Manhattan Neighborhood Guide: Washington Heights

Giving you the inside scoop on all the neighborhoods in New York!

Washington Heights Neighborhood Guide

Ranked as the 2nd most populous neighborhood in Manhattan, Washington Heights (including Marble Hill & Inwood), is home to just over 201,000 New Yorkers. Though you would never guess it now, at the time of the American Revolution, this northernmost stretch of Manhattan was largely rural and uninhabited. It was here that George Washington and his men constructed Fort Washington to defend against the British forces, the area’s hilly topography offering the ideal vantage point to keep an eye out for the Red Coats. Decades after America won its independence, wealthy New York residents began building opulent mansions and estates on the land, making it a playground for the elite. In the 1900s, as the overcrowded streets of lower Manhattan inched north, immigrant populations started moving into the area and estates were replaced with rows of tenement buildings and storefronts. First came the Irish, followed by the Greeks, then Germans, and in more recent decades, an influx of Dominicans, all of whom helped shape a neighborhood rich in culture and diversity.


Washington Heights Location and Getting Around

Washington Heights sits at the northern tip of Manhattan, just above Harlem at W. 155th Street. Though once reputed as one of the roughest neighborhoods in the city, Washington Heights is now one of the safest with fewer than 1.1034 crimes per 1000 residents (check out the current crime rate for the 34th precinct). Today, Washington Heights is better known for its spacious apartments, more affordable rents, and Dominican flair. An increasingly popular area among students and young professionals, the neighborhood is also notable for incredible ethnic cuisine, beautiful greenspaces, and easy commuting. Just hop the southbound A, C, or 1 trains, and you’ll be in Midtown in under 30 minutes.


Washington Heights Neighborhood Landmarks

While the rest of Manhattan’s hills were leveled during development, Washington Heights retains much of its natural landscape. The former site of Fort Washington, Bennett Park boasts the highest point on the island (at 265 feet above sea level), denoted by a metal plaque at the top of a small rock outcropping usually overrun by children at play. Less than a mile up the road, on the bank of the Hudson River, sits the 67-acre Fort Tryon Park. Gifted to the City by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., this beautiful park features a huge public garden, 8 miles of running trails, playgrounds, and the Cloisters, a division of the Metropolitan that houses medieval art. Meander down the Hudson River Greenway to the adjacent Fort Washington Park, and you’ll find the historic Little Red Lighthouse tucked under the George Washington Bridge. Other notable neighborhood landmarks include the Inwood Hill Park, home to the City’s only remaining forest, and the Audubon Terrace, a cluster of Beaux-Arts buildings named after famed former resident of Washington Heights, John Audubon.


Locals Love

Best Washington Heights Restaurants

When Washington Heights residents aren’t lounging on park benches overlooking the Hudson, you’ll likely find them noshing on ethnic cuisine at one of the neighborhood’s many eateries. For Italian food, locals love Saggio, which is known for its intimate atmosphere and spectacular Southern Italian dishes (calamari and salmon are popular orders). Up on Broadway, Marcha Cocina, a Spanish-style tapas bar, opened its doors in 2013, but quickly became a neighborhood staple with delightful entrees and a generous happy hour. For a burger, locals head to one of the two Burger Heights locations, where the traditional hamburger is gussied up with farm-fresh ingredients from local purveyors.  In Inwood, the cozy and unassuming Beans & Vines offers personable service, an extensive wine selection, and impressive array of small bites (everything from lamb chops to catfish tacos). And, of course, a list of Washington Heights favorites wouldn’t be complete without mentioning a Dominican joint; Malecon features hearty helpings of Caribbean entrees like grilled churrasco and garlic rotisserie pollo.


Top Washington Heights Gyms

To burn off all those calories consumed at neighborhood eateries, locals sweat it out at nearby gyms. Lucille Roberts is “The Women’s Gym” and has with several locations scattered throughout the greater New York metro area. The Washington Heights location, at 1387 St. Nicholas Avenue, offers a variety of engaging group fitness classes including Zumba, Kickboxing, and Body Shred to help members slim down and trim up. Less than half a mile away, Hudson Pilates offers traditional reformer Pilates classes, as well as tower, mat, and a handful of other Pilates classes all geared towards helping clients build long, lean muscle. Farther north in Inwood, PRX offers clients a boutique fitness experience. Many members initially get hooked with the PRX14 program – a two-week program with daily 2.5-hour workouts designed to get drastic results quickly – while others enjoy staying in shape with the gym’s other classes which include cycling, box and sculpt, and a lower body leg blast. For a calmer, more tranquil workout, Washington Heights residents pull on their yoga pants and head over to MindBodySoul Yoga Studio. Located just across from the J Hood Wright Park, this yoga complex offers classes that help students focus on building strength and flexibility while shedding anxiety and stress. Last, but not least, the popular YM & YWHA of Washington Heights and Inwood has a 2500-square-foot fitness center replete with free weights, weight machines, and the latest cardio equipment, plus locker rooms, fitness classes, and youth programs.


Local Washington Heights Coffee Shops

If you can’t do without your morning caffeine jolt, Washington Heights has plenty of coffee shops to choose from. Darling Coffee, in Inwood, is a cheerful spot to enjoy a cup of Plowshares Coffee Roasters’ best along with a fresh pastry or sandwich. Close by, G’s Coffee Shop offers far more than just coffee; along with a just-brewed cup of joe, you can also order from a smorgasbord of breakfast items, sandwiches, and even Mexican eats. Down in Hudson Heights, Café Buunni sells its own micro roasted Ethiopian blends sourced from small localized farms, all certified organic and fair trade. Not too far away, Filtered Coffee, which has three NYC locations, put up a pop-up shop that was wildly successful. (Note, the shop is temporarily closed as developers transform the building into the neighborhood’s first food hall.) In the meantime, Taszo Espresso Bar, just north of Audubon Terrace, is a relaxed place to enjoy a morning espresso or unwind after a long day with a cold craft beer.


Washington Heights Night-Life

After the sun sets, the warm glow of neighborhood bars beckons thirsty passersby to stop in for a drink (or two). Just east of Fort Tyron Park, the aptly named Tyron Public House is an Inwood favorite known as a craft beer and cocktail destination, while the nearby Inwood Local boasts a welcoming interior, an outdoor beer garden, and well-priced eats and drinks. For the winos, the Corcho Wine Room, just down the street, offers an extensive wine list and tempting tapas in an intimate atmosphere.


Down in Washington Heights, locals love Le Chéile, an eclectic Irish pub in the shadow of the George Washington Bridge that offers twelve beers on tap plus a fantastic selection of wines, spirits, and hearty eats. Kazza Wine Bar has daily happy hour from 4 p.m. –  8 p.m., and its sangria and hummus are real crowd pleasers.


What These Businesses Love About Washington Heights


Best part of the neighborhood are the people-single and families, young and old -diverse, inclusive and creative.”
Victoria Neznansky, Chief Program Officer – YM & YWHA


I love the blend of old and new that being uptown offers. You have that old sense of community and rich cultural backgrounds, mixed with young professionals bringing new ideas and businesses.”
Edson A. FamiliaOwner – Beans & Vines


We have a sense of community here that feels like living in a small town in the big city. It’s easy to talk to and get to know people.”
Sarina PrabasiCo-Founder – Cafe Buunni


Washington Heights Movers

Whether you’re moving to Washington Heights for roomier digs or because you love the area’s vast greenspaces and neighborhood hangouts, make your move easier by enlisting the help of NYC’s best moving company. Since 2005, Imperial Moving & Storage has been making residential and commercial moves easier for customers all over New York City, including Upper Manhattan. We offer a wide range of moving services including packing and unpacking, storage, VIP moves, and long distance moving. From the time you call to book your move to the moment the last box is unloaded, we promise to do our best to make your transition a smooth one. Call one of our friendly sales staff or use the online quote form to get your free moving estimate now!


Featured Washington Heights Real Estate Agency

If you’re still looking for the right place to call home, reach out to Bohemia Realty Group for all your housing needs. Whether you are looking to rent or buy, their experienced team is focused on Upper Manhattan real estate.


Washington Heights Neighborhood Infographic

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