A New York Newbie’s Guide to the Big Apple’s Five Boroughs

New York City is a hub of culture and opportunity, a sprawling metropolis with millions of people milling about, divided into five boroughs, or smaller cities within the city. If the city ever feels too crowded, you can always head east out of it to check out Long Island houses for sale, an area that is home to places like Fire Island and the Hamptons.

Otherwise, here’s a helpful guide to the Big Apple’s five boroughs to help you keep your head on straight: 


This is what most people call to mind when thinking of The Big Apple. Manhattan is a narrow island in the center of all the boroughs that have dozens of small neighborhoods that create a melting pot of peoples and places. It is bustling and crowded, and provides a quintessential NYC experience.

The Upper East Side has The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the United Nations, and hot spots like Madison and 5th Avenues. There is also a bevy of private schools here, making this neighborhood ideal for families.

The Upper West Side affords gorgeous views of Central Park and Riverside Park, as well as stunning pre-war architecture among the buildings.

Greenwich Village is home to New York University and Washington Square Park, while Tribeca is a hub for actors, models, entrepreneurs, and artists.


To the west of Manhattan is Brooklyn, known for the iconic bridge that connects the two boroughs.

Brooklyn feels like a more relaxed version of Manhattan, and is populated by affluent families and what many deem “hipsters.”

Williamsburg is a hot spot for young creative types, those looking for workspaces that are much cheaper than their Manhattan counterparts. Park Slope and Prospect Heights house both families and working professionals.  

Brooklyn also has the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn Children’s Museum, Brooklyn Philharmonic, and the second-largest public art collection in the country within the Brooklyn Museum.


The Bronx is most commonly associated with the New York Yankees baseball team, as well as the hip-hop genre.

Fordham University is here, as well as the Edgar Allan Poe Cottage (where the author spent his last days), New York Botanical Garden, and Bronx Zoo. This area has a low cost of living and is affordable for students. The Riverdale area feels more suburban than urban with its tree-lined streets and family homes.

It is often referred to as the Boogie Down Bronx, stemming from the borough’s moniker as the “Birth of Hip-Hop” in the 1970s. 


Queens is geographically the largest of all the boroughs, as well as the easternmost.

Neighborhoods include Astoria, where young professionals looking for affordable rent flock, and Sunnyside, which has a variety of housing options in many price ranges.

Queens is the center of the punk rock movement, and is known for being ethnically diverse, particularly in the way of culinary fare.

Staten Island

This is the southernmost borough and can be reached via ferry from Manhattan. It’s also a family-oriented, suburban neighborhood.

The arts are important here, and Staten Island Arts is the local council that supports artists and cultural organizations with regrants, workshops, folklife and arts-in-education programs, and advocacy.

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