This article is the first in a new series in which we will give an overview of each of New York City’s boroughs. We’re kicking things off with a borough that’s often unjustly underrated: the Bronx. As the birthplace of hip-hop music and former home of famous artists and actors such as Jennifer Lopez and Al Pacino, you’d think the Bronx would be well-known as the incredibly diverse borough it is today. However, the Bronx is often overshadowed by the world-famous Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn.
This really is a shame, as the Bronx has developed into a culturally vibrant and bustling area of New York City filled with hidden gems. It’s home to Yankee Stadium, the Bronx Zoo, and the New York Botanical Garden. In this article, we’ll introduce you to the borough and show you some of the best things to experience in the area. Hopefully you won’t hesitate to pay the Bronx a visit on your next trip to the Big Apple!
Welcome to the Bronx
The Bronx is the only New York City borough that’s not an island, and it’s separated from Manhattan by the Harlem River. It’s the northernmost borough of the city and has just under 1.4 million residents. The borough is divided into the elevated West Bronx that’s comparable to the hills of San Francisco, and the flatter East Bronx. The west and east sides of the borough boast rich architecture both old and modern, as many new residential homes were built in the past few decades.
Besides the aforementioned landmarks, the Bronx also features great museums, lovely parks, and even some beaches! There’s plenty of diverse music and food; from hip-hop to Latin music, and from Italian food to Dominican cuisine, you’ll find it all. Join famous former residents such as Kerry Washington, Ralph Lauren, Edgar Allan Poe, Calvin Klein, and even John F. Kennedy and discover this culturally rich borough!
Things to see and do in the Bronx
- Ask New Yorkers to name one landmark in the Bronx, and they’ll probably say Yankee Stadium. The world-famous New York Yankees are one of the most successful baseball teams in the country, and have been playing in The Bronx since 1923. They moved to a new state-of-the-art stadium on East 161st Street in 2009. Seeing the Yankees play is an essential New York experience and a great introduction to the Bronx! Read more about New York’s favorite pastime for the story of baseball in the city.
- The Bronx also boasts several fantastic museums for your culture fix. The excellent Bronx Museum of the Arts focuses on contemporary works, and entrance is completely free. The museum also organizes film festivals. For shows and concerts, you should check out the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts.
- The Bartow-Pell Mansion is a museum and landmark in one, as it is located inside one of the most beautiful historic houses in the city. Other museums in the area include the Edgar Allan Poe Cottage, Hall of Fame for Great Americans, and the Valentine-Varian House.
- When it comes to parks, the Bronx is truly special. The borough is home to the New York Botanical Garden, which boasts one of the biggest collections of plants and trees in the world. The 250-acre (100 hectare) garden envelops a huge forest, 50 separate gardens, and a Victorian-style greenhouse. You’ll also find the historic Fordham University next to NYBG. The Botanical Garden is part of the Bronx Park, which also houses the Bronx Zoo.
- The Bronx Zoo is the world’s biggest metropolitan zoo, and displays exotic animals in extraordinary habitats. It boasts a Congo Gorilla Forest, a Wild Asia Monorail, a Tiger Mountain, and a new Madagascar-themed exhibit, among many others.
- Another fantastic park in the area is the Van Cortlandt Park & House, which is full of outdoor activities like boating, horseback riding, tennis, and golf. Pelham Bay Park is the largest public park in New York City; more than three times the size of Central Park! Many of the areas in the park are coastal, and Pelham Bay is known for its Orchard Beach, with a nice boardwalk and clean sand that invites sunbathing. In Pelham Bay Park you can also find the only road that leads to City Island, a small and picturesque island in the Long Island Sound. Check out this article about City Island to learn more about this urban seaside escape.
Shopping in the Bronx
When you think about shopping in New York City, the Bronx may not be the first place that comes to mind. However, the borough definitely has something to add to the famous shopping streets of Manhattan!
- The Hub was the first known shopping locale in the Bronx at the intersection of four roads. It somewhat resembles Times Square, but is smaller in size and doesn’t have many big chain stores. Instead, it’s known for its music stores that have huge selections of hip-hop music, reggae, Latin, and gospel.
- Fordham Road and Arthur Avenue are two of the biggest shopping streets in the borough, and both offer everything from big chain stores to small specialty shops.
- There are also several malls in the Bronx. Bay Plaza, African Center Mall, Bronx Mall, and the Bronx Terminal Center are some of the main commercial centers.
- The Bronx boasts several farmers’ markets. The Bronx Borough Hall Greenmarket (open on Tuesdays) is located next to the beautiful Joyce Kilmer Park and peddles fresh fruits and vegetables. The Poe Park Greenmarket is open on Tuesdays at the southern edge of Poe Park. Besides fresh fruits and vegetables, this market also boasts a fantastic selection of breads, pastries, and Mexican herbs. Lastly, the New York Botanical Garden Greenmarket (open on Wednesdays) inside the New York Botanical Garden sells everything from seasonal fruits and vegetables to cider and homemade pies.
Stay in the Bronx in New York City
After shopping for fresh produce at one of the greenmarkets, you’ll need access to a kitchen to turn them into a delicious meal! Check out this wonderful 2-bedroom apartment in the Bronx that’s perfect for a New York City holiday. The semi-open kitchen is ideal for cooking your own meals with ingredients you can buy at the nearby farmers’ markets, and the apartment is ideally located near the best landmarks of the area and the subway that will take you into Manhattan. If you’re looking for longer-term accommodations in New York City, the apartment can also be rented for a month or longer.
Alternatively, you can choose to stay in an Upper Manhattan apartment. This way, you’ll still be close enough to easily visit attractions in the Bronx, but you’ll be located in Manhattan with the skyscrapers of Midtown, Times Square, and Central Park only a few stops away by subway!
Cafes, restaurants, and nightlife in the Bronx
New York wouldn’t be the same without its coffee shops, and the Bronx has some of the best. The Blend on East Fordham Road is a lovely coffee shop with free Wi-Fi, and Palombo Caffe on Arthur Avenue also serves delicious pastries! Also on Arthur Avenue is De Lillos, a fantastic Italian bakery and pastry shop. S&S Cheesecake on West 238th Street serves some of the best cheesecakes in the city.
Dining in the Bronx will surprise you: The borough offers authentic restaurants from culinary regions all over the world! Italian, Dominican, Puerto Rican, and Irish cuisine are all well-represented in the borough. For some real Italian-American cuisine, head to Arthur Avenue. The avenue is known among locals for being more authentic than Manhattan’s Little Italy, and notable restaurants include Roberto’s, Emilia’s, Tino’s, and Umberto’s Clam House. You’ll also find mouthwatering Latin restaurants all over the borough, including Havana Café, El Nuevo Bohio Lechonera, Sabrosura Restaurant, Babalu and TaquariaTlaxcalli. If you’re a fan of seafood, City Island is the place to go. Arties, Johnny’s Reef Restaurant, and Lobster Box Restaurant are all worth a visit.
As for nightlife, the Bronx doesn’t disappoint. Michaelangelo’s Little Italy on Arthur Avenue is a restaurant and lounge in one and makes tasty pizza. An Beal Bocht Café on West 238th Street is a bar known for live music. Six blocks east you’ll find Bronx Alehouse, a bar a with a vast selection of beers. Yankee Tavern, next to the eponymous stadium, is a solid sports bar to visit before a game. Lastly, The Bruckner Bar and Grill on Bruckner Boulevard is a traditional American bar that also does happy hours.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this introduction to the Bronx! Of course, the borough has many more things to offer that we didn’t mention here. If you decide to pay the Bronx a visit, be sure to tell us about your favorite spots!