The 6 Best New York City Walking Tours

essygie via Flickr

One of the brilliant aspects of New York City is its "walkability." You don’t need a car to explore some of the best sights the Big Apple has to offer. Our New York City Walking Tours slideshow takes you through six distinctive neighborhoods, with links to our full walking tour guides. Enjoy the walk and the views.

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Lower East Side Jewish Heritage

New York is a city of immigrants, and many arrivals between 1880 and 1920 settled on the Lower East Side, often in appallingly crowded and filthy conditions. Most of the immigrants were Jews from Eastern Europe, although Irish, German, and Italian immigrants also settled here. This was the largest Jewish community in the world in the early 20th century when almost 500,000 of the Lower East Side's residents were Jewish. In fact, there were five times as many Jewish immigrants here during the first decade of the 20th century as there were in either Philadelphia or Chicago, the next two largest Jewish populations in the U.S. Today, most of their descendents have moved out, but traces of the old Jewish immigrant life can still be found.

Start Exploring: Begin this two-mile route at the Eldridge Street Synagogue and Museum, and use our Lower East Side Walking Tour Guide with interactive map and turn-by-turn directions to explore the area.

Benjamin Dumas via Flickr

Explore Literary History in Greenwich Village

Although Greenwich Village was New York’s toniest neighborhood during the 19th century, the 20th century saw an influx of Bohemians from all over the world eager to take advantage of the area’s cosmopolitan nightlife and cheap rents on the western fringes. The Village came to rival Paris’s Left Bank, as poets, playwrights, and novelists staked out their own personal literary terrains.

Start Exploring: Our Greenwich Village Walking Tour Guide with interactive map and turn-by-turn directions, covers just under two miles and lets you walk in the footsteps of literary giants, exploring the Village's maze of streets.

Fifth Avenue: Cristian Baitg/iStockphoto

Fifth Avenue’s Best Shopping

For over a century, NYC's fabled Fifth Avenue has been synonymous with wealth, privilege, and luxury. Some aspects have changed since the Great Gatsby days: The mansions and private clubs of the Vanderbilts and Carnegies have given way to massive flagship stores and busloads of visitors. But an address on Fifth Avenue is still highly prestigious and many famed traditions still endure, like the lighting of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, window shopping at Tiffany’s, and tea at the Plaza.

Start Exploring: Begin this almost one mile walk at the outdoor plaza of Rockefeller Center, located between 49th and 50th Streets, just west of 5th Avenue. Explore our Fifth Avenue Walking Tour Guide with interactive map and turn-by-turn directions for the rest of the tour.

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A Taste of Chinatown

Unlike the Chinatowns of many other cities, which seem to exist largely for the benefit of tourists, Manhattan's Chinatown is a living, breathing neighborhood. In fact, this pocket of downtown Manhattan is like a vibrant mini-city unto itself, complete with its own newspapers, hundreds of restaurants, and around 100,000 residents. Beyond the tasty restaurants, there are colorful galleries and hidden temples, curio shops, and an excellent museum. Though it can overwhelm with its density, don't be afraid to wander down a random side street in order to steal glimpses of everyday life and time-honored customs. Though it might appear seedy, the neighborhood is generally very safe. And remember, Chinatown is best explored with an open mind and an empty stomach.

Start Exploring: Begin this one mile walk at MOCA on Centre Street, and use our Chinatown Walking Tour Guide with interactive map and turn-by-turn directions to explore the area.

The Historic House of Morgan via Shutterstock

Financial District

The southern tip of Manhattan is the oldest part of New York. Here, the Dutch founded the settlement of Nieuw Amsterdam in the seventeenth century, purchasing the territory from local Indians, before surrendering it to the British in 1674. As New York expanded uptown and America became a world power, the city's most historic district became the seat of international finance, home to Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange, and landmark skyscrapers.

Start Exploring: Begin this 1.2 mile walk at the iconic Wall Street Bull, and use our Financial District Walking Tour Guide with interactive map and turn-by-turn directions to explore the area.

New York City Skyscrapers and Vegetation

Midtown’s Best Architecture

The best place to experience New York City's renowned architecture is in a one mile span of Midtown East. No other city features so many significant styles and buildings in such a condensed area: In the span of just a few blocks, you can witness Art Deco splendor, Moorish Revival magnificence, and quintessential glass-curtain modernism. Perhaps no other city possesses such an iconic skyline. Even if its locals don't ever seem to look up, rest assured that they are mighty proud of what surrounds them.

Start Exploring: Begin your 1.3-mile tour at the New York Public Library at 455 5th Avenue, between 41st and 42nd streets, and use our Midtown Walking Tour Guide with interactive map and turn-by-turn directions for the rest of the tour.