The island can be loosely divided into three areas: Downtown (below 14th St), Midtown (14th St to Central Park/59th St) and Uptown (north of 59th St), though each is made up of neighbourhoods of very individual character. The patchwork below 14th Street is one of the most vibrant, exciting parts of the city. Downtown’s interest actually begins in New York Harbor, which holds the compulsory attractions of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. On land, the southernmost neighbourhood is the Financial District, with Wall Street at its centre. The buildings of the Civic Center transition into the jangling streetlife of Chinatown, which has encroached upon touristy Little Italy. East of here, the one-time immigrant-heavy Lower East Side is a trendy spot full of chic bars and restaurants. Soho and Tribeca are expensive residential and shopping districts. North of Houston Street, the activity picks up even more in the West Village (also known as Greenwich Village) and East Village, two former bohemian enclaves that remain great fun despite ongoing gentrification.
North of the East Village, across 14th Street, busy Union Square is always great for people watching; elegant Gramercy Park, the Flatiron District and emerging NoMad (north of Madison Square Park), base of the new Museum of Mathematics, spread north from there. Their West Side counterparts include Chelsea, home to art galleries, a large gay continent and the popular High Line park; and the tiny Garment District, which doesn’t have much to see. Around 42nd Street along Broadway, the Theater District heralds a cleaned-up, frenetic area of entertainment that culminates at Times Square. East of here lies Midtown East, where much of the business of Manhattan takes place.
Central Park provides a breath of fresh air in the middle of the island; it’s where the city comes to play and escape the crowds. It’s bordered by the distinguished Upper East Side – its “Museum Mile” running along Fifth Avenue from 82nd to 104th streets – and the Upper West Side, home to the high-culture performance spaces of Lincoln Center. North of these neighbourhoods, Harlem, the cultural capital of black America, is experiencing a new renaissance; further north, you’ll find one of the city’s most intriguing museums – the Cloisters and its medieval arts collection.