky Plaza painted by Thierry Noir.

Using the wall as his canvas, the images of his painting suggest a longing for freedom that was only a dream when he illegally created it. In its time, the Berlin Wall was a mark of contradictions in the world it represented.

These pieces are a reminder of the mark of radical changes that have touched humankind. Today we look upon the artist’s creativity as a powerful symbol of freedom.

Whispering Gallery Grand Central Train Station

Open in Maps: 89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017

Besides a magical ceiling of constellations and a world-famous oyster bar, Grand Central Station is home to numerous nooks and crannies. Head to the train station’s lower level and divulge your deepest secrets in the Whispering Gallery, a hidden New York City gem.

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Covered with distinctive herringbone patterned tiles known as ‘Gustavino’ the domed intersection allows you to hear whispers from corner to corner. This audio marvel is caused by the unusually perfect arches that make up the beloved gallery.

Stand in one corner, state your sweet nothings, and watch in awe as your partner hears every syllable even over the cacophony of a New York crowd.

interior view of crowds of people inside grand central station in nyc
photo credit: Pavol Svantner via Unsplash

See a Show at the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre

Open in Maps: W 79th St, New York, NY 10023

A sparkling Swedish jewel found inside Manhattan’s backyard, the Swedish Cottage happens to be the only building in Central Park that was not originally created for the Park.

Though it came to the U.S. as part of the World’s Fair in 1876 today it brings hours of laughter and marionette antics to children of all ages.

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With both weekday and weekend productions, families can sit back and relax as they soak in re-imagined productions of Puss in Boots, Little Red’s Hood, and Wake Up, Daisy – a modern take on Sleeping Beauty.

Roosevelt Island

An island often shrouded in mystery, many native New Yorkers have never set foot on this tiny East River escape. Once referred to as Welfare Island, Roosevelt Island has been home to asylums, prisons, and even a smallpox hospital.

Witness spellbinding bird’s-eye views of Manhattan and the Queensboro Bridge with the swipe of your Metro Card. Once on the island, soak in some sunshine at Four Freedoms Park.

Next, make your way to the island’s former Smallpox Hospital for some spooky ruins. Opened in 1856 this quietly creepy edifice is only viewable behind a fence and now hosts a colony of feral cats.

Exterior of a vine covered abandoned small pox hospital

Explore Catacombs

Open in Maps: 33 Prince St, New York, NY 10012

Save your precious dollars on airfare, as there’s no need to head to Europe to explore crumbling catacombs. Unknown to many native New Yorkers, underneath St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral lies an off-limits area of mysterious catacombs and ancient walled cemeteries.

Related Post: NYC in 3 Days – How to See the Big Apple in 72 Quick Hours

For over two centuries, these Manhattan catacombs (aptly called Manhattan hidden gems) have served as a place of interment for famous figures, including Congressman John Kelly, the Delmonico Family, and Countess Annie Leary. The St. Patrick’s Cathedral is among one of the few catacombs in the United States.

Constructed in 1858, St. Patrick’s Cathedral was created to affirm the ascendance of religious freedom and tolerance. While the catacombs were in the past only seen by clergy and family members of the interned. Since 2017 visitors can book candlelight tours of these hallowed halls.

Secret Gardens of NYC

Open in Maps: 50 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10020

Come Christmas time, nowhere in Manhattan is more packed than Rockefeller Center. However, if you know where to look during the rest of the year, this iconic NYC locale is brimming with secret spots.

In addition to a lush secret garden that is mostly only accessible by employees, there is Radio Park, a newer green urban addition that opened on top of Radio City Music Hall at the end of 2021.

These romantic garden rooms seek to marry modern construction and the natural world. Observe meandering paths, blooming cherry trees, and serene enclaves in which to meditate or read.

Colorful flowers and greenery with a small fountain and statue surrounded by benches at Rockefeller Center in NYC

Supper in an Old Bank Vault

Open in Maps: 115 Broadway, New York, NY 10006

Break bread in a converted bank vault at this glamorous financial district restaurant. Trinity Place Bar and Restaurant oozes old-school New York appeal, boasting a moody interior complete with chandeliers, leather banquets, and a 40-foot Oak Bar.

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Spy the original vault doors dating back to 1904 when this was an operational bank owned by Andrew Carnegie. Make your way to your table or post up at the bar for a meal of modern, re-imagined American fare crafted from fresh local ingredients. Feast on tartare, miso glazed scallops, blackened pork chops, and more.

Snap a Selfie at the Ghostbusters Firehouse

Open in Maps: 14 N Moore St, New York, NY 10013

Who are you gonna call? Get ready to ward off spooky specters and spirit poltergeists at the iconic Ghostbusters Firehouse. The ideal landmark for any movie lover, this fully functioning fire station is actually known as the Hook & Ladder Company 8.

Interesting Fact: These brave firefighters were actually some of the first responders to the 9/11 tragedy.

Stop outside for an epic selfie in front of the 1903 Beaux-Arts building. Or, if you ask real politely you may even score a first-hand tour of their operation from an obliging captain or probie.

As you take in their collection of melted clocks and phones from various fires they’ve put out, don’t forget to be respectful. This is not just a movie set, but an actual working firehouse!

Wide shot of a building from the movie Ghostbusters in NYC, New York

Old City Hall Subway Station

Open in Maps: New York, NY 10038

Not a fan of the MTA? Visiting this underground secret subway station may just change your mind. The City Hall line was originally opened in 1904 and showcased tall tile arches, brass fixtures, skylights, and elegant chandeliers.

Intended to be a sparkling gem of the subway system, trains here would only run until 1945. Nowadays, it’s one of the most interesting hidden spots New York has to offer.

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Presently, the metro-obsessed can explore this relic of Manhattan’s past by booking a tour with the New York Transit Museum. These tours are only offered periodically throughout the year. So, the easiest way to secure your tickets is to book directly with the New York Transit Museum.

Stroll through the Literary Walk

Amble amongst literary titans as you survey one of Central Park’s significant wonders. The southern action of the Central Park Mall is known as the Literary Walk and features a bevy of statues of famous writers.

Come here for inspiration as you take a gander at statues of renowned writers Fitz-Greene Halleck, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and William Shakespeare.

In 2021, this section was spruced up with the addition of the park’s first new monument in over 50 years, the Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument.

Black and white photo of a person walking their dog holding an umbrella along the literally walk with statues and trees in the background

The Elevated Acre

What happens when you marry art and nature? Indulge in some new perspectives when you abscond to the Elevated Acre, one of the hidden gems in NYC.

A hidden Eden that can be found in the Financial District, this public park space contains a lawn, boardwalk, and seasonal beer garden. While its 55 Water Street entrance might look unassuming.

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Once inside guests will be blessed with fresh air, lush seasonal flora, and staggering views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the New York Harbor.

More akin to an art installation than construction. The plaza’s beacon tower displays subtle texture thanks to each panel of glass installed within a three-inch tolerance. After admiring the meticulously groomed gardens be sure to snag a snack at the on-site cafe.

Met Cloisters

Mystical unicorns, Gothic architecture, and intricate tapestries of holy women. Just an A-train ride uptown lies a thoroughly medieval branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Nestled in Fort Tryon Park, this well-known branch of the MET is a mecca for European medieval art, architecture, and artifacts.

During the Middle Ages, Cloisters were actually a place to reflect and recharge. Appropriately, the Met Cloisters are filled with tranquil outdoor spaces that also offer views of the Hudson River.

Within the museum’s castle walls, you can find everything from priceless pendants and statues to stained glass masterpieces of secular scenes. Fun fact, your ticket to the MET or the Met Cloisters provides same-day entry to both locations.

Garden filled couryard in front of a tuscan style museum

The Coney Island Museum

A haven for the kooky, the weird, and the wild, the Coney Island Museum is a love letter to the people’s playground. Since 1983 this unique museum has entertained and educated the world on the history and legacy of this seaside resort.

Dive into Coney Island’s contribution to popular culture as you witness timely photographs, paintings, vintage signs, and more.

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Standout highlights from their permanent collection include funhouse mirrors, shooting gallery targets, and a mid-century studio photo booth. After your trip down the boardwalk grab a cold one at the onsite Freak Bar.

Feast with Nonnas of the World at Enoteca Maria

Open in Maps: 27 Hyatt St, Staten Island, NY 10301

Looking for hidden gems in NYC? How about grandma’s secret recipe? Yes, please! Eschew your Michelin star reservations for some home-cooked cuisines when you make the pilgrimage to Staten Island.

Well worth the ferry ride, Enoteca Maria is a culinary concept that celebrates diversity, tradition, and love. A meal here is hand-prepared by grandmas around the globe.

Settle in for a supper of special family dishes from Bangladesh, Syberia, Armenia, and Greece. Enoteca also offers classes for aspiring chefs to learn how to make everything from Lomo Saltado to Eggplant Dengaku.

ground view of river and Brooklyn Bridge with skyline in background in NYC, New York, USA

Frequently Asked Questions About NYC Hidden Gems

Definitely! Consider venturing into Astoria (Queens) for diverse cuisine, Sunnyside (Queens) for a charming small-town feel, the unique shops and eateries along Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, or the artistic vibes of Red Hook in Brooklyn.

Absolutely! Every borough boasts its own hidden gems. Manhattan has pockets of tranquility, Brooklyn offers trendy warehouse spaces repurposed into cool bars, Queens hides amazing international eats, the Bronx has beautiful gardens, and even Staten Island surprises with its historic sites and waterfront parks.

New York City Hotels

Bright lights, big city! Ensure you have the perfect landing pad to retreat to after your journey of hidden gems NYC. Whether you plan to explore the Empire City for 48 hours or two weeks, you deserve the ideal King room or suite.

Treat yourself like Big Apple royalty when you rest up in the charming Upper West Side on crisp Frette linens. Or, opt for stylishly sleek accommodations and cityscape views by Times Square.

From valet services to state-of-the-art fitness centers, our New York City Hotels never skimp on amenities. Make your reservation with 100% peace of mind, knowing you are guaranteed our lowest rates online.

The City that Never Sleeps is crammed full of entertainment. From the Upper East Side to DUMBO every alleyway or subway stop belays a new gallery, exhibition, or novelty cafe. You’ll find endless NYC hidden gems.

This hub of fashion, finance, and culture may best be known for Wall Street and larger-than-life Times Square, but beyond tourist hot spots lies a world of hidden attractions.

Brave a sky-high tram ride for an opportunity to spot ghostly smallpox patients on Roosevelt Island. Or admire the intricate costumes and storytelling methods of a marionette show in Central Park.

Devour charcuterie and steak tartar inside an old bank vault or learn the secret of perfect meatballs from a real Italian Nonna.

Excited to Uncover the Hidden Gems in NYC?

Don’t wait, book your NYC escape today. Tell us, which hidden gems in New York will you visit first?

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Written by Isis Maya Nissman

A New York native, Isis-Maya spent most of her professional life working in TV production until a vacation whisked her away to Central...

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