Choosing where to stay in New York City can be time-consuming because there are so many unique neighborhoods around the city. This guide will help you understand the layout and personality of New York.
Whether you're visiting for the first time or a repeat visitor, this guide will help you choose where to base yourself depending on what you want to see and experience.
Where to Stay in New York City
This detailed guide to New York includes information on 6 of most popular areas in the city with suggestions on where to stay, what to eat, and what not to miss in terms of local experiences.
Suggested New York Neighborhoods
If you want to skip directly to any of the neighborhoods in New York, click on the links below.
- SoHo / Tribeca – Gorgeous cast-iron warehouses, top-notch shopping, fantastic people watching, and in the center of downtown.
- The Village - Quiet tree-lined streets with million dollar townhouses, cute cafes and restaurants, fantastic bars, and a great music scene.
- Lower East Side / East Village / Nolita – Old punk rockers, hipsters, and the original center of immigrant life in New York.
- Upper West Side – An affordable and convenient neighborhood that has lots to do, particularly for families.
- Chelsea – Glitzy, trendy, new, energetic, this neighborhood blurs the lines between cliched/touristy and glamorous.
- DUMBO – For those looking to escape Manhattan wonderful neighborhoodsof the Outer Boroughs that will allow you to explore further.
- Williamsburg - Trendy hipster neighborhod. One of the hottest spots in Brooklyn.
- Astoria - fantastic deals, where New Yorkers like to live for local vibe choose to stay in Astoria or Long Island City.
New York Quick Tips
- See the sights in midtown but plan some time for exploring downtown, Brooklyn, or Queens. Some personal favorites are Chinatown, The Lower East Side, Coney Island, Bushwick, and the Arthur Avenue Little Italy (in the Bronx).
- Be alert but don’t be afraid. New York is so safe. Don’t leave your bag on the ground and be mindful of your belongings, but don’t sweat it either.
- Wander New York at night! This is when the city looks the most beautiful.
- Pack correctly for the winter! You will need thick socks, gloves, a scarf, a hat, and some very warm clothing.
- Avoid the holiday tourist season. New York is phenomenal in November and December, so I don’t want to turn you off to it completely, but the city is extra-jam-packed with tourists, the lines are intense and everywhere, and the hotels are so expensive!
- Don’t over-plan. Take some time to get lost and wander through different neighborhoods to let the true spirit of New York show itself.
- Explore the interior of the New York Public Library, the lobby of the Chrysler Building, and the interior of Grand Central Terminal (all two blocks from each other).
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Best Places to Stay in New York
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There are so many fascinating neighborhoods to stay in New York. With a vast transit system to accommodate travel, it can be very confusing to figure out the ideal place to settle down in.
Add to this the fact that New York is now safer than it has been since the 1950s, you can see why travelers are beginning to adventure beyond the old mainstays.
Click on link to Google map directions for New York City neighborhoods
Times Square and Midtown
As a lifelong New Yorker and professional tour guide and photographer, the goal of this article is to get you out of the Times Square and Midtown areas.
While those areas are fantastically convenient to stay in and many people love them; particularly for their first trip or for Broadway lovers, my belief is that there are more interesting neighborhoods that will allow you to experience more of what New York truly is about.
About New York City
A city of 8.5 million residents, 1.5 million daily commuters from outside the city, and over 60 million tourists can become overwhelming. This makes it important to try not to see everything in one trip. You can't see everything here in a year, let alone on a week-long trip.
Luckily, one of the draws of New York is that there is something here for everyone.
There are all types of museums, galleries, restaurants, music venues, nightlife options, even styles of architecture.
There is history everywhere you go, shopping for all budgets, and friendly people (yes, New Yorkers are friendly, we're just in a rush sometimes).
You can take your interests and plan a big part of your trip around that, and the neighborhood you choose will help you to do this.
Getting Around New York
- Take the subway. It’s faster! You can purchase a MetroCard at any station as an individual ride card or a 7-day or 30-day unlimited card.
- Download the Citimapper app to tell you the fastest ways to travel throughout the city.
- Avoid empty subway cars! It’s too good to be true. Usually, the AC is broken or there is a terrible smell.
- New York is a walking city but pace yourself, make sure to stay hydrated and give yourself enough time to rest.
- Don’t stop suddenly in the middle of a busy sidewalk. Walk to the sides before stopping, and make sure to look behind you before you stop short.
- Get the Curb Taxi App or use Uber or Lyft: Note from Deb and Dave: Taxis and Ubers in NYC are very reasonable.
Architecture and Shopping
SoHo and Tribeca are becoming hot neighborhoods to visit and live, so much so that they are two of the top five most expensive areas for real estate in New York City. That being said, you should stay and visit here.
Historically the factory center of Manhattan, these neighborhoods are for architecture buffs.
You can explore endless streets of the most stunning cast-iron buildings in the world, with gorgeous pillars, fire escapes, water towers, and cobblestone streets.
As the factories left in the '60s and '70s, artists moved in turning them into lofts.
Galleries followed, and then shopping, turning the area into a giant shopping mecca.
The Film Forum is also nearby for film buffs to catch a classic movie.
Pros: Architecture, food, shopping, galleries, convenient to downtown areas
Cons: Expensive, certain areas are crowded
Suggest Hotels Near SoHo / Tribeca Hotels
Things to do in SoHo / Tribeca
Shopping on Broadway - SoHo is often thought of as the best shopping area in Manhattan. Walk down Broadway and then get lost on the side streets to find nearly every brand you can possibly imagine.
Greene Street and cast-iron architecture (SoHo) - Walk down Greene Street to see the most beautiful and plentiful array of cast-iron buildings in the entire world. Built in the mid-to-late 1800s as factories and sweatshops, then used as artist lofts in the '70s and '80s, these buildings exude an air of history that you just need to see.
Lispenard Street (Tribeca) - Similar to Greene Street, Lispenard holds a gorgeous array of old industrial cast-iron buildings. These old factories now hold some of the most expensive apartments in New York.
Rooftop bar at the James Hotel - overlooking Tribeca, have a nightcap with one of the most expansive and gorgeous rooftop views in the city.
Dominique Ansel Bakery - The inventor of the cronut (a hybrid croissant / donut), this is the best bakery in the city. The cronuts sell out fast so to get one you will need to wait on line starting very early in the morning, but no worries as the other pastries are just as good, and you can walk in anytime to get them!
Gallery hop - SoHo and Tribeca were once at the center of the gallery scene in New York (in the 1980s), but they still hold an impressive array of high-end galleries.
Film Forum - For film buffs, the film forum shows a quirky array of independent films, old films, foreign films, and documentaries.
Children's Museum of the Arts - This 10,000 square foot museum is a wonderful oasis for families and houses art classes and events for both children and adults.
Tribeca Film Festival - For 10 days every spring you can get tickets to see a vast array of unique films at this world famous festival.
MMuseumm - Located down an old alleyway (Cortlandt Alley) is New York's smallest museum. Visit on a weekend and look close or you might miss it!
The Orange (B D F M), Yellow (N Q R W), and Green (6) trains will take you to SoHo, while the Red (1, 2, 3), and Blue (A C E) will take you to Tribeca
For more information, view the MTA website for a map, updated costs, and schedules.
#2 The Village
History, Homes, and Quiet Streets
For history buffs, there are few neighborhoods as evocative as The Village, once the Bohemian capital of New York and the center for the LGBT, '60s Counterculture, and Beat movements.
While that era is long gone, the feel of the neighborhood is not. Get lost on side street after side street of gorgeous townhouses and tree-lined blocks. The neighborhood is simultaneously quiet and happening.
Visit Washington Square Park, the Cherry Lane Theater (New York’s longest continuously running Off-Broadway theater), see a jazz performance at Blue Note or Village Vanguard, or have a drink at the White Horse Tavern, Chumley’s, or the Stonewall Inn.
Pros: Convenient to walk to many downtown neighborhoods, townhouses and quiet streets, Washington Square Park, close to IFC, Cinema Village, and Angelika Film Center for film buffs, shopping, music, close to NYU
Cons: The heyday of writers and artists is long gone, expensive, close to NYU
Best Places to Stay in The Village
Things to do in The Village
Get lost and explore - There is nothing better to do here than to grab a coffee to go and walk around the neighborhood aimlessly dreaming of what it would be like to live in these gorgeous townhomes. Visit Carrie Bradshaw's stoop in Sex and the City, located at 64 Perry Street.
Washington Square Park - This park is a haven for people throughout the area and is one of the best people-watching spots in the city. Sit around the fountain, watch the street performers, musicians, old-timers, and young NYU students, and take it all in.
Cherry Lane Theatre - This 180 seat theatre was started in 1924 and is the oldest continuously running Off-Broadway theater.
Stonewall Inn - Visit the bar where the LGBT movement was born on June 28, 1969, when bar patrons were raided by the police, setting off the Stonewall Inn Riots.
Village Vanguard and Blue Note - Listen to jazz at these two famous venues.
Washington Mews - Visit this side-street of old beautiful two-story carriage homes right off Washington Square Park.
Whitehorse Tavern and Chumleys - Visit these two famous drinking establishments, famously frequented by writers, poets, and artists during the heyday of this Bohemian neighborhood.
Johns of Bleecker Street - One of the best pizza places in the city. This no-frills spot feels like nothing has changed.
#3 Lower East Side / East Village / Nolita
Fun, Funky Neighborhoods
These three neighboring neighborhoods cover a vast amount of the most vibrant real estate in Manhattan.
The Lower East Side, East Village, and Nolita are filled with incredible and varied restaurants, gorgeous old tenement buildings with beautiful fire escapes, and a wide selection of smaller scale museums, cultural institutions, and theaters.
Most importantly for some, the people watching can be the best in the city!
There is a range of bars and nightlife for every type, from younger clubs to old, grizzled dive bars.
The restaurant/food scene is one of the best in the city and includes numerous old mainstays such as Katz’ Delicatessen, Russ & Daughters, John’s of 12th, Emilio's Ballato, Economy Candy, and Veselka.
As well as newer trendy restaurants that are too numerous to name
Pros: Proximity to Chinatown, walking distance to some of the best downtown areas in Manhattan, food, cultural institutions and theaters (including the Tenement Museum), shopping, bars and clubs, many new hotels..
Cons: Airbnb apartments and building stock can be old and creaky. Nightlife in certain areas can get very loud and crazy (particularly on Avenue A and in Hell Square on the Lower East Side)
Suggested Hotels near the Lower East Side, East Village, and Nolita
Things to see near the Lower East Side, East Village, and Nolita
Tenement Museum - Visit the museum and take one of their famed walking tours to learn about the immigrant history of the Lower East Side. Then get lost as you explore the old tenement buildings with some of the most beautiful fire escapes in the city.
St Marks Place - Have a drink or meal on this famous nightlife street in the East Village.
Trash & Vaudeville - The current home of punk rock in New York, this longtime shop sells clothing and keeps the punk rock history of the neighborhood alive.
New Museum - This modern museum resembles a stack of seven off-kilter metal boxes, and the exhibits are just as interesting.
Nightlife - Bar hop on the Lower East Side and in the East Village, where you will find every possible type of establishment, from crazy clubs to old dive bars.
Gallery hop on the Lower East Side - Due to its affordability, the LES is the new gallery capital of Manhattan.
Walk the Manhattan Bridge - My favorite photography walk in the entire city, the views are second to none and there are no tourists to share it with. Walk halfway and back or walk the entire stretch and spend the day in DUMBO viewing the Manhattan skyline.
Shop in Nolita - Nolita is filled with small, unique, high-end clothing stores.
Katz's Delicatessen - The spot of the famous scene in When Harry Met Sally, whether you decide to eat here or not, it's worth going inside to look at the atmosphere. The name of the game here is the pastrami on rye, but be wary because the sandwiches are huge and you will spend a week digesting them.
Russ & Daughters - This old Jewish delicatessen is my favorite place to eat in the city. Get a bialy (like a flatter bagel without a hole and with onion pounded into the middle), with cream cheese and lox. The original spot is a hole in the wall where you take the food to eat outside or walk with it, but they recently opened a sitdown cafe on the Lower East Side.
Mamouns - Located on St. Marks, this is the best falafel in the city. Great for a late-night meal after visiting a few of the many bars in the East Village.
Economy Candy - Open since 1937, this old shop is like a museum of candy, and you can just feel the neighborhood's past here.
Veselka - One of the remaining restaurants that harkens back to the neighborhood's Ukrainian past, Veselka is a no frills diner with incredible food. Try the pierogis (homemade dumplings), potato pancakes, or try a variety with their 'giant meat plate,' which is highly recommended. This is a great lunch spot.
John's of 12th or Emilio's Ballato - Forget little Italy, these are two of the best Italian restaurants in New York. Johns dates back to 1908 and nothing has changed except the addition of a vegan menu. This place was used as a speakeasy during the Prohibition era - people would eat downstairs and ask for 'dessert upstairs.' Momma John was the brewmaster and made her own hooch in the back.
The Yellow (R W), Green (6), Orange (B D F M), and Grey (L) trains will take you to the East Village.
The Orange (B D F M), and Brown (J Z) will take you to The Lower East Side.
The Green (6), and Yellow (N Q R W), Brown (J Z), and Orange (B D F M) will take you to Nolita.
For more information, view the MTA website for a map, updated costs, and schedules.
#4 The Upper West Side
The Upper West Side is a wonderful neighborhood to stay for families.
The hotel prices are cheaper, the trains are good and reliable, the areas - while still vibrant - are not packed with people.
Plus there is a wide variety of family-friendly things to do.
Pros: Lincoln Center, surrounded by Central Park and Riverside Park, close to the dinosaurs and whale room of the American Museum of Natural History, near the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, Quick cab/bus ride or a nice walk across the park to the Met Museum and Guggenheim.
Cons: Far from The Lower East Side and Brooklyn. Not the most interesting people watching. The food, while good, is a couple steps behind the downtown, Brooklyn, and Queens scenes.
Suggested Hotels on the Upper West Side
Things to do on the Upper West Side
Central Park and Riverside Park - The Upper West Side is conveniently located between these two epic parks. Of course you will be visiting Central Park, but Riverside Park is a wonderful place to wander as well.
The American Museum of Natural History - Wonderful for both kids and adults, this museum has all the dinosaurs you'll need, and an epic whale room as well.
Lincoln Center - See the New York City Ballet, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic, or see Jazz at Lincoln Center, this internationally renowned venue has it all.
Children's Museum - Perfect for keeping your kids entertained.
Brownstones - The Upper West Side has some of the best brownstones in the city, so spend some time walking down side-streets.
Empire Hotel Rooftop Bar - Overlooking Lincoln Center, this is a great place for a drink.
New York Historical Society - Right off Central Park, this is a great venue for history buffs.
Sal & Carmine's Pizza - This is my favorite hole-in-the-wall pizza place in the city. Get a plain slice to see what real New York pizza is all about. Don't confuse this place with Carmine's Restaurant.
A cookie at Levain Bakery - The lines at this well-known bakery can be long, but the cookies are epic and worth it.
A somewhat cliched neighborhood that's still very fun to stay in
As a New Yorker, I can sometimes be hesitant to recommend Chelsea.
The High Line, while beautiful and great in theory, has been overrun with developments enveloping a lot of the great views that were around when it was first built - and it is so crowded.
Because of the gentrification, many of the smaller, more unique galleries have fled to other areas, particularly the Lower East Side.
Chelsea Market is always crowded with people and there are much better places to eat and spend your time. The Meatpacking district is the nightlife location for tourists.
And the Whitney Museum is often overloaded with people and its collection is not as impressive as the MET or MoMa.
That being said, people love it here for exactly those reasons. People love it.
The High Line is still very fun with the incredible Hudson Yards development to the north and the vibrant and crazy nightlife of the Meatpacking district to the south.
The galleries that remain are some of the largest and most powerful in the city. People seem to really enjoy Chelsea Market.
The Whitney has some great works of art and wonderful views. And there is some serious shopping around.
There is a lot to do here without ever leaving the neighborhood.
Pros: Convenient, packed with tourist-friendly locations, great nightlife, trendy restaurants, shopping.
Cons: Touristy, not evocative of the real old New York, expensive.
Suggested Hotels in Chelsea
Things to see in Chelsea
The High Line - The High Line can be crowded, but it is not to miss. This 1.45-mile elevated park was built over an unused section of the New York Central Railway, and brought meat to the butcher shops of the Meatpacking District. The park holds beautiful elevated views of the city and is surrounded by glitzy new buildings.
Gallery hop - While the smaller galleries have fled to the Lower East Side, the big ones are still here.
Chelsea Market - This space is a favorite of tourists and New Yorkers alike and houses over 40 vendors selling all types of food, clothing, and jewelry. Keep in mind that it can be very crowded during prime times.
Whitney Museum - Moved to a gorgeous new building off of the High Line, this is one of New York's premiere museum. Can get very crowded during prime times.
Chelsea Historic District - Stroll between 19th and 23rd streets and 8th and 10th Avenues for a range of gorgeous homes.
Sleep No More - One of the most unique and interactive performances in the city, explore an old mysterious hotel and interact with the performers in a very creepy environment. I will tell you no more!
Hudson Yards - If you like glass buildings, Hudson Yards is a sight to behold. Built on top of an old rain yard and on the northern end of the High Line is a neighborhood of giant glass buildings and a new theater in development, called The Shed.
Meatpacking While this is technically a neighborhood in itself, it is right off of Chelsea and on the southern end of the High Line. Shop, have a good meal, people watch, and enjoy the nightlife.
Bonus: Outer Boroughs
For the adventurous
While Manhattan is most travelers' borough of choice due to its convenience in getting around, more and more travelers are venturing further out and realizing that there is much to see outside of Manhattan.
While there are many great neighborhoods to stay, these are the best in my opinion.
#6 Williamsburg, Brooklyn
The trendiest area of Brooklyn and where you can actually see hipsters with mustaches (yes, they actually exist), Williamsburg has exploded in popularity over the last 15 years.
The restaurant and bar scene is second-to-none.
New trendy hotels such at the Wythe and William Vale are attracting fashionable tourists from around the world.
The neighborhood is in very close proximity to both Manhattan and Bushwick, which is the street art capital of New York (via the L train).
Just be aware that the neighborhood is very far from other Brooklyn areas, such as DUMBO, Downtown Brooklyn, Prospect Park, and Coney Island.
Also, the L train will shut down for 15 months in 2019, so stay away during this time.
The Wythe – Loft style incredibly designed hotel in a very hip area. Can be a party.
Suggested Hotels in Williamsburg
#7 DUMBO and Downtown Brooklyn:
Once a former industrial area, DUMBO is now a vibrant neighborhood on the tip of every travelers’ tongue.
The neighborhood includes the best waterfront views of Manhattan in the city.
Things to do in DUMBO
- The newly developed 85-acre Brooklyn Bridge Park
- The Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges
- Jane’s Carousel, Juliana’s and Grimaldi’s pizzerias
- The Brooklyn Flea, the fancy River Cafe (with waterfront views),
- The Tobacco Warehouse, which was recently renovated to hold a huge theatre called St. Anne’s Warehouse, a community/event space, a restaurant, and a museum.
- Grab a drink at the 1 Hotel Rooftop Garden & Bar overlooking the waterfront.
- Nearby, many people stay in Downtown Brooklyn due to its many large, new, and more affordable hotel stock.
The primary advantage is that the neighborhood is incredibly convenient to quickly get to both the East and West Side of Manhattan as well as many popular areas of Brooklyn.
It is a quick walk to the Barclays Center, which houses the New York Nets and many music and other sporting events.
Suggested Hotels in DUMBO
#8 Astoria and Long Island City, Queens
If you are willing to be even more adventurous and get a fantastic deal at the same time, stay in Astoria or Long Island City.
There are very safe neighboring areas that New Yorkers love to live in, and an area with numerous affordable hotels.
The area is a pretty quick train ride into central Manhattan, is one of the most diverse in the city.
It houses some of the best eating in all of New York.
While there are incredible cuisines from so many different cultures, Astoria houses New York's largest Greek population and the best Greek restaurants (my favorite is Taverna Kyclades).
Visit the Museum of the Moving Image, one of the numerous and large Astoria beer gardens (Astoria has a great bar scene), the LetLove Inn for jazz and Astoria Park.
My recommendation, just get lost down the streets while you people watch.
For Astoria, the Yellow (N W) train will take you quickly into Manhattan.
While Long Island City has convenient access to the Yellow (N W R), the Purple (7), the Orange (M), the Blue (E), and the Green (G).
So there you have it. These are the best recommendations for where to stay in New York from a local expert.
Do you have any suggestions? Leave them in the comments below.
James Maher has lived in New York for his entire life. Like many Manhattanites, he is a terrible driver and cook, but is an excellent navigator and knows where to get the best dumplings in Chinatown.
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