a guy going down on the entrance stairs of the subway station

New York City goes beyond the regular tourist traps and hotspots with a welcoming energy that’s on full display to all who visit here. This energy is best felt when soaking up the local culture in any of the various neighborhoods throughout its five boroughs. Read on as we guide you through six of the best neighborhoods to stay in and give you a feel for all of the culture and diversity that makes the city so vibrant.

Park Slope

This historic neighborhood in the north-west section of Brooklyn is globally renowned for its blocks of stately brownstones and sweeping trees. Park Slope is one of the borough’s oldest neighborhoods, bordering the massive Prospect Park and stretching down from Flatbush Avenue to Prospect Expressway. The area is one of the city’s most attractive areas for families who take advantage of the wide avenues and the vast expanse of the park nearby as well as the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. There are a few advantages to spending time in Park Slope such as the abundant amount of notable restaurants that range from the cozy and family-owned to award-winning bistros stretching from Fifth to Seventh Avenue. There is a decidedly laid-back feel here, one that comes with an emphasis on inclusion seen in examples like their weekly green markets, free libraries on the sidewalks and rainbow pride flags in some windows.


Located at the end of the N and Q lines, the Queens neighborhood of Astoria has long been a destination for the hip and funky as well as many hard-working families and individuals. Once a getaway for the wealthy such as John Jacob Astor (after whom the area is named) Astoria turned into a bustling industrial district home to companies like Steinway & Sons and was one of the origins of the motion picture industry in the U.S., still represented in the Kaufman Astoria Studios and the Museum of the Moving Image. But what makes Astoria cool is the swath of diverse groups that call it home (Italians, Greeks, Spanish and people from Arab cultures all reside here). Another attractive factor is its position along the East River with green spaces like Astoria Park and the Socrates Sculpture Park giving you a glorious view of Manhattan. The food scene is also a highly magnetic feature of Astoria, where you can dive into a vairety of cuisines in cafes and restaurants that sit on Ditmars Boulevard and Broadway. There’s even a busy retail scene fueled by mom & pop boutiques to take advantage of.


A neighborhood on the rise, Bushwick is located in the northern part of Brooklyn and easily accessed by the J, M and L subway lines. This area dates back to the 1600’s, lasting through its time as a farming hub, a key railway hub and brewery district in addition to being a home for the Latino community hailing from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. The neighborhood went through hard times for a couple of decades dating back to the late 1970’s, but through it all, Bushwick has thrived to now settle into being a bastion of cool with a sense of tight-knight serenity. Walking through the streets of Bushwick will let you tap into that thanks to blocks bedecked with flourishing cypress trees and brick row townhouses that date back to the 1800’s. The neighborhood is now home to a strong artist community, and there is a ton of street art to be seen at various points throughout the area. Bushwick also now has a nightlife scene among the best NYC has to offer, being spotted in shows like Aziz Ansari’s “Master Of None,” among others.

Washington Heights

This northern Manhattan neighborhood can make you feel as if you were catapulted to a different time once you step off of the A train with pre-World War II apartment buildings dominating the neighborhood from river to river. Alive with the various shops and restaurants that crackle with the energy of the people who call Washington Heights home, the area is a bulwark of the Dominican community in New York City, although it has grown to include Ecuadorians and Mexicans as well as a considerable Orthodox Jewish community. “Quisqueya Heights” has a lot to offer also in terms of green space, with Fort Tryon Park allowing for visitors to get stunning views of the Hudson River and beyond on clear days while getting in a bike ride. The artistic vibe is a subtly elegant one with sights like The Cloisters museum and pay a little notice to the art-deco subway station entrances throughout the neighborhood too.


Greenpoint is a picturesque Brooklyn neighborhood that screams “throwback” in a good way. Getting here is straightforward – you can take the G train to the Nassau Avenue or Greenpoint stations, and you can also catch the East River Ferry. Once here, you’ll marvel at the quaint blocks of rowhouses and the close-knit feel of the area that has been honed by the Polish immigrant community that still calls Greenpoint home. The area has gotten more lively in the past few years thanks to a slew of hip cafes and bars and TV shows like “Girls” filming there.


This last neighborhood is in Queens, a short ride from midtown Manhattan on the 7 train. Known in pop culture for being the stomping grounds for Spiderman as well as an early proving ground for rock legends The Ramones, Sunnyside is a relatively quiet residential enclave that began as a farm in the 1700’s. The area still evokes that but has grown to be a hot spot due to a funky mix of bars, restaurants and boutiques.


Check out the time VIVA visited Los Pollos Hermanos, NY's Breaking Bad-themed restaurant.