What to Eat, See, and Do in South Street Seaport, NYC
Manhattan’s South Street Seaport has come a long way from its roots as a Native American trading place; as America’s premier port for trade with Europe and China; and as the former home of the legendary Fulton Fish Market, which at its height in the 1920s sold a quarter of all seafood in the country. After Super Hurricane Sandy devastated this historic neighborhood in 2012 — flooding basements, knocking out power and phone lines, and destroying store inventory as well as restaurant dining rooms and kitchens — real estate developer Howard Hughes Corporation brought the Seaport back to life, completely transforming Pier 17, the center of the neighborhood. It sits on the East River and is now known for its spectacular views of the Brooklyn Bridge and summer concerts on the water.
Today, the seaport has transformed into a place where locals go for Sunday brunch in Brooklyn, for a casual bite to eat at Mister Dips, for a more upscale seafood dinner by the water at Fulton, and for shopping and dining at Jean-Georges’ new 53,000-square-foot Culinary Market, the Tin Building.
Here’s how to make the most of your visit to one of New York’s most charming neighborhoods, a wonderful place to stroll on a summer or fall day.
Best things to do in South Street Seaport
South Street Seaport Museum
In the historic Schermerhorn Row of 12 brick warehouses built in 1811, the South Street Seaport Museum will teach you about the fascinating past of this district. Among the exhibits on display is the charming and interactive Discovery of the seaport: exploring our waters with Eric Carle, which examines the children’s book illustrator’s use of color and pattern through immersive murals and hands-on activities (presenting through Spring 2024). Don’t miss tours of the museum’s 1908 lightship, Ambroseand his tall ship, the Wavertree. If you choose the right time, you can also participate in special painting parties, vinyasa yoga sessions and singing sea songs on the Wavertree.
25 Fulton Street
The birth of punk, an exhibition running until August 31 in a pop-up gallery at 25 Fulton Street, is called “a journey through the rise of punk and the city that helped forge it”. It’s illustrated with vintage black-and-white photos of Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry and Lou Reed, among others; album covers; videos; and an audio guide with a punk soundtrack.
Manhattan by sail
Unsurprisingly, there are multiple navigation options here. Among the most diverse are those offered by Manhattan by sail, a replica of a 19th century wooden schooner. These include day cruises past the Statue of Liberty; sails from the harbor at sunset with drinks served from a full bar; harbor lights sail with the unmistakable New York skyline in full view; and craft beer, wine and jazz, and burlesque cruises.
The roof of Pier 17
With panoramic views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Lower Manhattan skyline, The Rooftop at Pier 17 is one of the most scenic spots in the city to outdoor concerts until the end of October. Upcoming artists include Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit (September 1 and 2) and Zach Bryan (September 27), among others.
Fulton IPIC Market
The seaport location of the IPIC cinema chain offers a la carte dining in the theater, ranging from burgers and pizza to fish and chips, as well as a separate cocktail bar.
Hester Street Fair
Named after a Lower East Side street populated by Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, the Hester Street Fair organizes open-air markets on weekends until the beginning of November. Vendors bring in their best vintage and denim clothing, smoking accessories, custom jewelry, kids’ eyewear and streetwear, and baked goods, among other miscellaneous items.
Where to eat and drink in South Street Seaport
Pier 17 offers several food and drink options, starting with its rooftop, where the restaurant The Greens has an all day menu. You can also reserve a 10-by-10-foot mini-lawn, seating up to eight people and equipped with an umbrella and lawn chairs to better enjoy your specialty red velvet cocktail, your slow roast brisket and your DJ or live music.
The ground floor of Pier 17 is home to a veritable assortment of restaurants and bars. Malibu Farm in New York, the local California restaurant outpost, specializes in farm-to-table cuisine. Try the cauliflower pizza; pan-fried chicken with aji verde sauce and chilli oil; and the vegan Malibu, a salad made with seasonal greens, tomatoes, squash, cucumber, green beans, and avocado, topped with a red wine dressing, that’s almost too good to eat.
Award-winning Korean American chef David Chang has moved his East Village restaurant Momofuku Ssam Bar at Pier 17 last year. It’s a lively spot (it helps that there are private karaoke rooms) with a patio and indoor dining area, complete with tabletop grills where diners can cook up their own Korean barbecue. We highly recommend the hamachi appetizer; green bean salad with buttermilk, horseradish and duck yolk; and sizzling flank steak.
Also on the ground floor is The Fultonthe first seafood restaurant of Jean-Georges Vongerichten, the New York-born French chef whose empire spans several restaurants in 12 countries around the world.
Dante Seaport, next to the Fulton, is the waterfront location of the West Village bar Dante, rated the world’s best bar in 2019 by The World’s 50 Best Bars. Discover the Negroni bar, which serves 10 variations of this iconic aperitif.
Sunday in Brooklyn, a trendy restaurant in Williamsburg, has two restaurants at 19 Fulton Street. One serves American staples, such as pancakes with hazelnut maple praline, steak and eggs, and a hot chicken sandwich; the other, outside makitikioffers Japanese rolls and tropical cocktails throughout the fall.
Where to shop at South Street Seaport
By far the biggest retail and catering news at the port this summer is the opening of the tin building. This 53,000 square foot culinary market by Jean-Georges occupies a reconstruction of the 1907 home of the Fulton Fish Market, which moved to the Bronx in 2005 after operating on Fulton Street since 1822. The market has more than 20 restaurants, bars, and fast-casual restaurants, as well as an Asian retail market, specialty grocery store, and purveyors of fresh seafood and confectionery. Nearly 40% of items sold at retail are produced locally. The Tin Building is now previewing Thursday through Sunday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Funny face bakery
This cheeky bakery at 6 Fulton Street makes amazing cookies inspired by memes and custom portraits, as well as a “City Slicker Starter Pack,” featuring cookies featuring the Statue of Liberty and other New York treasures.
This branch of independent bookseller has over 65,000 titles on two floors in Schermerhorn Row, plus a bar and cafe.
Bowne and Co.
Founded in 1775, Bowne is New York’s oldest continuously operating business under the same name – a gift shop and letterpress printing press operated by the South Street Seaport Museum in an 1839 cast-iron pan warehouse at 211 Water Street. In 1975, he partnered with the museum to open his shop, which sells paper goods, books, museum wares, as well as note cards and posters designed by the house. He also produces letterpress printing on site, using seven historic presses from the museum’s collection.
Where to stay in South Street Seaport
Mr C. Seaport is the 33 Peck Slip of the Mr. C Hotels brand, launched by the fourth generation members of the Cipriani family, legendary Venetian providers of hospitality. This luxury hotel, with 66 rooms and suites, has a Bellini restaurant, named after Cipriani’s signature cocktail; a lobby lounge and bar; and a fitness center. An unexpected treat for guests in some suites: the view from the bathtub of the Brooklyn Bridge.
AC Hotel New York Downtown
This modern hotel at 151 Maiden Lane features an undulating facade inspired by harbor waters and sleek white decor in its 274 rooms. The AC, a Marriott brand born in Madrid in 1999, offers a European-influenced breakfast, a lounge serving Spanish tapas and wines, and a 24-hour fitness center.
Visitors to the seaport for dining, shopping and sightseeing should check opening hours before going there. The South Street Seaport Museum, for example, is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., while Momofuku Ssäm Bar serves lunch Friday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and dinner Tuesday through Sunday. from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.