Preparing for a move to New York City? As any local will tell you, “NYC” isn’t just a single place, as you might expect with a smaller city. It can mean dozens of things! Do you want to head to Manhattan for a classic Empire State experience, perhaps looking to replicate the lifestyle you’ve seen on your favorite TV show? Or will you settle in Brooklyn, or maybe Queens? In New York, you’ve got a lot of choices! But don’t worry, we’ll help you narrow things down and find the best spot for you.
New York is made up of five major areas or “boroughs,” some separated by rivers and connected via ferry or bridge. So, what are the five boroughs of New York? Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and The Bronx. Read on to explore which area of New York is right for what you’re looking for, in our guide to NYC’s boroughs.
NYC Neighborhood Guide – Where to Start
As you consider where in New York you want to call home, here are a few key factors to consider:
- What, to you, makes a great neighborhood? If it’s all about quick transport to work, you’ll want to research subway lines to and from your job. Is it more important to have access to museums and high-end shopping experiences, or to live walking distance from a grocery store? If you have kids, you’ll want to factor in the local schools and parks.
- What’s your price point? Coming from almost anywhere, New York real estate will be a price bump, and the process of finding a new place is unique. There are significant price differences from borough to borough and neighborhood to neighborhood; work through what you’re willing to spend before getting your heart set on a pricey locale.
- Would you rather pay for space or access? Rents in different neighborhoods pay for different benefits. In Queens or Staten Island, you get more space for your money but sacrifice quick access to Manhattan luxuries like shopping and dining. For some, it’s worth being farther out to enjoy extra square footage.
New York Boroughs
Each of New York’s five boroughs has dozens of neighborhoods with their own flavor, experiences, and cuisines. Here’s the lowdown on the five boroughs of New York:
When most people think of New York City — skyscrapers, museums, yellow taxis, Central Park — they are thinking of Manhattan. Manhattan is a narrow island at the center of New York’s five boroughs. While geographically very small, Manhattan is made up of dozens upon dozens of small neighborhoods offering differing costs of living, unique experiences, and their own mix of residents. Bustling, crowded, and bursting with new things to see and experience around every corner, Manhattan is ideal for someone looking for a fast-paced lifestyle and access to big-city amenities.
Neighborhoods of Note in Manhattan
- Upper East Side: The Upper East Side boasts true New York treasures such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim Museum, as well as Madison and 5th Avenues. UES is also home to the United Nations, and has a large concentration of private schools.
- Greenwich Village: If you’re looking for a classic New York feel, Greenwich Village is an ideal area to explore. Home to New York University and Washington Square Park, there are tons of great dining options to explore.
- Upper West Side: Bordering the west side of Central Park, UWS is home to some of the most beautiful real estate in the City. With views of Central Park to the east and Riverside Park to the west, UWS has old-school Manhattan charm with pre-war architecture and, if you’re lucky, stunning park views.
Cost of Living in Manhattan
Cost of living in Manhattan is high when compared to the rest of the nation, and even in comparison to other boroughs. That said, your rent will vary greatly depending on the neighborhood in which you live, with average 1-bedroom rents ranging from $2,800 per month (Washington Heights) to over $7,000 (SOHO).
Living in Manhattan
Move to Manhattan if you’re looking for a classic “New York City” experience. Well-connected and densely populated, Manhattan is city living at its core. Manhattan is also convenient if your job is located on the island.
Located west of Manhattan via the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn’s stereotype is affluent families and hipsters too cool for mainstream Manhattan. While some of this characterization holds water, Brooklyn carries much of the cultural influence and weight of Manhattan, with a more relaxed vibe. Home to beautiful parks, terrific watering holes and dining experiences, and plenty of culture, Brooklyn offers a bit more breathing room than cramped Manhattan.
Neighborhoods of Note in Brooklyn
- Williamsburg: Once a mecca for struggling artists and young creatives, Williamsburg has become a buzzy borough with grit having given way to “hip.” In Williamsburg, you’ll find a thriving arts and music scene and plenty of artisanal goods and foods.
- Park Slope & Prospect Heights: Located west and north of the beautiful Prospect Park, these two neighborhoods are home to many young, more affluent families, as well as professionals. Here, you’ll find beautiful green spaces and venues like Union Hall and Barclays Center.
Cost of Living in Brooklyn
While cost of living in Brooklyn may be higher than in similarly sized cities around the country, it certainly is a price break from Manhattan. Expect to pay between $2,100 and $3,000 a month for a 1-bedroom apartment, with a price jump of up to $4,400 for the priciest neighborhood (DUMBO).
Living in Brooklyn
Move to Brooklyn if you’re looking for access to big-city amenities, with more space and a more relaxed atmosphere. While your commute to work may be slightly longer, you gain green spaces, unique culture, and great coffee and beer.
The Bronx is home of the New York Yankees, is the cradle of hip hop, and boasts the biggest park in the city. Geographically, this borough is located north of Manhattan over the Harlem River. The Bronx features plenty of attractions that make it a unique place to live, including Pelham Bay Park, Bronx Zoo, Yankee Stadium, and phenomenal opportunities to experience culture. What’s the downside? While the subway is set up to take people back and forth to Manhattan, transportation within the borough itself can be a bit cumbersome.
Neighborhoods of Note in the Bronx
- Fordham: Comprised of a few neighborhoods surrounding Fordham University, this neighborhood offers attractions like the Edgar Allen Poe Cottage and New York Botanical Garden.
- Riverdale: One of the more upscale neighborhoods in the Bronx, Riverdale is home to tree-lined streets and homes that feel more suburban in nature (read: not conjoined brownstones).
- South Bronx: Home to the wide-street shopping area The Grand Concourse, South Bronx is where you’ll find Yankee Stadium and the Bronx Documentary Center, and you can even catch a tour of key locations in the birth of hip hop.
Cost of Living in the Bronx
The Bronx offers lower rents on average than other boroughs like Manhattan or Brooklyn—think $2,100 per month instead of $4,000 for a typical 1-bedroom. If it’s more important to you to have affordable rent than to be right in the heart of the city, the Bronx might be a great fit for you.
Living in the Bronx
Move to the Bronx if you’re looking for decent access to Manhattan (no ferries here!) while enjoying lower rent. Or, if you’re just a huge Yankees fan. Also, if you’re a park person, you’re in luck. The Bronx is home to the most public parks of any borough. However, the night life and professional job market aren’t quite as robust as areas with a higher cost of living, typically.
Queens is the easternmost borough of New York City, and geographically the largest of the five. With a relaxed, suburban feel, Queens is unpretentious but still close to the big-city perks you love. Bonus: as one of the most diverse areas in the nation, you’ll enjoy incredible ethnic food options and fabulous music.
Neighborhoods of Note in Queens
- Astoria: Located just a short train ride from Midtown Manhattan, Astoria has become popular with young professionals looking to find lower rents without sacrificing quick access to Manhattan.
- Sunnyside: This western Queens neighborhood is spitting distance from the Empire State Building, with great pubs, thrift shopping. You’ll find a larger variety of housing style options like apartments, houses, and condos, giving the area more of a suburban feel.
Cost of Living in Queens, NY
Queens offers a much lower cost of living than other New York boroughs, with rents ranging from as low as $1,100 for a typical studio and peaking in the mid-$3,000s per month for a 2-bedroom+, with an average around $2,100 for a 1-bedroom apartment. The pricing and experience are much more akin to living in a suburb than living in New York City. If you have a family, this may be perfect for you — for a lower cost, you’ll experience diversity, green space, and plenty to do with children. If you’re a young single looking for nightlife and excitement, you may want to choose Brooklyn or Manhattan, where you’ll pay a little more for access to amenities.
Living in Queens
Move to Queens if you’re looking for a more suburban lifestyle, where you can potentially own a home rather than renting an apartment (average home price right now is around $650,000, comparable to other big cities). Queens is also a great place to live if you’re looking for cultural diversity.
The southernmost borough in New York, Staten Island is connected to Manhattan via ferry! Sometimes referred to as the “forgotten borough,” Staten Island offers a suburban, family-oriented lifestyle preferred by its residents, featuring a great zoo, botanical gardens, and backyards with pools. Wondering where to live in Staten Island? Check out a couple neighborhoods of note below.
Neighborhoods of Note in Staten Island
- Great Kills: This neighborhood is home to plenty of families attracted to the area by great schools, park and beach access, and trails for running or biking. While this neighborhood isn’t a great option if you’re commuting to Manhattan, Great Kills has a lot to offer in terms of lifestyle.
- St. George: Located on the northeastern tip of Staten Island, St. George has easy access to the ferry to Manhattan, making it a great option for those who need to commute. With a downtown strip and a variety of housing options (including charming Victorians), St. George is a lovely neighborhood to explore.
Staten Island Cost of Living
Living in Staten Island is comparatively very affordable, with average rent hovering around $1,400 per month. Buying in this area is more feasible than in other NYC boroughs, with median home values around $530,000.
Living in Staten Island
Move to Staten Island if you’d rather spend money on your home, not your convenience. Separated by water from more populous NYC boroughs and bordering New Jersey on its other side, Staten Island is a great choice for families looking for parks, activities, and the benefits of suburban living.