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
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.