Wondering where to stay in New York? Our comprehensive guide will showcase some of the best neighbourhoods including epic accommodation recommendations so you can have an amazing stay in
the world’s most famous city. New York defies expectation, providing everything to everyone. You can come to NYC with any goal in mind, as a tourist or student or person looking for work, and you’ll find it here. The city is always in flux, with Manhattan neighbourhoods providing authentic local foods from every corner of the globe, and areas like Brooklyn’s Williamsburg becoming a hub of unique hipster coffee shops, bookstores, and record stores. Between every iconic landmark is a thousand wonderful distractions to spellbind every visitor to this wonderful city that refuses to be bottled and labelled.
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Where to stay in New York [2020 Guide For First Time Visitors] - Contents
Where to stay in New York?
Choosing where to stay in New York City is a difficult one, every district is brimming with its own culture and distractions. This is one of those wonderful cities that’s very possible to explore on foot and opens up to visitors who choose to do so, especially since there are so many things to do in New York. However, wherever you’re based the simple to navigate subway system has got your back. The majority of visitors choose to stay on the island of Manhattan where you’ll find most of the city’s major landmarks, museums, and notable restaurants. However, the cool Brooklyn and Queens areas are fast becoming hipster hubs attracting tourists who want a cheaper option without sacrificing things to do. New York City truly is a vibrant city in every season and offers an array of things to do even during winter.
Midtown West – Broadway and Times Square
Why stay in Midtown West
One of the most coveted spots for tourists in New York, this area makes up Times Square, Broadway and stretches all the way West to the Hudson River. When you picture New York, this is the area people usually imagine and is perfect if you want to be in the middle of all the action in terms of bright lights, performances, shopping, and people. You’ll also be within walking distance of these key areas as well as Macy’s, Madison Square Garden, plus the areas in Midtown East making it ideal if you want to traverse New York by foot. It’s also perfect transport wise since most of the major subway lines and bus routes run through this area.
Why avoid Midtown West
Midtown West is an expensive area and incredibly busy. There are people walking and cars tooting until the early hours so it’s not ideal if you’re a light sleeper. It’s also constantly bright from all of the billboards. Obviously, it’s a very touristy area so you won’t get much of local life here and have to deal with ticket touts trying to sell things more than you might like.
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Midtown East – See as much as possible on your doorstep
Why stay in Midtown East
Very convenient for lots of New York biggest sights, you’re within walking distance to Times Square, the Theater District, the Rockefeller Center, the New York Public Library and MOMA. You’re also next to some interesting cultural areas like Korea Town where there are some interesting restaurants, shops, and karaoke bars. Some of the most famous buildings like the Empire State and Grand Central are right on your doorstep and it’s thrilling to walk past these landmarks on a daily basis. This is an area that’s ideal if you’re in New York for a few days and want to see as much as possible as easily as possible.
Why avoid Midtown East
It’s one of the main tourism and business hubs meaning it’s incredibly busy most of the time. It’s also quite expensive to eat locally and the choice of restaurants isn’t as extensive as in other areas. There’s very little budget accommodation in the area so staying here could add up very quickly.
Where to stay in Midtown East
Lower Manhattan – Quieter Alternative to Midtown
Why stay in Lower Manhattan
A quieter spot than some of the other tourist hubs of Manhattan that’s still very much close to all the action. There’s a laidback vibe in the area, plenty of cafes, bookstores, and shops to wander. It’s also known as the financial district so caters a lot towards people here for business meaning you might get some hotel deals on the weekend when it’s quieter. There’s plenty to do in the area, it’s within walking distance to Little Italy, the 9/11 memorial museum, and the ferry to Staten Island which offers great free views of the State of Liberty. There’s also a lot of history in the area so plenty to uncover for culture vultures and you’re just a short train ride to Brooklyn and Midtown.
Why avoid Lower Manhattan
As it caters towards the business side of things, some local eateries can be closed outside of office hours and although there are good transport links it is a twenty-minute ride to Midtown which may not suit people who want to spend a lot of time in the area.
Where to stay in Lower Manhattan
Upper West Side – Family Friendly, Central Park Area
Why stay in Upper West Side
Anyone looking for some peace and quiet will feel right at home in the Upper West Side. Known for Central Park, this is the place to be if you want to combine shopping, a plethora of museums, and peaceful tree-lined streets. This is an ideal area for families due to the family-friendly restaurants and wide-open riverside spaces that are ideal for cycling or walking. It’s also very easy to get to the other popular areas on the subway due to the good connections so you’re not sacrificing action for the quieter location. It’s also known to be one of the safest areas in the city.
Why avoid Upper West Side
This isn’t the area for nightlife or particularly varied cuisine with a lot of chain restaurants in the area so if you’re a foodie or a night owl this might be too quiet for you.
Where to stay in Upper West Side
Upper East Side – Upscale, relaxed area with museums
Why stay in Upper East Side
Featuring the ‘museum mile’ and various upscale buildings, dining, and department stores, this is the area to stay in if you want a swanky, quiet area not far from Central Park with lots to do. You could easily spend your entire trip visiting galleries and museums being based here and not even start on the usual sights of Manhattan. If upscale shopping is your thing, then you’ll also be very happy here.
Why avoid Upper East Side
It’s a quiet area, suited to families and people looking for a relaxing getaway so may not suit everyone. It’s also a generally high-end area so not suited to the budget traveller.
Where to stay in Upper East Side
Chelsea – Quieter, Stylish Area with Lots to Do
Why stay in Chelsea
A great hub for foodies, and people who love trendy bars, cobbled streets, art galleries, and nightlife. It’s an ideal alternative to the busy Midtown and is located just West of there so it’s not far from most of the number one tourist sights of Manhattan. The Flatiron building is in this district as well as Union Square with plenty of coffee shops, small restaurants, and bookshops including the famous Strand bookshop. It’s a great choice for people who love markets as this is the sight of the famous Christmas Market, the Greenmarket four days a week, and various other flea and antique markets throughout the week. There’s plenty to do after dark in terms of entertainment so it’s an ideal base for people who like to be kept busy.
Why avoid Chelsea
Depending on where you are in the area, it can either be very noisy after dark or eerily quiet with not much to do so positioning yourself on a good side street is key to enjoying the area to its fullest. There isn’t a lot of budget accommodation in the area and the food and drink options lean towards the more expensive here since its so close to Midtown.
Where to stay in Chelsea
Soho & Tribeca – Upscale, boutique area
Why stay in Soho & Tribeca
If you’re looking to stay in the most upscale part of Manhattan, this is it. It’s a shoppers’ paradise with boutique stores and vendors selling handcrafted and artisan items married with the tree-lined streets. It’s a romantic area in the heart of Manhattan, just South of Washington Square Park. You can take your pick of fine dining establishments to eat at in Tribeca after visiting the multitude of art galleries and photographing the beautiful architecture that’s hard to miss.
Why avoid Soho & Tribeca
This is one of the most expensive areas in the city and there’s very little budget accommodation on offer here. It can also get very busy with foot traffic as it's popular with tourists.
Where to stay in Soho & Tribeca
Greenwich Village – Great for nightlife and quaint pictures
Why stay in Greenwich Village
With plenty to offer, this quaint area lies on the West side of Manhattan and has lots to offer people who like arty, hipster vibes with a more upscale feel. The area isn’t quite as grid-like as most of the city and features cobblestones and winding streets. It’s one of the best areas for nightlife as the Meatpacking District has you covered for breweries, bars, live music halls, and clubs. It’s also a hotspot for foodies with lots of choice in terms of restaurants, small eateries, and cafes. With some of the most boutique hotels in Manhattan in the area, this is a perfect place to stay if you want something a little bit different with lots to do and good transport links.
Why avoid Greenwich Village
The nightlife scene, while a huge draw does make it very noisy and busy at times, particularly on the weekend. It’s quite an expensive area despite the edgy vibe so people on a budget may not find this the ideal location.
Where to stay in Greenwich Village
Lower East Side – Arty, grungy area with great food
Why stay in Lower East Side
The artsy, creative hub of Manhattan, there’s plenty to do here for people who love vintage stores, artisan cafes, speakeasy bars, and cocktails. You’re also within walking distance to some of the best foodie areas in the city like Chinatown, Little Italy and some fantastic delis – a Katz’s sandwich is a must-try experience. There are also several trains running to Brooklyn meaning you can explore popular areas like Williamsburg easily. This is ideal if you like to be based in an edgy area. There are some key things to do in the area like the Tenement Museum, Merchant House Museum, and Eldridge Street Synagogue so there’s plenty to keep you busy.
Why avoid Lower East Side
The transport links here aren’t great so if this is your first time in the city and you’re hoping to see lots of the main tourist sights then this may be a bit of an awkward location. It’s quite busy and crowded here and there’s not a huge range of accommodation. It also generally looks run down and is quite residential in parts so it may not have the New York bright lights vibe many are looking for.
Where to stay in Lower East Side
Long Island City – Cheaper alternative not far from the action
Why stay in Long Island City
New York City can be a challenge for those on a budget but not impossible. Anyone who’s looking to save some money on accommodation may find Long Island City a great choice as there’s a plethora of budget hotels and hostels in this up and coming neighbourhood. Not too far from the city, there are several convenient train lines running through Long Island City that will get you into Manhattan in no time. You also get the bonus of incredible skyline views of the city.
Why avoid Long Island City
There are fewer bars, restaurants, and general things to do in the area as it’s still up and coming so if you like a lot of things to do within walking distance then constantly getting the train may not suit you. This also won’t suit people looking for a high-end experience being a largely residential area.
Where to stay in Long Island City
Brooklyn – Budget, hipster central with lots to offer
Why stay in Brooklyn
This is another great option for people looking to stay in New York on a budget, Brooklyn, however, is much more than a budget option now offering a microcosm of culture of its very own to explore. With popular areas such as the hipster Williamsburg offering artisan cafes, markets, vintage stores, and art galleries to the popular areas on or near the waterfront like Greenpoint, Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, and Dumbo. The Museum of Moving Images is a popular destination as well as the various flea and antique markets that happen on a daily basis and the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. It’s very easy to take the train or the ferry (which offers fantastic views of Brooklyn and Williamsburg Bridge) into Manhattan so there’s no need to miss out on any of the sights there either. Perfect for people who like a more relaxed, edgy vibe.
Why avoid Brooklyn
As nice as being outside the city can be, you will have to get the train or a taxi to see the big sights of New York City so if it’s your first visit you may find the travel to and from eating away at your time.