Making the Most of New York: 10 Great Thinking Spots

There’s a reason why people call New York the greatest city in the world. Walking around New York City’s streets you are bound to hear a variety of languages, pass by diverse storefronts, and find almost anything you need within just blocks. So why is it, that when you’re looking for a good place to work or study, it’s so hard to find anything other than Starbucks? Original, inspiring cafés and study areas do exist; the tricky part is finding them.

We’ve put together a list of ten unique spots great for studying, working, or just hanging out.

NY Creative Interns coffee shops

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10 Unique Spots for Study & Work

Stumptown Coffee Roasters at The Ace Hotel (Midtown West)
20 W 29th Street
Located at street level within the Ace Hotel, Stumptown Coffee Roasters is a classy, quiet, and trendy spot that’s perfect for studying. Their coffee hails from Portland, and if any of you have seen the TV show Portlandia then you know their beans have got to be top quality. If you plan on meeting friends for drinks afterwards, check out the Breslin Bar and Dining Room. It’s just down the hall.
Pro: Study with class.
Con: The bottled coffee drinks have a bad reputation. Let’s just say they’re a bit too strong for the human good.

Housing Works Bookstore Café (SoHo)
126 Crosby Street
Not only is this the perfect environment to relax with a cup of coffee and a book, but all of your dollars spent go to a good cause. 100% of the café’s profits go to Housing Works in an effort to end the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS in New York City. Be aware that there are no outlets available for customers, so this is a great place to get some writing done, start illustrating, or, you know, do anything that involves that thing called paper. The café holds events some nights, so check the schedule ahead of time.
Pro: Cheap, interesting selection of used books. Donate some of your own, and pick up some new ones for just a few dollars.
Con: Early closing hours.

Think Coffee (West Village)
248 Mercer Street
This café is frequented by NYU students, so if you want a more diverse crowd then this might not be the place for you. The space is large and can get a bit crowded, but if you tune out noise easily you’ll have no trouble reading or working. The Eighth Avenue location offers free weekly coffee tastings, and at the Mercer location check out live jazz shows and board game nights.
Pro: The baristas travel as far as Peru to make sure the coffee they’re selling is top notch!
Con: This is a popular spot so getting a seat might be like trying to catch a cab on a rainy day.

Bank of America Tower (Theater District)
1 Bryant Park (Sixth Ave between 42nd & 43rd)
This glass-enclosed atrium is one of the few “indoor” places that does not require you to buy something before you sit down. If you want some privacy, you can take a seat behind one of the various indoor trees, or if you’re feeling social you can join one of the many chess games that occur there daily. The building was designed to be one of the most ecologically friendly buildings in the world. And, predictably, there is a Starbucks across the hall for whenever you’re in the mood for a coffee or tea.
Pro: Lots of natural light. Great for those who have summer allergies but still want to enjoy the outdoors.
Con: A clear view of the street means there’s opportunity to people watch- this can be distracting!

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The New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building- The Rose Main Reading Room (Theater District)
Fifth Ave at 42nd Street
Yes, this made the list, because to many people the New York Public Library is just a familiar name. If you’ve never been, now is a great time. This building is gorgeous and grand and ripe with history. The enormous study rooms will put you in serious work-mode; there’s not much for distraction here, except maybe the cool chandeliers.
Pro: Quiet, huge rooms
Con: Some find “the quiet” distracting.

Max Caffé (Morningside Heights)
1262 Amsterdam Avenue
This is a cozy, artsy café right in the midst of Columbia University. With an Italian menu and homemade Sangria, you’ve got quite the opportunity to reward yourself after putting in some good work-time. The café is full of comfortable, antique furniture of all different styles and sizes. This, plus the visible piping and occasional paintings, translates to a visually stimulating environment. There’s sure to be something that inspires you.
Pro: Open until midnight.
Con: The staff might kick you out after you’ve finished your coffee. Drink slowly or keep buying. $10 minimum on cards.

The Grey Dog (Chelsea)
242 W 16th Street
The Grey Dog was named after the founders’ two Golden Retrievers. With “dog art” accenting the walls, this place feels homier than other cafes. It also features a classic café menu of sandwiches and salads, which graciously expands to include items like a Philly CheeseSteak and a Pulled Pork Wrap.
Pro: Unlimited coffee refills.
Con: During work lunch hours it can be very crowded, enough so that there is a host to direct people.

Aroma (SoHo)
145 Greene Street
This Israeli chain café prides itself on its excellent home-roasted coffee and eclectic menu. Whether early in the morning or late at night, you might be curious to try their pancake bites, or if you’re feeling exotic try their Bureka Treat. The café can get very crowded and a bit noisy, especially around lunch-time. However, there is a great deal of seating; there is a long countertop along the walls facing the street, which is great for people watching and using your laptop, and there are long tables which make for great mingling!
Pro: Variety of seating options.
Con: The vibe might feel generic to some. After all, it is the “Starbucks” of Israel. Also, the Wifi only lasts sixty minutes, but if you are bold enough to ask others for their receipts you can use their internet codes and get more time!

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Birch Coffee (Flat Iron District)
5 East 27th Street
Whether the coffee here is amazing or just O.K, this place is worth checking out for a couple of reasons. The café is split into two levels: a typical coffee joint at street level and a quieter library above. The bookcases are full of books left by previous customers. If you’d like a noisier, more social environment, stay downstairs. If you’re the kind that works better with some quiet, check out the library. Be aware of Trance Thursdays from 2-5 PM.
Pro: Different floors for different moods.
Con: Wifi only lasts one hour.

Grounded (West Village)
28 Jane Street
This spacious, lively café is perfect for laptop work. There’s a good variety of seating, and hanging plants give the room character. There are bookshelves for those wanting to discover a good read, and there are some exciting options on the drink menu, like a Nutella Latte and Mon Cheri Mocha.
Pro: An adventurous menu and lots of seating.
Con: When it’s crowded there is a 90-minute limit to your stay, but by that time you might need another coffee, right?

Well, there you have it. The best study spots and cafés in New York. Care to argue? Tell us your favorite spot in the comments!