Secret guide: Queens & The Bronx

Manhattan may be seductively enthralling, but to miss Queens and the Bronx is to miss the real Big Apple. This is where New Yorkers live and any visit promises an authentic flavour of NYC life.

Both are wildly diverse, with communities that create a rich tapestry of cultural delights. Discover down-to-earth diners and contemporary cool in a host of hip galleries, with a legacy that spans the birth of hip hop in the gritty streets of the Bronx and legendary Mets games in Queens.

Bronx Zoo

A treasured urban zoo that remains in the hearts of millions of locals, the Bronx Zoo is a cherished rite of passage for the city’s youngsters. Head from wild African plains to lush Asian rainforests, accompanied by the recognisable din of the city swirling in the backdrop. See bison and gorillas, lions and polar bears, and best of all, pay-what-you-like on Wednesdays – but expect it to be packed.

The Real Little Italy

The Bronx is home to what is colloquially lauded as the real Little Italy. An Italian community grew around here in the ‘50s, taking over Arthur Avenue and Belmont. Irresistible restaurants and cafes exported true Italian flavours, with stalwarts like Mario’s serving up fine Italian fare since 1919. San Gennaro and Roberto’s are coveted newcomers, so avoid the tourist trap of Manhattan’s alternative and tuck into the authentic taste of Italy.

The Bronx Museum of the Arts

The Bronx Museum champions local art and makes it accessible to everyone. It offers a permanent exhibition comprised of exclusively African, Asian and Latin-American descent, from artists who have lived or worked in the Bronx and see the area as a critical influence on their work. The collection speaks to the cultural diversity of the area, offering fascinating insight into the cultural tapestry that the Bronx so carefully nurtures.

MoMA PS1

The hip, younger outpost of contemporary art, PS1, takes a leaf out of MoMA’s book and then makes it even cooler. A rotation of experimental installations fill this old school building with awe-inspiring creations, from the downright absurd to the enthrallingly engaging. A highlight over the warmer months is Saturday’s veritable block party, where live bands and acclaimed djs move a crowd of New York’s finest young things. It’s become one of the best parties in Queens.

Arepa Lady

Now owning a small restaurant, the Arepa Lady was famed for her addictive arepas (Colombian pancakes) that she served from a small cart outside a local sports bar. Her sons opened the permanent space, but rumour has it you can still catch their Mamma frying up this Colombian specialty from her cart. Not only is the food incredible and incredibly cheap, it acts as a perfect picture of what makes New York so special.

Bohemian Hall

This Astoria haunt is a much-loved, no-frills Queens drinking spot. Since 1910, this Czech beer house and garden has poured countless pilsners to a down-to-earth, revelrous crowd. Best enjoyed in the warmer months when the vast beer garden is packed with friendly locals, share a pitcher and a sausage platter with some friends for a budget-friendly, convivial outing.