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15 Must-See New York City Neighborhoods and How To Visit

Get to know the best of New York City by visiting these unique neighborhoods.

A view of iconic New York buildings and the Brooklyn Bridge.
Hi, I'm Jessica!

Jessica Colley Clarke is a freelance writer and curious traveler based in New York City. Her stories have appeared in AFAR magazine, BBC Travel, The Daily Beast, and the New York Times, among other publications.

From the Broadway theaters of Midtown to the diverse restaurants of Brooklyn, New York City is home to many vibrant and diverse neighborhoods. To explore them and get to know their unique personalities, you can choose between thematic walks, hop-on hop-off tours, bike tours, river cruises, or simply wandering at your own pace.

No matter your method, this guide will help you discover New York City's best neighborhoods and what to do in each spot.

1. The West Village

The West Village and its famous brownstones.
You'll feel like you're in a movie in this part of town.Photo Credit: Matej Kastelic / Shutterstock

For brownstone-lined streets, dining, and drinking.

Go off the grid in the West Village , one of Manhattan’s most charming neighborhoods. Home to brownstone-lined blocks, tiny wine bars, and bustling gathering spaces such as Washington Square Park, these streets have their own unique vibe.

Highlights include the beloved Three Lives & Co. bookstore, an intimate jazz club called the Village Vanguard, and sidewalk café/bars including Bar Pisellino. It’s also an access point for the popular High Line Park.

2. Midtown Manhattan

A view of skyscrapers and sky in Midtown Manhattan.
It's a concrete jungle.Photo Credit: STUDIO BONOBO / Shutterstock

For museums and top attractions.

Many of New York’s top attractions are packed into Midtown, including the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, the New York Public Library, and Bryant Park.

In addition to being the home of Broadway theaters and top art museums like the Museum of Modern Art, Midtown also offers two recent observation decks to check out Manhattan from above: Edge at Hudson Yards and Summit One Vanderbilt.

3. Upper East and Upper West Side

Fall in Central Park in New York City on the water.
Fall in Central Park in New York City.Photo Credit: Francois Roux / Shutterstock

For museums and Central Park proximity.

North of 59th Street in Manhattan, Central Park splits the city grid into two neighborhoods: the Upper East and Upper West Sides. Ride the subway uptown to check out the American Museum of Natural History, the New York Historical Society, or the Children’s Museum of Manhattan on the Upper West Side.

Or, across town on the Upper East Side, visit Museum Mile to explore the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim, and El Museo del Barrio—the only New York museum dedicated to showcasing Latinx artwork.

4. Harlem

A bridge in Harlem.
Harlem's great for food, bars, and more.Photo Credit: R.M. Nunes / Shutterstock

For African-American culture and delicious eats.

Located just north of Central Park, Harlem is a vibrant, historically African-American neighbourhood with stellar restaurants.

Known for live music at venues such as Minton’s, diverse shows at the iconic Apollo Theater, and art exhibitions at The Africa Center, Harlem also draws visitors with its restaurant scene, featuring soul food to seafood to Senegalese spots.

5. Lower East Side

The Tenement Museum in the Lower East Side.
The Tenement Museum in the Lower East Side.Photo Credit: DW labs Incorporated / Shutterstock

For some of Manhattan’s best food.

In addition to historic landmarks like the Tenement Museum and rooftop bars such as Mr. Purple, the Lower East Side attracts food lovers to this corner of southeastern Manhattan with its rich diversity of restaurants.

Get a taste of the neighborhood’s Jewish history at Russ & Daughters Café, sample Malaysian fare at Kopitiam, or explore the boundaries of American fine dining at Contra.

6. East Village

Pedestrians cross an avenue in East Village.
The East Village is a top spot for a good night out.Photo Credit: Ryan DeBerardinis / Shutterstock

For people watching, shopping, and dining.

Once the home of artists and musicians, the East Village has experienced significant gentrification but is still a favorite for New Yorkers seeking a night out.

Highlights include the Japanese restaurants along St. Mark’s Place, leafy Tompkins Square Park, and dive bars that keep the neighborhood’s edge alive. Day or night, it’s a fun area to hop between vintage shops, boutiques, and cocktail bars.

7. Williamsburg, Brooklyn

A vibrant street by the bridge in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Williamsburg is one of the hippest places in the city.Photo Credit: Ryan DeBerardinis / Shutterstock

For waterfront views, hip cafés, and rooftop bars.

A popular entry point to the diverse borough of Brooklyn, Williamsburg is an easy subway ride away from Manhattan. Home to the Brooklyn Brewery (which offers tours) and Brooklyn Bowl (a modern bowling alley with live music), the neighborhood is known for its upbeat atmosphere.

Several hotels, such as the Wythe Hotel, offer views of the Manhattan skyline, which is especially gorgeous around sunset.

Related: Where to Find the Best Views in New York City

8. Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn

A park bench looks over the water in Brooklyn Heights.
When you're in Brooklyn Heights, hit up the promenade.Photo Credit: Maria_Usp / Shutterstock

For a stroll on the promenade and brownstone-peeping.

Visitors who love to explore New York City on foot may want to stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge and into Brooklyn Heights

The Brooklyn Heights Promenade is one of the city’s most scenic pedestrian walkways, with sweeping views of downtown Manhattan, the East River, and the Brooklyn Bridge. The neighborhood itself is lined with charming brownstones, inviting cafes, and the beloved bookstore Books are Magic.

9. Park Slope, Brooklyn

Park Slope, Brooklyn in springtime when the trees outside the brownstones are in bloom.
Springtime in Park Slope, Brooklyn.Photo Credit: Jon Bilous / Shutterstock

For tree-lined streets and Prospect Park access.

Park Slope is flanked by Prospect Park, a massive park that’s popular for picnics and summertime concerts. Visitors seeking a glimpse into residential New York City life can stroll the tree-lined streets of Park Slope, home to independent boutiques, laid-back bars, and historic brownstones.

People-watching over a coffee and then catching a movie at Nitehawk Cinema is a great introduction to Park Slope life.

10. Boerum Hill, Brooklyn

People inside a subway train in New York City.
Take the subway to Boerum Hill for unique boutiques.Photo Credit: pio3 / Shutterstock

For a village vibe, with easy subway access.

Walking around midtown Manhattan might make you think that New York City doesn’t have a village vibe, but Boerum Hill provides just that. An easy subway ride from Manhattan, Boerum Hill is another tree-lined Brooklyn neighborhood with pretty brownstones and unique boutiques.

This is a great place to rub elbows with locals over a leisurely sidewalk brunch or check out an exhibition at a small gallery.

11. Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn

Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn is known for its elegant homes.
Elegant Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.Photo Credit: James Andrews1 / Shutterstock

For Italian-American eats and a laid-back atmosphere.

Look around the leafy neighborhood of Carroll Gardens, and you’ll see the Italian-American roots in its cafes, pastry shops, and restaurants. Food lovers may want to join the lines of people waiting to sample the legendary pizza at Lucali, while others may be happy just strolling the quiet streets, admiring views of brownstones, doing some vintage shopping, and popping into cafes with sunny back gardens.

Grab a Citibike and cycle through the neighborhood to cover more ground quickly.

12. Astoria, Queens

A park in autumn in Astoria full of picknickers.
Every season's a good season in Astoria.Photo Credit: James Andrews1 / Shutterstock

For Greek food, an epic beer garden, and museums.

Some visitors come to New York City and never venture beyond Manhattan and Brooklyn.

That’s a shame, as the other boroughs have so much to offer. Ride the subway to Astoria in Queens to visit the Museum of the Moving Image (with exhibitions on film and TV), sip a beer at the open-air Bohemian Beer Garden, or feast on Greek food at a traditional taverna.

13. Long Island City, Queens

Long Island's bright lights in the evening in Queens.
The bright lights of Long Island.Photo Credit: Jon Bilous / Shutterstock

For epic Manhattan views and museums worth the subway ride.

Brooklyn isn’t the only borough with outstanding views of the Manhattan skyline. Long Island City, a redeveloped area flanking the East River in Queens, offers some of the best views around.

Beyond views, visitors come to LIC for two reasons: food and art. Art lovers will be drawn to MoMA PS1 and the Noguchi Museum, while hungry travelers will make the journey from Manhattan to sample John Brown BBQ, cocktails at Dutch Kills, and Mexican food at Casa Enrique.

14. Flushing, Queens

Flushing Chinatown shops.
Flushing in Queens is home to the biggest Chinatown in, well, town.Photo Credit: James Andrews1 / Shutterstock

For New York City’s largest Chinatown.

Yes, Manhattan is home to a Chinatown, but the largest Chinatown in New York City is actually in Flushing, Queens.

A variety of cultures are represented in the restaurants here, including Taiwanese, Korean, Indian, and more. This is a great neighborhood for designing your own food crawl or signing up for a food tour led by a local guide.

15. The Bronx

Beneath a bridge in the Bronx.
The Bronx is a diverse neighborhood.Photo Credit: Kristi Blokhin / Shutterstock

For baseball, parks, and diverse eats.

The Bronx is a borough and not a neighborhood, but no list of the best of New York City areas would be complete without including it.

This large borough mostly attracts visitors for its big landmarks, including Yankee Stadium, the Bronx Zoo, and its Botanic Garden, but it has much more to offer, such as the public garden at Wave Hill, Little Italy along Arthur Avenue, Van Cortlandt Park, and more.

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