New York City has around 160 distinct neighborhoods, with more than 50 in Manhattan alone. From Alphabet City to Woodhaven, North Riverdale to Spring Creek, there's a neighborhood for every personality.
Featuring giant skyscrapers, tree-lined streets of brownstones, pastoral former farmlands and quiet family cul-de-sacs, the variety is unending. That's the beauty of living in New York City.
We scoured the five boroughs for some of the city's most interesting and beloved regions to create this list of five fun facts about 11 of New York City's most popular neighborhoods.
Few neighborhoods in New York have names that evoke as much imagery as Harlem, from 1920s jazz and zoot suit revolutions of the Harlem Renaissance to the growth of hip and gentrified culture exploding into the 2020s.
Today, Central Harlem – the Uptown Manhattan neighborhood from Central Park to 155th, between St. Nicholas and 5th Avenue — is a diverse community that features cozy streets filled with trees and brownstones, mid-rise luxury rental buildings and broadways vibrant with nightclubs and trendy cafes. Here, professors, activists, artists and musicians mix with students, families, chefs and retirees.
Historic Central Harlem is an in-demand neighborhood of community gardens and ethnic restaurants, landmarks like the Apollo Theater and a reputation for friendly people.
Is Chelsea in Midtown or Downtown? Ask a mix of residents and you'll get a split of opinions. But while the West Side neighborhood that runs between Sixth Avenue and the Hudson contains distinctly Midtown landmarks as high as 34th Street like Penn Station, having a southern end as low as 14th Street on the edge-of-Downtown puts it firmly in the between column.
But what there's no question about is that Chelsea is one of the most desirable and use-diverse neighborhoods in the city. The list of landmarks and attractions in the district is astonishing.
The gorgeous High Line elevated park snakes through the neighborhood from 34th to the West Village. The Knicks and Rangers both play at Madison Square Garden, the self-proclaimed “world's most famous arena." The brand new Hudson Yards development added nearly 13 million square feet of new office, residential and retail space to the neighborhood.
Chelsea Market is a mixed-use food market and office complex that takes up an entire city block between 15th and 16th Streets, as does the London Terrace, a massive apartment building complex between 23rd and 24th. And with more than 200 art galleries, Chelsea is one of the city's art epicenters.
Charles Feltman invented the hot dog at Coney Island in 1867. Frustrated ice cream vendors Archie and Elton Correspondent, sick of melting complaints, invented frozen custard here in 1919. And in 1884, LaMarcus Thompson unleashed Coney Island's 600-foot long switchback railway, the first roller coaster in the world.
Sure, you know all about Coney Island the amusement park, boardwalk and beach. But, yes, people actually live full time in this southern Brooklyn neighborhood. In fact, nearly 32,000 Coney Islanders do.
The town offers a variety of beach-style houses, neighborhood single-unit residences, apartment buildings, co-ops, condos and private communities. And like many areas of Brooklyn, after years of sitting in disrepair and downturn, Coney Island is experiencing its own gentrification.
There are plenty of amenities for those residents including a minor league baseball ballpark, the Coney Island Museum, New York Aquarium and the legendary Gargiulo's and Totonno's restaurants to go along with the refurbished Luna amusement park and a revitalized boardwalk.
Fordham was originally part of Westchester and Yonkers until the late 1800s when it was annexed by New York City, becoming a part of Manhattan. In 1914, the region was split off again into the newly-created Bronx County, but still remains part of New York City.
Today, Fordham is a mix of cultures, with large populations of Latin Americans, African Americans, Italians and Albanians, along with college students. Eschewing much of the surrounding gentrification, residences in Fordham are largely low-rise apartments, with taller buildings along Grand Concourse.
Grand Concourse is a dominant, wide thoroughfare that bisects the neighborhood and is the hub of retail activity in Fordham. The Jerome Avenue corridor and Fordham Plaza across from the university are also both major commercial blocks.
A large chunk of Fordham is dominated on its east side by Bronx Park which contains the New York Botanical Garden, Wildlife Conservation Society and the gigantic Bronx Zoo.
The name Gramercy Park can refer to both the historic private East Side park and the upscale Victorian neighborhood surrounding it from 14th to 23rd between First Avenue and Park Avenue South.
The green space itself is one of just two private parks in the city, with access granted exclusively to the 383 key owners from surrounding residences, social clubs and guests at the Gramercy Park Hotel.
The blocks encircling the park are a rare quiet and safe enclave of busy Midtown. Residences consist of historic townhouses with large backyards inhabited by some of the cultural elite, as well as smaller apartments and co-ops. The largest private house in the district is a 42-room mansion on Gramercy Park South.
The residences around 19th between Third and Irving Place are known as “Block Beautiful" for their charm and architecture. But it's not just homes that populate Gramercy, with retail and nightlife lining the sidewalks of 23rd and along Third Avenue.
Thankfully, the West Side neighborhood of Hell's Kitchen — in Midtown between 34th and 59th from Eighth Avenue to the Hudson — is no longer the rough-and-tumble vision its gritty name conjures. The suggestive name most likely comes from labels long ago affixed to either an infamous 1890s shanty house development at 39th & 10th or a notorious tenement building on 54th.
While residents cherish the historic name, developers have (unsuccessfully) pushed for more serene names for the neighborhood such as Clinton and Midtown West.
But Hell's Kitchen — the modern version — features some of New York's most beloved landmarks, such as the Javits Convention Center, Intrepid Museum, Upright Citizens Brigade, the Actors' Studio, The New Yorker hotel and some of off-Broadway's most respected theaters.
Residents, living mostly in large, gleaming apartment towers and upscale condos can enjoy the cafes of Ninth Avenue and restaurants of 46th Street and green spaces like De Witt Clinton Park.
In the heart of Queens, Jamaica is probably best known as the busy transportation hub that connects Manhattan and Brooklyn to J.F.K. Airport. But Jamaica is much more than Jamaica Station, the third-busiest train depot in America.
Jamaica, named for the Lenape word for beaver (not for the Caribbean nation), is a large commercial and retail hub. Hundreds of Indian, Caribbean and Nigerian eateries and groceries, small retail shops, pubs and cafes intermingle with national chains and big box stores among the corridors along Jamaica, Hillside and Liberty Avenues, as well as the bustling Sutphin Boulevard.
Rental prices are much more moderate in Jamaica compared to similar neighborhoods in Manhattan or Brooklyn despite its convenience to those locales. Penn Station, in fact, is just 20 minutes away via the Long Island Railroad.
Bustling, bright Long Island City is the westernmost neighborhood in Queens, which makes it feel much more like living in Manhattan than bucolic Long Island. Lying at the foot of the Queensboro Bridge to the Upper East Side, Long Island City is a vibrant urban neighborhood filled with museums, art studios and high quality of life.
The former industrial area across the East River from the United Nations has become one of the most desirable in the city filled with gleaming residential and business towers, artist enclaves and families.
L.I.C., as it's known, resembles Midtown in its glitz and glitter, but its newness offers a cleanliness, openness and community vibe that residents feel gives the neighborhood an advantage over Manhattan.
The neighborhood offers a plethora of green space with numerous parks, playgrounds, bike paths, dog runs and pedestrian piers. But as L.I.C. is new, it isn't cheap. More than 75 percent of residential buildings in the district are luxury high-rises.
Unlike swanky bordering neighborhoods like Eastchester and Country Club and nearby high-income lower Westchester County, Pelham Bay offers a gorgeous location outside the bustle of the city while maintaining middle-class affordability.
The residential neighborhood is easily accessible from the city via the Number 6 train and by car along I-95 and sits just a few blocks from beautiful Eastchester Bay. Yet, it remains an inexpensive holdout in the up-and-coming east Bronx neighborhood that feels like you're living in a quaint Long Island hamlet.
Along with single-family homes, duplexes and a number of rental units around the MTA station, Pelham Bay also contains Pelham Bay Park, the largest public park in New York City. The park features miles of hiking and biking trail, two full-sized golf courses, an equestrian center and Orchard Beach, a one-plus-mile-long beach with a nature center, athletic courts and retail shops.
Believe it or not, the name SoHo is in reference to the neighborhood south of Houston (and north of Canal) wasn't coined until the early 1960s. This is the case mostly because the Lower Manhattan neighborhood was nearly entirely industrial until that time.
In the early 1960s, post-beatnik, pre-hippie artists and musicians looking for open and affordable (or free) housing and studio space began to squat in the empty lofts above Soho's large manufacturing buildings. For a decade, the city looked the other way at these interlopers until 1971 when the lofts were designated "joint living and work quarters," allowing the residents who had brought character and culture to the industrial neighborhood to remain legally, solidified in the 1982 Loft Law.
Thanks to those laws, gentrification and loose zoning, today SoHo is a mixture of legacy loft studio spaces and art galleries, apartments above retail, upscale residences, luxury boutiques, trendy cafes and brewpubs, street vendors, music venues and tourists along the busy streets and cobblestone roads.
Williamsburg, in northern Brooklyn, has achieved a national reputation as both the poster child for urban gentrification and typecast hipster culture. But while bohemian culture and its associated art, music and fashion scene is fundamental to the aesthetic of Williamsburg, the historic district has much to offer across a range of ages and backgrounds.
The neighborhood began its conversion from a manufacturing and light industry hamlet to an arts and entertainment enclave early in the millennium as artists and musicians flooded in for cheap rents and bigger spaces.
But that honeymoon period was short-lived as rezoning and investment caused a boom in new construction and rents alike. Despite high prices, Williamsburg has maintained its cachet as the coolest neighborhood in New York, only now populated by professionals, young families and relocated Manhattanites.
Along with its plethora of trendy art galleries, cafes, breweries and vintage stores, Williamsburg is also known for its vibrant live music scene. The neighborhood offers some of the best music clubs and concert venues in the city including Brooklyn Steel, Music Hall of Williamsburg, The Knitting Factory, Baby's All Right, Rough Trade, The Well, Pete's Candy Store and Brooklyn Bowl.