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New York City Travel Guide

The 10 Manhattan Neighborhoods to Visit on Your First New York Trip

Manhattan can be overwhelming for first-time visitors. Let us be your guide.

Manhattan can be overwhelming thanks to its sheer size—it’s an easy place to get lost, making the task of mapping out where to go, feel like an even more difficult chore. But you’re in luck. From shopping in SoHo to date nights in the West Village (not to be confused with the East Village), we’ve curated pockets of Manhattan that you’ll want to explore the next time you’re in town.

Related: The Best Things to Do in New York City

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West Village

The word “charming” is synonymous with the West Village. This slice of Greenwich Village is lined with historic brownstones and plenty of restaurants and shops, with Bleecker Street acting as the glamorous epicenter for the former. It’s also home to Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment (66 Perry Street) and a multitude of jazz clubs, including the Village Vanguard and Smalls Jazz Club. If you’re planning a date night, this the West Village is the perfect neighborhood to visit.

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Anine Bing, Free People, Reformation, Marc Jacobs, & Other Stories, Aritzia, Prada— window shoppers will be spoilt for choice after traipsing through SoHo which, if you’re ever lost, stands for South of Houston Street. We recommend a pitstop at Wolf & Badger, which features hundreds of smaller designers across multiple price points, or Trudon, known for their intricate candle busts. After a day of shopping, we highly suggest grabbing a bite at the endlessly popular and delicious Balthazar.

INSIDER TIPBalthazar is a notoriously difficult reservation to get. Book your table ahead of time or try for a weekday, lunchtime table when the restaurant is less busy.

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Theatre District 

The Theatre District has a somewhat shoddy reputation amongst locals for its intense crowds and slow walkers, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go. Looking up at the brightly-lit billboards lining Times Square is a quintessential NYC experience, and it would be a sin to not visit. And if you’re on the fence about seeing a Broadway show, mark our words: don’t miss out. We guarantee it’s worth the time and money.

INSIDER TIPStop by the red TKTS booths in Times Square, which often have last-minute, half-priced Broadway tickets available for purchase.

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Little Italy + Chinatown

We’re grouping Little Italy and Chinatown together because they are located right next to one another, and it would be a shame to miss either. Both neighborhoods feel like moments frozen in time thanks to decades-old businesses and historic buildings. Grab pasta at Benito One or tiger shrimp at Potluck Club before heading over to the Tenement Museum, a space dedicated to educating visitors on the immigrant experience from the 1860s to the 1980s.

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Museum Mile

In Fifth Avenue’s Carnegie Hill neighborhood begins Museum Mile, which, as the nickname would imply, provides home to some of the world’s most famous museums: the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, El Museo del Barrio, and more. You’re also across the street from Central Park, perfect for a post-museum stroll or picnic lunch.

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East Village

The East Village has played home to a countless number of visual artists and musicians, cementing its reputation as Manhattan’s hub for creativity If you’re looking to bar-hop, you’ll find dive bars and music venues aplenty, and while you’ll stumble upon some swanky cocktail spots, you’re really going here for hole-in-the-wall dive bars and no-frills restaurants. Grab a cup of caffeine at Porto Rico Coffee Importing (founded in 1907) and a sandwich from Little Kirin to recover after a night of happy hour specials.

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The Financial District, Manhattan’s main business hub, is home to towering skyscrapers, the New York Stock Exchange, One World Observatory, the art-slash-shopping-mall that is the Oculus, as well as the iconic statues of the Charging Bull and Fearless Girl. Looking for a reprieve from massive buildings? Grab dinner at the winding alleyway of Stone Street or drinks at historic South Street Seaport. We also strongly encourage a visit to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, which pays respects to the victims of 9/11 and the tragedy of the Twin Towers.

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Columbus Circle + Lincoln Square

Columbus Circle and Lincoln Square (which seamlessly blend into one another) is a manifestation of every Manhattan-based movie you’ve ever watched. Business people swinging briefcases while being elbowed by ballerinas rushing to a performance at Lincoln Center, and streets peppered with corporate offices, small shops, quaint bakeries, and upscale restaurants. Visually, this is where the melting pot of NYC really comes to fruition.

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Nolita (North of Little Italy) is like SoHo’s close cousin, this is a great hub for shopping boutique brands and smaller businesses. Grab kitschy martini glasses and unique lighters at Abodde or a timeless leather purse at Cuyana before grabbing a slice at the iconic Prince Street Pizza. Follow that up with a slice of banana nutella cake at Little Cupcake Bakeshop.

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There’s no shortage of indoor and outdoor activities in Chelsea. You can peruse over 200 art galleries (including the interactive Whitney Museum of American Art), stroll through the 1.45-mile-long elevated park that is the High Line, unearth hidden treasures at Chelsea Flea Market, and climb the floating Little Island park. And of course, there’s tons of food and drink options: Cookshop serves classic American fare, Bathtub Gin is a Prohibition-era speakeasy, and if you’re indecisive? Simply walk through the dozens of vendors at Chelsea Market for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

donhulbert6684 August 8, 2023

These are great places to go, but the order they have them in will have you scurrying around New York unnecessarily. Columbus Circle is at 59th Street which is closer to the theater district than the financial district or Nolita. Try using a map of some kind to plot a more rational order rather than the subjective ordering of this list to avoid spending more time and money on transportation. New York can be exhausting as it is, bring comfortable shoes and clothes for walking!