Look past the hip cafes and organic grocery stores in any New York City neighborhood and you’ll find it: evidence of the city’s sordid past. If you know where to look, you can find old mob hangouts, gang war battlegrounds and haunted places sprinkled all around the five boroughs. That’s where these crime tours in NYC come in. Instead of hitting all the big New York attractions, these walking tours in NYC focus on the city’s secrets—a dark history that some would be keen to forget. Once you’ve visited former bootlegging depots, secret underground tunnels and the final resting places of notorious mafia bosses, you might just see the city in a new light.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to New York City tours
Crime tours in NYC
Ghosts, Murders and Mayhem: Hell’s Kitchen
The district may be filled with trendy restaurants these days, but not too long ago it was a hotbed for murder. Hear gruesome stories about real-life killers who terrorized the ’hood, like the Capeman, the Butcher of Times Square and the Cannibal Chef. Meet at the northeast corner of Eighth Ave and W 41st St (ghostsandmurders.com). Various dates and times; $25.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Dave Newman
The Rise and Fall of the American Mafia Tour
Fuhgeddabout The Godfather. Find out what New York’s 20th-century mobsters, like Lucky Luciano and Carlo Gambino, were like as you walk past former East Village tenements, alleyways, social clubs and funeral homes that played a part in their criminal empires. Meet at 168 First Ave (nycgangstertours.com). Fri, Sat at 5pm; Sun at 2pm. $35–$45.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Tomás Fano
The Ultimate Greenwich Village Ghost Tour
One of the city’s oldest neighborhoods is also home to some of its oldest residents—even if they now only reside there in spirit. Leave your scaredy pants at home for an afternoon of morbid tales about the nabe’s ghosts, from ancient spooks and menacing apparitions to recently spotted ghouls. Meet at St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, 131 E 10th St (917-409-8533, boroughsofthedead.com). Various dates and times; $25–$35.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/NumbPhoto
Gangs of New York Tour
Want to strut the once-blood-soaked streets that used to be the stomping grounds of 19th-century struggling immigrants, murderous gangsters and crooked politicians? Originally launched as a historical companion to the Martin Scorsese film, this Big Onion tour has loads of seedy details about the infamous neighborhood Five Points that the 2002 movie excluded. Meet at the southeast corner of Broadway and Chambers St (212-439-1090, bigonion.com). Various dates and times; $25.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Mobilus in Mobili
Gangsters and Mob Tour of Little Italy and Chinatown
Uncover the truth about New York’s seedy criminal underworld on this tour of two neighborhoods that were once notorious for their gang activity. In Little Italy, you’ll discover a pizzeria that doubled as a drug ring and bars featured on The Sopranos. Next, in Chinatown, you’ll visit the Bloody Angle and check out secret tunnels used by gangsters on the run from the cops. Meet at Petrosino Square. Sat at 9am. $19.99
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Jörg Schubert
Gangster Tour of New York
It’s fitting that the New York County Courthouse is smack dab in the middle of the neighborhood once known as Five Points, where five families waged bloody gang wars for decades. Visit historic landmarks like Curb Exchange, a former bootlegging depot, and Old St. Patrick’s Church, the city’s oldest Catholic church. You’ll even spy a few filming locations from The Godfather trilogy. Meet at Petrosino Square. Sat at 2pm. $35
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Maximilian Goldmann
East Village Gangster and Crime Private Walking Tour
Find out why the East Village and Lower East Side were once known as “Wicked New York” on this private tour for up to 10 people. Places you’ve passed a hundred times, like Tompkins Square Park and St. Mark's Church-in-the-Bowery, look completely different when you know what dastardly crimes were committed there. Meeting point provided after booking. Daily at various times. $245 for a group of 10.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/John Weiss
NYC Gangster and Mob Private Walking Tour
Don’t want to mingle with the public on your tour? Spring for this private walk for up to 10 people. You’ll visit the spot where the infamous Dead Rabbits Riot occurred, the battleground between the deadly Tong gangs in Chinatown and former hangouts of mafia dons in Little Italy. Meeting point provided after booking. Daily at various times. $245 for a group of 10.
NYC Private Mafia Tour
Ride through Manhattan in style—like the dons of the mafia once did—in a luxury vehicle on this private tour. You’ll focus on mob hangouts frequented by bosses like John Gotti, including ritzy steakhouses, exclusive social clubs and extravagant homes. To get even more insight into the mob mentality, extend the tour by two hours and venture into Queens to visit Gotti’s former home, high school and final resting place. Meeting point provided after booking. Daily at 10:00am, 11:00am or 12:00pm. $825–$1,850.
Looking for more tours in NYC?
Still, guided tours aren’t just for the most well-known New York attractions: They can also give you a behind-the-scenes look at what some call the “secret New York.”