If you’re not sure what the 5 boroughs of New York City are, they’re the five districts that make up NYC: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. You can think of them like cities, and each one contains several neighborhoods (here are my favorite neighborhoods in NYC).
Each of the boroughs of New York City has something unique to offer, so it’s worth taking the time to get to know each one. Most people are familiar with Manhattan and its most famous landmarks, but there is more to the Big Apple.
From the trendy art and nightlife of Brooklyn to the history of Queens; to the culture of the Bronx and the beautiful parks on Staten Island, there is a lot to explore. In this guide, I’ll help you plan your trip through NYC’s boroughs by sharing the highlights of each one. This way, you’ll know what to see in each area, as well as where to stay if you plan on spending the night.
|If you plan on visiting several popular tourist attractions, check out one of the NYC city passes, like the New York Pass. These cards offer great discounts on top activities and attractions across the 5 boroughs of New York City.|
After visiting the Big Apple many times, I can appreciate the distinct personality and charm of each borough. Hopefully, you’ll have a better idea of them after reading this article. I’ll also include a map of New York City’s boroughs to help you organize your itinerary.
Manhattan, the most popular borough in New York City
Without a doubt, Manhattan is one of the most popular boroughs in NYC. Many of the top NYC attractions are in Manhattan, and when people picture the Big Apple, they usually think of places like the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty. Well, you can see all that and more in Manhattan.
One of the best places to visit here is Times Square, where you can enjoy a Broadway show, go shopping, or check out a rooftop bar. It’s an awesome place to go at night, but if you’re looking for daytime things to do, head to Central Park.
This massive urban park covers 843 acres and features walking trails, playgrounds, green spaces, waterways, and historic structures. It’s also surrounded by some of the top museums in NYC, like the American Museum of Natural History, The Met, and the Guggenheim Museum.
In addition to the theaters, bars, museums, and monuments in this NYC borough, there are also beautiful lookout points. Manhattan has the best observation decks in NYC, like the Top of the Rock, The EDGE at Hudson Yards, SUMMIT One Vanderbilt, and One World Observatory. If you visit the latter, I recommend also going to the 9/11 Museum and checking out the nearby Financial District.
Our guide to the best hotels in Manhattan has more accommodation options you’ll like.
Brooklyn, the trendiest New York City borough
Brooklyn has a vibrant atmosphere filled with art, culture, entertainment, food, and more. It’s actually the largest borough in NYC by population and attracts everyone from families and couples to young professionals.
While there is a lot to see here, the borough of Brooklyn, NY is more laid-back than Manhattan. I recommend checking out some of the best Brooklyn neighborhoods, like DUMBO, Williamsburg, and Bushwick. It’s also worth traveling down to the beach and amusement piers of Coney Island, especially if you’re looking for things to do in NYC with kids.
That said, there are plenty of things for adults to do in Brooklyn. For example, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is one of the best places to go in NYC as a couple. This romantic venue is just one of the attractions in Prospect Park, a huge green space with a lake, boathouse, sports fields, and the Brooklyn Museum.
If you like art, you’ll love seeing the street art at the Bushwick Collective, and you can even take a tour of the collection. At night, check out the views from the Brooklyn Bridge, one of the most iconic places to visit in Brooklyn.
Our guide to the best hotels in Brooklyn has more accommodation options you’ll like.
Queens, the largest borough in New York City
New York City’s Queens borough is on Long Island, next to Brooklyn. It’s the largest NYC borough by size and connects to Manhattan and the Bronx via several bridges. From the museums and parks to the area’s nightlife, there are lots of fun things to do in Queens.
First, I must mention Flushing Meadows Corona Park, one of the top parks in NYC. Built for the 1939 NY World’s Fair, which it also hosted in 1964, this park contains several must-see landmarks in Queens, like the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and the Unisphere sculpture. It’s also home to Queens Botanical Garden, a picturesque venue with various outdoor gardens, a fragrance walk, an arboretum, and an indoor gallery.
The park has a few museums, too, like the New York Hall of Science and the Queens Museum, one of the best free museums in NYC with a room-sized scale model of NYC’s boroughs.
Some other Queens museums I recommend include the Museum of the Moving Image, MoMA PS1, and the Noguchi Museum & Socrates Sculpture Garden. For something different, check out Rockaway Beach, one of the best beaches in NYC, where you can surf, skate, or swim.
- The Rockaway Hotel – A good option if you plan on visiting eastern Long Island and the Hamptons
- Ravel Hotel – A 4-star hotel along the East River, conveniently close to Manhattan
- The Collective Paper Factory – A cozy boutique hotel by the Museum of the Moving Image. It’s also one of the cheapest hotels in Queens
The Bronx, the most culturally diverse NYC borough
North of Manhattan, New York City’s Bronx borough is known for being a grittier region, but it’s been on an upswing in recent decades. The Bronx offers a different perspective of the Big Apple, with lots of open green spaces, historical structures, and a melting pot of cultures.
One of the most beautiful places in the Bronx is Van Cortlandt Park, where you can practice all kinds of sports and appreciate natural elements like brooks, streams, forests, and a freshwater lake. The park is next to Woodlawn Cemetery, one of the largest and oldest cemeteries in the city, and the final resting place for notable figures like Herman Melville, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, and Celia Cruz.
Nearby, you can visit the New York Botanical Garden or go over to see the public gardens at Wave Hill. Alternatively, Orchard Beach is the perfect place to get fresh seaside air.
History and art lovers will like the Bronx Museum of the Arts and the Edgar Allan Poe Cottage, where the morbid writer spent his final years. During baseball season, you can catch a game at Yankee Stadium.
If you’re not sure what to do in the Bronx, I recommend this contrasts tour through four NYC boroughs: the Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. It’s one of the best tours in New York City, and you’ll get a nice overview of the Bronx.
Staten Island, a historic New York City borough with lots of outdoor activities
Staten Island is a borough of NYC that some may overlook, but it’s worth visiting. It offers lots of nice green spaces and a slower pace of life out of all 5 boroughs of New York City.
One of the best attractions on Staten Island is the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden, where you can stroll through the landscaped grounds and marvel at 19th-century buildings. Moreover, it’s home to the beautiful, English-inspired Staten Island Botanical Garden.
This area also includes the Chinese Scholar’s Garden, which transports you to the tranquil gardens and ponds of Suzhou, China. Snug Harbor is also home to the Staten Island Children’s Museum and the Staten Island Museum, which has an impressive collection of art, history, and scientific artifacts.
I also recommend learning about New York’s maritime past at the National Lighthouse Museum. It’s near the Staten Island Ferry, one of the best free attractions in NYC that takes you past the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and Governor’s Island.
Finally, round out your tour of this NYC borough with a visit to Fort Wadsworth and Historic Richmond Town. If the weather is good, visit the Staten Island Greenbelt Nature Center, where you can enjoy one of the nicest hikes in New York City.
- Hilton Garden Inn New York/Staten Island – A modern hotel that’s just a 20-minute drive from Newark Airport
- Harbor House Bed and Breakfast – A cozy B&B by the Staten Island Ferry terminal
There aren’t many accommodation options in Staten Island, so if you need more ideas, read our guide on where to stay in NYC.
Boroughs of New York City map
Now that you know more about these different regions, here is a map of New York City’s boroughs to help you plan your trip. Take note of the three nearby airports, two in Queens and one in New Jersey:
FAQs – NYC boroughs
If you have any other questions or concerns about the five boroughs of New York City, here are the answers to some common questions.
There are 5 boroughs in New York City, but many distinct neighborhoods.
No, Long Island is a region next to NYC that includes Brooklyn and Queens. Long Island City is a neighborhood in Queens.
Brooklyn is the most populated borough in NYC, with over 2.5 million residents.
Based on rent and housing prices, the Bronx is the most affordable borough in NYC.
Each New York borough has something unique to offer. Manhattan is home to the most famous tourist attractions, Queens is the most culturally diverse, and Staten Island is known for its green spaces. Brooklyn is the trendiest borough and has endless activities, while the Bronx is recognized as the birthplace of hip-hop.
Manhattan is definitely the most popular borough in New York, but you might prefer another borough instead. It depends on your interests and what you plan to do in the city.
I hope this guide helped you familiarize yourself with New York City’s boroughs and that you’re excited to explore each one. If you have any other questions or you’d like to share your experience, leave me a comment below. I’d be happy to hear from you!
Have a wonderful trip!