There are so many neighborhoods to visit in New York City, which is overwhelming for most people when they visit or move to the city. In any event, as a tourist or newcomer to NYC, the most popular areas to explore are typically the most “walkable” neighborhoods. As you might expect, many of these neighborhoods are in lower Manhattan, the oldest part of the city. Let’s go together and explore some beautiful Manhattan neighborhoods.
Let’s put on a pair of comfortable walking shoes and explore together my list of most walkable Manhattan neighborhoods (in no particular order).
1 & 2. Little Italy & NoLIta
Once almost exclusively Italian, “Little Italy” is located in downtown Manhattan, bordered by Tribeca and SoHo on the west, Chinatown on the south, on the east by Lower East Side, and on the north by NoLita, which stands for North of Little Italy, and was once also an overwhelmingly Italian neighborhood. While Little Italy remains steeped in its Italian heritage, Nolita has been influenced by neighboring Greenwich Village and SoHo, becoming a more eclectic and bohemian neighborhood known for its cozy tree-lined streets, and excellent shopping and dining.
Street scene in Little Italy neighborhood
Since Italians were one of the largest groups of American immigrants in the early 1900s many of them settled in Manhattan, contributing their incredible culture, notably their food. Today, Little Italy, in Lower Manhattan is shrinking. However, along Mulberry Street, various authentic Italian restaurants and cafes still occupy the space and are a must-try for foodies.
Both Little Italy and Nolita have a reputation for being clean and having low crime rates, which make them pricey Manhattan neighborhoods to live in, but excellent ones to visit. The streets of Little Italy are brimming with authentic shops and delis where you can stock up on things such as specialty cheeses and other items that are flown in from Italy each week. Nolita, on the other hand, is more chic, and you can enjoy exploring its trendy boutiques and art galleries.
Looking northeast at the front (Mulberry Street) side of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in Nolita neighborhood
(photo by Jim.henderson under CC BY-SA 3.0)
On the downside, the streets of both neighborhoods can get quite crowded and noisy. Traffic is tight, and parking is almost nonexistent, especially in Little Italy. We recommend starting in Little Italy and working your way up to Nolita, where green space like the Elizabeth Street Sculpture Garden is more readily available. For a real treat be sure to visit Little Italy during the annual Feast of San Gennaro celebration, which has been held in Little Italy for over 80 years.
Little Italy & Nolita Neighborhood Attractions
- Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral
- San Gennaro Festival
- Italian Restaurants
- Specialty Shops
- Elizabeth Street Sculpture Garden is a beautiful quiet spot easily walkable. It is located on Elizabeth Street near Prince.
Little Italy & Nolita Public Transportation
- 6 at Spring Street
- 6 at Canal Street
- N/Q/R at Canal Street
- B or D at Grand Street
3. Flatiron District
North of Little Italy and Nolita, right in the center of Manhattan, is the Flatiron District. This beautiful Manhattan neighborhood was named after the iconic Flatiron Building, which is one of Manhattan’s most photogenic landmarks and formally the tallest skyscraper in Manhattan.
The iconic Flatiron Building gives the name of this Manhattan neighborhood
Flatiron is excellent for those who want to experience a little bit of everything. Currently, the Flatiron District is filled with unique shops, high-end boutiques, and fancy restaurants. Here, the real focal point of the community is Madison Square Park, where residents, nonresident, and tourist alike come to relax. Madison Square Park is also the location of the first location for the Shake Shack New York fast food restaurant chain.
Flatiron District Neighborhood Attractions
- Museum of Sex
- Raines Law Room
- Tibet House, U.S.
- Madison Square Park (art installations, restaurant pop-ups and the iconic Shake Shack)
- Rizzoli Bookstore
- National Museum of Mathematics
- Union Square (technically its own neighborhood but it’s right next door)
Flatiron District Public Transportation
- R & W at 23rd Street
- 6 at 23rd Street
- 4, 5, 6, N, Q, W, N, R, L at Union Square
- F, M at 23rd Street
Continuing with our Manhattan neighborhoods we move just south of Little Italy, running along Canal Street. Here we find Chinatown, which is one of NYC’s most visited neighborhood. New York’s Chinatown is the second oldest Chinatown in the United States. This neighborhood includes various fish markets, restaurants, and shops packed with jewelry, handbags, perfume, sunglasses, watches, wallets, shoes, etc.
Manhattan’s Chinatown is the oldest Chinese neighborhood in New York City
When visiting Chinatown, walk along Canal Street between Broadway and Mulberry Street. The sidewalks are often packed with vendors selling everything, including knock-offs of your favorite designer labels. To get the full Chinatown experience, spend some time in Columbus Park, where you’ll likely find many of the locals.
Chinatown Neighborhood Attractions
- Columbus Park
- Church of Transfiguration
- Nom Wah Tea Parlor
- Chatham Square
- Shearith Israel Cemetery
- Kimlau Memorial Arch
- Edward Mooney House
- Manhattan Bridge Entrance
- Mott Street Market
- Mahayana Buddhist Temple
- Museum of Chinese in Americas
Chinatown Public Transportation
- B or D (Grand Street)
- the N, Q, R, W, J, Z or 6 train ( Canal Street)
- the F train (East Broadway)
5 & 6. Financial District & Battery Park City
The Financial District is a popular Manhattan neighborhood and tourist destination, due to the various attractions located in the neighborhood. There is the New York Stock Exchange as well as the Federal Reserve Bank and the new World Trade Center Memorial. Bargain shopping is a must at Century 21, which sits right across the old World Trade Center buildings. In the financial district, the area is small, and the streets are narrow.
The World Trade Center in the Financial District neighborhood
During the week, the Financial District is filled with a lot of foot traffic, a mix between tourist and locals who work in the neighborhood. During the weekend however, the Financial District is very quiet, almost deserted, which is excellent for tourist who needs a break from the New York City “hustle and bustle.” Besides the numerous historical attractions in the area, the South Street Seaport is a must-visit area of the Financial District. The South Street Seaport area has its own mall as well as ships that can be boarded.
Located adjacent to the Financial District, at the southernmost tip of Manhattan, Battery Park City is the newest neighborhood in Manhattan, a stark contrast to its neighbor. Battery Park City is built on reclaimed land, meaning that it offers some absolutely stunning views thanks to its riverfront location. The waterfront esplanade runs from one end of the neighborhood to the other.
North End Avenue and Vesey Street looking north at Battery Park City
(photo by Gryffindor under CC BY-SA)
Since there are no subway stations in this neighborhood so you’ll literally have to walk just to get around. That won’t be a problem as the area is a tranquil and verdant paradise best enjoyed on foot.
While Battery Park City may not be home to any of NYC’s most famous landmarks, it’s undoubtedly one of the most pleasant neighborhoods in the city. End your day with a stroll and escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
Financial District & Battery Park Neighborhood Attractions
- Zuccotti Park (Occupy Wall Street site)
- St. Paul’s Chapel
- World Trade Center
- 911 Memorial
- Woolworth Building
- City Hall
- Fraunces Tavern
- The Charging Bull
- Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty (by ferry)
- Federal Hall
- Wall Street
- New York Stock Exchange
- Trinity Church
- South Street Seaport
- Battery Park City Esplanade and Park
- Brookfield Place
- Museum of Jewish Heritage
- Battery Park
- SeaGlass Carousel
Financial District & Battery Park Public Transportation
- 4 & 5 at Bowling Green and Wall Street
- J and Z at Board Street
- 2,3, A, C, E at Chambers–WTC–Park Place
- N, R, W at City Hall, Rector Street
- A, C, 2, 3, 4,5 at Fulton Street
- 1, N, R, W at South Ferry/Whitehall Street
Resources for planning your visit to Manhattan
Checkout our detailed guide to Manhattan Neighborhoods for ideas about places to visit in each neighborhood. The guide also includes public transportation ideas.
Find budget Manhattan hotels. I know that Manhattan doesn’t have any cheap hotels, but with over 1000 properties, you can find a great place for your budget.
Get skip-the-line tickets to New York events and venues. Explore New York City with a guided tour.
About the Author: Andrew is the founder and CEO of PropertyClub, a real estate startup in New York City. Andrew founded the PropertyClub in 2018 after spending half a decade working as an agent and manager in the NYC real estate industry. PropertyClub is making renting or buying a home in New York City better for everyone.