5 Boroughs of NYC: A Tourist’s In-Depth Guide

Shining bright with the glow of millions of lights, it’s hard to believe the greater New York area was once just a sprawling expanse of farmland. Today many people associate the most populous city in the United States with Manhattan. However, the five boroughs of NYC offer countless opportunities to uncover the Big Apple.

Follow along to discover everything you need to know about the Boroughs of NYC.

Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx. While many tourists stop their travels at Times Square and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The outer boroughs offer their fair share of treasures.

Hop aboard the # 2 subway and get wild with lions, elephants, and bears at the Bronx Zoo. Or, venture into the far reaches of Queens to sample delicacies at the night market.

Enjoy a curated picnic and frisbee game in Prospect Park or appreciate art outside of museum walls with a Brooklyn graffiti art tour. From free ferry rides to afternoons spent brushing up on your favorite Jim Henson films, we’ll demystify the intricacies of the five boroughs.

Ready to dive into the five boroughs of NYC? Grab a NYC boroughs map and let’s get started!

History of the NYC Boroughs

Wondering just how NYC came to encompass Brooklyn, Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island? All five boroughs came into being with the creation of modern New York City in 1898. As old NYC grew in population, it could no longer be confined to just Manhattan Island.

In order to welcome more settlers, the city grew northward and annexed larger territories. This 1898 consolidation allowed the territory to become united under one municipal government. Today each borough coincides with a respective county of New York State, and they are known as the following:

  • Manhattan (New York County)
  • Brooklyn (Kings County)
  • Queens (Queens County)
  • Staten Island (Richmond County)
  • Bronx (Bronx County)

On the hunt for an official map of NYC boroughs? Click here. And to obtain an even deeper understanding of the NYC neighborhoods, check out the updated geological map here.

Statue of Liberty with New York SkylineNYC 5 Boroughs


Towering art deco skyscrapers, the hush of a Broadway curtain call, and heart-pounding cycles through Central Park. It’s no wonder Manhattan* is one of the most visited boroughs of NYC. This island of concrete and steel is home to some of the city’s most recognizable landmarks. From the charming neighborhoods of Nolita to the classic architecture of the Upper West Side.

Every inch of this metropolis is worth uncovering. Live out your King Kong or Affair to Remember fantasy from atop the Empire State Building. Or hightail it to the Financial District to tour the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. Fans of Medieval art and history can swing all the way uptown and appreciate the intricate tapestries and artifacts of the Cloisters. While modern art aficionados will find plenty of pop art prints and Pollacks to admire at MoMA.

Manhattan Activities

Of course, you could easily spend your entire Empire City adventure touring the entirety of Manhattan.

However, in order to see the very best of the five boroughs here are some epic Manhattan highlights to consider:

  • American Museum of Natural History – Kids and adults alike will be transfixed by the dazzling gems, dinosaur fossils, and famous Blue Whale of the largest Natural History Museum on earth. Stuffed to the gills with 32 million specimens, you can easily spend all day examining the dioramas of African Mammals or exploring the far reaches of the solar system at the Hayden Planetarium.
  • The Empire State Building Experience – An unmissable NYC landmark. No trip to the Big Apple is complete without a journey to this architectural masterpiece. Savor sweeping panoramic views of both Manhattan and Central Park from the brand-new 102-floor observatory. And don’t forget to dive into the Empire State Building’s fascinating role in pop culture.
  • Central Park Bike Tours – Immerse yourself in the verdant vision of Fredrick Law Olmstead when you spend two hours cycling your way through Central Park. Put the pedal to the metal as you use two wheels to conquer hotspots such as John Lennon’s memorial, Cherry Hill Fountain, the Alice in Wonderland statue, and Belvedere Castle.

Related Post: Edge NYC Discount – Ultimate Savings Guide

  • The Essential Central Park Guided Walking Tour – Feel more comfortable talking on this National Park by foot? This semi-private 2.5-hour tour delivers you equal parts history and entertainment, as you soak in the iconic memorials, artwork, and landmarks of Central Park. From statues of heroic Balto to the Cross Bow Bridge and Sheep Meadow, you’ll see the park from the vantage point of a real New Yorker.
  • New York City Shows – Calling all theater nerds! There’s no business like show business, and there’s nowhere more apt to indulge your love of drama, music, and dance than Broadway. Treat yourself to the deliciously emerald stylings of Elphaba’s Wicked. Or travel to the plains of Africa with the Lion King. Embrace new smash hits such as SIX or sing along to your favorite pop songs with a Shakespearean twist with & Juliet.

*Please note that this list is just a small smattering of all of the incredible offerings of the boroughs Manhattan.

Manhattan skyline in Manhattan New York City, NYC, USABrooklyn

Fans of Notorious B.I.G. and vivid graffiti will be well aware of Brooklyn’s allure. Once a borough noted for its grunge and grit. Today’s Brooklyn is equally filled with young families as well as artists and hipsters.

Still, this multicultural haven is brimming with classic NYC attractions including Coney Island, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Brooklyn Museum of Art. If the weather allows, pack up a picnic and head to Prospect Park for a sun-soaked afternoon, or pay a visit to the carved animals of the carousel.

Related Post: Luna Park Discount Tickets: Ultimate Savings Guide

In need of some spellbinding scenery? Make a pit stop in Williamsburg at the William Vale Hotel. Head to the 22-floor rooftop bar and revel in sweeping 360-degree views of New York City, while you sip their signature William cocktail.

Want to earn some real Brooklyn cred? Venture into Gowanus for an evening of shuffleboard, live music, and food truck offerings at the Royal Palms.

Brooklyn Activities

For even more intriguing Brooklyn tours to add to your growing NYC itinerary, check out our offerings below:

  • Best of Brooklyn Walking Tour – Want to put your finger on the pulse of Williamsburg? Pull on those walking shoes and prepare for a 2-hour walk through this thriving BK neighborhood. Take to the streets as your guide reveals the fascinating history and gentrification of this area with noted tales such as the Billion Dollar Sugar Scheme.
  • Brooklyn Giro Bike Tours – Explore Brooklyn with the help of two wheels when you choose from any number of exhilarating Brooklyn Giro Bike Tours. Sample suds at some of the best breweries, cycle through Fort Green Park or even make your way to Coney Island for a taste of Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs.
  • Graffiti & Street Art Walking Tour in NYC – Explosions of color, bold graphics, and street tags come together on this immersive Brooklyn graffiti tour. Uncover a secret world of murals and contemporary art as you explore the history of graffiti and its many techniques in Bushwick.
  • Williamsburg Bites Brooklyn Food Tour – Pizza, BBQ, and chocolate oh my! Get to know Brooklyn through your tummy, when you munch your way through its eclectic culinary scene. Led by a certified guide you’ll be regaled with history, art, and five finger-licking good food stops on this 3-hour comprehensive tour.

ground view of river and Brooklyn Bridge with skyline in background in NYC, New York, USAQueens

Eddie Murphy may have come to Queens to find a bride, but millions of locals and tourists flock to this borough for low-key entertainment. Found on Long Island, just across the East River from Manhattan, this is an infinitely diverse area that contains everything from blocks of industrial factories and TV studios to cozy suburban homes.

Related Post: Funny Girl on Broadway: Discount Tickets & Reviews

Both naturalists and museum lovers will find lots to uncover here as they make pilgrimages from Long Island City to Astoria. Cinephiles should definitely carve out an hour or two to visit the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria. A love letter to cinema and the programs that shaped our youth, visitors can dive into Jim Henson’s groundbreaking work and tap into the character process of creatures from The Dark Crystal.

For a refresher on the history of this massive borough step foot onto the hallowed grounds of two World Fairs, at the Queens Museum. See a 3D model of the Panorama of the City of New York or admire the intricate artistry of the glowing Tiffany Glass collection.

Meld together your appreciation for art and fresh air when you stroll through the outdoor  Socrates Sculpture Park which is open 365 days a year. Or, broaden your gastronomical horizons with a sojourn to the famous Queens Night Market. Open every Saturday from 5 p.m. to midnight this family-friendly affair boasts live music and dozens of international vendors. Sample grilled kofta wraps, coconut pancakes with java plum sugar, baklava, ceviche, and more.

Aerial view of a bridge and skyline in Queens, New YorkThe Bronx

While it may seem daunting to ride the # 6 train all the way uptown. The city’s northernmost borough should most definitely make it onto your NYC itinerary. Considered the birthplace of hip hop and rap, of the five boroughs, the Bronx is the fourth largest area and the only borough not primarily on an island.

Bronx County of New York features the holy hall of baseball, Yankee Stadium, as well as the Bronx Zoo. Fork over some cash for a riveting afternoon of home runs and cracker jacks. Or, delight your inner animal lover with up-close encounters in the Congo Gorilla Forest or African Plains of the Bronx Zoo.

Related Post: Free Things to Do in New York City – 20 Amazing Activities

If your interest leans more towards flora, you simply must see blooming blossoms and lushly landscaped grounds of the New York Botanical Garden. Bet you didn’t think hiking existed in the Bronx? In fact. Van Cortlandt Park’s vast 1,000-acre expanse is the fourth largest green space in the city. It features a number of both hiking and cross-country trails.

Feeling famished? This home of Cardi B and J.LO is also well known for exquisite Italian delicacies. Make your way to the infamous Arthur Avenue to feast in the ‘real’ little Italy. Break bread at Dominick’s for a supper straight out of the Sopranos. Or indulge your inner fromage fiend with mozzarella and burrata cheeses at Casa Della Mozzarella.

Keen to work off some of those carbs? A Brooklyn Giro Bike Tour through the Bronx and Harlem should do the trick.

Lilly pads on a pond next to a glass conservatory buildingStaten Island

Often made the butt of jokes, the southernmost of New York City’s five boroughs ultimately deserves your respect and your patronage. Connected to Lower Manhattan through the Staten Island Ferry. You can hop aboard this free transportation and enjoy a day of cozy Big Apple suburbia. In addition to affording you staggering Manhattan skyline views. The ferry is one of the best ways to sneak in snapshots of both Ellis Island and Lady Liberty.

Related Post: One World Observatory Discount Tickets – Ultimate Guide

Once you make it to the island it’s time to unwind with serene visits to the Snug Harbor Cultural Center. An under-the-radar gem, this former home for retired sailors showcases acres upon acres of botanical gardens, Greek revival buildings, and art galleries. For some kid-friendly museum programming swing by the Staten Island Museum.

Here guests can peek at Mastodons or brush up on the borough’s unique history from the 17th century to today. Need a refresh after a particularly balmy Staten Island day? Make like a local and grab a lemon or cherry Italian ice from the original Ralph’s Italian Ices & Ice Cream.

close up of staten island ferry on the water in new york city

New York, New York! For centuries writers, musicians, and artists alike have waxed poetic about this empire of culture and concrete.

Undoubtedly, the NYC legacy has long fascinated the public. Nonetheless, many visitors are unaware that this bustling metropolis is actually composed of five distinct boroughs.

Take a break from the ordinary and shake up your Empire City sightseeing when you dare to discover the hidden gems of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island.

Pay your respects at the 9/11 memorial and admire the serene pool of water. Or study the dioramas and geodes at the Natural History Museum.

Get a jump start on your retirement hobbies with a spirited game of shuffleboard in Gowanus. Or stroll through arresting outdoor works of wood, metal, and glass in what was once a former landfill.

From brewery tours that let you cycle off the calories to digging into linguini with clams a la Tony Soprano. There are endless ways to create Big Apple memories in the five boroughs.

Tell us, Which Boroughs Have You Been To?

What boroughs of New York City are next on your list?

Leave a comment below!

Avatar photo

Written by Isis Maya Nissman

A New York native, Isis-Maya spent most of her professional life working in TV production until a vacation whisked her away to Central...

Have something to add? Post it here:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Are you a Tripster?

Create an account to get access to exclusive pricing and rewards.

Tagged in this post

New York City Planning