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The best things to do in Washington Heights, NYC

Washington Heights—NYC's uptown neighborhood—is home to the medieval Cloisters, excellent Latin food and beautiful parks

The Cloisters
Photograph: Virginia Rollison
By Tolly Wright |
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Way up north in NYC, Washington Heights is home to super-cheap apartments and a slew of attractions that are actually pretty great. Swing by one of the city's best Irish pubs, the authentic Le Chéile, and walk around the medieval Cloisters (one of the best sights and New York attractions) while pretending you’re a knight in shining armor. The highest hood in Manhattan is also home to one of the best NYC parks, Fort Tryon, with a full 67 acres of greenery.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Washington Heights, NYC

Things to do in Washington Heights, NYC

Le Chéile
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Joe D.
Restaurants

Le Chéile

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The residents of the neighborhood all agree that Irish pub Le Chéile (pronounced leh kay-lah) stays true to its Gaelic name, which roughly translates to “togetherness.” Large groups of friends, small families and love birds gather for tasty meals that include Irish classics like Shepherd's Pie, Bangers and Mash and Americana staples like burgers and chicken wings. Come in the morning for a breakfast sammie and a bright, sun-filled look at the walls that are covered from table to ceiling with posters and pictures.

Restaurants, Spanish

Manolo Tapas

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From the rustic brick facade and walls to the large paintings of Spanish countryside vistas and romantic lowlights, Manolo Tapas brings Spain’s northern Galicia region to northern Manhattan. The Tapas offerings are heavy on seafood options with calamari, shrimp, octopus and yellow fin tuna, but fans of charcuterie will find plenty to love with artisanal cheeses like Garrotxa, Mahon and Murcia al Vino and multiple styles of cured ham.

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La Casa Del Mofongo
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Rojé G.
Restaurants, Dominican

La Casa Del Mofongo

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In a neighborhood filled with tasty Latin cuisine options, La Casa Del Mofongo remains an ever- popular spot. The bi-level restaurant serves it’s speciality Mofongo, a Puerto Rican dish that uses fried plantains, in nearly 30 different ways with roast pork, cheese, herring and clams. Don’t worry if plantains aren’t your thing—there’s plenty of Mexican style tacos, Caribbean entrees and daily specials to savor.

Photograph: Shutterstock
Bars

Kazza Wine Bar

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With a relaxed vibe and homey decor, this bar is ready to make you feel like you’re in your own casa (Kazaa is a play on the Spanish word). Regulars gather around the dark-granite bar while most couples opt for the back room’s two-top tables, where they dine on light fare like mushroom empanadas. We’d suggest you try the sangria, but considering how good it is you should probably opt for a full pitcher from the get-go.

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Bars, Beer bars

Buddha Beer Bar

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A favorite among the after-work crowd, Buddha Beer Bar will meet your beer or whisky needs if you’re in the need to unwind. With 26 drafts on tap—including a few more unusual options that might make your inner brew-snob drool like Bruery Humulus Terreux—and a large selection of bourbons and scotch, you’ll likely find the perfect drink to wet your whistle. Avoid a nasty hangover and line your belly with the extensive variety of chicken wings, burgers and fries.

Cafe Buunni
Photograph: Courtesy Cafe Buunni
Restaurants

Cafe Buunni

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Locals start their morning right at this charming fair-trade, organic Ethiopian coffee shop. Elias Gurmu, who owns the shop with his wife Sarina, is from Ethiopia and chooses the small-batch roast selection himself—and his taste in bold, dark coffees is impeccable. If you’re hungry try some of their flakey pastries and sit down at the long community table to enjoy your neighborhood and your neighbors.

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Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Jim Forest
Attractions, Parks and gardens

Fort Tryon Park

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Though technically 250 feet above the Hudson River, you might just feel like you’re in heaven in this enchanting park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. (Son of the Olmsted behind Central Park). Landscaped to look like the grounds of a grand country estate, the sloping hills, stone arches and grand elm trees give way to the gorgeous gardens. During the warmer months, enjoy the musk roses, foxgloves, hydrangeas and irises and hours of Instagram-worthy frolicking.

Photograph: Virginia Rollison
Attractions, Parks and gardens

Fort Washington Park

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While any park that runs beside the Hudson River is bound to have some great views, this park can also boast being the home to Manhattan’s only lighthouse, the Little Red Lighthouse. Though it was decommissioned back in 1948 after the George Washington Bridge was built and its light was rendered obsolete, the Little Red Lighthouse is the star of a much loved children’s book with the same name and a charming site. Check out the historic site and bring your grill—there’s designated barbecuing areas and plenty of sports courts (tennis, handball, basketball) for further recreation.

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Photograph: Virginia Rollison
Museums, Art and design

The Cloisters

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The scenic Fort Tryon Park, with it’s sweeping vistas of the Hudson River, gives way to what appears to be an ancient castle. Created from the stones of five medieval French cloisters, this museum aptly hosts The Metropolitan Museum’s collection of European architecture, statues and decorative arts from the middle ages. In the collection you’ll find stained glass windows, preserved early religious manuscripts and the breathtaking Fuentidueña Apse—a portion of the 12th century Spanish San Martín Church. Make sure you visit the unicorntapestries, many of which are decidedly more violent than My Little Pony.

Attractions, Historic buildings and sites

Morris-Jumel Mansion

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Built in 1775 as the summer villa of British New York governor Roger Morris, this mansion is Manhattan’s oldest personal residence. During the Revolutionary War, George Washington used the home as his headquarters—taking advantage of its prime strategic location so close to the Hudsonand Harlem rivers. Later, Eliza Bowen Jumel, who became one of the most wealthiest women in Manhattan through marriage and a keen business acumen, made the house her own. It should be noted that for a year, Jumel was married to vice president Aaron Burr of American history, and, more importantly, Hamilton fame. Today you can visit the mansion and see the beautiful restored interior that includes 19th century furnishings and even a bed that was said to have belonged to Napoléon. There have been a few noted ghost sightings, so if you’re havingtrouble scoring Broadway tickets there still might be a way to see Burr up close. Spooky!

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