DISCLAIMER: There is massive (yes, really) debate about what constitutes an actual Manhattan neighborhood (i.e.- Does NoLita really count? What about NoHo?) and where they begin and end. This is a rough estimate, as you travel around you may completely disagree with this guide. Once you form your very strong-for-absolutely-no-reason opinion on what the neighborhoods are and where they are, check that off your “things to do before being an official New Yorker” list.
Upper West Side
Upper East Side
Union Square/Greenwich Village
East Village/Lower East Side
AKA Morningside Heights, Harlem, Washington Heights, and Inwood. Typically seen as running from 96th street and up on the East Side, and 110th Street on up on the West Side. Morningside Heights (it’s rumored that Columbia University invented this area so the Iivy Leaguers don’t have to say they go to school in Harlem) is generally thought to run from 110th street to 125th street on the West Side. Harlem on the West Side would then stretch from 125th until about 145-150th (or further, this is where it gets messy. The “official” Washington Heights subway stop is 168th street, but many will tell you that you are no longer in Harlem at around 160th street). Washington Heights then goes from about 145-150th up until around 180th street, where Inwood arguably begins. Got all that?
Upper Manhattan is generally seen as “off limits” by a lot of New NYers, because they hear horror stories of all the crime and terrible things happening. False. Although it’s never a good idea to wander around by yourself at night (here or anywhere in the city, or the world, for that matter) when there’s no one around, it’s not like you’ve stepped out of a scene of Gangs of New York. If you need a reason for it to be off limits, there’s not a whole lot up there in general. It’s pretty residential, and with the exception of a few good restaurants (and they do exist), it’s deserted compared to some other NY neighborhoods.
Reasons to Visit: The Cloister Museum, Red Rooster Restaurant, beautiful churches, Hamilton Heights Historic District
Reasons to Live Here: Rents are cheaper, apartments are bigger, less crowded and more residential than other neighborhoods
Reasons Not to Live Here: Trains are less reliable and tend to be less convenient, fewer restaurants/stores/etc., further from Midtown and other parts of Manhattan you may need to travel to frequently
Upper West Side
Made famous by You’ve Got Mail, it’s known for Central Park West, Zabar’s, and the Natural History Museum. It runs from 59th street (this is one neighborhood boundary that is generally not debatable), where Central Park starts, and goes up to either 96th street or 110th street depending on who you ask (For argument’s sake, we will say 110th). It runs from Central Park West to Riverside from east to west. It’s residential, and very family oriented. There are great restaurants all up and down Columbus, Amsterdam, and Broadway, as well as shopping. It’s thought of as one of the two traditionally residential sections of Manhattan (The Upper East being the other), but considered arguably the more affordable of the two.
Reasons to Visit: Natural History Museum, Central Park, Zabar’s, Riverside Park, the new Lincoln Center
Reasons to Live Here: Residential but still with tons of restaurants/stores, subways run along two avenues (1 train on Broadway, B/C on Central Park West), close to both Central Park and Riverside Park
Reasons Not to Live Here: Rents can be expensive, some buildings are older, family environment, smaller apartments for the price.
Upper East Side
The upscale, Madison Avenue, fancy 5th avenue apartment neighborhood. Well, mostly. The Upper East Side runs from 59th street to 96th street and from 5th avenue to 1st Avenue, York Ave, or East End Avenue depending on where you are. From 5th Avenue to Lexington Ave, you get the stereotypical Upper East Side vibe. Upscale stores and restaurants with apartments you can only dream about affording. From 3rd to 1st/York/East End (well, maybe not East End, but we’ll get to that in a second), you get a different feel. Cheaper for the size apartments, and streets lined with more affordable restaurants and college/post-college bars. East End avenue, which runs from 79th through 86th street, is the exception to this rule. Only apartments are found on this street, and it tends to be more expensive (probably because of the amazing river views).
Reasons to Visit: Museum Mile, the other side of Central Park, Madison Avenue shops, good restaurants (especially those east of Lex which are also affordable)
Reasons to Live Here: Super clean streets, residential but with lots of restaurants/stores, cheaper for the size apartments (east of Lexington), close to 2nd avenue bars, out of town friends may be impressed when you say you live on the Upper East Side
Reasons Not to Live Here: The more affordable apartments are east of Lexington, and the further east you go, the further the train is. The walk from York to Lexington to get the 6 train sucks if you do it every day (regardless of what anyone says). Stores and restaurants tend to be more expensive, 2nd avenue subway construction currently going on.
Generally thought of as an area for business (which it is), most of the neighborhood caters to the 9-5 weekday crowd. It runs from 59th street down to 33rd street (again, arguable) from 5th avenue to 1st avenue (or Sutton Place, depending on where you are). Apartments are generally more new and “upscale” than their uptown counterparts. Lots of good (and often cheap) restaurants and bars surround the area. It can get pretty quiet on the weekends or other holidays, though.
Reasons to Visit: Good and affordable restaurants, nearby bars, if you have never seen Grand Central Terminal or the UN, and you want to. MOMA also falls into this neighborhood, and it’s pretty awesome.
Reasons to Live Here: Closer to more trains than the Upper East Side, but can still be a far trek if you’re on the far east end, newer buildings, the eastern end has a neighborhood feel in the middle of Midtown (convenience and quiet, best of both worlds), close to businesses and other Midtown things without being in the middle of the tourist trap
Reasons Not to Live Here: Again, the commute to the subway can suck, can be pretty quiet during off-peak hours, newer buildings can be more expensive.
If you ever visited New York prior to becoming a resident, chances are, this is where you went. The unofficial tourist capital of Manhattan, Midtown West includes the Theater District, Times Square, and Penn Station area. It is generally overcrowded, but it is also convenient to everything. Midtown West goes from 6th Avenue (Avenue of the Americas) to 12th Avenue and from 30-34th street up to 59th street. From 6th-8th avenue, it is tourist/crowd central. From 9th-10th avenue, however, residents tend to take over and the crowds lessen, and restaurants and stores become more affordable (and better).
Reasons to Visit: If you need to check any tourist traps off your bucket list, good restaurants/bars along 9th and 10th avenue, if you have tickets to a Broadway show
Reasons to Live Here: It is literally close to everything. You can be at every major subway line within minutes (assuming you don’t live on 11th avenue), lots of restaurants and stores around, it is always buzzing with people (reducing the risk that you will come home at 3am, fall down, and no one will find you), apartments can be cheaper than the UWS or UES
Reasons Not to Live Here: TOURISTS EVERYWHERE 24/7, Potentially having to walk through Times Square to get to work, or anywhere else for that matter, buildings can be older with more maintenance issues, if you live west of 9th or 10th avenue the walk to the closest subway can be worse than the Upper East Side.
Midtown West’s neighbor to the south, and in the case of Flatiron, slightly to the east. Chelsea (arguably) runs from 30th street down to 14th between 6th and 12th ave. Flatiron would be right in the middle in the 20’s around Broadway/5th/Madison. This area can be considered “the local’s midtown” with a bunch of good restaurants, bars, and stores. It is almost always a busy area, but usually more New Yorkers than tourists, so it can be less annoying to walk around than in Midtown.
Reasons to Visit: Chelsea Piers (it’s worth seeing, even if it is absurdly expensive. Good views), Highline, FIT Museum (it’s free!), Chelsea Market, Madison Square Park (just don’t eat at that Shake Shack, the lines are way too long)
Reasons to Live Here: Close to everything you could possibly want without being overrun by tourists, close to major subway lines (on Broadway, 6th, 7th, and 8th)
Reasons Not to Live Here: Apartments can be expensive due to the high demand of the area, apartments can be on the small side, it is a busy area so depending on the block it may not have a very residential feel.
Midtown East’s neighbor to the south, Murray Hill (also known as Curry Hill, I will let you guess what type of food is super prevalent here). It runs from about 33rd street to around the Union Square area from Park Ave. to the FDR. It has a combined feel of both Chelsea and the Upper East Side, east of Lexington. Young professionals, lots of college/post-college bars, and good restaurants.
Reasons to Visit: If you like Indian food or cheap, fun bars.
Reasons to Live Here: Good combination of residential/city feel. Less going on generally than Chelsea, but still close to lots of restaurants, bars, and stores.
Reasons Not to Live Here: If you are over 30. Apartments can be expensive (due to high demand of the area for 20 something’s and newer buildings), can be far from the train depending on where you are (only line on the east side is the 6).
Union Square/Greenwich Village
Pronounced gren-itch, not green-witch, it is the soon to be the NYU controlled neighborhood. It gives a college town type feel in the middle of Manhattan. There are newer, more modern buildings popping up also, and it is a super convenient area to live in. A bunch of restaurants, stores, bars, and everything else surrounds the area, and due to it being further downtown, the avenues are closer together making it easier to get around. In the Village around Washington Square Park, you will see some of the most beautiful brownstones and older homes. Probably not somewhere you could afford to live, but still nice to look at.
Reasons to Visit: Union Square Greenmarket, Washington Square Park, lots of unique stores, beautiful real estate
Reasons to Live Here: Beautiful neighborhood, close to pretty much every train line you could think of, lots of restaurants/bars/stores
Reasons Not to Live Here: Apartments are expensive and it is a college area since NYU’s presence is definitely felt.
The trendy western neighbor of The Village, some people think that this isn’t even a separate neighborhood. I separate it because the closer you get to the river, it’s a very different feel. Closer to the NYU campus, you get great restaurants and stores. It’s a good mix of the NYU-Chelsea feel. Further west, it becomes more upscale stores and super expensive townhouses. One of the best NYC neighborhoods, hands down. Also close to the big NYC clubs, which can be a plus for some, and also includes the Meatpacking District.
Reasons to Visit: Great restaurants and shops, Hudson River Park, great neighborhood feel for walking around, the cobblestone streets around 14th street and 9th ave.
Reasons to Live Here: Infinite. Restaurants, shops, but also residential. It has a great “old New York” feel, and is super close to Hudson River Park which is one of the most amazing places in the city.
Reasons Not to Live Here: EXPENSIVE. That’s all I got.
East Village/Lower East Side
Another NYU-centric area (East Village), but with more of an edgy feel. It is historically was home to working class immigrants, but this is also where punk rock, bohemia, and grunge lived (still do?) in the city. Here you will find every kind of bar imaginable, and the trendy “run down” feel as if you’ve stepped right out of RENT. Alphabet City is thought to be the sub-neighborhood in this area, which includes Tompkins Square Park.
Reasons to Visit: Landmark clubs (CBGB/The Bowery), thrift store heaven, cheap restaurants, St. Mark’s Place, Tompkins Square Park, lots of bars
Reasons to Live Here: If you love the artsy-vibe, and don’t mind the small apartments. Everything down here is generally cheaper. If you love living near more bars than you could count.
Reasons Not to Live Here: The stereotypical NYC apartments where you go to look at it and you see holes in the floor and you must shower over the toilet are in this area. Rents can be expensive since it is becoming a pretty popular place to live. It can also be far from the subway.
SoHo = South of Houston (not pronounced like the city in Texas, don’t forget), which means this neighborhood starts south of Houston Street (New York is so logical), and includes things North of Canal Street. SoHo used to be home to starving artists, but now is home to celebrities in lofts and upscale stores. Broadway around Prince St. is shopper’s heaven, especially in the summer when you can shop inside AND outside. When the starving artists fled, they went to Tribeca (Triangle Beneath Canal Street), but now celebrities with lofts also live here. Tribeca is now home to some of the best restaurants in the city, and great nightlife spots.
Reasons to Visit: Shopping, art galleries, amazing restaurants
Reasons to Live Here: Why would you not want to be close to the things listed above? Very high chance of celebrity sightings, close to trains, also close to other neighborhoods since it’s right in the middle of the city.
Reasons Not to Live Here: Tribeca was recently named the most expensive zip code in the city so chances are you cannot afford rent, can be a tourist-y area, people out late/making noise due to all the places there are to go out around here.
These are grouped together since Chinatown has basically taken over Little Italy. Home to the best Chinese and Vietnamese food in the city. The Italian food in Little Italy, however, is hit or miss depending on where you go. Little outside vendors line the streets, as well as random delicious snacks. The marker of this area is generally Canal Street, and it fits right in between SoHo and Tribeca.
Reasons to Visit: Amazing Chinese food (Peking duck and soup dumplings), amazing Vietnamese food (Pho!), Italian feel of Mulberry Street, San Gennaro Festival
Reasons to Live Here: Close to trains, cheaper rents
Reasons Not to Live Here: Because it is a busy, tourist-y, mess. Because you may not speak Chinese.
Affectionately called FiDi, when people think of New Yorkers going to work, this is usually where they are. It is the southern most part of Manhattan and is home to the major headquarters of most businesses and financial institutions. It is generally thought to start at City Hall and include all areas south. The heart of the financial district is considered to be the corner of Wall and Broad Street.
Reasons to Visit: South Street Seaport (you have to go at least once), Battery Park, Century 21, WTC Memorial, Canyon of Heroes (only when one of our teams win!), Brooklyn Bridge
Reasons to Live Here: Close to trains, your apartment can have amazing river/bridge views, rents can be cheaper
Reasons Not to Live Here: Since it is mostly an industrial area, a lot of things are only open during general business hours. However, it is a growing area as far as full time residents.