New York's different boroughs are HUGE! So if you're coming to explore New York at length and in depth, here's a little guide to help you understand the different boroughs of New York.
In fact, before anything else, it's worth clarifying something. There are 5 boroughs in New York (they are the equivalent of London’s boroughs):
Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx and Staten Island.
And in these 5 boroughs are several neighbourhoods (or sub-neighbourhoods).
Knowing where the different boroughs of New York are located will also allow you to better organise your stay and your visits. It is important not to waste time during a first trip to New York.
Here is a small map to help you find your way around New York.
But don't worry, I will explain everything in this article – where to find these different boroughs and what you can do/discover there.
Let's start right away with the most famous of New York’s borough: Manhattan 😊
THE MANHATTAN BOROUGH
The Manhattan borough is where you'll find most of New York's must-see attractions.
Actually, if you're only in New York for a few days, focus on this area – especially if it's your first time in the city!
Manhattan has about 30 sub-neighbourhoods. Among the most popular are the Financial District, Harlem, Hell's Kitchen, Chelsea, Meatpacking District, SoHo, Greenwich Village, Tribeca, Chinatown and Little Italy.
But the question is — what can you do in this part of New York?
AT THE CULTURAL LEVEL
The most important museums in New York are located in Manhattan. The following are those you really shouldn’t miss visiting.
Metropolitan Museum of Art ou MET
The MET is the most visited museum in New York. It is located on the Upper East Side, on 5th Avenue (at number 1000), near 82nd Street (open: Sunday to Tuesday, plus Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. / Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., closed on Wednesday. Prices: $25 for adults, $17 for seniors, $12 for students, free for children under 12).
Featuring incredible art collections from all around the world, the programme includes works from ancient Greece, Egypt, Islamic, African, Native American and mediaeval art, as well as modern art.
It is therefore impossible to see everything in one day! For this reason, you should focus on one period or on the museum's must-sees, such as the "Temple of Dendur" in the “Egyptian Art” department, the Japanese fighting masks in the “Arms and Armor” department, or famous paintings such as Gauguin's “Tahitian Women Bathing”.
And while you are at it, why not take a walk on the terrace of the building at the Roof Garden Cafe, from which you will have a nice view of Central Park? 😉
MUSEUM OF MODERN ART (MOMA)
The MoMa is a museum dedicated to contemporary art. It is located in Midtown at 11 West 53rd Street (open Sunday to Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. - Prices: $25 for adults / $18 for people over 65 / $14 for students / free for children under 16).
Spread on six levels, you will be able to admire paintings by the world's most famous painters such as Picasso's "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon", Paul Cézanne's "The Bather" and Dali's "The Melting Watches" (the Persistence of Memory).
The building itself is magnificent and the helicopter hanging from the ceiling in the entrance hall is a photo not to be missed!
Note that every Friday evening, admission to MoMA is free from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
To visit MoMa, decide which works or periods you really want to see – for it would take you more than a day to see them all in detail!
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is worth a visit for two reasons. Firstly, for the sublime permanent collection of modern and contemporary art and secondly, for the avant-garde architecture of the interior of the spiral-like building.
Among its most popular works are some by Degas, Gauguin, Picasso, Chagall and Kandinsky.
The museum is located on the Upper East Side, on 5th Avenue (at 1071) between 88th and 89th Streets.
Open Sunday and Monday from 11am to 6pm, Wednesday and Friday from 11am to 6pm and Saturday from 11am to 8pm. It is closed on Tuesdays.
Prices: $25 for adults / $18 for over 65s + students / free for under 12s.
American Museum of Natural History
With its collection of over 32,000 animals, rocks and fossils, it is the largest natural history museum in the world. Impossible to visit in a day, you'll have to choose which exhibitions you most want to see, from the 45 exhibition rooms spread over 3 floors.
Among the things that will impress you most are dinosaur skeletons, a life-size reconstruction of a blue whale and the world's largest blue sapphire (the 'Star of India').
The museum is located at the corner of Central Park West and 79th Street. It is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10am to 5:30pm.
Prices: $23 for adults / $18 for over 60s & students / $13 for children aged 3 to 12.. For more information on the American Museum of Natural History, do visit their website – it is very well designed.
You will also find small museums in Chelsea. You can visit the Chelsea Gallery district, where old warehouses have been transformed into contemporary art galleries (there are about 200 small galleries).
You can also visit Greenwich Villag, the neighbourhood where many artists have settled – such as John Lennon, Jimmy Hendricks, Simon & Garfunkel and Jack Kerouac. If you’re there, don’t forget to take the opportunity and listen to jazz at the legendary Blue Note club (Address: 131 W 3rd St, New York).
PLACES TO DISCOVER IN THIS AREA OF NEW YORK
It is THE park of the city, the lung of NY! Take the time to stroll along its large pedestrian avenue (the Mall), to rest on the lawn of Sheep Meadow, to discover its many monuments such as the Bethesda Fountain or the sculpture of Alice in Wonderland, to meditate on the place in memory of John Lennon, the Strawberry Fields. You can also spend a romantic moment on the famous Bow Bridge, go boating on the lakes (The Lake, the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir...), or rent a bike to take a grand tour of the park — and if you still have time left, you can discover the animals of its zoo.
Times Square is the symbol of New York, of its gigantism, of its excess. That's why it's the first place you should visit as soon as you get off the plane. This place is magical, day and night!
You can admire the light show on the giant screens (and maybe even see yourself on one of them!), spend your money in the department stores (Levi's Store, Disney Store, M&Ms, American Eagle Outfitters, Forever 21...), go see a musical (The Lion King, Mamma Mia!...) or take a photo with the famous "Naked cowboy".
But above all, don't forget to take a general view of the square from the red steps of the TKTS roof (a ticket office) – or from even higher, from the panoramic bar "The View" on the 48th floor of the Marriott hotel.
THE FINANCIAL DISTRICT/WALL STREET
The business district, which is located in Midtown, does not offer much in the way of tourist attractions. However, it is worth a visit if only to come face to face with the Charging Bull. The huge bronze Wall Street bull weighs over 3 tons and is located in Bowling Green Park. It is said that rubbing the bronze balls of this sculpture brings luck and prosperity, so why not give it a try? 😉
If there's one place you absolutely must visit during your stay, it's Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan. On the site of the former twin towers, you will find not only a 'World Trade Center Memorial' dedicated to the victims of the attacks, but also a museum and the city's new 'One World Observatory'. It is located on top of the city's tallest building, the One World Trade Center (541 metres high).
The Flatiron Building
Even if you won't be able to enter this mythical building with the shape of an iron, take the time to pass in front of it and take some pictures. Address : 175 5th Ave, New York.
I have written a full article on the Flatiron Building should you want to know more about this iconic building in New York.
Grand Central Terminal Station
New York's monumental Grand Central Terminal is a must-see. Take the time to discover its immense hall with the constellations painted on the ceiling and its four-sided clock, but above all go down to the basement to discover the "Grand Central Market", an indoor market where you can stock up on specialities.
MUST-DO ACTIVITIES IN THE MANHATTAN BOROUGH
Découvrir la ville d’en haut
Vous devez absolument monter au sommet d’un des gratte-ciels de New York et profiter d’une vue à 360° à couper le souffle.
Vous avez le choix entre :
WALKING ON THE HIGH LINE
The High Line is an elevated linear park built on former railway tracks. The walk from Gansevoort Street to 34th Street will allow you to discover many neighbourhoods such as the Meatpacking District or Chelsea, in an original way.
From the walkways, you will have superb views of the surroundings (the Empire State Building, 10th Avenue, the docks, the Hudson River...) and a superb show at sunset.
SHOPPING AT CHELSEA MARKET
The Chelsea Market is the perfect place for a snack break in NY. This indoor market is located in the former factory of the famous Oreo biscuit (NABISCO). This late 19th century building, of industrial style, is in itself a sight to behold, but it's also a great place to have a meal, a snack or just come and buy fresh products, bread, Maine lobster, pastries, Viennese pastries (brownies, cookies...) or souvenirs.
Address: 75 9th Ave., New York (between 15th and 16th Street.
Open Monday to Saturday from 7am to 2am and Sunday from 8am to 10pm.
ENJOY A ‘CRONUT’
This mix between a croissant and a donut is the creation of French pastry chef Dominique Ansel. And there is no better place to try it than the Dominique Ansel Bakery in SoHo!
Address: 189 Spring Street, New York. Open Monday to Thursday from 8am to 7pm, Friday from 8am to 8pm and Sunday from 9am to 7pm.
ENJOY A COMPLETE CHANGE OF SCENERY IN CHINATOWN, LITTLE ITALY AND HARLEM
Leave yourself some time to discover another culture.
First stop is Chinatown, where you can stroll through the Grand Street market and taste the many Chinese specialties, go shopping on Canal Street (beware of buying counterfeit goods that can get you into trouble at the airport!), touch the belly of the Buddha statue at the Mahayana Buddhist Temple or take a picture of the Confucius statue. You can also visit the "Chinese American Museum" and take a tai chi class in Columbus Park.
Finish your visit by going to Mulberry Street, where you will arrive in Little Italy. Take a tour of the Italian delicatessens and buy plenty of authentic products. Consider visiting Saint Patrick's Old Cathedral (address: 260-264 Mulberry Street, NY) and check out the golden figurines on the façade of the Puck Building, built in 1885.
Long shunned by tourists, the Harlem district will also give you a real change of scenery. Among the things you really should do and see, I highly recommend a visit to the Apollo Theatre, where the great names of black American music performed, before entering the famous Cotton Club. You should also go and listen to gospel music in one of the churches (the Abyssian Baptist Church at 132 Odell Clark Place, for example), but also do some shopping (especially for African fabrics) at the Malcolm Shabazz Market – the largest African market in the city.
HAVE A DRINK ON A ROOFTOP
This is yet another way to get a breathtaking view of New York! For example, you can go to 230 Fifth on Fifth Avenue with its superb view of the Empire State Building or to the terrace of the Press Lounge from which you can enjoy a clear view of Midtown, Times Square and the Hudson River.
Note that you can go up to most of Manhattan's panoramic bars for free, but don't forget to order a drink or something else when you get there 😉
I wrote an article about the best rooftop bars in New York, if you're looking for where to spend an evening 😄
Manhattan is definitely the place to be if you feel like doing a little shopping. If 5th Avenue is the paradise of luxury with its Dior, Tiffany or Louboutin boutiques, you can also find some good deals in the neighbourhood.
First of all, you can go to "Macy’s", one of the symbols of the city (clothing, home decoration, cosmetics, jewellery...). You will get a 10% discount as a tourist (ask for your discount voucher at the Visitor Center)!
Additionally, Manhattan is full of outlets where you can buy branded products at reduced prices. Head to "Century 21" (22 Cortlandt Street), "Bloomingdale's Outlet" (2085 Broadway), "American Outlet" (2226 3rd Ave) or "American Outlet Inc" (2151 3rd Ave) among many others 😊
To find the best of the best, go to SoHo and Tribeca, which are full of designer boutiques.
NEW YORK'S MOST COSMOPOLITAN NEIGHBOURHOOD: BROOKLYN
Brooklyn is the most populous borough in the city (2.5 million inhabitants). It is a cosmopolitan neighbourhood where all ethnicities live – Whites, African-Americans, Asians, Iberians... There’s no way you will miss this as you walk through the streets – nor will you miss the red sandstone houses typical of the Brooklyn borough.
ON A CULTURAL LEVEL
Brooklyn is a hip and arty neighbourhood. The Brooklyn Museum, one of the largest museums in New York, should be on the top of your list of things to visit. It houses 1.5 million works and objects from all over the world (Asia, Europe, Africa...) including one of the most important collections of Egyptian art.
Address: 200 Eastern Pkwy, Brooklyn.
Open Wednesday to Sunday from 11am to 6pm and the first Saturday of the month from 5pm to 11pm
Prices: $16/adult, free for children under 19.
In Brooklyn you can also find many artists' warehouses, designers' studios and contemporary art galleries which you can visit – especially in the DUMBO (short for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) sub-district.
If it's for the street art that you've made the trip, head for the Bushwick sub-district.
The first place you must visit is the Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge that separates Brooklyn from Manhattan is another of New York's symbols! You can cross it by day and by night: this will let you discover two different views. The 1.5 km walk, 40 metres above the East River, will take you 20 to 40 minutes (depending on your stride and photo opportunities).
Right next door is Brooklyn Bridge Park. Enjoy a picnic in this pleasant park and take in the view of the Manhattan skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge.
Brooklyn is also home to a beautiful botanical garden. It is the most visited botanical garden in the country, so don't hesitate to go there to see and smell the thousands of species of plants, flowers and trees that it hosts (especially the roses and cherry trees!). The "Shakespeare Garden" and the Japanese garden are not to be missed!
MUST-DO ACTIVITIES IN BROOKLYN
If you love vintage shopping and designer markets, you've come to the right place! The Williamsburg Flea Market is a great place to find unique items, and the many thrift shops are a great place to shop.
You should also visit the Brooklyn Brewery, where you can taste some excellent local beers, including Brooklyn Lager.Don't forget to go to the beach (yes, there are beaches in NY!). You can also head to Coney Island, where you will have fun in the huge amusement park “Luna Park”! 😄
Unless you'd rather go to Brighton Beach in the suburb of Little Odessa, New York's Russian neighbourhood? That is a place where you will discover that Eastern European traditions are still alive and well!
NEW YORK'S LARGEST NEIGHBOURHOOD – QUEENS
There's not much point in visiting Queens, yet the borough has an incredible history and culture.
Queens is the largest borough in New York and half of its inhabitants were born abroad (130 different nationalities)!
There are some cultural sites you must visit, like the Museum of Moving Image about the history of film and the techniques and tools they use.
Address : 3601 35th Ave, Astoria
Open: Thursday from 2pm to 6pm, Friday from 2pm to 8pm and weekends from 12pm to 6pm.
Prices: adults: $15, seniors: $11, students: $11, 3 to 17 years old: $9 and free for children under 3.
Most importantly though, you should check out the avant-garde and experimental works at MoMa PS1 (an annex of MoMa in Manhattan) and visit the Louis Armstrong house/museum.
THINGS TO DO IN QUEENS
Visit the' stadium, the Citi Field in Flushing, and Flushing Meadows Corona Park (in Flushing Bay) where the US Open de tennis tournament is held every year. There you will see a 40 metres high steel representation of our planet!
In Flushing you can discover a second Chinatown, less touristy than the one in Manhattan, but just as exotic. Don't forget to try the culinary specialities of the Chinese supermarket, the "Golden Shopping Mall"!
Then go and see the surfers on Rockaway Beach and enjoy some seafood on the boardwalk.
The beers at “Astoria Bier and Cheese” and the Latin food at Roosevelt Avenue are also worth a visit.
NEW YORK'S MOST POPULAR NEIGHBOURHOOD, THE BRONX
With its reputation as an infamous and therefore dangerous neighbourhood, tourists are rare in the Bronx, yet it is a popular, poor neighbourhood (also multi-ethnic) that is well worth a visit.
The Bronx is the cradle of hip-hop culture, but what you really have to see is the NY Yankees stadium, home of the most successful baseball team in North America.
The area is also home to the New York City Botanical Garden and right next door is the country's largest zoo. It is home to 600 species and 4,000 animals from all over the world, that roam in semi-freedom in various themed areas (the African savannah, the world of birds, etc.).
To find out more about the two sites, you can click on the links below:
Finish your tour of the area with a stroll through New York's true Italian neighbourhood, Little Italy in the Bronx, which is located on Arthur Avenue.
At the Arthur Avenue retail market, you will find all sorts of specialties, including the best Italian pizza and incredible gourmet food items.
THE BOROUGH OF STATEN ISLAND
The only interest of Staten Island is its ferry (which is orange) which allows you to get close to the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island and to Ellis Island – the island where 12 million immigrants landed to conquer the American dream. The ferry departs from Whitehall Terminal in Battery Park (one departure every 15 minutes) and takes 20 minutes to reach Staten Island.
From the boat, you can admire the New York skyline and NY harbour. The view at night with the sunset is just unforgettable!
Note that if you want to visit both monuments, you will have to take the ferry from Battery Park, located at the southern tip of Manhattan.
Otherwise, the borough of Staten Island is mostly appreciated for its numerous green spaces. Locals love to stroll through Clove Lakes Park, the 20-garden Botanical Gardens (including beautiful Chinese and Tuscan gardens) and the zoo. It may be small, but it's really fun to visit! And you will see pandas as well as the country's largest collection of reptiles.
You'll also find the peace and quiet that is unique to this island on the Greenbelt, a 5.5km walk along the edge of the forest with lots of ponds. It is one of the locals’ most popular walks.
For culture, you will find the Staten Island Museum on the island, full of exhibitions related to the arts and science as well as collections on the history of Staten Island.
Address : 75 Stuyvesant Place, Staten Island
Open Wednesday to Sunday from 11am to 5pm. Last entry time is 4.45pm. Re-entry is not permitted.
Prices: $8/ adult, $5/ students + seniors, $2/ children (2-12 years).
On top of that, you can also visit a village recreating the life of the inhabitants in the 19th century – Historic Richmond Town.
Before leaving Staten Island, be sure to visit the 9/11 Memorial (on St George Esplanade), a beautiful sculpture in the shape of wings that honours the islanders who did not survive the attacks. Then take a tour of the Staten Island Yankees baseball stadium baseball stadium next door.
You've reached the end of this article on the Five Boroughs of New York City! I hope you enjoyed it 😄.