Manhattan’s South Street Seaport has come a long way from its roots as a Native American trading place; as the leading U.S. port for trade with Europe and China; and as the one-time home of the legendary Fulton Fish Market, which in its heyday in the 1920s sold a quarter of all seafood in the nation. After Superstorm Sandy wrought devastation to this historic neighborhood in 2012—flooding basements, cutting power and phone lines, and destroying stores’ inventories and 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. This 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 morphed into a spot where locals go for brunch at Sunday in Brooklyn, for a casual bite at Mister Dips, for a more upscale, waterfront seafood dinner at the Fulton, and for shopping and dining at Jean-Georges’ new, 53,000-square-foot culinary marketplace, the Tin Building.
Here’s how to make the most of your visit to one of New York’s most delightful neighborhoods, a wonderful place to wander on a summer or fall day.
Best things to do in South Street Seaport
South Street Seaport Museum
Within the historic Schermerhorn Row of 12 brick warehouses built in 1811, the South Street Seaport Museum will fill you in on this neighborhood’s fascinating past. Among exhibits on display is the charming, interactive Seaport Discovery: Exploring Our Waters with Eric Carle, which looks at the children’s book illustrator’s use of color and pattern through immersive murals and hands-on activities (on display through spring 2024). Don’t miss tours of the museum’s 1908 lightship, Ambrose, and its tall ship, the Wavertree. If you time it right, you can also participate in special painting parties, vinyasa yoga sessions, and sea chantey sing-alongs on the Wavertree.
25 Fulton Street
The Birth of Punk, an exhibit on display through August 31 at a pop-up gallery at 25 Fulton Street, calls itself “a journey through the rise of Punk and the city that helped forge it.” It’s illustrated through period 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
Not surprisingly, there are multiple sailing options here. Among the most diverse are those offered by Manhattan By Sail, a replica of a 19th-century lumber schooner. These include daytime cruises past the Statue of Liberty; sunset sails of the harbor with drinks served at a full bar; a harbor lights sail with New York’s nothing-like-it skyline on full display; and craft beer, wine and jazz, and burlesque cruises.
The Rooftop at Pier 17
With panoramic views of the Brooklyn Bridge and Lower Manhattan’s skyline, The Rooftop at Pier 17 is one of the most scenic spots in the city for outdoor concerts through late October. Upcoming performers include Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit (September 1 and 2) and Zach Bryan (September 27), among others.
IPIC Fulton Market
The seaport location of the IPIC movie theater chain offers à la carte, in-theater dining, everything from burgers and pizzas to fish and chips, plus a separate cocktail bar.
Hester Street Fair
Named after a Lower East Side street settled by Eastern European Jewish immigrants, the Hester Street Fair holds weekend outdoor markets through early November. Vendors bring their best vintage thrift and denim, smoking accessories, personalized jewelry, kids’ eyewear and streetwear, and baked goods, among other sundries.
Where to eat and drink at South Street Seaport
Pier 17 has multiple dining and drinking options, starting on its rooftop, where the restaurant The Greens has an all-day menu. You can also book a 10-foot-by-10-foot mini-lawn, which can accommodate up to eight and comes with a sun umbrella and lawn chairs to better enjoy your red velvet specialty cocktail, slow roasted brisket sandwich, and DJ or live music.
The ground floor of Pier 17 has a veritable smorgasbord of restaurants and bars. Malibu Farm New York, the local outpost of the California restaurant, specializes in farm-to-table cuisine. Try the cauliflower pizza; pan-seared chicken with aji verde sauce and chili oil; and the Malibu vegan, a salad—composed of seasonal greens, tomatoes, squash, cucumber, haricots verts, and avocado, topped with red wine vinaigrette—that is almost too gorgeous to eat.
Award-winning, Korean American chef David Chang moved his East Village restaurant Momofuku Ssäm Bar to Pier 17 last year. It’s a buzzy spot (it helps that there are private karaoke rooms) with a patio and indoor dining, featuring tabletop grills where diners can cook their own Korean barbecue. We highly recommend the hamachi appetizer; runner bean salad with buttermilk, horseradish, and duck yolk; and sizzling bavette steak.
Also on the ground floor is The Fulton, the first seafood restaurant of Jean-Georges Vongerichten, the French-born, New York–based chef whose empire spans multiple restaurants in 12 countries worldwide.
Dante Seaport, adjacent to the Fulton, is the waterside location of West Village bar Dante, rated best bar in the world in 2019 by The World’s 50 Best Bars. Check out the Negroni bar, serving 10 variations of this iconic aperitif.
Sunday in Brooklyn—a hot Williamsburg eatery—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, the outdoor Makitiki, offers Japanese hand rolls and tropical cocktails through the fall.
Where to shop at South Street Seaport
By far the biggest retail—and dining—news at the seaport this summer is the opening of the Tin Building. This 53,000-square-foot culinary marketplace from 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 marketplace has more than 20 restaurants, bars, and fast-casual dining spots, as well as an Asian retail market, specialty grocery, and purveyors of fresh seafood and confections. Almost 40 percent of retail items are produced locally. The Tin Building is now open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m - 9 p.m.
Funny Face Bakery
This cheeky bakery at 6 Fulton Street makes amazing meme-inspired and custom-portrait cookies, as well as a “City Slicker Starter Pack,” with cookies depicting the Statue of Liberty and other New York treasures.
This branch of the independent bookseller has more than 65,000 titles on two floors in Schermerhorn Row, plus a bar and café.
Bowne and Co.
Established in 1775, Bowne is New York’s oldest-operating business under the same name—a gift emporium and letterpress print shop operated by the South Street Seaport Museum in an 1839 cast-iron stove warehouse at 211 Water Street. In 1975, it partnered with the museum to open its shop, which sells paper goods, books, museum merchandise, and house-designed notecards and broadside posters. It also does letterpress printing on-site, using seven historic presses from the museum’s collection.
Where to stay at South Street Seaport
Mr. C Seaport
Mr C. Seaport is the 33 Peck Slip location of the Mr. C Hotels brand, launched by fourth-generation members of the Cipriani family, legendary Venetian purveyors of hospitality. This luxury hotel, with 66 guest rooms and suites, features a Bellini Restaurant, named after Cipriani’s signature cocktail; a lobby lounge and bar; and a fitness center. One unexpected treat for guests in certain suites: views from the bathtub of the Brooklyn Bridge.
AC Hotel New York Downtown
This modern hotel at 151 Maiden Lane has an undulating facade inspired by the seaport’s waters and sleek, white decor in its 274 guest rooms. The AC—a Marriott brand that originated in Madrid in 1999—offers a European-influenced breakfast, a lounge serving tapas and Spanish wines, and a 24-hour fitness center.
Visitors to the seaport for dining, shopping, and sightseeing should check opening hours before heading there. The South Street Seaport Museum, for example, is open Wednesdays through Sundays 11 a.m.–5 p.m., while Momofuku Ssäm Bar serves lunch Friday through Sunday 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. and dinner Tuesday through Sunday 5–10 p.m.