50 reasons why NYC is the greatest city in the world

From the grid and the skyline to New Yorkers' long life expectancy, here are 50 facts that prove living in NYC is better than living anywhere else.

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  • Why NYC is the greatest city in the world

    Because the city’s water supply gives New York some of the best-tasting tap water around

  • Why NYC is the greatest city in the world

    Because you can travel the world without leaving the boroughs

  • Photograph: Melissa Sinclair

    Why NYC is the greatest city in the world

    Because we have the most theaters in the world—by a long shot

  • Why NYC is the greatest city in the world

    Why NYC is the greatest city in the world

    Because New York City is the most recognizable pop-culture reference point

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Why NYC is the greatest city in the world

    Because NYC has the second-largest Jewish population in the world—a massive influence on the city’s identity

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    Why NYC is the greatest city in the world

    Because our lack of space promotes a creatively willful ignorance

  • Why NYC is the greatest city in the world

    Because New York is truly a 24-hour city

  • Why NYC is the greatest city in the world

    Because countless songwriters created their masterpieces here

  • Photograph: Jolie Ruben

    Why NYC is the greatest city in the world

    Because of the breadth of our movie screenings—NYC has an array of venues catering to every different taste

  • Photograph: Michael Kirby

    Why NYC is the greatest city in the world

    Because you can hear first-rate jazz performers—both seasoned veterans and hot contenders—playing live every day of the week, 365 days a year

Why NYC is the greatest city in the world

Because the city’s water supply gives New York some of the best-tasting tap water around

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blue water splash isolated on white background

Because the city’s water supply gives New York some of the best-tasting tap water around

Those claims about NYC’s H20 making our pizza and bagels better? Probably not true. “The fact is, our tap water has changed quite a bit since that rhetoric started making the rounds a few decades ago,” explains Scott Wiener, who runs Scott’s Pizza Tours. “Believe me, I wish it was true; it would mean all the pizza in New York would be amazing—but we all know that just isn’t the case.” Fair enough. (Although someone may want to give New York Pizza Water—which hawks bottles of the stuff based on that myth—a heads-up.) But that doesn’t change the fact that NYC’s water is superior: Our water supply, which comes largely from upstate reservoirs, is nearly lead-free (any of the substance that does appear most has likely leeched in via old pipes). And the city’s aqua is routinely cited as among the country’s best-tasting, having placed second in the American Water Works Association’s nationwide taste test in 2010. So go ahead and fill those water bottles with abandon.

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Mile End Sandwich

Because you can travel the world without leaving the boroughs

Between the still-sluggish economy and our workaholic tendencies, Gothamites can’t always prioritize vacations—especially ones that involve traveling halfway (or all the way) across the globe. Luckily, we can feast on traditional dishes from destinations near and far by simply hopping on the subway (or the Staten Island Ferry). Even beyond the well-known enclaves (Flushing for Chinese cuisine, Elmhurst for Thai), there are myriad countries represented in our own backyward: In Jackson Heights, you’ll find Colombian arepas (the Arepa Lady) right around the corner from dozens of Indian and Bangladeshi eateries, and in Greenpoint you can sup on Polish borscht and blintzes (Pyza). Vietnamese banh mi can be sampled in several different ‘hoods (Hanco’s in Boerum Hill, Banh Mi Zon in the East Village), while a trip to the Upper East Side yields both German and Burmese dumplings (spaetzle at Heidelberg, phet-htoke at Café Mingala). Feel like Canadian poutine or smoked meat? Mile End represents Quebec’s staples with aplomb. You can also spend a Sunday afternoon comparing a half-dozen Mexican tacos or swapping Benedicts for pork buns and other dim sum delicacies without ever leaving Sunset Park. And when you’re in need of a noodle fix, you don’t have to look far for top-notch ramen whether you’re in Manhattan (Ippudo, Hide-Chan), Brooklyn (Ganso, Chuko) or Queens (Hinomaru). The best part: no passport required.

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Because we have the most theaters in the world—by a long shot

Smell that greasepaint? Hear that crowd roar? The numbers don’t lie. In 2012, the World Cities Culture Report did a survey of 12 key metropolises across the globe, and found that NYC far and away has the highest concentration of theaters: 420, with Paris a distant second at 353 and that other legendary performing-arts city, London, trailing in fourth (behind Tokyo) at 214. What’s more, on Gotham stages, upwards of 43,000 performances took place in 2012 alone. And no wonder: Between Broadway, Off Broadway and Off-Off Broadway—plus marathons for newcomers, like the New York International Fringe Festival and the New York Musical Theatre Festival—you can see countless actors speaking the speech (trippingly, on the tongue) in venues ranging from grand old proscenium houses to downtown parking lots.

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Because New York City is the most recognizable pop-culture reference point

Quick: Think of a hummable song about Indianapolis or Newark or Tallahassee. Now think of all the memorable songs about NYC—heck, TONY listed the 100 best songs about Gotham without breaking a sweat. Imagine The Age of Innocence or The Catcher in the Rye or From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler without Manhattan as a pushy, protective character. And even as New York has become a major producer of great TV, home to both Carrie Bradshaw and Liz Lemon, plenty of shows filmed in Los Angeles still pretend to be in the Big Apple (we were never fooled, Friends). In the 2011–12 season alone, 23 series were filmed here—and not all of them were Law & Order—along with 188 films; the $420 million the state gives in tax credits helped. But there are no tax credits in comic books, and the big three—Spider-Man, Batman and Superman—all get heroic in approximations of New York City. What, did you think Gotham City and Metropolis were based on Cleveland?

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Russ & Daughters

Because NYC has the second-largest Jewish population in the world—a massive influence on the city’s identity

Are we living in the Promised Land? Considering what a huge chunk of the Jewish diaspora has settled in New York City, we may as well be. According to the North American Jewish Data Bank, the city was home to 1,538,000 Jews as of 2012—that’s the largest concentration of Chosen People anywhere outside of Tel Aviv, representing a staggering 14.9 percent of the group’s worldwide population. Jewish culture has had a huge hand in shaping the identity of the city, ever since progrom-fleeing Russian Jews arrived in NYC in droves in the late 19th century. Many of the city’s most cherished cultural and culinary associations—Woody Allen’s oeuvre, Seinfeld, the 2nd Ave Deli, Irving Berlin, Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Zabar’s, bagels and lox—bear the Semitic stamp. The culture and the metropolis are inextricably linked, and both are the richer for it.

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Harlem Public

Because our lack of space promotes a creatively willful ignorance

When you’re having an intimate conversation in a restaurant, you imagine the couple next to you aren’t listening. When you’re the other couple, you pretend you’re not eavesdropping. You can have your cake and eat it, too. Plus, just walking down the street keeps you honest: You will see people in every compromising emotional or physical position imaginable (how many times have you walked by people fighting on the street, or seen someone crying on the subway?). The beauty of this is that New Yorkers don’t judge this type of behavior—because we know that we might be there ourselves in the near future.

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24 hour apple store

Because New York is truly a 24-hour city

In his 1997 drama, Closer, playwright Patrick Marber calls Gotham “a twenty-four-hour pageant called Whatever You Want.” Although the implicit showmanship and excess in that statement may not always be present, there’s no denying that New Yorkers actually can have pretty much anything at any time, day or night. Hair Party 24 Hours goes beyond its name to offer manis and pedis, massages, waxes and more at any hour; multiple pharmacy chains (Duane Reade, CVS, Walgreens) have locations throughout the boroughs that always keep the lights on and doors open; and continuously running bodegas keep us supplied with everything from Cheetos to laundry detergent. What’s more, no matter where or when you wander around town, other people are out doing the same thing—some with purpose, some content to just explore.

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Because countless songwriters created their masterpieces here

What is it about New York City that inspires musicians to create some of their most complex, brilliant works? We don’t rightly know, but we do know that some of the most compelling musical moments of the past century have been composed or recorded here. We outlined 100 of these in our recent list of the 100 best NYC songs, but here’s a short list of the songs and albums created in Gotham: George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” (written when the composer was a sickeningly young 25), Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue, Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited, Patti Smith’s Horses, Nas’s Illmatic, the Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs and Jay-Z’s The Blueprint. And that’s not even taking into account Carole King, Ellie Greenwich, Neil Diamond and the many artists who composed classics in the Brill Building era. The point: Our songwriters are better than your songwriters.

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Nitehawk Cinema

Because of the breadth of our movie screenings—NYC has an array of venues catering to every different taste

No, we’re not L.A. (and thank god for that), but just because Hollywood happens to be on the opposite coast doesn’t mean we aren’t the best city to watch a movie in. Gotham boasts great theaters for retrospectives and talks (Film Forum, BAM), and arty, indie, envelope-pushing fare (IFC Center, Anthology Film Archives), not to mention a new crop of dine-and-drink theaters (Nitehawk Cinema, Videology, rerun Gastropub Theater). And come summertime, NYC holds plethora of free outdoor screenings in locations both classic (Bryant Park, Central Park) and unconventional (Coney Island beach, Lower East Side rooftops).

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Because you can hear first-rate jazz performers—both seasoned veterans and hot contenders—playing live every day of the week, 365 days a year

Indie-rock might hog a lot of the press, but this is still a thriving jazz town. Really thriving, actually: Any night of the week offers the option to see, say, jazz vets jam in the 78-year old downtown staple the Village Vanguard, genre heavyweights in super-classy environs of Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola or Blue Note and free-jazz innovators pushing the envelope at the Stone.



Users say

43 comments
Karen M
Karen M

NYC can't be the greatest city because Chicago holds that spot, always has, always will.

Leandro V
Leandro V

People think they are going to come and encounter what they see in movies, but the reality is, that ppl.are bitter tired and beat from life and work here. Comr for urself and see it it's gross.

Leandro V
Leandro V

New York is a piece of shit, the food sucks bunch of stuck up hipsters everywhere, the summers are way too hot and the winters depressing and painful. Ppl like to say it awesome just to sound cool. Everything is expensive and ppl live in their own world idea that they are the shit. Yeah new york is ghetto and im.a new yorker. I bet the writers of this post are not even from ny, and just moved in to the city, let them b here for 20 years and they will see how much it sucks. All u do is work to survive. So anyhow I can day it awesome to visit for vacation but not to live.

Ellen H
Ellen H

51. Because of it's proxomity to New Jersey.

Liza L
Liza L

okay, read it all. have to say its a bunch of lies. especially for musicians. i found the songwriters playing out to be pretentious unreal garbage. i've met better musicians in FL and nashville. ny water is harsh and ruined my hair. it is a stressful over glorified garbage dump. leaving that place is the best thing i ever did. 

James B
James B

Im sorry as great as NYC is and it is GREAT, it isn't a patch on london

Jtime
Jtime

You forgot, no one brags more than a New Yorker. I lived there for 12 years. Half of my friends fall into the category that they dont have the job flexibility or financial freedom to leave so they are better off telling themselves its the greatest place on earth, while the other half has snapped out of their nostalgic, nyc trance and struggle to save enough money to leave. There are counter arguments to all 50 of these "we're better than you points".

ck
ck

Reading this is breaking my heart. I live and work in Toronto, and I love it, but the idea of New York is never far from my mind. For a person who feels most comfortable in the largest urban settings, it's the promised land. 26 isn't as old as it seems, but I feel like my window of opportunity to make the move down there is nearly closed. So many of my friends have already made it. What'll I do if I'm stuck here forever? Ugh. New York I love you and we've barely ever met

YesterdaysWine
YesterdaysWine

Because you can just walk around and be endlessly entertained. When I was young and broke back in the 70s, I would go on walking dates with girls. Young, alive and just looking at the people and places. Wonderful.

Brian
Brian

I wish I could move to New York. I am only 12 and live in Florida. I hate Florida and would move to almost any other state if I could.

bernice
bernice

I can think of 100 reasons why nyc sucks!

Kathleen
Kathleen

I loved this article. Sometimes we need a reminder of why we love this hard, hectic city. I learned about some new places that I want to try out, too. The comments of the offended tourists are just the icing on the cake. ;)

Karen
Karen

Show me a town where people are not only rude but think its ok to be rude because they are in New York and ill show you an awful place! I went to NYC for the first time last week and I was beyond excited But I realized its all false. I was shocked at how incredibly rude, self centered and opportunistic people were. Most people have a " all about me and what I want no matter who I step on mentality" and worse they think its ok. Transportation was also incredibly gross with subways and traffic! Keep your skylines! It was a city of ego in my opinion. I don't care how many bright lights, billboards or musicals you have, if New Yorkers think its justified to be rude or unkind then that makes it the worst city in the world! I was very disappointed! Just media advertisement that its a good place! I feel bad for New Yorkers they don't realize how bad they have it!

whatever
whatever

Where can I go water skiing in NYC please. Also, if I just want to go for a swim or surf or snowboard, where can I do that i NYC within 30 minutes. oh.... its' only city lifestyle things. so.... that means that the world's greatest city is only great if you want to be entertained. If you want to entertain yourself with natural lifestyle and beauty then it's not so good right ? I live in a medium sized city not in the USA so you would never have heard of it (lol) and i can walk to the end of the block and drink with friends on the beach in the evening watching the sunset with the clean sea breeze blowing softly over turquoise water, go surfing wearing only shorts and I do not have to drive to get there... etc It is the place people dream of living when they are spacing out in the cue yet again which is in line for another cue in an over populated concrete mess.

baller
baller

LOL is that the best you can do? Every 'reason' on your list is either bogus or a just plain wrong. I can hear the echo from the bottom of that barrel new york, you've taken scraping to new depths...

Rebecca
Rebecca

There are times when I loathe NYC but every time I visit a new city, I realize that THIS is truley the best city in the United States BY FAR. In the world though? It's a strong contender, but I am still holding out for that one.

Kate P
Kate P

#51: Because you can get anything delivered!!!

Reality guy
Reality guy

Haters gonna hate....NYC and SF are the two best American cities.

ThatchersDead
ThatchersDead

Manchester, fraction of the size of almost all western Cities, only been around for about 150 years, yet has contributed more to mankind than anywhere except possibly Athens. Industrialisation, socialism, the computer, bouncing bomb, split the atom, and then gave the world The Fall, The Smiths, Joy Division, Oasis, Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and many more.

Tom
Tom

Yes! And there's no crack-heads or winos. There's no ghettos or poverty. NY taxi drivers are the most polite people in the world. No one has ever had abuse screamed at them by random strangers. If an old man falls over in the street, people rush to help him. It has the lowest suicide rate of any city in history. Everyone in New York is well-educated and tolerant. There was once a mugging in 1962, but it turned out to be a misunderstanding...

abdelrahman saad
abdelrahman saad

Because it has so much diversity more than any where in the world!!

JB
JB

How many more Dunkin' Donuts, Subways and 7-Elevens opened while you were composing this list? The soul of this city is gone. I still love it, but I'm disheartened.

AAK
AAK

London bars close at 11pm? since when the 90's? 24hour drink licence exists there. You have been going to some old geezer pubs cause most bars close at 3 or 4am especially weekends and if busy will stay open a bit after that without fear of fines and being shut down. Oh there are also all night bars around the city which are legal good luck finding that in NYC.

AAK
AAK

London bars close at 11pm? since when the 90's? 24hour drink licence exists there. You have been going to some old geezer pubs cause most bars close at 3 or 4am especially weekends and if busy will stay open a bit after that without fear of fines and being shut down. Oh there are also all night bars around the city which are legal good luck finding that in NYC.

AAK
AAK

Bit of a lie there on the most linguistically diverse city.. again London tops that. This article has to be the biggest waste of time. Did George W. Bush write this?

George Hanes
George Hanes

#44 Try the Roebling Suspension Bridge crossing the Ohio River @ Cincinnati, OH which predates the Brooklyn Bridge by 17 years!

George Hanes
George Hanes

#44 BS, try the Roebling suspension bridge in Cincinnati, OH predates the Brooklyn Bridge by 17 years!

Kate
Kate

@jerry: agreed, #6 is BS! For that matter, #5 is likely BS too. I guarantee the life expectancy will start to drop as the current 20-30-somethings grow old, as none of us are able to land rent-stabilized apartments. The current crop of seniors have little to stress about as far as rent goes, as many or most of them are in huge rent stabilized apartments and don't have that stress in their lives. Low stress=longer lifespan. No one who is currently 30 or below will have that luxury unless legislation changes, so we will have LOTS to stress about or will have to leave the city--heck, if we can even afford to stay in the city until we get old.

maya
maya

I wish we could say: we are the cleanest city, we recycle more than anyone else, our Green IQ is high and we care about planet and we are not creating so much landfills...but unfortunately this is the dirtiest city in the US!! Timeout London has every right to say: look london subway has not trash can yet you don't see people trashing it! its time to change New York, let's keep this city clean just like our home! we live here, then lets treat it that way with.

maria
maria

Number one should be THE NEW YORK YANKEES!

jerry
jerry

#6 is pure BULLSHIT !!!

Brian
Brian

Most are true except the 24/7 city. Not everything is open past 9pm in NYC except maybe bars and restaurants (sort of). Most retail close earlier than Seoul

Liza L
Liza L

@Jtime i totally agree with you. its a phony bravado meant to congratulate themselves on 'surviving'..just a bunch of hype.

SAM D
SAM D

@Karen Sigh.. I understand exactly what you are referring to. Here's the thing though, it is highly unlikely any of those people are even from Manhattan. 


I've had the fortune of experiencing what I believe to be the absolute best that NY has ever had to offer. 


Sadly, "Sex & The City" and Mayor Giuliani helped to extinguish the last bit of authenticity the city had.


"Sex & The City" lured every single female under the age of 45 to NY. These young girls saw Carrie Bradshaw elbowing her way through crowds and nightclubs, and they modeled her behavior. That element  never existed before that show (and I have spent many, many years on that island). In fact, this kind of self-centeredness has changed the dynamic of the whole city. 


Smarterchild1998 sums it up well: 


http://thoughtcatalog.com/timmy-parker/2013/10/30-people-on-what-annoys-them-about-new-yorkers/


After 47 years, I moved temporarily to the west coast and am loving it. Los Angeles and Las Vegas with their "old school signs" and budding fashion and art scenes.  I was back in NY recently, it's the city of continual change, some things get better, some get worse. There is nowhere in the world like it but the best of its' nightlife and music is behind it for now.


There are a lot of "blanket statements" being made here. 


Liza spending 3 years in NY will have no clue what the real NY is. It's not possible to "find all one's people" in a short 3 years, nor is it possible to be right and accurate about people from Manhattan when one is spending time with transplants that have been in NY for several years and consider themselves NY'ers.


I could go in to some real depth on this as it is a topic I am passionate about. Honestly, I should be focusing on work - So, to that end.. Know that this native Manhattanite does her best to be kind, considerate, and walk with dignity and grace.


..wondering if the person who wrote the article is from Manhattan.. lol

Liza L
Liza L

@Karen you're smart karen. i was there three years and it took me that long to figure out how fake it was. its a very superficial phony environment of social climbers. not what the movies tell u at all..

SAM D
SAM D

@whatever I actually went water skiing in some body of water in Brooklyn or Queens somewhere - Closer to the city, farther from the beach - Weird. Surprised I have not grown a 3rd arm.


Carl G
Carl G

@AAK i think the main point remains to be that no fact will convince us otherwise.

aurelia o
aurelia o

@SAM D How to find effectively a job for an older people in NY?