10 Indispensable NYC Guidebooks

by Julie Schwietert Oct 7, 2008

A New Yorker who’s skeptical of guidebooks applies her critical eye to Amazon’s vast selection of NYC guides and chooses the 10 best on the market.

10. AIA Guide to New York City

Some of the best guidebooks are those that focus exclusively on a specific aspect of a place, and that’s why I like this guide.

Put together by the American Institute of Architects, this guide takes you to the most and least known architectural achievements in NYC.

It’s not a small book and at more than 1,000 pages, it’s not something you’ll carry around.

But even if you never make it to my city, you’ll enjoy a virtual trip; the book has more than 2,000 photos.


9. Off the Beaten (Subway) Track

New York City’s Best Unusual Attractions – If you’re a “real” New Yorker, it’s likely you’ll know–at least by name–many of the places listed in this guide.

But these are precisely the kinds of places that are a little bit too small or too specialized to make it onto the pages of traditional guides.

One of my favorite places listed in this guide is the Steinway & Sons Piano Factory.

8. Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City

If you’re one of the people who thinks wildlife in NYC refers to people, do yourself a favor and pick up this guide.

While it covers predictable sites like Central Park, the Field Guide also helps you discover places you didn’t know exist.

Seeing a photo of wild turkeys in a Bronx park may make you do a double take… or it may just send you out on a totally unexpected adventure.

7. Bloom’s Literary Guide to New York

The ideal guide for book lovers, this guide provides a historical overview of NYC’s literary history.

It then brings the reader fully into the 21st century with interviews and listings for bookstores, museums, and other sites of particular interest for enthusiastic readers.


6. The Slow Food Guide to New York City

Restaurants, Markets, Bars – “Slow” and “New York City” don’t often share space in the same phrase, so you might be surprised by this guide.

Beyond being a guide to slow food, this is a guide to GOOD food.

And since New York has no shortage of that, this guide will be of use even to those who don’t know what the Slow Food movement is.


5. New York Neighborhoods

The subtitle of this book is “A Food Lover’s Walking, Eating, and Shopping Guide to Ethnic Enclaves Throughout New York City,” and that just about covers every interest, right?

What I like about this book is that it encourages tourists to get beyond Manhattan’s Little Italy and Chinatown and explore the outer boroughs’ equally fascinating immigrant communities.

My own favorites are my former stomping grounds, the Arthur Avenue in the Bronx (be sure to stop for a cappuccino in the Arthur Ave. Market), and Flushing’s Chinese and Korean communities.

While this book has left out lots of places worth discovering, you won’t go wrong with the ones it includes.

4. Museums of New York City

A Guide for Residents and Visitors: This guide includes all the major league museums on Fifth Avenue, but doesn’t overlook some truly obscure collections.

Who knew that NYC was home to the museum that houses the largest toy boat collection in the world?


3. Jazz Guide New York City

True, the good ole’ days of New York jazz are gone, but you can still get your fix and this guide lets you know how.

What’s especially appealing about this guide is the author’s inclusion of cafes, cabarets, record stores (yep, there is still such a thing), and other sites where 20th century jazz history was made.


2. The Cheap Bastard’s Guide to New York City

Couchsurfing. Craigslist. You’ve got cheap digs covered, but this is an expensive city.

If you’re a real cheapskate, borrow a copy, but by all means, be sure to scan through this book’s tips for NYC on a budget.


1. Not For Tourists:

No self-respecting New Yorker would be caught dead with any of the preceding guidebooks, no matter how much fascinating content they contain.

But NFT is no ordinary guidebook.

This little black book is small enough to tuck into your bag and discreet enough to pull out in the street without seeming like a guidebook dweeb.

It also has the kind of practical information that any traveler–especially one planning to settle in for awhile– will find handy:

  • ATM locations by neighborhood.
  • The places where you can find the Sunday New York Times on Saturday.

The NFT guide is updated yearly by New Yorkers, so you can be sure the information is both current and accurate.

I own two of these and rarely leave home without one.

Discover Matador