The 5 Best Neighborhoods in Manhattan

Benjamin Korman
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Welcome to Manhattan!

This is the epicenter of the biggest, busiest metropolis in the United States. People from all over the world flock to this borough to chase their dreams in the arts, business, and culinary worlds.

Some people come here just to feel like they’re living in an episode of Friends. It truly has everything you could want— all-night dining, the best live theater, every kind of music, poppin’ nightclubs, pizza rats, and more!

But how do you decide where to look for an apartment? While skyscraper-packed areas like Midtown and the Financial District tend to leave residents feeling like they live at work, there are hundreds of neighborhoods on this 14-mile long island. They range from chic and exciting to cozy and quiet, and every one of them offers something unique.

While Billionaire’s Row may not be in your price range, it isn’t too difficult to find a street that combines energy, public transit, and history that feels like the right fit for you. These neighborhoods are some of our favorites.

1. Lower East Side

Perfect for: Hipsters, Professionals, Night Owls, Foodies, Musicians

CBGB shuttered its doors more than a decade ago, and all the 1970s rockers got jobs and moved away—but the Lower East Side, the birthplace of punk in NYC, is still the coolest spot in the city. This neighborhood, bounded by Houston Street and Delancey Street between the Bowery and the East River, is generally considered to include Alphabet City to the North and the quieter (read: less touristy) parts of Chinatown, as well. While gentrification has dramatically changed the feel and price of the neighborhood, the area remains the last refuge of “downtown grit” (and arguably, some grit remains). That translates into some of the best music clubs and cheap eats in the city.

Ever since fast-and-heavy bands like the Ramones got their start here, this has been the best place in New York to have a crazy night out. Arlene’s Grocery and Piano’s are the perfect for cheap drinks and good tunes, and you can see huge music acts any night of the week at The Bowery Ballroom. The Lower East Side is also home to thriving Latino and Asian communities. Immortal Chinatown restaurants Congee Village and Wah Fung Fast Food comingle with fancy new fusion spots like San Francisco transplant Mission Chinese and Dale Talde’s Rice and Gold. And you’re cheating yourself out of a life-changing experience if you don’t stop by the Noyurican Poets Café in Alphabet City. The Lower East Side is the New York City young people from all over the world dream about.

Highlights:

  • The Noyurican Poets Café
  • Arlene’s Grocery
  • The New Museum
  • Tompkins Square Park

2. Greenwich Village

Perfect for: Professionals, Millenials, Convenience-seekers

Greenwich Village, more commonly known as the West Village, is smack-dab in the middle of everything, and it’s right where everyone wants to be. What New Yorker hasn’t drooled over the thought of living in one of the multi-million dollar apartments west of 7th Avenue? And how man NYU Students enrolled just so they could spend four years hanging out at Washington Square Park?

Once a middle class neighborhood, Greenwich Village transformed into an urban bohemia in the 1950s when the beat poets moved in. The beats where succeeded by the folk musicians (Bob Dylan got his start on MacDougal Street), then the artists, the hippies, the college students, and finally, the developers. Now the Village carries each of these worlds with it and more. Walking down the street, you’ll experience stunning architecture, innovative theater, great restaurants, and an ocean of youthful energy.

Check out The Comedy Cellar for some of the world’s biggest stand-up acts at an affordable price, or head over to Christopher Street, the center of the NYC’s LGBTQ community to see the Stonewall Inn. There are an infinite number of things to do in The Village—move here and you’ll never be bored again.

Highlights:

  • Washington Square Park
  • The Comedy Cellar
  • The Whitney Museum of American Art
  • Hundreds of clubs, bars, and restaurants

3. Yorkville

Perfect for: Millenials, Commuters, Young Professionals

The Upper East Side has a reputation as the neighborhood of choice for billionaire aristocrats and socialites draped in mink coats. Despite the hype, it’s actually an affordable place to live.

Tread close to the East River and discover Yorkville, the one-time German immigrant enclave with a chic new facade. With its towering rows of skyscraper apartment buildings, it’s a miracle that this area has managed to stay as quaint and inviting as it has. The opening of the Second Avenue Subway last year has completely reinvigorated this town-within-the-city, with new cafes, bars, and restaurants popping up around decades-old staples.

Traditional central European restaurants abound, from German food emporium Heidelberg to the classic Hungarian bakery Budapest Café. And the younger crowds attracted by low rents and the (astoundingly clean) new train stations bring with them a host of new bars. Head to the waterfront to cool off at Carl Schurz Park and catch a glimpse of the 200-year-old NYC Mayor’s residence, Gracie Mansion. And Central Park is only a short walk away.

Highlights:

  • Carl Schurz Park
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • The 92nd Street Y
  • Central Park

4. Central Harlem

Perfect for: Millenials, History buffs, Foodies, Music fans

Uptown Manhattan is a city unto itself. While Central Harlem is going through a lot of changes these days (hello, Whole Foods), its rich history as the cradle of the Harlem Renaissance and long-ago home to artists like Langston Hughes and Louis Armstrong are still present in its stately brownstones and public parks. Central Harlem, which stretches approximately from Central Park North to a little north of 125th Street is one of the more elegant neighborhoods on the island.

Having distance from downtown offers (slightly) more affordability to its living spaces. But Central Harlem offers a life of its own. The legendary Apollo Theater on 125th Street still hosts nightly performances by some of the biggest musical, variety and comedic acts in the world. And high-end restaurants are in no short supply; check out the chicken and waffles at flashy-modern Red Rooster or head down the street to neighborhood staple Sylvia’s for a more classic dining experience.

Central Harlem is also home to The Studio Museum, one of the best contemporary art galleries in New York. And for a truly one-of-a-kind jazz experience, look for The Studio Museum— it’s a tiny basement nightclub where world-famous musicians drop in each night and it’s housed in an apartment that once hosted career-launching performances by Billie Holliday, Fats Waller, and more.

Highlights:

  • The Studio Museum in Harlem
  • Morningside Park
  • Sylvia’s
  • Bill’s Place
  • The Apollo Theater

5. Hudson Heights

https://twitter.com/Shutternick/status/957284329461288960

Perfect for: Families, New NYC Residents, Nature-lovers

If you thought Harlem was too far north, then buckle in for this one. To quote an old joke, you might get a nosebleed from heading this far uptown. But Hudson Heights, which stretches from 173rd to 193rd street between the Hudson River and Broadway, is truly worth your consideration.

This neighborhood has some of the highest elevations on the island; the view of the Hudson and the New Jersey Palisades from Cabrini Boulevard is breathtaking. Here, the streets are serene and snaking—it feels like you’re in a park, even when buildings surround you on every side. The Tudor-style apartments on Pinehurst Avenue evoke the elegance of 19th Century London. And despite all of that, vibrant casual eateries like 181 Cabrini and the Ethiopian-inspired Café Buunni lend the area the vibe of a chic Hudson Valley village. Hudson Heights is also adjacent to Fort Tryon Park—it’s truly the most beautiful and majestic garden in the city and the home of The Cloisters, The Met Museum’s gorgeous uptown home for their romanesque and gothic art collection. Hop on the A train and try not to fall in love with this neighborhood.

Highlights:

  • Fort Tryon Park
  • The Cloisters
  • The Little Red Lighthouse
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on March 7, 2018 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Benjamin Korman

Benjamin is a New York City-based writer.
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The SpareFoot Blog offers tips about self-storage, information about storage auctions, advice about home organization, news about SpareFoot and much more.
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