By Hannah Silverman
In the pilot episode of Sex and the City, Carrie immediately dispels the myth that New Yorkers don’t have breakfast at Tiffany’s and instead of affairs to remember, they have affairs they’d rather forget. As Carrie couldn’t help but wonder throughout the series, she discovers with perceptive wit why women can’t have sex like men, why no one should settle for anything less than butterflies and (one of my personal favourites), why “if we never veer off course we would never fall in love, have babies or be who we are”.
Then she struts down Perry Street in Patricia Field-styled couture to meet a furniture-making Adonis and you realise it’s a television series of stylistically indulgent fiction… Until, you visit New York City and walk in her Manolo footsteps to surprisingly discover the heart of every woman’s favourite TV show is a delightful reality of sorts.
If you love Sex and the City, take a walk with me as I show you the top ten sites that made me feel like I was walking on set.
1. Carrie’s house – 64 Perry Street
Yes, you can actually go to Carrie’s house! This is not a drill. Bleeker street is a divine boutique shopping strip which Carrie would have been a regular on as her street forms a junction with it just metres from her front door. Look for the Michael Kors, then turn. Surprisingly there aren’t always hoards of crowds, unless one of New York’s tourist guides are making a pit stop, so I promise you you will get your money shot. It’s such a thrill to imagine Carrie and her friends and lovers walking along this familiar residential street and of course picturing Big winding down his window waiting for the future Mrs Preston. Did I love this or what? Abso-f**cking-lutely.
2. Magnolia Bakery – 401 Bleecker Street and West 11th Street
This little bakery must be making a mint ever since Carrie, with a mouthful of pink-frosted cupcake, confessed to Miranda that she had a crush on Aidan. You know the scene, the two girls sit outside the front of the bakery in the ultimate girly girl talk. I simply had to try one of their many scrumptious-looking goodies, which include everything from cupcakes to tarts to coffees and is complete with all kinds of Tiffany-blue and brown coloured merchandise to boot. (I bought a branded carry bag and a cake knife, so if you have a number for Souvenirs Anonymous, please let me know).
3. O’Nieals Pub, aka Scout – 174 Grand Street
This is a fun one as it’s THE place in New York City to enjoy your cosmopolitan because this is Steve and Aidan’s bar, Scout. I have to be honest and tell you I couldn’t match the scene on screen to the real-life bar, but I’m sure it’s undergone its share of refurbishments. The cocktails are delicious and the staff are friendly making this a must stop for Happy Hour.
4. Da Marino – 220 West 49th Street
There are several restaurants that feature in Sex and City that you can still dine in today. A quick Google search will uncover lists upon lists of names, so choose the scene and cuisine that takes your fancy. On this occasion we chose Da Marino, a charming Italian restaurant isn’t far from Times Square and makes for a great pre-Broadway choice. We decided to dine-in because it’s a favourite of Big actor, Chris Noth, substantiated by several photos of him on the restaurant’s celebrity diners wall of fame. In the series this is the restaurant where Big takes Carrie in their earlier courting days, then serenades her on the microphone. Note, there was no microphone I saw, so you’re probably not at risk of being pulled up.
5. Pleasure Chest – 156 7th Avenue
Who could forget the famous rabbit vibrator storyline? Well, it all started here, my friends (and as we know ended with an intervention!). I doubt any other sex shop in the world is this commercial with a combination of serious shoppers and curious tourists paying their bills. Definitely worth a look.
6. New York Public Library – 455 5th Avenue
Unfortunately I didn’t have an opportunity to go inside the library (next time!) but from the outside I was blown away by the majesty of this architectural masterpiece. Featuring on Fifth Avenue in the centre of town, the New York Public Library isn’t just about books, it’s the venue where Carrie and Big almost tied the knot (let’s not dwell on why it didn’t work out for her that day). Suffice to say this is now one very popular location for weddings.
7. Tiffany & Co. – 727 5th Avenue
Alrighty, this is a goodie for SO many reasons. First, it’s Tiffany’s and what lady doesn’t want an excuse to peruse diamonds? But in this context it also sets the scene for Charlotte and Trey’s proposal (or at least the one she vows to tell her grandchildren). Standing outside this very store Trey asks if Charlotte would like to find the most “beautiful engagement ring they have” and the result is a huge aspirational sparkler (and eventually a down payment on Carrie’s apartment).
8. Paris Theatre – 4 West 58th Street
“Joy for Two, for one,” joked Carrie as she purchased her ticket at this 1940s cinema. It was the episode where Carrie delighted in being single and enjoying her Me Time before considering if there was any truth to having “one true love”. Then she parties with the sailors for Fleet Street in an episode that is so very New York City. The unmistakable sign “Paris” will guarantee you won’t miss it, even if you are tempted in all nearby directions with The Plaza across the road, Bergdorf Goodman’s next door and Central Park over the square. Talk about location, location.
9. Plaza Hotel – 768 5th Avenue
Ouch, Carrie ran into Big here when he left his engagement party with Natasha, aka the Idiot Stick Figure With No Soul. It was where Carrie likened her relationship with Big to Hubble and Katey from The Way We Were and then stylishly sashayed across the square musing another of my favourite Sex and the City quotes: “maybe some women aren’t meant to be tamed. Maybe they just need to run free until they find someone just as wild to run with them.” Boom. It was also a favourite haunt for Scott Fitzgerald and his flapper-filled entourage, but that’s another story.
10. Central Park – north to south from 110th Street to 59th Street and west to east from Central Park West to 5th Avenue
Just because I can’t get enough of this gorgeous chunk of land, I can’t not recommend you visit Central Park. It must be stunning in the sun but I adored Central Park in the snow. To keep it relevant, Central Park features many times in Sex and the City, including for the girl’s dates, friendly catch ups, exercise (because you have to burn cosmos somehow) and who could forget that buggy ride on Big’s last night before moving to Nappa.
While it is most certainly possible to tailor your own Sex and the City tour, I do have to give a shout out to ‘On Location Tours’, who took us to many of these sites on their bus. They play the relevant clips from the series on the on-bus TV to give context for the sites you are about to see, and there are many laughs along the way. A lot of these places are pointed out to you from the bus as it would be logistically impossible to stop at every site and finish up at a reasonable time. However, my advice is to do what I did, check out the tour for a foundation, then go back to your favourite spots for some new discoveries. You can, of course, add on other sites, such as the restaurants, and create your own personalised Sex and the City tour. Even a walk around the fashionable Meat Packing District or a stroll around Greenwich Village will surprise you with a look and feel that’s oddly familiar.
For fans of the show, and let’s face it, you wouldn’t be reading this far if you weren’t, check out the HBO store at 1100 Avenue of the Americas for your pastel branded cosmopolitan cocktail glasses, sassy quoted pink mugs and all kinds of trinkets to remind you of the time you walked in Carrie’s shoes.