New York City is one of the most famous places on the entire planet, known the world over for its iconic tourist attractions, acclaimed cultural institutions, glamorous shopping destinations, elegant public parks, and spectacular skyline. On account of these beloved attributes and more, tens of millions of visitors flock to the city each and every year. As large as New York looms in the popular imagination, though, it can be easy to forget that the city itself is a real place made up of scores of local communities and individual districts in possession of unique values, qualities, and features. Understanding a bit about how New York City all fits together can make your next visit an even more rewarding experience.
Since 1898, when numerous municipalities and various counties consolidated together under the banner of the “City of Greater New York,” New York City has consisted of five boroughs: Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island. Originally intended primarily as a mechanism for organizing local governance, some 125 years on each borough has forged its own independent identity.
New York City Boroughs
Situated across the Harlem River from Manhattan, the Bronx is New York’s northernmost borough and the only one of the city’s five boroughs to be located primarily on the mainland of the United States. If the Bronx were its own standalone entity, it would comfortably rank as one of the ten most populous cities in the entire United States. As
Even though it trails only Brooklyn in terms of total population, Queens may not be the first borough that comes to mind when visitors think of New York City. However, increasingly it’s an enjoyable destination for those individuals seeking access to delicious cuisines from all over the world, innovative art galleries, unique museums, and vibrant, diverse neighborhoods. To that end,
The least-populated of New York’s five boroughs by a sizable margin, Staten Island sometimes seems a world apart from other, more widely recognized areas of the city. Largely residential in nature, significant swaths of Staten Island can be classified as suburban, and the borough has even attempted to secede from New York City on multiple occasions. While the majority of
It’s an oft-repeated fact that if the New York City borough of Brooklyn stood alone as its own independent city, it would be the third-largest city in the United States by population, behind only Los Angeles and Chicago. Brooklyn is the most-populated of the city’s five boroughs, and much of New York’s hard-earned reputation for cutting-edge culinary activity, innovative artistry,
Though Manhattan is the smallest of New York City’s five boroughs, it’s undoubtedly the most famous of the quintet. In fact, it’s probably fair to say that when the majority of people across the planet think of New York City, it’s the borough of Manhattan that they’re picturing in their head. That’s because Manhattan is home to an assortment of
Manhattan, the smallest and most densely populated borough, is the place many visitors picture when they think of New York; it’s where you’ll find attractions like Central Park, Times Square, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Empire State Building, as well as the majority of the city’s famous neighborhoods. Brooklyn is New York City’s most-populous borough; visitors seek it out regularly for its hip neighborhoods, cutting-edge culinary scene, and lively waterfront parks. Queens has some of the most diverse neighborhoods on Earth; recent decades have witnessed it become a destination for foodies and art lovers. The Bronx has a world-class zoo, the New York Botanical Garden, and of course, Yankee Stadium, home of the one-and-only New York Yankees; historic Wave Hill, a 30-acre estate along the Hudson River, is one of the city’s hidden gems. Staten Island, a 25-minute ferry ride across New York Harbor from Manhattan, is the least-explored borough; it’s home to Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden, the National Lighthouse Museum, and thousands of acres of public parks.
Each one of New York City’s five boroughs is comprised of several dozen different neighborhoods, all with their own distinctive traits and characteristics. Most New York visitors spend their time in the city exploring Manhattan and Brooklyn. Popular Manhattan neighborhoods include Chelsea, Midtown, SoHo, and the Upper East Side, just to name a few. In Brooklyn, Park Slope and Williamsburg are perennial favorites.
Popular New York City Neighborhoods
Consistently rated one of New York City’s hippest neighborhoods, Williamsburg is a major destination for nightlife enthusiasts. Visitors to this Brooklyn hotspot won’t be disappointed by the diverse selection of trendy dining establishments and stylish shopping options they encounter here.
The Upper West Side is an affluent residential area of Manhattan located between Central Park and Riverside Park where you’ll find such popular attractions as the American Museum of Natural History, Lincoln Center, the New York Historical Society, and more.
The Upper East Side is one of New York City’s most famous neighborhoods. It’s home to luxurious residences, high-end stores, some of Manhattan’s finest restaurants, and Museum Mile, the stretch of Fifth Avenue where you’ll find the Met, the Guggenheim, Cooper Hewitt, and more.
Home to more than its fair share of celebrities, Tribeca has become one of Manhattan’s most desirable neighborhoods. For visitors, its fashionable streets are lined with buzz-worthy restaurants and trendy stores, while nearby Hudson River Park offers spectacular views.
Simply put, Times Square is one of the most popular attractions found anywhere in the world today. This glamorous intersection makes for an absolutely essential stop on the itinerary of any first-time visitor to New York City.
The fashionable West Village is home to the Whitney Museum of American Art, the southern terminus of the High Line, and historic attractions like the Stonewall Inn and the Village Vanguard. Its main drag, Bleecker Street, has become a chic commercial hub.
One of New York City’s most popular high-end shopping destinations, SoHo is famous for its luxury brands, trendy boutiques, big-name fashion designers, upscale department stores, and cobblestone streets.
DUMBO—a memorable acronym for the awkwardly descriptive phrase Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass—is a Brooklyn neighborhood popular for its independent stores, art galleries, restaurants, waterfront parks, and fantastic views of the Manhattan skyline.
The Financial District is where you’ll find major New York City landmarks like One World Observatory, the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, Wall Street, and The Battery. It’s also where you can catch the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
One of New York’s most distinctive neighborhoods, Manhattan’s Chinatown is home to an electric mix of restaurants, street vendors, food markets, tearooms, and popular museums. It’s a great place to enjoy a meal, pick up an affordable souvenir, and go for a stroll.
Famous for its many art galleries, Chelsea is also notable for popular attractions like the High Line, Chelsea Market, and the Edge at Hudson Yards. Add to the mix its proximity to multiple other prominent neighborhoods, and Chelsea makes for a classic New York City experience.
If New York City is the fashion capital of the world, then it might be said the Garment District is the fashion capital of New York City. This small Midtown Manhattan neighborhood is at the center of New York’s vibrant fashion industry.
Ever since the middle of the twentieth century, Greenwich Village has enjoyed a reputation as a mecca for artists, writers, and musicians. That legacy continues today throughout the neighborhood’s many popular bars, restaurants, nightclubs, performance spaces, and unofficial capital, Washington Square Park.
Hell’s Kitchen is the West Side of Manhattan neighborhood where you’ll find the High Line’s northern entrance, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises departure point, and a diverse and very popular nightlife scene.
Though quite small in terms of its size, the Meatpacking District packs a punch. This glitzy Manhattan neighborhood is where you’ll find the southern entrance to the High Line, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and numerous luxury shopping destinations.
For many visitors, Midtown Manhattan is the very heart and soul of their New York City experience. This iconic neighborhood is home to world-class shopping and dining, as well as such landmark attractions like the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, and the Museum of Modern Art.
Brooklyn’s high-end residential neighborhood Park Slope is home to “New York’s other Fifth Avenue,” while its proximity to Prospect Park makes it a perfect jumping-off point for visits to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the Brooklyn Museum, and Prospect Park Zoo.
Brooklyn Heights is one of New York City’s most historic neighborhoods. Situated along the East River in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Heights has scenic views, shopping, dining, and architectural marvels along every charming block.