This great island has neighborhoods that appeal to just about every (urban) taste and lifestyle, but at a price. Even the less expensive areas in Manhattan are not "cheap" by most standards. Still, the list of what we consider the best places to live in Manhattan represents a wide variety in style, neighborhood amenities and feel. Some have an almost small town/village feel, others are more large and cosmopolitan.
Where to Live, Where to Live...
Any list of the best places to live would have to include the West Village, for its considerable charm and excellent restaurant scene; Tribeca, which is home to some of the most beautiful residential buildings in town--many of which are converted industrial buildings--and is still close enough to the Financial District to walk to work (plus: easy access to the excellent Hudson River Park); the family-friendly Upper West Side and the stately Upper East Side, especially anywhere right near Central Park (though because the Upper West is quite narrow, and has Riverside Park to the west, pretty much everywhere here is within two blocks of a place to play, exercise, relax); and the Noho/Nolita area, for its proximity to all of downtown's best restaurants and nightlife options.
Your guide to the best neighborhoods to live might also feature Harlem, for its glorious old brownstones and easy commutes; Chelsea, which is filled with art galleries, great restaurants, and is close to the Hudson River Park; Battery Park City, which has become increasingly integrated into the bustle of Tribeca and the FiDi, but still has an enclave-like feeling to it (and, like Tribeca, is right on the Hudson River Park); and, especially for young professionals, the East Village and Lower East Side, which have more great bars, music venues, and restaurants than many entire cities.
If You Can Make it There...
Manhattan is just one of the five boroughs of New York City, with Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island rounding out the list. But with its iconic skyline and literally hundreds of internationally known, instantly recognizable landmarks, this is the area that most people are referring to when they say "the City." When Sinatra (and Liza, and well, everybody) sings "New York, New York" they don't mean out in Flatbush, or Flushing.
Here, apartments can be found in historic brownstones and grand old pre-war buildings; in decked-out, contemporary luxury towers and in mid-century, mid-rise residences; in walk-ups and soaring high-rises and multi-building complexes; in elegant townhouses and spectacular converted spaces in one-time commercial and industrial buildings such as warehouses and offices.
There's a Neighborhood for Everyone (if you can afford it)
Apartments are available in all of the borough's incredibly diverse neighborhoods. These days, with more and more people raising their children in Manhattan rather than moving to the suburbs, families are settling down in record numbers in all parts of town, but there are still neighborhoods that feel more family-friendly than others.
Most notably, families tend to gravitate to the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side, for their concentration of good schools, both public and private, and the type of shopping and services families tend to seek out. But other family-centric enclaves abound, including Battery Park City and Morningside Heights.
Manhattan also offers loads of nightlife and entertainment options, and young people flock to communities such as the East Village, the Lower East Side, Murray Hill, Hell's Kitchen, Chelsea and Greenwich Village.
Manhattan real estate, both residential and commercial, is among the most valuable, most sought-after property on the planet, so you should know going in that prices will be high in all prime Manhattan neighborhoods. But there are still bargains to be had in Manhattan, particularly uptown in areas such as Inwood, Washington Heights, and Harlem. An easy subway ride from any of these neighborhoods gets you to midtown in a hurry, and many of the areas are quickly gentrifying. Prices are rising in these areas as well (some more than others) and are not necessarily considered "cheap."
Why Rent or Buy in Manhattan?
The high prices for housing in Manhattan are largely driven by supply and demand. While not for everyone, Manhattan living has much going for it. First, access to culture. No other city in the country, and few in the world can compete in terms of the number and quality of museums and galleries located throughout the borough. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the world's premiere art museums, is approximately 3 times the size of the Lourvre in Paris.
Manhattan is the theater capital of the world (sorry, London). From Broadway, to Off-Broadway, to Off-off-Broadway there is always a show playing that will interest you. In addition, concerts are held every night, in everything from the concert halls of Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, to intimate jazz clubs, and everything in between.
Shopping, from the expensive Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman department stores, to the lower end K-Mart and Target stores, exists in the borough. Many companies choose Manhattan to house their "flagship" stores, with expanded selections. The same breadth of experience exists in restaurants. You can experience some of the finest cuisine in the world, or go around the corner and partake in fast food, or Chinese takeout. You'll also find just about every cuisine represented in Manhattan, no matter what your taste.
Magnifcent parks, with Central Park being the crown jewel, dot the Manhattan landscape. In fact, the borough has been gaining parkland over the past few years, with the opening of the various sections of the Hudson River Park, and the popular High Line. More parks are planned, particularly along the East River waterfront, that will eventually surround most of Manhattan island and complete the reclamation of the waterfront for its residents.
You most definitely do NOT need a car in Manhattan. Between taxis, private car services, buses and the extensive subway system, you can forget owning a car (and the accompanying expense) to get around town. Combine that with the ability to get just about anything delivered, and you will soon embrace the convenience of a car-free lifestyle.
To get out of town for the weekend, you can rent a car, or take Amtrak, NJ Transit, Metro North or the Long Island Railroad trains to hundreds of towns and cities. There is also extensive interstate bus service, with traditional companies such as Greyhound and Trailways, competing with start-ups like Megabus and Bolt Bus with their cheaper fares.