Best Benches in Downtown Manhattan

Chloe Brown
August 4, 2023

In New York, you feel like you never stop moving. But when the weather’s nice and life forces (or allows) you to take a break, where do you look? As a resident meanderer of downtown Manhattan, I turn to benches - to eat, talk, rest, “read,” dream. 

Here lies a definitive, yet flexible, best of list for when your summer strolls stretch on too long and you need a breather. Omitting easy targets like Central Park, these benches speckled across multiple downtown neighborhoods are like a box of chocolates, you never know exactly what you’re going to get (a nod to one of the most iconic bench scenes in cinematic history). 

There’s a good half of summer left, so get out there while it's hellishly hot and sunny. Pop a squat on your local downtown NYC bench!

Manuel Plaza

NoHo, Manhattan

For hiding in plain sight, whether to eat your Librae focaccia, take that phone call, or a breather from the busy mainstay of Bowery. Located in the heart of NoHo, off of East 4th Street, this plaza is primo for pitstops throughout your day. It’s a newer park, whose design has caused quite a kerfuffle amongst the New Yorker community. Although it may be “devoid of any trees” and kind of pointless as a park, these benches offer much-needed seclusion and sanctity in one of downtown’s arguably busiest areas.

Crosby Street Hotel

SoHo, Manhattan

For “hotel guests only,” the benches outside of this swanky hotel serve some of SoHo’s best people-watching. I would’ve counted the many black guardrail steps outside of luxury retailers in the neighborhood. You know, the ones where begrudged employees in all black smoke cigarettes or eat a salad from Smile. Instead, the Crosby offers a bench in true and architecturally-nuanced form. For an even better trade, check out their chic Terrace for a weekend brunch (if that’s your thing) or a nice hotel-grade drink. 

The Apple Store

SoHo, Manhattan

For finding refuge in the rain, heat, or other extreme weather conditions. I know what you're thinking… You really expect me to go into the Apple Store unannounced? Yes! Right here right now I’m spilling one of my best kept streetwalker secrets. 

The rotunda of benches upstairs have hosted everything from Adele’s first album release to Justin Bieber’s bizarre purchase of 200 airpods. Aside from an incredibly friendly staff, I’ve found these indoor benches a nice respite and a good opportunity to peruse the latest and greatest electronics. 

Cha Cha Matcha

NoHo, Manhattan

For a Barbie Summer. What’s better than drinking a green beverage with a pink napkin atop a green bench? Or opt for a more Oppenheimer approach at Gasoline Alley Coffee. Both caffeine stations offer primo outdoor benches on both sides of the skinny establishments. A great place to sit in shady silence on the Mulberry Street side, or immerse yourself in the Levain/Los Tacos related action on the Lafayette benches.

Editors note: catch us on the Gasoline Alley benches

Elizabeth Street Garden

Nolita, Manhattan

For garden-goers and tree-huggers and poetry-lovers. Many locals know this place is up for demolition for low-income housing, so be sure to check it out before its closure, and donate if you feel so inclined. The garden often holds poetry readings and now features a “Garden Spritz” stand from Chandon for a limited time only.

Seward Park

LES, Manhattan

For the trend-setters. There is no neighborhood more fashionable right now than the Lower East Side. Sitting on a bench in Seward, you will witness a neverending influx of cool outfits worn by cool creative types. I also say trend-setter because I was only put on to this park recently. I’d give the seats themselves a 9/10, perfectly shaded and adequately clean. My only point is docked for the lack of space between the two facing rows, making for an intimate experience with other park goers. Narrow, like a runway.

The Houston Benches

Manhattan, broadly

For the thrill-seekers in us all. Often overlooked, these benches propose a pause where there really shouldn’t be one (as you are practically seated in oncoming traffic). Maybe your Whole Foods bags are too heavy, or the champagne from Le Dive suddenly comes on strong, don’t be shy to give these benches a try. You could find it very romantic, in an adrenaline-junkie sort of way.

Washington Square Park (central row, East side)

Greenwich Village, Manhattan

For the Varsity people-watchers. You simply can’t help but be entertained sitting in Washington Square Park. Even as I compile this list, from one of the park’s forest green benches (beware of stains!), I am endlessly distracted by Tarot card readers and crashing skateboarders and gossiping colleagues over Sweetgreen. Of all the benches on this Best Of list, these public seats offer a spectacle unlike any other downtown. 

West Side Highway

West Village, Manhattan

For the After Work Athletes. In the summertime, there’s no place better to be than the West Side Highway. The long stretch of park and, of course, bench hosts all sorts of activities for the working world. There are benches to wait for your turn on the tennis court, sofa-like seating to go horizontal after a hard run, or even reclined benches to get your tan on during lunch break. 



I’m a food writer and aspiring French citizen, biding my time stateside with endless walks, pastry crawls, and plenty of yoga (shoutout St. Marks).