MANHATTAN. Where to start. There is SO much to do and see, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed.

When in New York, I find myself dividing activities into the following categories – eating, shopping, art/culture and, in the warmer months, the outdoors. If you find yourself spiraling in a retail vortex, it’s always good to balance this out with a day spent wandering one of Manhattan’s amazing art museums… and on the flip side, if you’re all art-ed out, you might find yourself craving a day of window shopping in SoHo, with a long lunch at Balthazar to rest the feet and soak up some old New York atmosphere.

There’s no shortage of options, but here are some of the fave spots The Design Files team frequented during our recent trip to Manhattan!

Cafe Gitane

Cafe Gitane is hands down our FAVE cafe in Manhattan. There’s just something about the laid back vibe and spunky (though slightly nonchalant) staff that keep us coming back with every trip. Situated on the cutest corner in NoLiTa, if you can score an outside table, it’s a sweet, relaxed spot for people watching with a glass of wine as the afternoon fades to evening.

With a casual, contemporary French/Spanish/Moroccan inspired menu, Gitane is also a great option for slightly lighter, fresher fare than can often be found elsewhere in the Big Apple. It’s the kind of place you find yourself quickly falling into the habit of ordering one favourite dish every time, mine is the zesty orange and palm heart salad – always outrageously good.

The Whitney Museum of American Art

Incredible art galleries are a dime a dozen in NYC. Unless you’re here for a month, you’ll be unlikely to get through all of them… so it’s wise to be selective. The newest of the bunch is the Whitney, which just this year has moved to an immense brand new building designed by architect Renzo Piano, located between the High Line and the Hudson River.

The Whitney showcases an incredible collection of contemporary American art over nine levels. Founded by philanthropist Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney in 1930, this new $422 million dollar building is the Whitney’s fourth home. Aside from its impressive new exhibition spaces, the generous outdoor terraces provide incredible views across the Meatpacking district and beyond.