London vs. New York: The winner is clear

And it's New York, obvs. Time Out London pitted the two cities against each other; two TONY editors have taken umbrage.

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By now, you've surely seen our feature detailing why NYC is the world's greatest city. Today, our colleagues across the pond published Time Out London's rejoinder, in which they claim London is the greatest city in the world—and take Gotham to task in the process. And we're not going to let that stand.

So, Time Out London, you really think you're better than us? We—deputy editor Jonathan Shannon (a U.K. native) and senior editor Amy Plitt—are here to offer a point-by-point rebuttal that proves New York's superiority.

1. London has Notting Hill Carnival; New York has the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
TOL's take:
"Three hours of watching SpongeBob SquarePants dangle over Manhatten [sic] does not a festival make."
We say: Interesting comparison. To address your point, we guess it's worth pointing out that gun crime and stabbings tend to be less of a problem at the Thanksgiving parade. Don't get us wrong, we've spent many a hazy weekend at the Notting Hill Carnival, it's great—especially the soundstages. But then there are countless free outdoor parties all summer in New York, so we're less interested in fighting through crowds for one weekend. A better comparison, of course, would be with the massive West Indian–American Day Carnival in Brooklyn—replete with J'ouvert (look it up, limey). Or perhaps we could compare it to the NYC Pride March. But then you'd lose, so perhaps not. We are nothing if not gracious.—JS

2. London has reasonable tips; New York has tableside extortion
TOL's take: "In fact, anything less than 20 percent will be taken as a personal insult by the waitstaff, who will label you a table-blocking tightwad and sneer you off the premises. Advantage, London."
We say: We railed against New York levels of tipping when we first arrived here, too, but were quickly indoctrinated into the culture. Now, when faced with truly abysmal service our reaction is, "You, sir, will only receive a 15 percent tip, because we are that angry," which is, admittedly, ridiculous. There's the argument that waitstaff in England are paid a living wage—but we've never seen any information to substantiate that, and wouldn't it mean that the cost is factored into the meal anyway? You have to pay one way or another, right? Does it really matter how? There's an interesting article to be written about how the two systems compare, but we're too riled up to bother looking into it now. We'll only mention one thing the tightfisted Londoner has probably never experienced—the buyback.—JS

3. London has relaxed licensing laws; New York has officious barmen
TOL's take: "In New York, however, [ID checks] are applied if you look under 40, which makes 39-year olds feel like twats and leads them to shout things which they later regret, like: ‘Are you kidding? Look at my fucking hairline/crow’s feet/photo of my grandchildren!’"
We say: If your licensing laws are so relaxed, why is it that every time we go out drinking in London, 11pm rolls round and the hunt for another pub that's open until midnight begins? But to your point, not all bars ID everyone, and the ask-a-codger situation you describe is often because the spot's been guilty of infraction. They either adhere to this new rule or lose their license. You know what you could do? Stop whining, show them your ID and go about your drinking business.—JS

4. London has regular hipsters; New York has "mental hipsters"
TOL's take: "Venture into [Williamsburg] and you’ll find adult humans sporting manbags, headbands, fluorescent sombreros and Kitchener ’taches, crossing the road on pogo sticks while playing Tetris on their Game Boys. All ironically."
We say: Wait, really? You're trotting out the h-word as proof of London's superiority? Let's ignore the fact that the "hipster" aesthetic to which you refer is something that originated in New York (and the concept of the "hipster," loath as we are to use the term, is an American one at that). But really: You're grasping at straws if this is one of the ten reasons you're using to claim that London is better. Not history, not music (we'd maybe—maybe!—give you that one!), not anything of import; hipsters?!C'mon, you can do better than that.—AP

5. London has "The Boris"; New York has "The Bloomberg"
TOL's take: "Mayoral hairdos are not vital to the wellbeing of the citizenry, but they can be good for morale. London gets top marks with ‘The Boris,’ an electrified haystack that reflects the chaotic exuberance of the capital."
We say: The haircuts of our mayors? We can almost hear your nails on the bottom of the barrel—cut it out, it's put our teeth on edge. If we had to compare unimportant mayoral details we'd plump for language. El Bloombito stumbles genially through a translation for the Spanish-speaking population. Bojjo (New Yorkers, this is honestly the nickname for Boris Johnson) probably sits there sulking that the oiks are too dumb to understand him if he addressed them in Latin.—JS

6. London has "the knowledge"; New York has no knowledge
TOL's take: "Jauntiness, however, does not compensate for the fact that most of their drivers have no earthly idea how to convey passengers to key destinations."
We say: We love London cabbies, and the Knowledge—an encyclopedic level of recall of all the roads in the city—is a truly impressive thing. However, not having such a barrier to entry means anyone can do it so taxis here are cheaper, and we can also talk to cab drivers here normally without trying to imitate a geezer rather than the ersatz Hugh Grant we normally sound like. You know what else? Lots of cabs now have GPS, making the knowledge redundant; riders have smartphones with map apps, too (see previous point); and New Yorkers actually love showing off the fact that they know their city. But sure, get ferried around like cosseted royalty—good for you.—JS

7. London has saucy street names; New York has streets with no names
TOL's take: "New York’s streets, meanwhile, are a dismal grid of ascending numerals, devoid of poetry and double entendre. It makes navigating the city simpler but much less chucklesome."
We say: Setting aside the fact that this undermines Manhattan's grid—and we all know how amazing that is, right?—this is also woefully inaccurate. The intersection of Seaman Avenue and Cumming Street exists, and it's not in London: It's in Inwood, up at Manhattan's northern end. Beat that.—AP

8. London has free culture; New York has "vulture culture"
TOL's take: "Entry to New York’s Museum of Modern Art? That’ll be $25, please. Entry to Tate Modern? That’ll be no pounds, please."
We say: True, some of our bigger museums—including the Guggenheim and the Museum of Modern Art—have steep admission prices. But you can get into the Metropolitan Museum of Art without paying a dime, technically (although really, is it so terrible to pay to see priceless art? what do you have against that, London?), and we have plenty of great, free museums on top of that. Oh yeah, and don't forget all the other free culture—concerts, comedy shows, galleries, outdoor films, theater, we could go on—that you'll find in NYC pretty much every night of the week. Also: You liars, the Tate's special exhibitions (like the current Lichtenstein show) have an admission fee of £14—or roughly $20.—AP

9. London has Danny Boyle; New York has Woody Allen
TOL's take: "An Allen opening would see a neurotic Isambard Kingdom Brunel fail to get behind the Industrial Revolution, opting instead for some self-analysis and an affair with a sexy teenage suffragette."
We say: We knew you wouldn't be able to get through this without making some reference to the Olympics. As fun as Danny Boyle's carefully orchestrated opening ceremony was, it hardly seems fair to make this comparison based on speculation. Let's look at the facts—in this case, the filmmakers' respective careers. Sure, Boyle directed a few good movies, including Shallow Grave, Trainspotting and 127 Hours; Allen, meanwhile, directed verifiable classics like Annie Hall, Manhattan and Hannah and Her Sisters. If you'd stop making jokes about neurotic New Yorkers, you'd see that many of Allen's films are really like epic love letters to Gotham—something we can't say about Boyle's work, enjoyable as it may be.—AP

10. London has summer tippling; New York has "buzzkill parkies."
TOL's take: "Denied the joys of a snifter on the turf, [New Yorkers] must restrict themselves to overpriced fizzy water, or a double-shot cappuccino for the hedonists. We booze, you lose."
We say: While it's great that you can have a beer in Hyde Park, is it as lovely as having one on the High Line, which now features a wine bar on the premises? Or at the Met Museum's rooftop bar? We may not be able to drink in parks (legally, anyway—what, you've never heard of brown bagging?) but when it comes to getting an alfresco buzz, you won't find a greater variety of interesting spots to do it in than NYC. Plus, call us old-fashioned, but we like that our parks are for meandering and enjoying the sunshine, not getting wasted.—AP


Users say

15 comments
nyc > london
nyc > london

i agree that british food is rather bad, but neither nyc nor paris come close to tokyo when we re talking restaurants

Tim Collins
Tim Collins

NYC grosses more money than London. Twice as much!! NYC is also a bona fide Metropolis that never sleeps. London sleeps and is only a large city, but NYC is 24-7. You even have a wide selection of 5 star resturants open at 4am. Whereas in London, you're lucky to find rubbish at that hour. NYC also has the $1,200 dollar pizza and other mind blowing masterpieces. Also after Paris, NYC has the best selection of resturants in the World. British food is horrible. As a Brit now living in NYC, I can contest that NYC is a lot better in every way. However, London has more history and better musems. But, I put NYC theater on par with London. If London has great, well NYC has better. Also, let's not forget the Yankees, and professional NFL Football. NYC is heaven for Brits in every way. My fellow Brits are in envy if they say London is better. The USA is amazing, and i'm glad I became a US citizen back in 1986. I now make more money and own a home. Something that would've never happened to me in our welfare state in the UK. God, I love capitalism and American cheesecake and everything about it. I was raised in the UK that we were the best. Well, we use to be the best 100s of years ago. And the Yanks are doing something amazing across the pond. I've also found out what it was and i'm living the dream, yes sir. Godbless America.

Sam Houston
Sam Houston

This article is very funny, because Chicago has a bigger economy than London. Chicago grosses more money, with only 1/3 of the population. I'm amazed when Brits write biased articles against America. Because I just look at the US State of California. Yeah, that's right, the US State of California will surpass the economy of the UK in 2017. California is almost there. The UK has fallen as a country and is nothing more than an island. In laymans terms: The US State of Georgia has a larger GDP per capital than the UK. This say a lot about a country. Especially, when the Prince to be William, made a trip to California begging investors to make a Silicon Valley in London, lol. It's funny, but did Willam know that Califonia has more military might and an economy almost as big as the Uk, lol. I'm sure he did, and most Americans who read this article will have the last laugh of the day. American know, we know, the UK was the largest empire on Earth. Well, you're not anymore, and you cetanily weren't the best Empire on Earth, that title belongs to the roman Empire , haha.

MIckey MickMickey
MIckey MickMickey

Both cities are overpopulated crime infested cesspits. I'll kindly skip both please.

Brandon
Brandon

I love this article and no doubt both cities are incredible with lots to offer. As an American living in London this is an all too often debate. I have to say though if choosing one it's easily London and I hate to say it because I do love NYC for many reasons. Certainly its more impressive in scale. London though is far more 'liveable', relaxed, scenic, less aggressive, greater historic remnants, overall more freedom to do whatever... I could go on and similarly there are many things I like better about NYC than London but for me it's London all day. Still it won't stop me visiting NYC every yr and soaking up a great atmosphere. And to Larry with his daft comments on 'world power' and rankings based on such.. whatever planet are you on. Worthless, arrogant and wholly idiotic comments...

baller
baller

Hey Larry this is 2013 not 1983, sorry pal but New York's crown has definitely slipped. When I was a teenager in the 80s yes New York was THE city everyone had to visit at least once. As it turned out I never did, island hopping in Greece or rail touring round Germany had a stronger pull for me. Now fast forward to today New York is just another 'skyscraper' city, a fun place sure, a weekend city break for us Brits still, but hey World Capital? Forget it..

Larry
Larry

The UK is basically a third rate power at this point. This pretty much disqualifies London right out of the gate. New York is the greatest city in the most powerful, richest and most influential country on earth. It is much more the world's city now than London, which undeniably was the greatest and most influential city from the 18th to the early 20th century. As for parks, feh. You want to walk around in trees, go to the countryside.

Jack Hawkins
Jack Hawkins

London with it's beautiful parks and greenery which cover nearly 40% of the cities 620 square miles, it's 20,000 listed historic buildings, 4 UNESCO World Heritage Centres and it's rich history and culture covering over 2000 years is more than a match for NYC. The fact that Paris is now only two hours away by train and there are now direct trains to Brussels, Lille, the Alps and South of France, with new direct train services to Amsterdam and Frankfurt, mean that London is very well connected to the European rail network. In terms of NYC, it was once a very unique city due to it's towering skyscrapers, diversity and 24 hour nature, it became the city built on immigration and the city which never slept. The only trouble being that skyscrapers are now common place and even major European cities have skyscraper zones, so they don't raise a second glance, whilst globalisation has seen much more diversity in relation to many major cities throughout the world, whilst 24 hour culture is also becoming ever more common place.

John
John

In terms of London, I like the fact that 38.4% of the city is green space in relation to parks and gardens, that London has a history stretching over 2,000 years and that this is reflected in it's 18,901 historically listed sites and 4 UNESCO World Heritage sites. I also like the fact that you can easily visit Paris, which is a mere 2 hours away by train, and that London has good links to continental Europe. In terms of NYC, I think the rest of the world just caught up with what at one time made NYC so unique, with skyscrapers and skylines now apparent in most major cities as well as multiculturalism, cultural diversity and 24 hour culture.

LVNY
LVNY

New York is hype, London is class...

Globe trotter
Globe trotter

London and NYC are both amazing, exhilarating global cities. They have many similarities yet remain distinct from each other. NYC has a constant buzz and a frenetic pace to it which sure enough excites but the sheer worldliness and magnitude of London astonishes. Of all the cities I've ever been to never has one encapsulated the world in one place quite the way that London does. It really makes you feel at the centre of the world and is very 'now'. It's takes the best of NYC and Paris and makes a truly unique place. An abundance of old world and British charm, striking modernity in places and there you have the world's greatest city!

Joe
Joe

I think what London has over New York is evident from this article and from the comments I read on the original London one. New Yorkers ASSUME their city is wonderful to all outside it. The logic of London is "look at what we have that makes our city the best", the logic of New York is "we are the best because we are". New York is filthy to a level beyond reason. It's infested with bedbugs and rats on a scale London hasn't seen since the tenements were cleared out after the war. New York is ugly from street level, and dark. New York doesn't try. It doesn't concern itself with being more appealing to those outside it, or more liveable to those in it. Londoners are genuinely friendly and hospitable (and this coming from an Irish person with an American mother – a New Yorker no less), New Yorkers are not. Londoners try to make you like their city more. New Yorkers try to make you like everywhere else less. New York is an important financial centre. By default, it has an unusual amount of culture for an American city. Contrary to popular belief, New York is more classist and more pretentious. Middle class Londoners are all over the city. Middle class New Yorkers live in New Jersey. I've never heard an argument in favour of New York that wasn't completely circular in its logic, or made by someone who has never been to London and has only the vaguest sense of watching My Fair Lady once. New Yorkers aren't used to having to compete. Washington is a nice political capital but it doesn't have much else to it, Boston is a provincial university town. London has Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam within three hours on the train. By the way, my mother's aunt and uncle lived in London for ten years in the 80s and early 90s. What did they miss the most? The climate. Complain if you want about the rain (London has two-thirds the rainfall of New York, and only seven days more rain per year so I don't quite understand that one), London gets no hurricanes or floods, mild winters with virtually no snow and freezing temperatures the exception, and warm DRY sunny weather from April to September while New York is a baking concrete oven in a fetid swamp. Don't get me wrong on this: New York has wonderful things IN IT. The High Line is creative and very positive for the city, the non-slum parts of Brooklyn are vibrant and have a fun post-industrial casualness about them. The sky line is pretty from a distance. A lot of culture comes out of New York. It's just not a very nice place overall. It has no charm. If I wanted to be awed by tall buildings and flashing lights, its rivals in Tokyo and Hong Kong have a lot more cultural appeal. London is clean. It's warm. It has a deep history that it wears. It's never been paved over to make room for Donald Trump or his ilk. London is distinctive not for how it looks from above but how it looks in its back streets and its suburbs. Its icons are red buses and telephone boxes. The ordinary things of ordinary people are what make London special. New York is all flash, no substance. And ultimately, the people couldn't be more different. I'll take witty, genuine, humble Londoners over self-congratulatory pompous and pretentious New Yorkers any time.

Ray
Ray

New York didn't really recover after 9/11 and has been going downhill ever since. Though I'm among the few people who actually prefer post-gentrification NY, it just isn't the same. The nightlife and energy that it was famous for has become stale and jaded. The population exodus from the city says it all. London is the better city for now, though, in this climate, anything is uncertain.

Hicks35
Hicks35

Whereas the London article was humorous and witty in the typical British style, this one is simply devoid of charm and has the kind of sophistry undergirded with insecurity that one might find in a teenager's diatribe. I'm reading more and more essays like this from US magazines and weeklies that are defensive regarding the status of NYC against its sister city, London. For example, there was the pitiful Forbes article a few months ago bemoaning the 2012 Olympics, and the Huffington Post article on tourism statistics in both cities that year. I guess London really is giving New York a run for its money. As someone who prefers Chicago, I am truly astonished by the number of people that claim New York City to be the greatest city in the world, something that I can only attribute to national identity/pride and collective delusion. It's probably the greatest in the world at sheer concentrated ugliness and filthiness, as well as the number of crazies, chuds and mutant homunculi that crowd the sidewalks. Its skyline beats London's no doubt, and the visual experience at night cannot be paralleled, though this rule only applies at a considerable distance - about 5 miles away, where the smell from Manhattan is not as overwhelming. It also remains the global epicenter of the fashion industry. However, in almost every other aspect, London has superceded or is overtaking the Big Apple. London is cleanlier, sprucer, culturally richer, more elegant and expensive-looking architecturally, the lifestyle more charming and eclectic. It's even building a very impressive, futurama of a skyline at considerable pace - something that will shock those who still consider London to be a quaint backwater town with men wearing bowler hats, crumpets and tea. Its key area of overwhelming advantage over New York City, however, is in "cultural capital" - the pivotal measure of a city's cultural vibrancy, and something that one can't just buy with trillions in QE money created out of thin air.

aparo456
aparo456

the cities are very similar. the Tate, although nice, is not on the level of MoMa. it's more contemporary art, current experimentalists with a smattering of modern masters. MoMa is full of the stuff people have been seeing photos of all their life. Plus a lot of contemporary artists. still, the Wallace collection in London is good, and free. as a NYer who has been to london, i really see no reason to vacation there. once you see the distnguishing sites, it's rather pointless. i think NY is easier to live in. rents and property prices are actually cheaper in NYC. the NYC subway is cheaper. food cost is on par, though as noted tip is often inclided in London and tops out at 12%. tax is always includded. so it's easier to calculate what the damage is going to be. crime rate generally is higher in London. it realy does rain a lot more in London. this is an annoyance one has to live with all of their life in London. Paris i think beats them both. it's got everything London and NY have but it looks better than both.