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Manhattan - the central island of New York

Manhattan, the central island of New York and the real core of the city, holds massive romance. Whether it’s the flickering lights of the Midtown skyscrapers as you cross the Queensboro Bridge, the 4am half-life Downtown, or just wasting a morning on the Staten Island ferry, you really would have to be made of stone not to be moved by it all.

Manhattan is located in southeastern New York, sitting at the head of Upper New York Bay. The main economic hub of the city, Manhattan is one of the world’s leading commercial, financial, cultural, manufacturing, medical and tourist centers. Manhattan Island, which makes up a large portion of the borough, is bounded on the north and northeast by Spuyten Duyvil Creek and the Harlem River, separating it from the Bronx. On the east lies the East River, dividing Manhattan from Queens and Brooklyn; on the south is Upper New York Bay; and to the west is the Hudson River, looking across to New Jersey. As well as the mainland of the borough Manhattan also encompasses Marble Hill on the Bronx mainland, several islands in the East River - including Franklin D. Roosevelt Island – and Governors Island in Upper New York Bay.

It’s easy to get around - Manhattan Island is laid out in a grid, with numbered east and west streets intersecting with named or numbered north and south avenues. Among the most famous streets are Wall Street, the center of the financial district; Fifth Avenue, known for its fashionable stores, residential buildings, and fine museums; Park Avenue, with its exclusive residences and tall office buildings; and Broadway, home to New York’s Theatreland.

See the Sights!

One thing you will certainly notice in Manhattan is the large number of tall office buildings that form the borough’s celebrated skyline. Most are located in lower and Midtown Manhattan, and include the Empire State Building, and the Chrysler Building. Other landmarks include Rockefeller Center, Madison Square Gardens with its famous sporting arena, the United Nations headquarters, and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

Manhattan also is known for its many large residential buildings. Among its notable religious structures are Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, the seat of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of New York, and the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, the largest Gothic-style cathedral in the world.

Lifestyle and Living

Many different ethnic and social groupings can be found in the residential areas of the borough. Lower Manhattan holds those of Italian, Chinese and Hispanic descent – the southern region also holds Greenwich Village and Soho, areas famed for their artistic and cultural style.

One of the most socially exclusive areas of Manhattan is the Upper East Side, which includes parts of Park and Fifth Avenues, and has Central Park located to the east. The Upper West Side, on the western side of the park and including a portion of Riverside Drive, is another major residential area. Harlem, situated astride 125th Street, holds large communities of blacks and Hispanic Americans, contributing to the societal ‘melting pot’.


Manhattan is one of the world’s great financial centers, with enormous corporate institutions, banks and brokerage houses, as well as the New York and American stock exchanges. The borough also holds the headquarters of many large corporations and manufacturing industries, as Manhattan is a leader in the field of international and domestic trade. The advertising and insurance industries and radio and television broadcasting are other important additions to the borough’s economy.


Manhattan is the hub of the New York metropolitan transit system, and is also connected to the national rail and road links. The borough’s mass transit facilities include extensive subway and bus lines and a ferry link to Staten Island. Among the borough’s major vehicular bridges are the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg, and Queensboro, which span the East River; the Triborough Bridge, which links Manhattan with the Bronx and Queens; and the George Washington Bridge, constructed over the Hudson River to New Jersey. Major tunnels serving Manhattan are the Holland and Lincoln, built under the Hudson River to New Jersey, and the Queens-Midtown and Brooklyn-Battery, taking traffic under the East River, while limited-access highways touch the shores of the island.

Cultural Institutions

Manhattan is one of the world’s great educational and cultural centers. Facilities of higher education in Manhattan include City College and Hunter College, which are both part of the City University of New York; Columbia University; Fordham University at Lincoln Center; the New School for Social Research; New York University; Pace University; Rockefeller University; and such predominantly religious schools as Union Theological Seminary, and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Specialized instruction in music, drama, and painting can be found at the Juilliard School, the Manhattan School of Music, the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and the School of Visual Arts.

Among its many major museums are the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Museum of Modern Art; the International Center of Photography; the Jewish Museum; the Museum of the City of New York; and the American Museum of Natural History, which includes the Hayden Planetarium.

Broadway holds numerous large theaters, as well as cinemas up and down this long street – and including the cinema in Times Square. Manhattan is also home to several prominent music and dance organizations, including The New York City Opera Company, the Metropolitan Opera Association, and the New York City Ballet. The renowned New York Public Library is one of the world’s leading research libraries – just the thing for busy students looking for a lot of information in one place!

Manhattan has several parks, the largest being Central Park, with its zoo, open-air theater, lakes and recreational facilities. Other parks are Battery, Washington Square, Riverside, and Fort Tryon, which contains the Cloisters, a museum of medieval European art.


Manhattan’s name comes from the Algonquian term: ‘island of hills’, and was inhabited by Native Americans until the Dutch established a trading post on Southern Manhattan Island in 1624 – buying the land for approximately $24! Claimed at various times by the Dutch, the English, and finally the American patriots, New York became the seat of US Government, establishing the first Stock Exchange in 1792. Manhattan quickly became the world’s financial and economic center.

In 1874 New York, previously confined to Manhattan Island, began to annex land that was to become the separate boroughs. The Bronx was established, closely followed by Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, until finally New York became the familiar skyline that we know today.


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