New York, New York. So many feet have traversed the city’s busy streets that it seems incomprehensible that it could have any secrets left. Yet there are some hidden wonders the majority of the city’s 8.5 million residents are still unaware of. We’ve listed some of the quirkiest hidden offerings in this legendary city.
The Berlin Wall
520 Madison Ave
There’s no need to travel all the way to Germany to spot remnants of the infamous Berlin Wall — simply head to 520 Madison Avenue to glimpse five of its storied slabs of concrete. Some are decorated with colorful graffiti by German artists Thierry Noir and Kiddy Citny, while others remain completely blank. The installation is inside a courtyard open to the public, so you can sip your morning coffee or read the day’s news in the company of a colorful piece of history.
It’s hard to believe that this now-decrepit, castle-like structure was once a facet of New York City’s early history. After all, few have even heard of the abandoned smallpox hospital on Roosevelt Island. Currently listed as a historical landmark, the ivy-covered structure is part incredible photo-op and part window into the darker side of the city’s history. To access this hidden haunt, hop on the subway and take the F train to Roosevelt Island. Exit and walk down West Road toward E Road — you’ll spot the building complex on your right.
5 Beekman Street
This hidden gem in Manhattan’s Financial District was empty for nearly 10 years — a real (estate) feat in New York City. As of September 2016, it was converted into a high-end hotel — The Beekman — and its interior has since been restored to its former glory. The stunning space features a lobby that is open to the public, and curious visitors will be delighted by its intricate decor and stunning balconies. This is one photo opportunity you won’t want to miss, so spend your time exploring and then settle in for a cup of coffee — or maybe something a little stronger at the hotel bar.
The Back Room
102 Norfolk Street
Step back in time at this Prohibition-era speakeasy. Steeped in history, the Back Room was initially run by infamous New York City mobsters Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky. But don’t worry — management has changed hands, and the locale is a now a welcoming respite from the crowded bar scene of New York’s Lower East Side. To access this opulent drinkery, slip through the metal gate on Norfolk Street, walk down the stairs, traverse the dark alleyway, and open an unassuming door that will lead into a plushly decorated and cozy locale. If you’re lucky enough to visit on a Monday, you’re in for a treat — there’s live jazz in the evenings.
Staten Island Boat Graveyard
2453 Arthur Kill Road
While this location is a bit rough around the edges for tourists, it’s also a photographer’s paradise. Known officially by the city as the Witte Marine scrap yard, the locale is the final resting place for many a retired ship. As such, it features decomposing boats and a host of other odd sights. Tucked away in the marshes of Staten Island, this graveyard is most easily accessed by the X17 bus, which stops at various locations around Manhattan before crossing over the Narrows.
United Nations Meditation Room
777 44th St.
This tiny room at New York City’s United Nation Headquarters is hidden in plain sight. Simplistically adorned and dead quiet, the meditation room offers a respite from the hustle and bustle of the city streets outside. Full disclosure: You’ll have to pass through the UN’s routine security screenings in order to access the room, but if you’re looking for a place of peace in this chaotic city, the hassle may just be worth it.
123 Saint Mark’s Place
While Saint Mark’s Place is already known for its quirky offerings, this mysterious locale is certainly the famous street’s top dog. The location functions as a speakeasy with a telephone booth that patrons must first enter and dial in a correct code in order to gain access to the rest of the bar. Once inside, hungry visitors can order all manner of hot dogs with specialty toppings — there are even veggie dogs for plant-based patrons. Stop by Crif Dogs for a hot sandwich, cold beer, and the challenge of gaining entry into this tiny joint.