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Time Travel: Historical Sites That Induce A Sense Of Being in Another Era

By: Sophia Marina

Let’s face it—as lovely, enchanting, and exciting as New York is, a change of scenery is always a welcome relief—but finding the time and securing the funds for an all-out getaway is a challenge. Whether it’s Europe’s stately castles you crave or New England’s quiet, calm hamlets, there’s actually enough pockets of wonder in the city to fulfill your dreamy desires and make you feel as though you and your love have been whisked away to some stately mansion or golden, gilded castle. Using our insider guide to New York’s most interesting and untapped historic sites and architectural marvels, you and your person can time travel to just about any era of beauty, culture, and life that you want.

The Best Places In NYC That Literally Induce The Sense of Being In Another Era

Merchant's House Museum
29 East 4th Street, Manhattan

The ornate, quaint, and haunting structure that is the Merchant’s House Museum has its stake in being the only 19th century home in New York preserved perfectly both inside and out. With melded architecture of both 19th century Federal and Greek Revival styles, it stands as a silently gorgeous and somewhat eclectic space to enter and experience with your love. In addition to all the fine trinkets and historically-relevant artifacts and decor you’ll encounter, the house abounds with highly intriguing exhibits like The Changing Silhouette of Fashion: The Decade of the 1890s, Spiritualists and Suffragettes of NoHo (a walking tour), and candlelit paranormal investigations. An afternoon spent in this quiet gem of a historical relic will give you all the sweet, leisurely vibes of being rich, relaxed and as surrounded by beauty as an affluent 1800s New York family.

merchant's house museum nyc
Credit: Merchant's House Museum
Bartow-Pell Mansion
895 Shore Road, Bronx

As much as we love the city, there’s always that sighing desire to be able to escape it together for just a sweet second without actually having to pack a bag, and Bartow-Pell Mansion provides just that escape. It’s a sprawling, beautifully-manicured and pristine estate just 10 miles from Manhattan in the green stretch that is Pelham Bay Park. The neo-Classical grounds and architecture are available for access without a tour in groups under ten, so it’s perfect for your romantic duo. Make a day out of it and get those day-out-in-the-country good vibes flowing with a stroll in and around this breathtaking beauty with your love.

bartow-pell mansion nyc
Credit: Bartow-Pell Mansion
Eldridge Street Synagogue
12 Eldridge Street, Manhattan

The Eldridge Street Synagogue, and the museum now housed in it, promises to take your breath away with its elaborately painted Gothic arches, vivid stained glass, intricate woodwork, and richly-detailed ceilings. This Victorian-style architectural milestone was the first and finest Eastern-European Jewish place of worship in America when it was built in 1887, and continues to bring its vital history as a refuge for first-wave immigrants, as well as its splendorous, solemn beauty, out in full force. Although the stroll along the premises won’t take long, gazing in deep at all the geometric patterns that burgeon on the windows and the crisp, vibrant light that filters through them might have you both standing still and staring for longer than you’d planned. The museum is open Sunday-Thursday from 10am-5pm, with a “pay what you wish” admission fee on Mondays.

museum at eldridge street nyc
Credit: 6sqft, Photo by: Lucie Levine
One if by Land, Two if by Sea
17 Barrow Street, Manhattan

Often praised as one of the most romantic restaurants in NYC, One if by Land, Two if by Sea seamlessly blends all the classic elements essential to perfect romance for a seamless experience that astounds in its beauty, grace and old-world elegance. What was once Aaron Burr’s carriage house now plays host to tables clothed in white linen and lit with slim candles, deep red exposed brick that curves into glassy arched windows and fireplaces, a shiny baby grand piano and a charming, bountiful private garden. The classic menu offers a choice between a 3-course prix fixe or a 7-course chef’s tasting menu, which features their famed signature dish Beef Wellington, made with mushroom duxelle and beurre rouge, as well as exquisite, high-end dishes like sliced duck breast and pan seared scallops. Dining in here won’t just leave you with the quaint, charming feeling that you’re daintily dining in colonial America, but will also fill the evening with maximum romance.

one if by land two if by sea nyc
Credit: One if by Land, Two if by Sea
Low Memorial Library
Columbia University, 116th St and Broadway, Manhattan

Hop off the 1 train at 116th and lock hands as you walk the tree-lined avenue of College Walk to reach its centerpiece: the mammoth, graceful and strong structure that is Low Memorial Library. Built in a neo-classical style that incorporates elements of Rome’s Pantheon, taking refuge under the shadow of this elegant building is one of the best ways to pass an hour under the sun just chatting, lounging and people-watching with the beauty of blue-roofed architecture and red brick surrounding you. The lawns on Columbia’s campus are fair game, so taking a blanket with you wouldn’t be a bad idea, although wandering is encouraged. Though library access isn’t available to the public, even standing in the entries of those grand buildings is breathtaking, and there’s a small cathedral just to the right of Low Library that’s open to all and a haunting, delicate space to inhabit and absorb. A trip uptown to tour this nestled, magnificent campus is treating yourself to one of New York’s oldest and most quintessential architectural experiences.

low memorial library nyc
Credit: A View On Cities

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Cathedral of St. John the Divine
1047 Amsterdam Avenue, Manhattan

If you’ve seen this in any of our guides or date nights before and still haven’t checked it out with your lover, you’re seriously missing out on one of the most inspiring, untapped wonders of this city. Just a short walk from Columbia’s campus, this tall and wondrous place of worship is not only a free-spirited church, complete with all the beauties of stained glass and Gothic architectural facets, but also a vessel of art and its preservations, with wild exhibits installed into its many rooms continually and a poet’s corner hailing the great voices of lyrics. Just outside on its green, sprawling grounds, you’ll find a nestled garden replete with intricate stone towers, a huge and spectacular fountain sculpture, and multiple vibrant peacocks strutting around. The Cathedral of St. John the Divine is about as 18th century France as it gets in New York City.

halloween crypt crawl
Credit: The Insatiable Traveler
Onderdonk House
1820 Flushing Avenue, Queens

Maybe you can’t make it to Amsterdam on the fly, but remnants of New York’s Dutch roots remain—quaint, pretty, and rich with history—if only you know where to look. For a truly down to earth experience, we recommend starting at the Vander-Ende Onderdonk House in Ridgewood, which, built in 1661, stands as the oldest Dutch colonial stone home in NYC. The stout, sturdy and picturesque little house sits on an acre or two of lush green lawns while housing a permanent exhibit on the archaeology of the Onderdonk site, along with changing exhibits on history, arts and culture. There’s a trinket shop with a hoard of curious antiques, as well as a live replica of the house’s furniture and settings in the upstairs portion. It’s charming, peculiar, and intriguing all at once, and certainly, one way to get closer to New York than you thought.

onderdonk house nyc
Credit: Onderdonk House
The Tenement Museum
97 & 103 Orchard Street, Manhattan

Immigration is currently at the crux of global debate, and there’s no better way to familiarize yourself with the reality and significance of the immigrant experience than by experiencing a piece of it personally. The Tenement Museum, a restored historical building that housed immigrant families from over 20 countries between the 1860s-1930s, pays homage to the struggles and conditions that shaped the lives of those who make up the mixed fabric of the shared American identity. With tours that guide you through replicated, restored versions of the apartments, chock full of artifacts and real-life versions of the trinkets, tools, and materials that made up these people’s daily lives, it’s truly an eye-opening, emotional and instructive journey through time.

tenement museum nyc
Credit: Expedia
Park Avenue Armory
643 Park Avenue, Manhattan

The Park Avenue Armory, or Seventh Regiment Armory, is a huge, historic brick building covering a block on the Upper East Side and abound with beautiful, golden age gilded rooms and in its contemporary function, playing home to unconventional artwork in both visual and performance arts. While you can check out a gig by FKA Twigs or watching a financial saga of plays, tours through the recently renovated, multifarious rooms that make up the armory are available, and truly take you away. You’ll explore the first floor period rooms, the soaring 55,000 square foot Drill Hall, extraordinary interiors, and some of the second floor areas not typically on view to the public, with some background information given on the armory’s purpose as cultural institution. It’s a huge but somewhat hidden gem, and we highly advise you take that intimate tour and allow yourselves to be amazed.

park avenue armory nyc
Credit: James Ewing
Belvedere Castle
Central Park (Mid-park at 79th Street), Manhattan

What translates from Italian as “beautiful view” certainly lives up to its name, and as the highest point in Central Park, the whimsical Belvedere Castle delivers the jaw-dropping sights of the city’s greenest expanse in perfect, inspiring clarity. Literally built as a fantasy structure in 1865 to whisk park-goers away and into a dreamier world, the castle includes balconies and several decks supplied with telescopes, a vast collection of natural artifacts inside, and even field packs that contain binoculars, reference materials, maps and notepads for jotting down observations, for those who feel like exploring. It’s a great outpost for a lazy day of sunning and relaxing nearby with the castle’s tall, picturesque figure looming by like you’re in romantic-era Italy rather than modern NYC.  

belvedere castle nyc
Credit: Central Park

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