If you can make it here…
There are millions of opportunities around every corner in the Big Apple to make memories. You’re one great recommendation or one accidental wrong turn from the best meal of your life. There are things to do, places to see and great New York neighborhoods to experience.
But before you do any of that, you have to make one decision first. It could be the most consequential decision of your time in New York: where to live.
The most popular New York neighborhoods
There’s a lot to consider, but don’t worry, we got you. Learn about the most popular areas of the city, and then take our New York neighborhood quiz to see which one is perfect for you.
This miniature metropolis right in the heart of Queens, the city’s largest borough, is perfect for families, dog owners and people who like Greek food, Chinese food, Italian food, Korean food — basically, anything you like in Manhattan, you’ll find in Astoria.
Astoria Park along the East River at the foot of the RFK Bridge is excellent for everything from sunning to running, alone or with your four-legged friend who doesn’t pay rent.
Upper East Side
Some of the greatest museums in the world? Check.
Historic brownstones? Check.
Central Park? Double-check.
The Upper East Side is known for its ritzy buildings, high-end boutiques and being within walking distance of The Met, The Guggenheim and much more. The sights and access to some of New York’s greatest attractions come at a cost, though, with this part of town being one of the most expensive in which to live.
Years after the Harlem Renaissance, this neighborhood is one of the city’s most sought after ZIP Codes. Harlem’s history is palpable from Astor Row to St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church to the iconic Apollo Theater.
At the turn of the last century, only 10 percent of Harlem’s population was Black. A century later, that figure is now up to 77 percent. For decades, Harlem was the epicenter of Black arts and culture in New York, featuring black-owned businesses, restaurants, jazz clubs and high fashion.
The neighborhood continues to grapple with the challenges of gentrification vs community investment. But for independent commerce, a rich history and a sense of community pride, you can’t do better than Harlem.
One of the earliest neighborhoods in New York to make the move to gentrification, the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn is a trendy arts-centered district in the northwest part of New York’s most populous borough.
Originally home to much of the city’s Polish population, the neighborhood’s 78,000 residents has expanded to include Puerto Ricans, Dominicans and Italians. While the low rents were originally a selling point to the artists and musicians who moved here in the early 90s, the development of the area changed all that.
So, if you decide this is where you belong, make sure you bring someone with you who can pick up half the rent.
When you think of New York, what comes to mind?
The Empire State Building? The Chrysler Building? Madison Square Garden?
You’ll find all these landmarks and more in Midtown Manhattan. From Bergdorf’s to Broadway and Central Park to Grand Central Station, this part of the city is one of the most recognizable and one of the most expensive.
While Midtown is quintessential New York, so is the cost of living. Rents here will regularly top an eye-popping three thousand bucks a month. But if you can afford to live here, it’s worth it.
Upper West Side
Nestled between Central Park and the Hudson River, the Upper West Side is where you’ll find Lincoln Center, Columbia University and the Beacon Theater. The neighborhood was settled by Jewish immigrants and is still home to some of the oldest synagogues in the city.
That also means it’s where you find some of the best Jewish food anywhere in the country. If you like smoked fish, cured meats and pickles (and really, who doesn’t) you’ll never go hungry on the Upper West Side.
Lower East Side
Long seen as a working-class neighborhood for close to a century, this neighborhood is home to tens of thousands of immigrants. The best part of living on the Lower East Side is its proximity to Little Italy, China Town, Lower Manhattan and Alphabet City.
Living in a neighborhood like the Lower East Side, DUMBO or Battery Park City could be half the distance, which can save you a ton of time when trying to catch the train uptown.
The Greenwich Village of today is a far cry from the counterculture revolution it inspired in the 1960s. But its community vibe and inclusive nature carried through the decades.
In the tree-lined streets of this lower west side haven, bars, live music and off-Broadway theaters provide the entertainment — even if you won’t run into Mrs. Maisel or Lenny Bruce at one of the local comedy clubs.
Washington Square Park provides the local dose of nature and green space to the proceedings, and the progressive and the across-the-board accepting nature of its residents is seen in the rainbow flags that fly for blocks around.
Drug violence and crime plagued this highest natural point in all of Manhattan for decades. But after a dramatic drop in crime in the last 20 years, gentrification and community investment is only now beginning to take hold.
Locally known as Little Dominican Republic, Washington Heights is almost as far north as you can go on Manhattan Island. Any further and you’ll wind up in the water (right after a brief stop in the equally lovely Inwood section).
Highbridge Park is an expansive green space along the Harlem River, spanning a sliver of the East Side from 155th Street all the way up to 193rd. It’s one of the more affordable neighborhoods in the city, which is perfect if you plan on living solo.
Just on the other side of the Harlem River is The South Bronx. This crowded and bustling section of New York’s northernmost outer borough has a long and complicated history of early immigrant settlement, violence, and dramatic demographic shifts.
More recently, it’s primary notoriety as the birthplace of hip hop and graffiti art are about as synonymous with the borough as the Yankees. Those with a love of local history will love counting Grandmaster Flash, Kerry Washington, Cardi B and Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor among its most famous residents.
Anyone curious about life in the South Bronx would do well to start at the very beginning. Put some DJ Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaataa in heavy rotation and see where the music takes them.
Find the best New York neighborhood for you
Are you still undecided about your New York neighborhood? Just answer a few questions and we’ll tell you!
What’s important to you in a neighborhood?
How do you like to relax?
What’s your life like these days?
What’s important to you in an apartment?
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