Picture of Times Square at dusk in New York City
New York City’s Times Square at dusk
Times Square in New York City is perhaps the most famous square in the whole world. It’s certainly been estimated Times Square is the world’s most visited tourist attraction. When you visit Times Square in Midtown Manhattan it’s easy to see why: tourists from all over the globe come to marvel at the neon billboards, see a famous musical, go shopping in the area and soak up the unique Times Square vibe.

In this article, we’ll tell you a little bit about the history of Times Square, and give you tips on what to see and do to make the most of your trip to the iconic New York City square!

Times Square Through History

Old black-and-white picture of Times Square
Times Square and the former New York Times building
Before the 20th Century, Times Square was named Longacre Square, which was a reference to the square’s blooming carriage industry.

In 1904 the square was renamed as The New York Times moved into the new Times Building, which is now known as One Times Square. This was also the building where the tradition of the annual New Year’s Eve ball drop was started.

Not long after The New York Times moved to Times Square, the first electrified advertisement popped up in the square. In the roaring 1920s, Times Square became the new cultural center of New York City, as it filled with theaters, hotels and music halls. This is also when famous performers such as Charlie Chaplin and Fred Astaire regularly paid a visit to the gorgeous stages in Times Square.

Nowadays, Times Square has become the name of the entire district surrounding the square. Times Square itself constitutes of the crossing of Broadway and 7th Avenue between West 42nd Street & West 47th Street. The northern triangle of the square is actually called Duffy Square, dedicated to Chaplain Duffy of the “Fighting 69th” Infantry Regiment. At Duffy Square you’ll find the TKTS booth under the famous red steps.

What to See and Do in Times Square

Image of Times Square and its pedestrian plaza
The pedestrian plaza in Times Square, Manhattan
When you’re in New York City and want to visit the square, you can easily catch a subway to the massive Times Square subway station. The 1, 2, 3, 7, N, Q and R trains all stop at Times Square. If you visit the square during the day, first take some time to soak up the bustling vibe. Sit on the red stairs to get a great view of the hustle and bustle in the square, or take a seat at one of the public chairs at the pedestrian plaza to be right in the middle of it all. Visiting Times Square at nighttime is also worth it, as you’ll see all the billboards light up even more brightly than during the day. Do prepare yourself for the crowds, as no matter if it’s nighttime or day, it will be crowded in the square. It’s fine to take pictures and act like a tourist, as almost everyone will do, but do beware of pickpockets!

To get a real sense of what it’s like to be in Times Square, check out our video tour of Broadway and Times Square!

  • Go Shopping in Times Square
Picture of the Times Square M&Ms store
The M&Ms wall in the M&Ms store in Times Square
All around Times Square you’ll find huge flagship stores and amazing shops for gift shopping. When it comes to fashion and beauty, Times Square has a lot to offer.

  • For make up and beauty products, visit the MAC Cosmetics or Sephora stores on the east side of the square.
  • For fashion, visit The Levi’s Store, Aeropostale Store, American Eagle Outfitters or the gigantic Forever 21 store, both also on the east side of Times Square.
  • For the kids, there’s also plenty to see and do when it comes to shopping in Times Square. The Disney Store and the Toys R Us store, complete with a Ferris wheel, are both big hits with the kids, as are the Hersheys Store and the M&Ms store to the north of the square.
  • Eating in Times Square
Picture of The View restaurant and its panoramic view of New York
The New York City skyline seen from The View restaurant in Times Square
If you’re looking for a nice place to have a proper lunch or dinner, Times Square again has plenty to offer! There are some famous restaurants in the square that are great for a night out on the town. Do be prepared to pay a little more than you would in less-touristy districts of Manhattan.

  • You’ll find New York City’s Hard Rock Cafe on the corner of 43rd street & 7th Avenue.
  • If you’re looking for a real American Diner experience, try Junior’s on 44th Street & 7th Avenue. Be sure to save some room for desert, as their cheesecake is absolutely delicious!
  • If you’re a lover of seafood, Red Lobster is a great place to try out. You’ll find it along 41st street & 7th Avenue.
  • For something with a little more spice, Bubba Gump offers seafood and southern cuisine with an amazing view of the square.
  • If you’re looking for a truly special experience, pay a visit to The View on 45th Street & 7th Avenue. The restaurant has a buffet and a rotating floor, which means you’ll get a different view of Times Square without having to walk around! Book well in advance to ensure you get a table by the window.

When the weather is good, it’s lovely to order a coffee from the 24-hour Starbucks and sit outside at the pedestrian plaza to soak up some sun and enjoy people watching at the square. You’ll never know what colorful character you’ll see next, be it a life-size Mickey Mouse or a half-naked cowboy! There’re also many delis and hotdog stands around the square if you want to grab a quick bite.

  • Times Square, Broadway & Entertainment
Image of billboards in Times Square
The famous Times Square billboards
Some of the biggest attractions in Times Square are of course the musicals. The selection of the Broadway musicals changes through the years, but the beautiful theaters and great quality of the shows always remains. The Lion King, Billy Elliot, Les Misérables, Spider-Man and Mary Poppins are only a small selection of what Times Square has to offer at the moment.

If you’re sure you want to see a musical in Times Square, but you haven’t decided on a particular show, then it’s always a good idea to stop by the TKTS booth under the red stairs. TKTS offers discounted tickets on the day of the performance, which means you might be able to watch a first-class musical for 50% off!

Another budget tip is to go see a comedy show instead. Comedy shows are held all around Times Square, and you can buy tickets from sale people in the square itself! Do check on the Internet before buying a ticket to see if a show’s worth the money.

There are also a number of movie theaters collected around Times Square. Along West 42nd Street between 7th Avenue and 8th Avenue you’ll find two massive movie theaters: The Regal and AMC Empire 25. Both show the latest blockbusters and also boast IMAX 3D screens.

Lastly, Madame Tussauds is year-round attraction in Times Square that’s always fun to visit!

  • Year-round Events in Times Square
Picture of people practicing yoga in Times Square
A crowd practices yoga in Times Square during the summer solstice. Photo by Greg Kessler
Throughout the year, many events are held in Times Square. If there’s a national holiday, you can be pretty sure there’s something happening in or around the square.

For example, on Valentine’s Day, couples from all over the world come to renew their vows in Times Square or just to share their love story. During the summer solstice in 2012, thousands of people came together in Times Square to participate in an all-day yoga class. In autumn, the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade often passes through Times Square, which is a great place to watch the floats and balloons pass by. And of course, there’s the most famous event of the year at New Year’s Eve. Every year, a million people gather in Times Square on December 31st, as even more millions watch the celebrations live on TV across the globe. The people in the square all count down to midnight, when the ball is dropped from the One Times Square building.

Explore Midtown Manhattan around Times Square

Once you’re finished exploring Times Square, take some time to discover Midtown Manhattan!

If you are on 7th Avenue in Times Square and look north, you can already see the treetops of Central Park rise above the tarmac and yellow cabs. For some peace and tranquility after square’s hustle and bustle, walk north to Central Park after your visit to Times Square. On 59th Street and 8th Avenue you’ll also find Columbus Circle and the Time Warner Center.

Image of Bryant Park, the NY Public Library & the Empire State Building
Bryant Park, the Public Library and the Empire State Building at night
To the east of Times Square lies a park that’s even closer: Bryant Park. In the summer this is a great place to relax among the skyscrapers, and in the winter Bryant Park is Citipond, where you can ice-skate!  Next to Bryant Park you’ll find the NY Public Library, and even further to the east Grand Central Station and the Chrysler Building.

To the south of Times Square you’ll find the other famous skyscraper of Midtown Manhattan: the Empire State Building. There’re also more shopping spots around Herald Square and in Macy’s flagship store. Close to Macy’s is Madison Square Garden.

Finally, to the west of Times Square you’ll find the trendy Midtown West neighborhood Hell’s Kitchen, which is also called Clinton. Hell’s Kitchen boasts some great off-Broadway theaters, small boutiques and a fantastic selection of restaurants and cafes. Hell’s Kitchen is also home to one of the city’s newest skyscrapers: the New York Times Building, as well as the Port Authority Bus Terminal. The PABT, as it is called by New Yorkers, offers many connections to a variety of bus lines, making it easy to plan a day or two outside of the city.

If you’re looking for affordable accommodation close to Times Square, Hell’s Kitchen in Midtown West is a great option. Have a look at our vacation rental apartments in Hell’s Kitchen & Midtown West to get an idea of the top location and attractive price ranges!

We hope you’ve enjoyed our little tour of Manhattan’s Times Square. What’s your favorite thing to visit in Times Square?