5 Best Manhattan Neighborhoods You Need to Know

Explore the 5 best neighborhoods like a local

Did you know the island of Manhattan has a whopping 59 distinct neighborhoods?

With so many options, it could seem daunting to choose the one in which to stake your claim or or just to spend your day. Manhattan is so large that if you wanted to try a new restaurant, one each for breakfast, lunch and dinner every single day, you would never be able to try them all in a year.

I have been a local of Manhattan for half my life, and 13 of those years as a real estate expert. When you live in NYC as long as I have, and work in the business of finding people places to live, you get a first hand view of what people like and why. This breakdown is based on the most requested neighborhoods people have asked about. 


Although it's only an island, Manhattan is the most densely populated area in the US. Manhattan has a population of 1.63 million squashed into an island that is 22 square miles. That is 27,000 people per square mile! That’s a whole lot of humans cramped into a small space.

Before we begin, let’s break down the island into smaller bits so you can talk about it like a pro.

Manhattan is divided longitudinally into East Side and West Side. That dividing line is straight down 5th Avenue, beginning at 142nd Street in the north all the way to Washington Square Park to the south, ending at 8th Street.

The latitudinally dividing line of Manhattan is Uptown and Downtown. Uptown tends to be residential, made up of more pre-war buildings, setting the mood of classic, timeless, and stately. Whereas Downtown is where all the action is, with great restaurants, bars, and skyscrapers. There isn’t a particularly clear line of distinction between the two, it’s all about the mood. And depending on your preference, quiet with limited commercial activity or smack dab in the middle of things, it’s really up to you. In fact, two of the largest neighborhoods are called Upper East Side and Upper West Side.



Here’s a little tip when considering your next neighborhood.

It takes longer to go east/west across Manhattan than it takes to go from uptown to downtown. This is because the middle of Manhattan is where most of the commercial and office areas are located, like Times Square and Midtown. There are fewer mass transit options to travel from east to west and if you are hiring a car, or drive your own, the streets are extremely crowded.

So let’s say you are someone who works on the East side of Manhattan, it’s best to look for a place to live on the East Side, either uptown or downtown, as there are many transportation options going north/south than east/west, such as multi-lane highways, subways and many express buses.


Now that you can speak about Manhattan like a pro, let’s talk about the five best neighborhoods in NYC.

Neighborhood #1: West Village

Located just south of West 14th Street and extending all the way west to the Hudson River, the West Village is always at the very top of the talked-about neighborhoods. Among the many ways to spend your time in the West Village are two pop culture icons, the Friends apartment building (at the corner of Bedford and Grove Streets) and the Sex and the City brownstone stoop, must-sees for all visitors and locals alike. We also recommend a meander down Hudson River Park, where you will find family-friendly activities like a carousel at Pier 62, a waterpark and the Intrepid Museum, as well as adult-friendly locales like City Vineyard and Grand Banks, an oyster bar aboard an historic schooner. Additionally, the West Village is known for see and be-seen brunch spots like Cafe Cluny, The Butcher’s Daughter and Waverly Inn.

Architectural Style: Quaint, brownstone/townhouses and tree lined streets (think Sex and the City)

Mood: Lively but neighborhood-y

Known for:

Great restaurants and nightlife

Great for people-watching

Neighborhood of choice for many celebrities

Pricey full service luxury condos

Outdated walk-ups and co-ops

Neighborhood #2: Flatiron

My personal favorite, Flatiron, is bounded by parks, with Madison Square Park to the north, Gramercy Park to the east and Union Square Park to the south. The most architecturally astounding contrasts exist in the Flatiron neighborhood, from ornate Beaux-Arts details to cast-iron columns and modern glass facades, it’s all here at which to admire. This neighborhood is also known for the original, and historically significant eatery of Shake Shack, the burger joint located in Madison Square Park. And don’t forget the premier Italian one-stop shop for foodies, Eataly. If you need a respite from too much indulgence, just pop over to Madison Square Park, an urban dweller’s park paradise, fit with rotating art installations and, of course, Shake Shack.

Architectural Style: Modern with a mix of traditional, luxury condos and lofts

Mood: Equally lively and neighborhood-y, touristy but not overly-crowded

Known for:

The Flatiron Building

The first Shake Shack and where Eataly was founded in the US

Shopping along 5th Avenue 


Neighborhood #3: Upper East Side

Spanning from 95th Street to 59th Street, the Upper East Side follows its namesake, locating itself to the east of Central Park to the East River. There’s no denying that this neighborhood is known for its extensive row of premier museums, including Frank Llyod Wright’s Guggenheim, The Metropolitan, a Beaux Arts masterpiece and the best museum to get lost within. There’s also the Cooper Hewitt, the Frick Collection, Neue Gallerie, the list is endless. If you need a break from history, try a walk through Central Park, or even shopping at Bloomingdales. It’s all here for your enjoyment.

Architectural Style: Mostly classic condos and co-ops, towering above the streets

Mood: Residential with amenities to support the community

Known for:

Museum Mile

High-end boutiques along Madison Avenue 

Proximity to Central Park, one of the main reasons people want to live here

Old-world wealth living high above the Park, with the best views of the city

The newly extended Second Avenue subway

Neighborhood #4:  Tribeca

Named so because of its exact shape and location, the “TRIangle BElow CAnal,” Tribeca is tucked between Canal Street to the north, Broadway to the east, West Side Hwy to the west and Vesey Street to the south. A neighborhood known for its quiet exclusivity, Tribeca dishes out the same at exclusive venues like Tribeca Grill and the Brandy Library. Co-owned by Robert DeNiro, the grill is the place to see and taste it all. Lovers of all things spirit-based cocktails will enjoy the ambiance of the Brandy Library, lined floor-to-ceiling with bottles of the choicest spirits. If architecture is your achilles heel, instead of food or drink, check out the neighborhood's famous Jenga Building at the corner of Church and Leonard streets or the classic-turned modern Woolworth building at Park Place and Broadway, where they recently converted the top 30 floors to ultra-luxury residences.

Architectural Style: High-style converted warehouses

Mood: Subtle, not flashy, and respectfully quiet and calm

Known for:

Home to celebrities that seek privacy

Cobblestone streets that keep the traffic light, slow and steady

Great restaurants and hidden gems

Roxy Hotel jazz bar, The Django

West Side esplanade overlooking the Hudson River with a great view of New Jersey


Neighborhood #5: West Chelsea

West Chelsea used to be called, well, Chelsea until it became too cool to be included with the rest of Chelsea. It begins in the Meatpacking District on 14th Street and runs north to 34th Street. The clear winner of West Chelsea living is The High Line, New York City’s elevated park concept. It spans from 14th street to 34th and beyond, with views and experiences that every city and nature lover will enjoy. At the north end of it you will find a newly added neighborhood called Hudson Yards, complete with a shopping mall and the infamous Vessel sculpture. Don’t skip over Chelsea Market, located at the south end of The High Line. It’s known for its local offerings to its neighbors but also attracts visitors from afar for its unique architectural heritage. And a local tip, stop by Txikito, tucked away on a side street, this unassuming, and very tiny, restaurant serves mouth watering Basque-style tapas, also known as pintxos, pronounced “peen-chos.”

Architectural Style: Luxury condos by famous architects mixed in with warehouse galleries

Mood: Hip, fashion-y and highly designed

Known for:

The High Line

Art galleries and restaurants

Notable condos like Zaha Hadid's 520 West 28th St and Lantern House

One thing is for certain, not everyone will agree with my choices for the 5 best neighborhoods in Manhattan, but that’s not surprising. All of the neighborhoods in Manhattan have their own best features and who are we to deny an opinion, agree or disagree. Moving to Manhattan is one of the best decisions I have ever made and I hope you find the perfect neighborhood to call your own like I did.

If you are interested in more information, want to start exploring the neighborhoods together, be sure to reach out and schedule an appointment. I look forward to meeting you!

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