In New York, it’s not what you do that really counts; it’s where you live. From the gay hotspot of Hell’s Kitchen to the tony townhouses of the Upper East Side, each neighbourhood has its own personality, its own street style and its own adherents.
So which is the hippest ’hood?
That depends not so much on whom you ask, but when you ask. New York’s neighbourhoods are endlessly reinventing themselves, from derelict to destination to done-to-death and back again. Just as the once cutting-edge Soho and West Village have now become resolutely middle-class, so the former Brooklyn hotspots of Williamsburg and Fort Greene have been superseded by new up-and-comers.
So enjoy these five happening neighbourhoods while they have their moment in the spotlight.
Once home to New York’s worst slums, the neighbourhoods of the Lower East Side resisted gentrification long after the rest of Manhattan had given up the fight. Over the past couple of years, however, many of the tailors and wholesalers have moved on, giving way to a range of hip stores.
Among a couple of old-school favourites that have held on, such as Katz’s Deli and Russ and Daughters, you will find some of the city’s most eclectic shopping, everything from Claw & Co’s hip-hop fashion to Bluestockings, a self-proclaimed ‘radical’ bookstore and café.
Don’t miss: The New Museum, dedicated to contemporary art, offers world-class works without the crowds of the uptown museums.
Pretty rather than gritty, Cobble Hill demonstrates a different side to Brooklyn. Wedged between the equally picturesque neighbourhoods of Carroll Gardens and Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill is all elegant brownstones and seductive shop windows. You can while away an entire day exploring the buzzing boutiques, bars and delis clustered together along the area’s main drags, Court Street and Smith Street.
Worked up an appetite? Stop in for French bites at Bar Tabac, a cool cocktail at the Victorian-style Clover Club, or tuck into delicious, Moorish-influenced Spanish food at the lovely La Vara.
Don’t miss: Technically it’s in Carroll Gardens, but Brooklyn Farmacy, a retro-licious soda parlour straight out of the movies, is worth a small detour.
Even the most committed Manhattanite will admit that the denizens of Long Island City have one thing they don’t: a spectacular view of that remarkable skyline. In fact, Long Islanders would argue that their neighbourhood – just one stop from Grand Central on the 7 line – easily rivals the best of what’s on the island. They are particularly proud of the thriving art scene, anchored by the much-loved MoMA offshoot, PS1. Locals still mourn the famed graffiti hub, 5Pointz, which recently fell to developers, but other surviving gems include the lovely Noguchi Museum and the nearby Socrates Sculpture Park.
Far from covering up its industrial roots, the neighbourhood celebrates them: at the waterfront Gantry Plaza State Park, the gantries once used to unload barges are still proudly on display.
Don’t miss: Cocktail king Sasha Petraske’s local outlet, Dutch Kills on Jackson Avenue, is as cool as his Manhattan outlets, but notably cheaper.
You could call it the neighbourhood invented by a hotel. For years, this pocket east of Chelsea was the only patch of Manhattan that didn’t have a name. Then the hip hotels moved in: first the Ace, then the NoMad, a property named after its address (NOrth of MADison Square Park). Since then, the area has boomed, and tres cool brands continue to move into the ’hood: everything from London’s cutting-edge fashion outlet Dover Street Market to chef Mario Batali’s foodie hub, Eataly.
Don’t miss: Food fans will find plenty of options to choose from, but two restaurants should be top of your list: April Bloomfield’s acclaimed gastropub, The Breslin, and the superb NoMad Restaurant. Take a friend so you can tuck into the whole roast chicken with truffle and foie gras.
Sometimes, graffiti is a sign of a neighbourhood’s decline. In Bushwick, it was the first sign that this once crime-ridden area was on the up. As the walls along Troutman Street and St Nicholas Avenue were converted into an open-air gallery by a committed collective of street artists, trend-seeking locals began venturing down Bushwick’s once-desolate streets.
The nascent art scene drew more established players, including acclaimed galleries such as Luhring Augustine, as well as a creative crowd that started opening one-off outlets such as Roberta’s, an eclectic eatery that covers all the bases from pizza to Michelin star dining, and has its own radio station to boot.
Don’t miss: It’s the creative crowd that keeps Bushwick powering. Check out some of the best local talent at Shops at the Loom, a converted textile factory that showcases local designers.
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