In Travel

A Comprehensive Guide To Manhattan’s Coolest Neighbourhoods

Conquering all that Manhattan has to offer takes more than a few trips to the Big Apple.

Although the island is just 21km long, New York’s busiest borough is jam-packed with neighbourhoods to discover. Skyscrapers, sultry jazz clubs, and shimmering billboard lights are just a few of the many details that make up this city that truly never sleeps.

What makes Manhattan so special is its representation of diversity from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. Nearly every language, culture, and food/beverage option is available on this small yet fierce chunk of New York. Whether shopping in SoHo or brownstone gazing in Harlem is more your thing, here are five of Manhattan’s most unmissable neighbourhoods.

Lower East Side

Located in the southeastern corner of Manhattan, the Lower East Side is known for its tenement-style buildings, graffiti-smattered streets and countless neighbourhood dive bars. For those looking for quick bites, delicious coffee, and vintage shopping as far as the eye can see, the Lower East Side has your back.

Image: Russ & Daughters / Facebook

Eat: No trip to the Lower East Side would be complete without a pit-stop at Katz’s Delicatessen and Russ & Daughters Café for lox, bagels, and pastrami sandwiches.

Drink: For natural wine lovers, The Ten Bells is basically a Lower East Side institution. For those seeking a cheap beer and quintessential dive bar ambiance, 169 Bar is your jam.

Play: Essex Market has been an institution on the LES for over 100 years. Browse countless rows of fish, cheese, and other specialty products from craft vendors in the ‘hood.

Stay: The Public Hotel offers floor-to-ceiling windows, charging ports, and views for days in each of its modern rooms. A café, market place and 24-hour cookies/coffee are all available in the vibrant lobby lounge area.

Chelsea 

Galleries, chic townhouses, and high-end shopping have transformed Chelsea into one of New York’s trendiest neighbourhoods to visit. Though once known as the heart of the LGBT community, Chelsea is still home tons of gay bars, though the vibe of the neighbourhood has slightly changed. Over 200 art galleries line the streets of this posh neighbourhood, and big attractions such as the Chelsea Market and the High Line also call this cozy ‘hood home.

Eat: For a trendy spin on classic New York diner food, hit Cafeteria. People watch by day, soak up the post-clubbing alcohol at night. What could be better?

Image: Bathtub Gin NYC / Facebook

Drink: Bathtub Gin’s speakeasy-style ambiance is perfect for sipping on craft cocktails away from the hustle and bustle of the neighbourhood. Stop by every Monday from 9-11PM for some of the city’s best live jazz.

Play: No trip to Chelsea is complete with a stroll along the High Line, the neighbourhood’s 1.45-mile-long elevated walkway, situated on a former NYC railroad track.

Stay: The High Line Hotel is located in a converted redbrick dormitory and still boasts its original stained-glass windows. Modern rooms are equipped with WiFi, mini bars, and fireplaces (upgraded rooms). On-site coffee shop, bar, and 740 sq. meter garden courtyard are just a few of the hotel’s many amenities.

Harlem

No Manhattan neighbourhood has seen a renaissance like that of Harlem. This upper Manhattan neighbourhood has completely transformed in the realms of food and wine, yet still maintains its sultry ‘Old School’ New York charm. Known for its jazz culture, comfort food, and diverse array of locals, Harlem is the quintessential neighbourhood for those looking to experience the true soul of New York City.

Eat: Trust us, there’s truly no better place for comfort food than Harlem’s infamous Red Rooster restaurant.

manhattan neighbourhoods

Image: Harlem Tavern / Facebook

Drink: For a beer garden type atmosphere (indoor and outdoor) with abundant food options, look no further than Harlem Tavern.

Play: We recommend joining in on a basic walking tour with a local expert to check out all that the neighbourhood has to offer. From jazz clubs to gospel culture to classic theaters, this is truly the best way to see it all.

Stay: Aloft Harlem is conveniently located in the heart of this bustling neighbourhood, located just a few minutes walk away from the 125th Street subway station. Rooms feature flat-screen TVs, mini-bars, and a 24-hour self serve cafe/bar (as well as a 24-hour gym room for burning off said calories) are also complementary with your stay.

Nolita

Tucked between bustling SoHo and the Lower East Side lies Nolita (that’s North of Little Italy, for those curious). The neighbourhood is known for its quaint and charming feel, and is marked by a handful of boutique clothing stores, jewelry shops, and street vendors. Coffee shops, trendy eateries, and cocktail bars are in abundance, and for those looking to snag some hand-made jewelry or custom artwork, or simply stroll one of the more quiet NYC neighbourhoods, heading to Nolita is just the ticket.

Eat: Prince St. Pizza. Period.

Drink: Wine lovers, be sure to stop by Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels for a dimly lit oasis and extensive by-the-glass offerings. Cocktail lovers, Mothers Ruin is for you (booze-filled slushies included).

Play: Simply stroll the cobblestone-lined streets and take in the neighbourhood’s charm – with a coffee from Gimme! Coffee in hand, of course.

manhattan neighbourhoods

Image: The Nolitan / Facebook

Stay: What better place to stay in Nolita than The Nolitan? Hotel rooms feature hardwood floors, bathtubs, and flat-screen TVs, while upgraded rooms also come with panoramic views of the city. Daily happy hour, bike and skateboard rentals, and an on-site French café are also added perks.

Upper West Side

Although this rather residential neighbourhood tends to stay off lists like these, when it comes to the Upper West Side, there’s actually much more than meets the eye. Countless New York institutions call this neighbourhood home, including the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Ballet, Museum of Natural History, and more.

Amongst a slew of quiet brownstone-lined streets, you’ll find cozy coffee shops, mom and pop boutiques, and a handful of places to score some of the city’s best bagels, lox, and smoked fish. Oh, and that little old thing called Central Park? You’ve got prime access to it from the UWS (though Riverside Park is also worth a visit).

manhattan neighbourhoods

Eat: Visit Barney Greengrass in the morning for a quintessential bagel-and-lox breakfast, then for dinner, splurge on Italian at Osteria Cotta, Motorino Pizzeria, or Gennaro’s.

Drink: For craft cocktails, Nobody Told Me and The Dead Poet are solid choices (the latter of which serves up free popcorn and author-inspired beverages). For a laid-back neighbourhood pub vibe, check out one of the multiple outposts of Dive Bar.

Play: Hit the American Museum of Natural History and Hayden Planetarium to get your education on, followed by a stroll through the neighbourhood’s iconic Zabar’s grocery market. Stay: Nothing screams Upper West Side luxury more than a stay at The Lucerne. This sophisticated hotel is just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Central Park and is located in 120-year-old landmark building. Enjoy designer toiletries and Keurig machines in each room, as well as a fitness center, spa, and on-site restaurant serving up French/Mediterranean inspired food and a hefty wine list.

(Lead image: The Public Hotel / supplied) 

Published 10 January, 2020