The years go by and very little changes in the Upper East Side. From the pricey Park Avenue co-ops to Madison Avenue's chic boutiques to age-old restaurants, this wealthy enclave is a bastion of exclusivity and old money glamour. Its tree-lined streets are mostly residential and filled with charming beaux arts buildings and turn-of-the-century brownstones, but the Upper East Side is also home to the Museum Mile, a mile-long stretch of the city's finest art museums including the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan, the Whitney and the Frick.
Midtown is probably what most people picture when they think of New York: a sea of giant sky-scraping, cloud-piercing glass towers amidst hordes of busy-looking city dwellers dressed up in suits and dresses, striding along Madison, Park and Lexington Avenues (to name a few). And indeed that’s not too far off--Midtown is where by far most of the big businesses are housed in and where most of the big deals get done, from banks to law firms to media to advertising. But don’t let Midtown’s suit-and-tie demeanor fool you; there’s plenty of entertainment to be had starting with the Theater District where you can catch a Broadway show or a concert at Radio City Music Hall, the famous shopping stretch on Fifth Avenue, the iconic Times Square, and Madison Square Garden, the famous sports and concert arena. On top of that, expect a whole host of top-notch hotels, restaurants and bars--from the timeless to the more hip and edgy ones, particularly in and around Nomad (North of Madison Square Park).
The Flatiron District is probably just as busy as Midtown--except a lot more stylish and laid-back. Take a stroll during the week and you'll find well-dressed execs rubbing shoulders with skateboarders, fashionistas, and other bystanders who flock to the area's hip cafes and main attraction, Madison Square Park. Union Square is where New Yorkers of all walks of life mingle, from professionals to students to protesters. This truly diverse and dynamic part of town offers a little bit of everything to everyone including shopping, friendly neighborhood dining, and even farmer's markets and street performers. Gramercy Park is a well-established enclave named after its eponymous park, a fenced-in green space that is reserved for residents and those lucky enough to have a key. Despite its feeling of seclusion, the neighborhood lies in the heart of the city and is dotted with chic shops and charming restaurants and cafes.
Chelsea has many things going for it--a central location, world-class architecture, cutting-edge art galleries and the Highline Park, an elevated railway-turned-park that stretches from 34th street all the way down to the Meatpacking District. It's also historically been the gay district, though its days of cheap rents are surely over with the influx of tech companies and stylish, moneyed residents. The diversity and fast pace remains, however, and you'd be hard pressed to find a more diverse mix of bars, restaurants and nightlife all in one place. Hell's Kitchen has been the backdrop for countless movies but still remains a relatively untrendy part of town, though that is not a bad thing when you can find this many mom-and-pop shops and restaurants and still be close to some of the best things NYC has to offer like the Theater District and Central Park.
The Meatpacking District has earned a reputation for being a party destination and it’s well-deserved: dozens of nightclubs and late-night bars and eateries have moved in in the recent past and, together, make this former animal-slaughtering district one of the city’s liveliest. But it’s not just clubs and bars--several fashionable hotels as well as boutiques and art galleries have also set up shop and much of the action actually centers around them. To the south, Greenwich and West Village stand as a welcome counterpoint: though completely gentrified, this former bohemian enclave still preserves some of its historic charm. Greenwich, which Washington Square Park and NYU call home, remains the more artsy one, while West Village is now easily considered one of the most desirable places to live in Manhattan--just ask the dozens of celebrities who have made it their home. And needless to say, some of the best and most unique shopping, dining and entertainment reside in these leafy cobblestone streets.
Its days of artists' lofts and galleries are pretty much gone, but Soho's charm is still very much alive, even if through tourist-packed streets lined up with big-ticket retail stores and trendsetting designer boutiques. Tribeca, on the other hand, retained its Old-World charm rather well, and its quieter cobblestone streets and converted warehouses have become the multi-million dollar homes of many well-to-do Manhattanites, including many young families. With a big café culture and plenty of chic and trendy dining and shopping options, Soho and Tribeca shine bright among Lower Manhattan neighborhoods.
In early New York days, the common thread between the Lower East Side, Chinatown and Nolita was their immigrant past (Jewish, Italian and Chinese, respectively). Today, what sets them apart is the diversity of their population, from artists to second generation Americans to other mostly young creative types--most of whom share in the desire to claim a piece of the Big Apple for themselves. Though increasingly hip, this lower Manhattan area remains largely gritty (think low-rise tenement-style buildings, though Nolita may be the exception), and is littered with independent shops, radical art galleries and an infinite number of bars, restaurants and night spots.
Home to Wall Street and City Hall, the Financial District is very much a 9-to-5 neighborhood to most people. However, that is rapidly changing as a number of new developments brings new life into the area. The opening of the World Trade Center memorial has also made it more of a destination for visitors and tourists alike. And though it quiets down considerably after-hours, imposing Financial District never ceases to impress.
The name Brooklyn has become synonymous with anything that is independent or artisanal--from food and beverage to fashion and music. Brooklyn has also come to stand for the word hipster and, thanks in part to a lot of media hype, has been called the birthplace of a movement that has spurred the 'Brooklynization' of other global urban centers. Whatever that means, Brooklyn is much more than a label: it's the largest New York City borough for starters and as diverse as they come. Here you'll find a vibrant young and creative community in places such as Williamsburg and Bushwick, a picture-perfect family neighborhood in Prospect Park and Carroll Gardens, and an artsy, edgy vibe in Dumbo, an area that sits just under the Manhattan bridge. Brooklyn is also steeped in history at every corner, and houses daytrip-worthy cultural institutions such as the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Bohemian-chic is what best describes Noho, a pocket-size historic neighborhood north of Houston street. It's famous for its gourmet offerings -- from fine restaurants to eclectic cafes -- and classic buildings that are popular with the city's trendy and moneyed creative class. The East Village, on the other hand, extends its welcome to anyone and everyone: as a birthplace of punk rock and a meeting place for hippies decades ago, it retains its laid-back and accepting attitude and continues to attract an eclectic mix of residents. Street style is a way of life here--plus you'll never be bored with the endless options of bars, local eateries and live music venues that stay open pretty much all day and night.
The Upper West Side is one of the least touristy parts of town--and that's partly what makes it appealing. Go there to see how real (and affluent, we should say) New York families live. Beautiful pre-war architecture and brownstones populate this area that is also filled with meticulously-manicured green spaces and, of course, has Central Park in close proximity. And though not a wildly popular destination for bars and restaurants, The Upper West Side houses some very important cultural institutions such as the Lincoln Center, the city's home for the performing arts, the Julliard School of Music, and the Museum of Natural History.