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Enjoying New York City on a Budget
Understanding the Manhattan street system

Becoming comfortable exploring on your own

You really should learn the street system used north of the Greenwich Village area on Manhattan.

This will make you feel far more comfortable, as you move around the city.


Broadway

On Manhattan, you are either east or west of Broadway, New York City's main street.

Broadway—one of the most well-known streets in the world—cuts a diagonal on the west side of Midtown. South of Greenwich Village, it runs along the east side of Manhattan.

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Avenues and streets

Avenues generally run north and south. For the most part, streets run east and west.

Knowing this helps keep you oriented.

Avenues tend to be wider, which also helps you know your direction.

You'll appreciate this as you emerge totally disorientated from the subway!

The main avenues in the Midtown area starting from east to west (which you should memorize) are

  • First Avenue
  • Second Avenue
  • Third Avenue
  • Lexington Avenue
  • Park Avenue
  • Madison Avenue
  • Fifth Avenue
  • Avenue of the Americas (frequently called by its old name Sixth Avenue)
  • Seventh Avenue
  • Eighth Avenue

If you're walking on an avenue, you'll know you are either heading north or south.

If the side streets increase in number as you walk (for example, 42nd Street, 43rd Street, 44th Street), you'll know you're heading north. If not—you've guessed it—you're going south.

From the Greenwich Village area, streets increase in numbers all the way to the northern tip of Manhattan.


Safety issues

In general, you should not walk west of Eighth Avenue, especially at night, below 59th Street. Use a taxi or bus if you must go into this area. Exceptions are the busier streets in the West Village (West Greenwich Village) area.

You should also avoid walking east of First Avenue south of the Midtown area.

And, you should avoid walking on any street in New York that is not filled with other people. By far, these are the most dangerous ones.

See the Safety for more tips.


Exceptions to street pattern

New York streets are a bit like the English language. There are always exceptions, such as

  • Fifty-ninth Street becomes Central Park South as it follows the southern boundary of Central Park, an elegant location.
  • Eighth Avenue becomes Central Park West along the western border of Central Park,
  • Ninth Avenue becomes Columbus west of Central Park,
  • Tenth Avenue becomes Amsterdam Avenue (an important commercial street) west of Central Park, and
  • Eleventh Avenue becomes West End Avenue west of the park.

The latter four are all important streets on the Upper West Side. Donald Trump has a huge development going on along West End Avenue.


Transportation

Next, you'll have a chance to learn about New York City transportation.


Go to other pages in this section:

New York City orientation: starting on the water and introduction

New York City orientation: Manhattan neighbourhoods

New York City orientation: using New York City transportation

New York City orientation: finding suitable accommodation

New York City orientation: seeing the Statue of Liberty

Or, others:

New York City day trips

New York City walks

Safety

Zagat NYC restaurant guide

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