Romance in the City: Is NYC All That Rom-Coms Make It Out To Be?

A tour around New York City’s most famous romantic attractions to determine if they live up to their on-screen depiction



Katz’s Delicatessen is a storied staple of the Lower East Side, perpetually filled with romantic lovers — including Harry Burns and Sally Albright — and food lovers alike.


Visiting the Sites

This Valentine’s season, I checked out some of New York City’s famous rom-com hotspots to see if they live up to their portrayals in films. From Central Park to the Manhattan Bridge, my boyfriend and I explored eight New York sites featured in popular romantic media to determine which spots lived up to the hype and which can be skipped with no regrets. 

Katz’s Deli, Featured in ‘When Harry Met Sally’

My first interaction at Katz’s Deli, located in the Lower East Side, was with one of the restaurant’s night managers. As he lit his cigarette under the neon glow of the red Katz’s Deli sign, I asked him about the people who come to the diner to sit at Harry and Sally’s table. He chuckled as he recounted his memories of guests reenacting the classic “I’ll have what she’s having” line from “When Harry Met Sally.” When I told him I was writing an article on the top sites featured in New York-based romances, he was eager to show me around and personally escorted me to see the table where the iconic diner scene was filmed. Underneath a sign that read, “Where Harry Met Sally … Hope you have what she had,” two people sat at the table, their laughter garnishing the diner with love. To my surprise, the cozy, intimate atmosphere portrayed in the film proved true in person. From my interaction with the kind manager to the energy of the guests, there was a sense of community throughout the diner that met my expectations from the movie.

The Manhattan Bridge, Featured in ‘How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days’

Next, we were off to the Manhattan Bridge. In “How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” Ben (played by Matthew McConaughey) rides a motorcycle and professes his love to Andie (played by Kate Hudson) as her taxi crosses over the East River in “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.” The walk there, through the usually crowded streets of Chinatown, was instead quiet. Only a few families walked together down the lanternlit streets, still decorated from the Lunar New Year celebrations. When we reached the bridge, we were invited in by its inward curving design and glowing granite, illuminated by the city lights. Despite the breathtaking panoramic view of the city from the bridge, the one thing my boyfriend managed to photograph was a forklift beeping on the road below. We laughed as our inaudible shouts were muffled by a Q train that sped beside us. Though the view was beautiful, the bridge did not quite meet my expectations. Regarding walkable bridges in New York City, its path is less well lit. Maybe if McConaughey were there with me, I’d feel differently … I would argue he’s the main catch for this rom-com site.

Lincoln Center, Featured in ‘Moonstruck’

The epic romantic opera Lohengrin, opening at the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center on Feb. 26, tells the story of a swan knight struck by love. (JULIANA SHARON)

On a sunny Saturday, we rushed to hit the next five locations on our itinerary. First on the list was the Lincoln Center fountain where Loretta and Ronny met for the opera in “Moonstruck.” Overlooking the fountain, coworkers on their lunch break lined the balcony of the David H. Koch Theater, parallel to the line of pigeons that sat on the roof above. The blue skies above were enjoyed by all, and love laced the perimeter of the theater as passersby came together to enjoy the fresh air. As beautiful as Lincoln Center is, I am grateful it was nothing like “Moonstruck” and the cringe-worthy conversation between Loretta and Ronny as she dodges his kiss by the fountain. Still, I recommend the site for a romantic stroll or evening opera date.  

Bright midday light illuminates Lincoln Center’s imposing David Geffen Hall. (JULIANA SHARON)

Riverside Park, Featured in ‘You’ve Got Mail’ 

Matching lovebirds brave the wind on a stroll through Riverside Park. (JULIANA SHARON)

Walking west a few blocks from Lincoln Center toward the Hudoson, we arrived at Riverside Park where “You’ve Got Mail” was filmed. We arrived at the park, a path I usually run along, which became much more interesting as I approached it looking for love. We sat on a hill overlooking the river and watched an eager dachshund pull its owner over to meet a little bulldog. I like to imagine we witnessed a meet-cute, facilitated by a cupid dachshund. Alongside the river, we watched a couple, bundled in matching navy North Face puffers, brave the wind whipping off the water as they huddled together, arm in arm. As sweet as it was, I think we were all wishing we were in the sunny flower gardens pictured in “You’ve Got Mail” and not the biting February breeze. Regardless, you can’t go wrong with a walk along the water at Riverside Park.

Central Park, Featured in ‘When Harry Met Sally’

Next, we hauled ourselves over to Central Park, the site of yet another iconic scene from “When Harry Met Sally.” We sat on the rocks and watched dozens of kids bike by us on the path, hanging wheelies and cheering each other on. The setting of the park fosters connections between strangers. Sitting on a big rock, crowded with pairs soaking in the sunlight, I started talking to a couple next to us; it turns out the girl who took my photo is a journalism major at Columbia University who started off writing in the features section herself. If not for the communal atmosphere the park creates, connections like these wouldn’t be made. It is a beautiful place to slow down and take a break from the busy streets of Manhattan. As countless couples walked hand in hand, emulating Harry and Sally’s enchanting scenes in the park, romance was blooming.

Grand Central, Featured in ‘Falling in Love’

We then hustled over to Grand Central, where Frank Raftis (played by Robert De Niro) runs after Molly Gilmore (Meryl Streep) in “Falling in Love.” I would argue that the lure of Grand Central never fades. It is where I first fell in love with the city as a kid and where I continue to make memories, including the time my boyfriend and I rushed through the station to catch a train — similar to the scene in “Falling in Love” when De Niro’s character races through the main concourse.

The New York Public Library, Featured in ‘Sex and the City’ 

A beaming wedding party stands proudly atop the New York Public Library’s illustrious steps. (JULIANA SHARON)

Next, we were off to the New York Public Library (NYPL) by Bryant Park, where Carrie Bradshaw’s wedding takes an unexpected turn in “Sex and the City.” Fatefully, as we approached the library, we saw a wedding taking place on the steps, just like Bradshaw’s wedding was supposed to go down. Cliché yet iconic, seeing the wedding on the steps exceeded my expectations for the site, and the NYPL outdid its portrayal in “Sex and the City.”  

Serendipity 3, Featured in ‘Serendipity’

Our serendipitous timing with the wedding led us to the location of our final destination: Serendipity 3, the cafe where Jonanthan and Sara share a frozen hot chocolate in “Serendipity.” Outside the shop, a family of four waited patiently to enter. The little girls bursting with excitement were clearly visiting the city for the first time, repping their matching hot pink hats that were bedazzled with the slogan: “NYC, The Empire State.” The cafe inside felt more like a candy shop, which jeopardized its romantic effect, but love was still present in the parents’ dedication to actualizing their daughters’ dreams. 

It’s Not the Site, It’s Your Sight: The Value of Perspective

Journeying across Manhattan to visit the infamous locations seen in New York City rom-coms, I found that love is always present. Although it was not always the romantic love seen in the movies, moments shared between loved ones were equally as touching in their subtlety and intimacy. I discovered, as said best in my favorite rom-com “Love Actually,” that “love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there — fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion … love actually is all around.”