From the bright lights of Times Square to Brooklyn’s chic boutiques, New York City is home to many vibrant and eclectic neighborhoods. To explore them and their unique vibes, you can try hop-on hop-off tours, thematic walks, river cruises, or even going at it solo. No matter your method, this guide will help you discover NYC’s top districts.
The East Village
Historically home to punk rockers and artists, the East Village is gentrifying quickly but still maintains an edge. Highlights include the Japanese restaurants on St. Mark’s Place, McSorley’s Old Ale House, and leafy Tompkins Square Park. Vintage shops, boutiques, and cocktails bars abound, so explore the area on foot, day or night.
Right in the middle of Manhattan, aptly named Midtown is home to some of New York’s top attractions, including the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, Grand Central Terminal, and the Museum of Modern Art. The Theater District, in Midtown West, is packed with—you guessed it—theaters large and small as well as television studios. For discount show tickets, stop by the famous TKTS booth, then walk up Broadway to see the lights of Times Square.
Upper East Side
The Upper East Side, adjacent to Central Park, is perhaps best known for its numerous, world-renowned art museums. This Fifth Avenue stretch, known as Museum Mile, includes the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim, the Neue Galerie, and El Museo del Barrio—the only New York museum dedicated to showcasing Latino artwork.
This vibrant, historically African-American neighborhood has transformed in recent years, but stays true to its Harlem Renaissance heritage. Numerous bars and restaurants offer stellar menus and live music, including the iconic Apollo Theater. For New York’s favorite soul food, stop by Sylvia’s, and visit the celebrated Studio Museum to experience Harlem’s art scene.
Chinatown and Little Italy
Chinatown and Little Italy are a living testament to New York City’s immigrant past. Strolling down Mulberry Street, Little Italy’s main drag, you’ll find classic red-sauce Italian restaurants, pizzerias, and gelato vendors. Crossing Canal Street into Chinatown, you’ll uncover narrow, bustling streets brimming with ethnic shops, food vendors, and small markets. For the best dim sum in the city, pop into one of the restaurants on winding Doyers Street.
This waterfront Brooklyn neighborhood is the epitome of cool. Williamsburg’s epicenter, Bedford Avenue, really comes to life on the weekends. Here and around the ’hood, you’ll find hipster clothing boutiques, trendy restaurants, and music venues. On Williamsburg’s north side, Brooklyn Brewery offers locally brewed craft beer, and McCarren Park is a great place to relax.