By Ferne Arfin
Every New York neighbourhood has its own vibe and its own "tribe". Some have been around forever, but new ones seem to crop up every year. Try these on for style:
Who can do it? Saturday strollers who like sunny, tree lined streets, secret courtyards and cobbled lanes. Urban explorers who enjoy late night coffee houses and experimental theatre.
Let's go! The maze of streets south of 14th Street to Houston and from Broadway to the Hudson is too high rent these days for the hungry artists, musicians and poets who made its reputation. But the bohemian spirit of Beat generation poets and musicians lingers in the cafes and bars around Washington Square. Older, low-rise townhouses make this Manhattan's sunniest neighbourhood, while nearby New York University gives the nightlife a vibrant, arty buzz. The gay rights movement started here, in 1969, after the so-called "Stonewall riot" outside a bar on Christopher Street.
Top top: Quirky older shops still hang on among the fashion chains on Bleecker Street. At 239, vintage shop Bleecker Street Records stocks new CDs and vinyl, plus 45s and 99 cent LPs.
SoHo and TriBeCa
Who can do it? Shophounds, gallery browsers and aficionados of urban architecture. Gourmets hungry for the trendiest nosh.
Let's go! SoHo (South of Houston Street to Canal Street, midway between the east and west sides), has the highest concentration of cast iron buildings in New York. Step back and look up to enjoy the rhythm of these 19th century beauties fronted with laceworks of fire escapes. New York loft living was invented here but the artists who started the trend can now only be found in the galleries and boutiques that dot the grid between Broadway and Avenue of the Americas. TriBeca (Triangle Beneath Canal) is home to legendary - and expensive - restaurants like Dylan Prime, Megu and Robert DeNiro's Tribeca Grill, where celeb spotting is ace.
Top top: The tiny Soda Shop on Chambers near W. Broadway serves nostalgic New York ice cream sodas and homey American comfort food - pot pies, meat loaf - for cash only. And, rare in TriBeCa, it's cheap.
Who can do it? Anyone who enjoys the noise, sounds, tastes, scents and colours of lively ethnic enclave. New York's Chinatown is the largest Chinese American settlement in the USA.
Let's go! Just the other side of City Hall from TriBeCa, Chinatown is a corner of the Orient in Lower Manhattan. Canal Street is the main drag of a neighbourhood that extends from Hester Street to Worth. Every block different, though most are lined with tempting restaurants and snacks shops. But the real surprise of Chinatown is the shopping. Look for bargain fabrics and trimmings at New York Fabric Warehouse (406 Broadway), beautiful antique Chinese pottery and furnishings at Sinotique and hundreds of elegant chopsticks at Yunhong Chopsticks .
Top top: The little pagoda on Canal and Baxter Streets is the helpful Explore Chinatown kiosk, a great source of local information and advice.
Upper West Side
Who can do it? Families and performing arts lovers. Anyone who likes finding good value in elegant, residential districts.
Let's go! West of Central Park, from60th to 85th Streets, the Upper West Side is a quiet, stylish residential area with landmark apartment buildings, reasonably-priced family-friendly digs, like the Hotel Beacon and Apartments , and some of New York's most important cultural hotspots. It could take weeks to see everything at The American Museum of Natural History , but don't miss the new Rose Center for Earth and Space, a fabulous, glistening sphere suspended in a giant glass box. Lincoln Center is America's only equivalent of the South Bank, home of the New York Philharmonic, The Met, plus ballet, three theatres, jazz, film and the world famous Julliard School.
Top top: Hidden above a supermarket, The Upper West Side Café & Steakhouse, is a casual spot for huge breakfasts, deli sandwiches for sharing and really good fixed price dinners.
Who can do it? Fans of great views - Brooklyn Heights has the best views of the Manhattan skyline - and urban travellers ready to discover New York's most up and coming borough.
Let's go! Benjamin Britten, Walt Whitman, Gypsy Rose Lee, Truman Capote and Arthur Miller all lived in the city's first designated historic district. Rows of brownstones give the neighbourhood a 19th century character and enormous parks - 526 acre Prospect Park and Brooklyn Botanic Garden - make it a green oasis. America's oldest performing arts center (since 1861), the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), stages concerts, dance and controversial performance art and theatre. And the Brooklyn Museum, has one of the world's greatest collections of ancient Egyptian art. Enjoy views of the Brooklyn Bridge from the New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge, then walk across it into Manhattan.
Top top: Get your bearings, and loads of advice, from the new Brooklyn Tourism & Visitor Center in Borough Hall
Ferne Arfin is a native New Yorker, and her work has been published in the Sunday Telegraph and the LA Times. She is currently editor of About.com: UK travel.