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New York City Boroughs: Everything You Need to Know

There are 5 incredible boroughs of New York City but many tourists only stick to Manhattan. Find out the best spots in each borough here in our ultimate travel guide.

About New York City Boroughs

Did you know that New York City is divided into five different boroughs? Oh yes, there is more than just Manhattan. The five New York City boroughs are Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, The Bronx, and Staten Island. New York City has a population of around 8.5 million people scattered across these 5 boroughs, with the most populated being Manhattan at around 1.5 million (funnily enough, it’s also the smallest borough!). To get yourself acquainted with them, check out this easy to read map of the New York City boroughs.

Heard of all the New York boroughs but aren’t totally sure what the differences are? Let’s get to know the boroughs of New York City all a bit better – from the best food, sights, things to do, and what makes each one unique.

Image of Brooklyn Bridge from DUMBO, NYC
DUMBO, Brooklyn – New York Borough | Skyscanner Canada

Brooklyn

Best New York borough for: Street art, botanical gardens and plenty of shows

Brooklyn is New York’s most populated borough, which means there are plenty of activities to keep everyone occupied all year long. Start your day off with a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, so you can get a complete view of the New York Harbor, Brooklyn, and Manhattan. Walk over to Brooklyn Heights, nicknamed “America’s first suburb”! The pedestrian promenade here offers a great view of the Manhattan skyline – particularly at night so you can see the ‘City that Never Sleeps’ twinkle under the moonlight.

Close by you can head to DUMBO in the northeast of Brooklyn. DUMBO is one of New York City’s trendiest and historic neighbourhoods. Expect re-furbished warehouses and some of the city’s best pizza. From April to October, make sure to check out the DUMBO Flea Market, rated one of the best flea markets in the world.

If you’re into street art, you’ll be in heaven in this New York City borough. Start your Brooklyn street art tour at the Bushwick Collective Street Art Gallery and explore from there. Look out for some of your favourite street artists at this popular Brooklyn attraction. But the art doesn’t stop here! Head to the Brooklyn Museum that has a collection of around 1.5 million works. The museum is free on Saturday evenings from 5 – 11 p.m. the first Saturday of every month.

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden provides a quiet oasis from the hustle and bustle of this New York borough – although there is an admission to enter. If you’re planning a trip to New York in the spring, make sure you check out the Cherry Blossom Festival.

If you’re done with the rest of Brooklyn for the day, you can head over to Coney Island in the southwest part of this New York borough. Coney Island is a particularly great place to bring the kids and the beach is free and open to the public.

Howard Beach John F. Kennedy International Airport subway station with the train and empty platform. A plane is flying in the sky. New York City, New York, USA.
JFK Airport connects travellers to New York boroughs by public transport

Where to stay in Brooklyn

While you won’t find as wide of a range of accommodation in other New York boroughs compared to Manhattan, tourists can find a decent selection of mid-range, budget, and luxury hotels in Brooklyn.

Stay near Brooklyn Heights if you want to be within walking distance to the main sights, and lots of neighbourhoods in Brooklyn are well connected via subway. Prices on hotels start at $150 for two people (but there’s also the possibility of finding a good last-minute hotel deal!). Note that prices on accommodation in New York City go up during the summer months and U.S. holiday weekends.

Getting to/from Brooklyn

New York City is served by three major airports: JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark (located in bordering New Jersey).

  • JFK is the closest airport if you plan on staying in this New York borough. The cheapest and most convenient way to get from JFK to Brooklyn is to take the AirTrain, plus a subway or bus transfer.
  • If you’re coming in from LaGuardia Airport, you can take the airport shuttle NYC Express Bus ($16 USD one-way) with service to Manhattan and then take the MTA to your Brooklyn neighbourhood.
  • Alternatively, there’s always the option for rideshares or taxis (although not recommended during rush hour). If you’re arriving in New York outside of peak travel hours, travel time can be 30 minutes.

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Unisphere in Queens - New York Borough
Unisphere in Queens – New York Borough | Skyscanner Canada

Queens

Best New York borough for: Diverse dining options and city events

Queens is probably best known for its diversity, which means it is filled with a rich history and delicious food. In this New York City borough, you can explore Chinatown, Little Guyana, Little India, Little Morocco and Astoria all in one day!

The borough of Queens is home to an array of museums, including the MoMA PS1 (contemporary wing of the Museum of Modern Art), Museum of the Moving Image, Queens Museum, NY Hall of Science, and the Noguchi Museum.

Events in this New York City borough might surprise you! You can head to the free Qualifying Tournament for the U.S. Open and then go to the U.S. Open. Get a prime view of the NYC Marathon or bet on a race at the Aqueduct Racetrack. Oh yeah, you can also watch the Home Run Apple rise during a Mets game at Citi Field if you’re lucky!

There are tons of free events that happen all over this New York City borough. Some popular festivals in Queens include the Meadows Music and Arts Festival, Annual Holiday Festival, and Queens Pride events. Wander through the Flushing Meadows Corona Park at any time and enjoy the very yoga-friendly botanical garden, baseball games, sculptures, cricket games, and art museums.

End your day in Queens at one of several breweries, cocktail bars, New York City’s oldest continuously operating bar called Neir’s Tavern or New York City’s oldest beer garden called Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden.

Where to stay in Queens

Prices on accommodation drop in Queens compared to Manhattan and Brooklyn. You can find double accommodation in mid-range hotels between $100-150, and there are reasonable luxury hotel options as well.

If you want to make the most of your time in Queens, neighbourhoods like Astoria are popular with tourists and provide easy access to public transportation on the MTA. From here it’s an easy subway ride into Manhattan and other New York City boroughs. If you are looking for a hotel stay closer to the airport, choose from one of the many hotels near JFK Airport in Queens.

Getting to/from Queens

The closest New York City airports to Queens are LaGuardia and JFK. As both airports are located in the New York borough of Queens, there are a few options to get from the airport to your accommodation in Queens.

  • The Q33, Q47, Q72 and Q48 buses make connections between Queens and LaGuardia Airport. You can then take the subway to your neighbourhood and accommodation in Queens. Use the MTA trip planner to plan your connection from the airport shuttles and the MTA. Travel time will be approximately 1 hour.
  • From JFK Airport: Take the AirTrain to Jamaica Station and from there you can use New York’s MTA to get to your neighbourhood in Queens. Depending on where you’re staying, the travel time can be from 45 minutes to over an hour.

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View of Central Park from above, surrounded by skyscrapers. Central Park in Manhattan
Central Park in Manhattan – New York City Borough | Skyscanner Canada

Manhattan

Best New York borough for: Landmarks and Top 10 New York City attractions

Manhattan is definitely the most visited and well-known New York City borough. Here you can find Times Square, some of the world’s most iconic skyscrapers, and Broadway. Some of the best Manhattan experiences, we recommend a Walk on the High Line, heading to the top of the Empire State Building or Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center, spend the afternoon wandering in Central Park, and be inspired at some of New York’s top museums like the MOMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Other bucket list items in this New York City borough include visiting Grand Central Terminal, spending time at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, taking a ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, watching a performance at the Radio City Music Hall or at a Broadway theatre, exploring the Museum of Modern Art, The Guggenheim and the American Museum of Natural History, and admiring the New York Public Library.

The Metropolitan Opera House, the Apollo Theater, and Brooklyn Bridge are all worth a visit, too! Throw in a comedy show at the Comedy Cellar or the UCB Theater and you have yourself a wonderful tour of what this New York borough has to offer.

If you’re looking for quirkier things to do in New York City, Manhattan is also filled with them! From secret bookstores to bars in old vaults to museums in elevators to restaurants that celebrate Broadway failures – Manhattan has gems hidden around every corner. You’re pretty much guaranteed to never run out of things to do and sites to see in this New York City borough.

Where to stay in Manhattan

There’s no shortage of accommodation in Manhattan to fit any budget. From hostels to stylish boutique hotels, family-friendly mid-range options close to the major attractions in Midtown, to luxury hotels across the island, the only choice will be picking your favourite neighbourhood in Manhattan.

If you are travelling solo, there are budget hotels and hostel options for around $50/night in Manhattan. If you’re travelling with the family, your best bet is to stay in popular Midtown, where hotels range from $150/night upwards for double occupancy.

Getting to/from Manhattan

All three main New York airports have public transportation services to and from Manhattan, and it’s the most accessible of all New York City boroughs.

  • From LaGuardia Airport: If you’re coming into New York from LaGuardia, you can take the airport shuttle NYC Express Bus ($16 USD one-way).
  • From JFK Airport: The AirTrain at JFK transfers you to Jamaica Station, and from here you’ll have to connect to the LIRR (Long Island Railroad) which goes to Penn Station on 34th Street in Midtown, a central location for getting to your accommodation in Manhattan. Cost is $15 and will take about 30 minutes.
  • From Newark Airport: As this airport is just next door in New Jersey, passengers can connect to Manhattan via the NJ Transit train from the airport. Travel time will be about 30 minutes and you’ll arrive at Penn Station. One-way tickets are $13.
  • Shuttle services like the Airlink NYC can be arranged to transport you from any New York City airport to your hotel 24 hours/day. Depending on your time of arrival/departure from New York and which borough you’re staying in, this might be the cheapest and most convenient option overall!

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Image of statue and building in Pelham Bay Park in The Bronx - New York City borough
Pelham Bay Park in The Bronx – New York City Borough | Skyscanner Canada

The Bronx

Best New York borough for: The Yankees, nature, and the Boulevard of Dreams

You might have realized by now that the boroughs of New York City tend to have ginormous parks and botanical gardens. However, the Bronx is actually home to America’s largest botanical garden as well as the Pelham Bay Park, which is three times the size of Central Park! The Bronx is also where you can find a freshwater river, perfect for canoeing and paddling since the waterway has been revitalized.

Art lovers can relish in the expressive side of the Bronx, which includes the Bronx Documentary Center, Bronx Museum of the Arts, BronxArtSpace, the Andrew Freedman Home, the WallWorks Gallery and of course, the Edgar Allan Poe Cottage.

The Grand Concourse, previously known as the Boulevard of Dreams, used to be the location of some of the “best addresses” in New York City. The Boulevard starts at 138th Street and goes north to Mosholu Parkway. Make sure to wander around 161st Street, where you get the highlight of the concourse as well as views of the old and new Yankee Stadiums.

Speaking of the Yankees, you can catch a Yankee game at the new Yankee Stadium. If there are no games scheduled, you can always book a tour of the venue.

Where to stay in the Bronx

A lot of New Yorkers are moving uptown as rent prices continue to rise, and as a result, many people are relocating to the Bronx. You can find some good prices on accommodation here, with comfortable mid-range hotels ranging between $125-200/night for double occupancy. Try and pick your hotel that’s within walking distance to a subway station so you can easily access the other New York boroughs.

Getting to/from the Bronx

The closest New York City airport to the Bronx is LaGuardia, just over 16 km away.

  • LaGuardia Airport: If you are arriving from LaGuardia, you’ll have to pass through Manhattan and then head onwards to the Bronx if taking public transportation on the MTA. The travel time can reach up to 1.5-2 hours.
  • JFK Airport: Public transportation between JFK and the Bronx will take about 1.5 hours. Same as if you’re heading to Manhattan, take the LIRR to Manhattan and then connect on the MTA to your accommodation in the Bronx.
  • Newark Airport: The best way to get to the Bronx if you’re arriving from Newark is to take the NJ Transit to Manhattan’s Penn Station, and then hop on the MTA heading uptown towards the Bronx.
Orange Staten Island Ferry in front of the Statue of Liberty
Staten Island Ferry | Skyscanner Canada

Staten Island

Best New York borough for: History, boardwalks and wine

Ride over to the New York City borough of Staten Island on the free Staten Island Ferry and make sure to stay a while! There are over around 10,000 acres of park area and a 630-foot observation wheel.

If you’re looking for some historical sites in Staten Island, you can tour the historic Fort Wadsworth, a former military base that was closed in 1994. Parts of the fort are open for exploration, while the structures like Battery Weed and Fort Tompkins required a guided tour. Other historical adventures include the Conference House Museum, which hosted the Staten Island Peace Conference in 1776, the Seguine Mansion with its own flock of peacocks, the haunted Kreischer Mansion built in 1855 and the Sandy Ground Historical Museum, which was one of the city’s first free African-American settlements.

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk in Staten Island extends four kilometres off the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a great place to go for a stroll, bike along the paths, and bring a picnic. Another popular Staten Island attraction with locals and tourists is South Beach, a public beach complete with a long boardwalk and pier. It’s a good spot to take the family or just go for a walk on a sunny day in the summer.

In case there wasn’t enough to do in this New York borough, you can also learn to make cheese, make wine, or just go for a tasting at the Staten Island Winery.

Where to stay in Staten Island

If you’re on a budget for a New York trip, Staten Island might just be perfect for you. While there are fewer accommodation options than Manhattan, Queens, or Brooklyn, there are some good mid-range and family-friendly hotels in Staten Island ranging from $100-150/night.

Alternatively, you can stay in nearby New Jersey which offers plenty of hotel options. There are buses running between New Jersey and New York City throughout the day, but you’ll have to opt for a taxi or Uber in the later hours.

Getting to/from Staten Island

Staten Island is the least connected of all New York City boroughs to the major airports, with the closest airport being Newark 24 km away.

  • From Newark Airport: Public transportation from Newark to Staten Island can take about 2 hours, as you’ll have to take the train into Manhattan and then the subway to the Staten Island Ferry. While that is the cheapest option, look for alternative ways to get from Newark to Staten Island.
  • Shuttle service: One of the most convenient options is to book a shuttle bus. There’s an airport shuttle service which serves passengers between major hotels in Staten Island and Newark Airport.

Want to plan a trip to New York? Our Skyscanner trip guides have tons of information and our Skyscanner search engine can get you the best deals on flights, hotels, and car rentals. Start planning your trip to The Big Apple today!