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NYC transportation

NYC orientation

NYC day trips

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

Becoming comfortable exploring on your own

Looking at the Washington Square Park arch in New York City nearing the last light of evening. Understanding Manhattan's stree system will make you more comfortable exploring on your own.

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

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


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.

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 are travelling south.

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

Street address numbering

The numbers used as avenue addresses increase has you go north. One Fifth Avenue puts you at the southern-most end of Fifth Avenue. Two Fifth Avenue is north of that.

On the other hand, streets are numbered differently.

Fifth Avenue divides the street numbering system.

An address west of that becomes for example 206 West 50th Street. Numbers increase as you travel west. East works the sane way. 208 East 50th Street is east of 206 East 50th Street.

Exceptions to street pattern

New York streets work 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.


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

Or, 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: seeing the Statue of Liberty

Or, others:

New York City day trips

New York City walks


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