Battery Park, the green space at the lower tip of Manhattan, this residential neighborhood features soaring apartment towers and plenty of recreational space. Though often associated with the Financial District, this unique oasis lies beyond that neighborhood's busy pace and the buzz of the nearby highway. Instead, Battery Park’s residents enjoy comfortably-sized apartments housed in buildings that often feature doormen, elevators, outdoor space and parking, among other enticing amenities. You can shop in Brookfield Place, an upscale mall that includes a food court with offerings from some of the City’s top chefs, and take in picturesque waterfront views while strolling through Hudson River Park.
Chelsea is Manhattan’s art district. You can spend days here wandering galleries that show work from established and emerging artists. The High Line—a park built on an abandoned elevated railroad track—is a work of art in its own right, as are some of the area’s fashionable shops. After feasting your eyes, go restaurant hopping, or visit Chelsea Market, which offers excellent eateries. Then head out to the neighborhood’s famous nightclubs and buzzing bars or watch future Saturday Night Live stars perform at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.
Home to a dense population of Asian immigrants, Manhattan’s Chinatown is one of NYC's most evocative neighborhoods. Walking its busy, narrow streets reveals surprise after surprise: Chatham Square’s statue of Lin Zexu, a Qing dynasty official who led the fight against Britain’s illegal importation of opium; the odd pagoda-style roof and Buddhist temple; and atmospheric Doyers Street, with its basement bars and a speakeasy among them. Come hungry and work your way through the many dim sum palaces, dumpling dens and inexpensive noodle joints.
The East Village, birthplace of American punk rock, has changed, but it remains a neighborhood of lovable misfits. Over the years Beat poets, bohemian artists and avant-garde filmmakers have all made their homes here, celebrating the area in stories, on canvas and on screen. You can find an authentic restaurant sitting on every block of the East Village - from Polish diners to Japanese Izakaya, to an entire street of brightly-lit Indian eateries.
During the day, the Financial District can be chaotic with an influx of office workers and tourists attracted to the many historical sites, museums and phenomenal views the neighborhood offers. After the workday crowds clear, the neighborhood becomes quiet and calm. Nightlife is confined to a few small areas, as most residents return to their amenity-rich buildings and rooftop patios. Financial District, home to the largest financial institutions in the world and reasonably-priced, full-served high-rise apartments. Walking around today, it's hard to believe this was once the cradle of New York City, but ever so often you'll get a glimpse. As you move towards the "foot" of the island where you can find signs that depict former locations of structures from the early 1600s, or weave between its cozy streets, one can clearly imagine what once was. Much revitalization of former government buildings, financial institutions and older housing constructions is breathing new life into Financial district as the residential population of the area remains on the rise. This is expected to continue with the refurbishment of the highly-utilized subway hub at Fulton Street.
Commonly known as Chelsea's cousin to the East, Flatiron was named for the historic triangle-shaped building that splits Broadway and Fifth Avenue at 23rd Street, and stretches to the south. Flatiron is a historic New York City neighborhood that has seen its fair share of change over the years. In the early 1900s, it was a major commercial and residential center. By the middle of the century, things stagnated as businesses and residents left in search of more space and lower rents. In recent years, businesses, upscale restaurants and new developments moved back in and the neighborhood is seeing a big resurgence.
Soho has some of the best people-watching in Manhattan as it is a mecca for the trendy, sophisticated downtown elite. The north-south running side streets are often sites of fashion shoots as well as home to upscale, European boutiques. The east-west running streets are busier and always clogged with vendors selling everything from iPhone cases to incense. One you hit Broadway, you could be in just about any mall in America with retail chains, tourists, teenagers and disgruntled New Yorkers dominating the avenue. The energy in Soho is fast-paced and all hustle and bustle; it is a quintessentially vibrant New York neighborhood, but certainly not for the faint-of-heart or those looking for some peace and quiet.
Defined largely by its warehouse spaces turned into lofts, and polished high rises with a mix of asphalt and cobblestone streets, TriBeCa is the quiet calm nestled between the bustle of Chinatown and the Financial District. Tribeca is a truly gorgeous neighborhood that mixes glorious old cast-iron loft buildings, wide cobblestone streets and dramatic new construction. Thirty years ago, these lofts housed artists and squatters but in the last fifteen years the bohemians have been slowly priced out and now the neighborhood is one of the most expensive places to live in the city. Despite the changes, Tribeca but maintains the sophisticated and creative vibe it acquired as an artist’s mecca in the 1970s. The nightlife in Tribeca is busy but refined, attracting a cosmopolitan crowd who have a well-curated appreciation for the finer things in life.
In the early 20th century, Gramercy Park was synonymous with luxury. Some of the most prominent New Yorkers (including the Roosevelts) lived in grand houses along the neighborhood's eponymous park. Today, Gramercy Park is a brief respite from the hustle and bustle of Downtown Manhattan. It still, however, retains an old-world vibe. It's not uncommon to see residents tottering down Irving Place dressed in tweed and loafers. This quiet commercial stretch offers a mix of local shops, corner pubs and classic red sauce joints. As you head further east, the avenues get busier and more generic. Gramercy's side streets are lined with walk-ups and large apartment buildings and are more laid-back than the blocks surrounding the actual park, attracting well-heeled, young professionals looking for a quintessentially nice New York City neighborhood.
Greenwich Village perfectly combines a bit of the East Village’s glorified grunge with a bit of the West Village’s tony charm. The birthplace of the beatnik movement and home to NYU, the neighborhood offers something for all its eclectic residents. You’ll find new restaurants, indie movie theaters and comedy clubs around the corner from quiet blocks full of big brownstones and well-kept window boxes. Whether it’s a 24-hour falafel joint, a dark downstairs bar, or upscale furniture shops, the neighborhood appeals to anyone who relishes the culture, history and activity of the city.
Lower East Side
The narrow streets of the Lower East Side were once lined with tenement buildings, shirt factories and bialy shops. Although a few vestiges of the neighborhood's immigrant heritage remain, many of the tenement buildings have been updated and now offer relatively affordable rental options to young New Yorkers looking to live right in the thick of Downtown Manhattan. There's no getting around it - the LES is a major nightlife destination. In this part of the city, last call is late and often negotiable -- especially if you're a regular. On weekend nights, the neighborhood is packed as crowds overflow from the local bars and take to the streets in search of a late-night falafel fix before heading onto the next party. During the day, the neighborhood chills out as residents nurse their hangovers or head to work slowly after stopping at one of the area's many trendy juice bars or coffee shops.
Murray Hill has a lively energy most hours of the day and night. In the morning, the streets are filled with young professionals looking polished in their Brooks Brothers suits as they head to work. Come evening, you'll see the crowds returning home decked out in gym clothes and schlepping bags of take-out dinner and Trader Joe's. It can seem at times like every resident is a recent grad -- especially on 3rd Avenue where there's always a big game airing at one of the many sports bars along the strip. Even so, the neighborhood has a down-to-earth, casual vibe. It's true most of Murray Hill's residents are new-to-the city renters who come and go, but the place eschews intransigence and maintains a familiar, college-town feel.
Upper East Side
The Upper East Side has a reputation as a stuffy, posh neighborhood popular with elderly New Yorkers and there is certainly truth in that statement. Park Avenue to 5th Avenue remains the domain of little old ladies draped in Chanel, uniformed doormen police the sidewalks and there’s no nightlife to speak of. Museum Mile is always crawling with tourists and street artists, although thankfully the wide sidewalks and sprawling park do much to alleviate the congestion. Head further east to 2nd Avenue to find sports bars and Irish pubs galore, as well as the beginnings of a trendy renaissance. 86th Street and the Avenues remain major hubs of commercial activity, but side streets in the Upper East Side are generally quiet save for children playing.
Upper West Side
Sandwiched between two beautiful parks, the Upper West Side is one of the greenest spots in Manhattan. For that reason, as well its great elementary schools, safe streets and plethora of playgrounds, it is a favorite with families. The Upper West Side is relaxed, but never dull. There are plenty of low-key bars and restaurants to frequent along Amsterdam Avenue, and Broadway is an always-bustling commercial center. The wide, tree-lined streets of the Upper West Side still boast many mom-and-pop stores and some of the best Jewish delis in the city. Less posh than the Upper East Side, it is more easily accessible by public transportation, and real estate prices are just as, if not more, expensive. The area's architecture is legendary, with storied names like Dakota, Ansonia, Apthorp, Manhasset and Astor Court. A host of early 20th Century behemoths line Riverside Boulevard and Drive, caressing Riverside Park; plus the area's also home to the renowned Museum of Natural History.
Picture a romantic comedy set in New York City: The heroine invariably will live in a cozy walk-up on a cobblestone street in a neighborhood with cute boutiques and trendy cafes on every corner. This movie is set in the West Village. The West Village is just as picturesque. The neighborhood is tucked between Greenwich Village and the Hudson River and is one of the quietest and most sophisticated pockets of Downtown Manhattan. Primarily residential with a distinct lack of office buildings, the leafy, off-the-grid streets are peaceful during the day, but get livelier at night. That's when well-heeled residents, fashionistas and literati can all be found mingling over oysters at the area's many low-lit cocktail bars.
Midtown East, which spans from 42nd Street north to 59th, and East of Fifth Avenue to the East River, melds vibrant business/commerce with exquisite classic architecture. The area houses some of New York’s most iconic landmarks like Grand Central Terminal, one of the largest and most stunning train stations in the world, the United Nations headquarters, and the gorgeous Chrysler Building; plus it's home to renowned department stores including Lord & Taylor, Bergdorf Goodman and the original Saks Fifth Avenue.
When most people think of New York City, they envision the bright lights, tall buildings and bustling crowds of Times Square and the Theater District. Midtown West, which spreads from 30th Street to 59th Street on the west side of Fifth Avenue over to the Hudson River, offers these and many more of Manhattan’s most frequented sites, as well as places of business and every kind of enticement from the performing to culinary arts.
Harlem has long been synonymous with black culture. In the early 20th century the neighborhood was the setting for African-American-led movements in music, literature, dance and art—collectively known as the Harlem Renaissance—that featured innovators like Bessie Smith, Langston Hughes and Josephine Baker. That legacy is still evident today, especially along the area’s main thoroughfare, 125th Street, which is anchored by the Apollo Theater. Other highlights include art at the Studio Museum in Harlem, and stalwart restaurants like Sylvia’s and Amy Ruth’s (which serve soul food par excellence), as well as newer entries like Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster.
Northern Manhattan is the home of one of the City’s most fascinating attractions: the Met Cloisters, which houses medieval art. Its tapestries, stained glass and lush gardens make for an experience you won’t soon forget. Awe-inspiring Hudson River vistas are an alluring bonus. The neighborhood doesn’t hurt for nightlife or dining, either. You’ll find a wealth of mom-and-pop operations serving Latin cuisine and drinks—“The Heights” are home to a large, thriving population of immigrants from the Dominican Republic.
DUMBO’s name is an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, and the span gives the creatively oriented neighborhood much of its character—as do cobblestone streets and dramatic architecture left over from its industrial days. Instead of factories, today’s DUMBO features art galleries, independent bookshops, boutiques, confectionaries and co-working spaces where startups thrive. Visitors often explore here after a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge, settling in for stunning Manhattan views at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Kids will enjoy a ride on the vintage carousel near the water, and adults should catch boundary-pushing theater at St. Ann’s Warehouse.
Though it’s become more refined in recent years, Williamsburg still has a hipster vibe—as evidenced by indie music performances, gallery shows and shops run by local artisans. Distilleries and wineries show off the neighborhood’s flair for locally made spirits, while Smorgasburg packs in creative food vendors along the riverfront on summer Saturdays. Williamsburg is one of the City’s most exciting nightlife neighborhoods too, with many of NYC’s trendiest restaurants and clubs.
Prospect Heights is Brooklyn's answer to Manhattan’s Museum Mile—this burgeoning neighborhood boasts the Brooklyn Museum, the Botanic Gardens, and the enormous central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. Known as Park Slope's pretension-less neighbor, Prospect Heights casually matches its counterpart when it comes to entertaining. The neighborhood is home to myriad restaurants, bars, cafes, and boutiques that evince a distinctly “come as you are” Brooklyn vibe.
If Williamsburg is the face of the “new” hipster Brooklyn, Park Slope is the leading light of the borough’s classic incarnation—the brownstone-filled, tree-lined version. The neighborhood's residents give it a literary, socially conscious, family-friendly feel. Visitors will enjoy its independent book and record stores, coffee shops and thriving restaurant scene. And the proximity to Prospect Park (the leafy attraction at the top of the slope) doesn’t hurt either.