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Go Round the Globe at These New York Cultural Centers

These cultural hubs give you a taste of the world all without leaving the island of Manhattan.

New York City is known as the cultural hub of America for a reason: it’s home to Broadway, Carnegie Hall, and the Met, just to name a few of its celebrated cultural institutions. One often overlooked feature of the city’s cosmopolitan milieu, though, are its cultural centers. These destinations offer language and cooking classes, extensive foreign language libraries, film and theater festivals, and lecture series that both educate and entertain. Get ready to explore the world without ever leaving the Big Apple!

1. Onassis Cultural Center

Located in the Olympic Tower, the Onassis Center serves as the nucleus of Greece’s long history and culture in New York City, featuring artwork and artifacts never before shown in the United States like the post-Byzantine paintings exhibited last year as well as samples of modern Greek art. The center also hosts countless concerts, lectures, and film screenings celebrating Hellenic civilization. Check out the Onassis Festival NY in October, an annual festival that explores the relevance of the classical tradition to the present day.

2. Japan Society

All six floors of the Japan Society are devoted to Japanese language instruction, exhibits, film screenings, and lectures. The center features a 262-seat theater, art gallery, and extensive library collection, all against a stunning backdrop of interior bamboo gardens, a reflecting pool, and a waterfall. The center hosts more than 100 events each year, many of which feature critical dialogue on issues relevant to the relationship between the U.S. and Japan. Check out the Society’s Talks+ Program, which examines themes in modern Japanese art, culture, and design.

3. French Institute

Founded at the turn of 20th century, the French Institute Alliance Francaise serves as the center of French culture in New York City. Along with theatrical performances, a film club led by French TV celebrity Olivier Barrot, and wine tastings, the institute also hosts Bastille Day on 60th Street every year on July 14 a festival that features authentic French food, music, dance, and other attractions for the whole family.

4. Austrian Cultural Forum

With its glass- and steel-heavy post-modernist style, the Austrian Cultural Forum stands out as a Midtown landmark. It includes a multi-level gallery space, a large theater, and an extensive library. The Forum hosts more than 100 free events each year: check out Constructing Paradise this April, which features contemporary reinterpretations of the exotic by Austrian and American artists, and explore the impact of modernist themes of desire and fantasy on contemporary Austrian art.

5. Tibet House

The Tibet House was founded at the request of the Dalai Lama in 1987, and today it includes an ornate Tibetan Buddhist shrine, exhibition galleries, and a lending library with more than 1,000 volumes. Tibet House offers a whopping 250 annual classes, exhibits, and cultural programs, and even offers evening meditation sessions on Tuesdays. The center also hosts the annual Tibet House U.S. Benefit Concert last year’s concert featured high-profile performances from Philip Glass, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, and Regina Spektor.

6. Turkish Cultural Center

The Turkish Cultural Center in Manhattan provides an invaluable window into Turkish culture. The center hosts language lessons, cooking classes, and workshops in Ebru, a traditional form of ceramic painting. Make sure to stop by for the center’s Cultural Nights event, during which attendees can enjoy Turkish coffee, baklava, folk dance, spoken word performances, and skits celebrating Turkish culture. The center is also committed to intercultural and interfaith dialogue, hosting lectures from ambassadors around the world, as well as events like Abraham’s Table Luncheons, where speakers from the three Abrahamic religions discuss and explore intersections between the different faiths.

Looking to stay long enough to visit all the cultural hubs on this list? Get the best of New York with Affinia’s Buy 3, Get 4 special offer: book three nights at any of Affinia’s Manhattan locations, and get your fourth night absolutely free.

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