New York is a cosmopolitan city with a unique atmosphere. It is divided into five boroughs (or "Boroughs"): Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Queens, Bronx and Staten Island. If this is your first time in the city, we explain its geography and some places of interest so you can get to know it better before your trip.
1. Boroughs of New York
New York City is made up of five boroughs (or districts): Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx and Staten Island and these in turn are divided into neighborhoods.
The easiest and most convenient way to tour the highlights of these Boroughs are the Contrasts tour and the tour of Upper and Lower Manhattan. Both are guided tours in which a specialized guide will tell you the details and anecdotes of each corner. Another easy way to get around the city is the sightseeing bus tour.
Manhattan is New York's most visited borough and an icon. It is so popular that many foreigners associate this borough with the city itself and believe it to be the same thing since most of New York's tourist attractions are concentrated here.
Paradoxically, it is the smallest and most populous borough in New York and is home to the largest commercial, cultural and financial centers in the world. With an area of 59.1 square kilometers, the island of Manhattan is immense and is divided into different neighborhoods. Let's go through them from south to north, from Downtown to Uptown, passing through Midtown.
Financial District and Civic Center
I recommend visiting this area during the week. During the weekend the financial district is an almost deserted place, but from Monday to Friday there is a lot of movement and the movement of people through the streets of this neighborhood is constant, since this is where Wall Street, the Federal Reserve, the New York Stock Exchange and some of the most powerful financial institutions in the world are located.
On the west side is the renovated World Trade Center with the 9/11 Memorial, a space for the remembrance of the September 11 attacks. You can also take advantage of being there to go up to the viewpoint of the One World Observatory.
Chinatown, Little Italy and Nolita
Chinatown is one of the most popular neighborhoods in Manhattan and a shopping paradise for tourists and New Yorkers, because its stores sell all kinds of products at very cheap prices. Here you will also have the opportunity to visit the Chinese Museum in America, the Mahayana Buddhist temple or Columbus Park. Here I explain everything you can do in Chinatown.
Next to it is located Little Italy, with some Italian-inspired restaurants and cafes (this neighborhood in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was the largest settlement of Italian immigrants but has now been absorbed by Chinatown). If you want to learn more about its gastronomy, you can take a food tour of Little Italy with a local guide who will take you to taste the delicacies of Italian cuisine.
Next to it you will see a new neighborhood called NoLIta (North of Little Italy) where you can find many cafes, restaurants and trendy stores.
SoHo and Tribeca
Another acronym, SoHo (South of Houston Street), gives its name to one of New York's bohemian neighborhoods. Take the opportunity to enter its designer stores, art galleries and antique bookstores. This area was created in the 60s and 70s, when several artists and designers settled in this neighborhood attracted by the affordable prices of studios and lofts created in former factories.
Tribeca' s architecture is also very unique. This former industrial neighborhood is now full of trendy stores, art galleries and exclusive restaurants. This neighborhood is closely linked to cinema. Robert de Niro created the famous Tribeca festival focused on independent films. You can also take a tour to see the locations of Friends, CSI, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Breakfast at Tiffany's or Gossip Girl among others.
The West Village is a quiet place to go for a walk away from the hustle and bustle of downtown. I recommend a stroll through Washington Square Park, one of the best gardens in the city and then stay for dinner in one of its many charming restaurants, where you can end your day like a New Yorker.
Times Square, Broadway and Hell's Kitchen
In Midtown you will see the largest number of skyscrapers and landmarks of New York: the Empire State Building, the Top of the Rock (in Rockefeller Center), MoMA, Times Square and St. Patrick's Cathedral, among others.
The heart of New York is Times Square. With lights and billboards, it has become the best known image of New York. However, it wasn't always so because until the late 1990s, the area was synonymous with drugs and crime. My advice is to pass by during the day, but also at night to see it illuminated.
Times Square converges with Broadway, the avenue that is the epicenter of theater and musicals in New York. Every night the curtain opens to make its spectators dream with shows as memorable as The Phantom of the Opera, The Lion King, Aladdin or Frozen.
To eat or drink, around Times Square you will only find fast food or very expensive, so I advise you to go into the neighborhood of Hell's Kitchen, west of eighth avenue, well known for its bars, restaurants and cafes.
This is a business district in Manhattan very lively during the day to be full of offices, restaurants and stores. It is named after the famous Flatiron Building, a century-old triangular-shaped building in the Beaux Arts style of the Chicago school.
I recommend taking a stroll through the area and entering Madison Square Park, an oasis of tranquility where it is common to see office workers taking a break, eating and chatting. Buy yourself a sandwich at the Pret À Manger across the street and eat it on the lawn. This park also organizes events and activities that you can learn about through its official website.
With its saffron-colored stone houses and tree-lined streets, the Chelsea neighborhood is a walkable residential area full of stores, nightclubs and art galleries. In fact, it is the New York neighborhood with the highest concentration of art galleries, so if this is your passion, you can't miss this neighborhood.
It is also advisable to visit Chelsea Market, a former cookie factory converted into a gastronomic market where the original high ceilings and brick walls have been preserved to give it an industrial feel and a lot of personality. Here you can buy delicacies from all over the world, but did you know that Oreo cookies were invented here?
The Chelsea Market is next to the High Line, an urban park built on old elevated railroad tracks, which crosses the west side of Manhattan. If you feel like losing sight of the concrete for a while and immersing yourself in a green space, don't hesitate to walk it.
It is the new trendy neighborhood in Midtown built on what was once a dreary train depot along the Hudson River. It is a neighborhood still under construction but already has some places of interest that will make this area one of the must-see in New York, such as The Edge, The Vessel, The Shops shopping mall or the High Line elevated park.
Upper East Side
Manhattan's Uptown is the area less visited by tourists as it is mainly residential. However, here you will find some iconic New York sites such as Central Park, which serves as the border between the Upper East Side and the Upper West Side.
The Upper East Side is New York's affluent neighborhood known for its imposing stately buildings and wide avenues. Although it is not the area with the most tourist attractions, you do have some very interesting places like the Metropolitan Museum, the Neue Galerie, the Gracie Mansion or Central Park. If you liked the Sex and the City series, probably no more introductions are needed.
Upper West Side
This is another residential neighborhood with a unique and very striking architecture. Here you can find the km 0 of New York, Columbus Circle, a square dedicated to Christopher Columbus and the discovery of America. Also Columbia University, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine or the Museum of Natural History, which I recommend 100%.
Since the African-American community settled in this area of Manhattan in the early twentieth century, Harlem is the neighborhood that is automatically associated with black culture. Today the neighborhood is safe to enjoy Sunday Masses to the rhythm of gospel music. You will also find good music at the Apollo Theater, where artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin and James Brown began their careers, or stroll among the brownstones, beautiful little houses made of red sandstone.
Behind Manhattan, the second best known borough in New York is probably Brooklyn. Before it was a borough, it became the fourth largest city in the United States after New York, Chicago and Philadelphia.
What was once an industrial area full of factories and warehouses is now one of the coolest areas of New York. The name of this neighborhood comes from the acronym Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass and refers to the location of the neighborhood, just under the Manhattan Bridge.
DUMBO was home to bohemians and artists who changed the neighborhood. Today it is a combination of artistic movements and design with the old industrial architecture typical of the area. During your visit to this neighborhood you can't miss Washington Street, the Dumbo Flea Market, Plymouth Street or Main Street Park. And you can not miss the mythical photo with the Brooklyn Bridge behind (although more than one tourist sneaks behind while doing his).
Williamsburg is a neighborhood of contrasts where hipsters and orthodox Jews of New York mix. One of its attractions is the street art in the form of murals and graffiti throughout the neighborhood where the Mona Lisa of Williamsburg or that of Andy Warhol and Basquiat stand out. Also East River State Park, where the Smorgasburg Market is held on Saturdays in April and October. Don't miss the Unorthodox series, based precisely in this neighborhood.
It is the neighborhood where New Yorkers go when the weather is nice to relax outdoors and enjoy the beach, especially in summer. During your visit to Coney Island you can walk along the Coney Island boardwalk and get close to the sea to feel the breeze.
A fantastic plan to complement with a plus of excitement is to enter Luna Park, a mixture of old fair and amusement park with its merry-go-rounds, roller coasters and the aroma of cotton candy and caramel that promises to make you spend an unforgettable time. Nearby is a freak show so typical of the 20's and 30's with which you will have the feeling of reliving times gone by. Another fun attraction to see in Coney Island is the New York Aquarium, located on the boardwalk.
Queens is the largest borough in New York where more than 150 different cultures coexist. It is also the one that is changing the fastest and increasing its tourist attractions in its different neighborhoods.
Long Island City
Very close to Manhattan is located Long Island City, the most avant-garde neighborhood of Queens that brings together a large number of museums, galleries and contemporary art studios such as MoMA PS1, the Isamu Noguchi Museum or Socrates Sculpture Park.
Astoria and Flushing
The neighborhood of Astoria is the heart of the Greek community in New York and is home to the largest Greek collective outside of Europe. In this part of Queens there is plenty to do such as visiting Orthodox churches, listening to European techno-music, savoring Greek cuisine with an American twist or watching Manhattan at sunset from Astoria Park.
On the other hand, if you are a sports fan you probably already know that in the neighborhood of Flushing you will find the new stadium of the New York Mets and that the US Open Tennis Tournament is held here. Take advantage of your trip to New York and buy tickets for baseball or tennis. Another tourist attraction in this Queens neighborhood is the house-museum of Louis Armstrong, the great jazz musician.
Jackson Heights, Rockaway Beach and Jamaica
During your visit to Queens, if you like Indian cuisine you have to go to Jackson Heights, because in this neighborhood there are plenty of buffets and restaurants specializing in this type of food at very good prices.
After a succulent feast, you may want to stretch your legs and take a stroll along Rockaway Beach, where the longest urban beach in the United States is located. You can finish the route in the neighborhood of Jamaica, the birthplace of hip-hop, where you can delve into this musical genre by walking the streets.
During the twentieth century, the Bronx was synonymous with crime and poverty but do not get carried away by the bad reputation because today this neighborhood of New York has changed a lot and tourist attractions such as the New York Zoo, the home of Edgar Allan Poe or the church of Fordham University are in safe areas.
If you are passionate about baseball, you must take advantage of a visit to the Bronx to see a New York Yankees game - the atmosphere is spectacular! And if you love nature, a stroll through the huge New York Botanical Garden will fill your senses with colors, aromas and peace.
6. Staten Island
Staten Island is the most unknown borough for tourists but here there are several places of interest related to the origins of the United States as there are more buildings from the colonial period than anywhere else in the city.
For example, two of the most amazing places to see in Staten Island are on the one hand a restored village called Historic Richmond Town, where you can see houses dating from the seventeenth century. On the other hand, Fort Wadsworth, a 17th century defensive fort built by the Dutch.
But for many travelers, the visit to Staten Island is best enjoyed with the ferry ride, a cheap way to see the Manhattan skyline from afar.