500px Photo ID: 69665117 - www.astphotodesign.com

Alex Teuscher / 500px

Love it or hate it, the intersection of Broadway and Seventh Ave (aka Times Square) pumps out the NYC of the global imagination – yellow cabs, golden arches, soaring skyscrapers and razzle-dazzle Broadway marquees. It's right here that Al Jolson 'made it' in the 1927 film The Jazz Singer, that photojournalist Alfred Eisenstaedt famously captured a lip-locked sailor and nurse on V-J Day in 1945, and that Alicia Keys and Jay-Z waxed lyrically about the concrete jungle.

For several decades, the dream here was a sordid, wet one. The economic crash of the early 1970s led to a mass exodus of corporations from Times Sq. Billboard niches went dark, stores shut and once-grand hotels were converted into SRO (single-room occupancy) dives, attracting the poor and the destitute. What was once an area bathed in light and showbiz glitz became a dirty den of drug dealers and crime. While the adjoining Theater District survived, its respectable playhouses shared the streets with porn cinemas, strip clubs and adult bookstores.

That all changed with tough-talking mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who in the 1990s forced out the skin flicks, boosted police numbers and lured in a wave of 'respectable' retail chains, restaurants and attractions. By the new millennium, Times Square had gone from X-rated to G-rated, drawing around 50 million visitors annually. On any given night, with the square flooded with light from wall-to-wall LCD screens and the sidewalks packed with people, it can feel like all of them are there at once.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Midtown attractions

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