Having lived outside of New York City most of my life, I often find myself playing guide to visitors. After all, who knows better how to be a tourist in the City than someone who’s only ever been that while there?
Decoding where to stay in this sleepless titan is no small feat.
From the skyscrapers of Midtown to Greenwich Village’s bohemian charm, this guide will navigate you through the Big Apple’s finest locales.
Uptown offers tranquility, while Midtown buzzes with life. And downtown, you’ll find the financial district, a maze of skyscrapers and narrow streets.
Ready to discover the best place to stay to visit New York City? Let’s get into it:
Quick hits for the best places to stay in New York City
- Midtown Manhattan: a neon playground of iconic attractions.
- Upper East Side: a realm of hushed sophistication.
- Upper West Side: family-friendly charm amidst brownstones.
- Greenwich & West Village: a bohemian haven.
- Williamsburg, Brooklyn: a blend of hipster chic and urban grit.
- Lower East Side: where the old world meets the new.
Best Area to Stay in Manhattan
Let’s face it:
The most touristy spots in the City are in Manhattan. It’s where you’ll find all the major tourist attractions.
So, some of the most popular New York City neighborhoods to stay in on your visit include:
Midtown Manhattan: The Heart of NYC
When non-natives think of New York City, they think of Midtown Manhattan. After all it boasts icons like Times Square, the Empire State Building, Broadway, and much more. Its location is quite central, too, with both Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station either here or within walking distance. Many a Connecticutian arrives via Grand Central Station, then hops on the subway via the subway station here.
It’s a place of celebration, especially during Christmas and New Year’s Eve. This is the center of the universe for winter activities in New York City, for example.
That said, all that fames brings hotel prices to match.
Midtown is a trove of luxury hotels, a launchpad for the exploration of the city that never sleeps.
Top hotels in Midtown Manhattan on the luxury hotel end of the spectrum include:
- 1 Hotel Central Park
- The Lowell Hotel
- The Pierre, an iconic NYC hotel since 1930
For those with deep pockets, 1 Hotel Central Park offers a bird’s eye view of the city’s green lung, Central Park. The Lowell Hotel serves up a slice of the past with evening cocktails. And all have standard amenities, like a fitness center. For a budget hotel, relatively speaking:
- MADE Hotel: Offers the city vibe and a gym near Grand Central.
- Dream Downtown: A showcase of trendy design.
- Freehand Hotel: A budget-friendly choice with chic decor and cozy rooms.
But if you want to be able to walk to the most famous attractions (and get great shots for your socials) like the Empire State Building or Times Square, this is the place to go.
Upper East Side: Elegance and Culture
Upper East Side, where wealth flows freely, houses some of the nation’s priciest homes. It’s also home to some of the most famous wealthy New Yorkers in the media: Gossip Girl, Sex and the City, Friends, and the like.
Luxury brands and high-end eateries dot clean, beautiful streets. Hotels here are luxury incarnate, but budget-conscious travelers might consider the Carlyle, The Mark, or the Franklin Hotel. The area is a cultural goldmine with the Guggenheim and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET), the country’s largest museum, within walking distance along Central Park. Don’t miss the Albertine Bookstore or the Roosevelt Island Tram’s stunning views, which leaves from here.
The Upper East Side is your ticket to a high-end New York City experience.
Upper West Side: Family-Friendly Charm
Enter the Upper West Side (UWS) – a family-friendly oasis on the opposed side of Central Park from the Upper East Side. From West 59th Street to West 110th Street just east of the Hudson River, it’s a cultural hub. This NYC neighborhood is home to the American Museum of Natural History, Lincoln Center, and more.
Lincoln Center is a cultural powerhouse, home to the Metropolitan Opera House, New York City Ballet, and the New York Philharmonic, among others. Meanwhile, the Beacon Theatre is a historic gem. Central Park is a green sanctuary amidst the cityscape, and the UWS showcases stunning residences like The Dakota and the San Remo.
Yours truly relishes the architectural feast of West End Avenue, Central Park West, and Riverside Drive. They’re lined with ornate apartment buildings from an earlier age of the city’s development.
However, the UWS has its downsides – subdued nightlife, pricey hotels and dining, and distance from tourist hotspots. And yet for families, it’s a peaceful retreat amidst the brownstones, parks, and playgrounds.
Greenwich Village and West Village: Bohemian Vibes
A bohemian heartthrob with charming brownstones, lively streets, and buzzing cafes is how you’d define the West Village. The Village is famed for hosting two universities and Washington Square Park, a stage for America’s protests and rallies. It’s also home to the Stonewall Inn, the birthplace of the modern LGBTQ+ movement.
Greenwich Village is a TV fan’s paradise, featuring iconic locations from Sex and the City and Friends. It also houses the Comedy Cellar, a comedy mecca graced by the likes of Jerry Seinfeld and Kevin Hart.
Manhattan’s walkable neighborhoods lie Downtown, featuring charming streets lined with townhouses, boutiques, and restaurants. Greenwich Village, one of the most coveted places to live, boasts top restaurants and vibrant nightlife.
Lower East Side: History Meets Modernity
Manhattan’s Lower East Side is a cocktail of history and hipness, old tenements and chic galleries. A haven for history buffs and trendsetters alike, it’s home to the Tenement Museum and the New Museum. With its eclectic attractions and gastronomic gems like Katz’s Delicatessen, the Lower East Side offers a quintessential New York City experience.
That said, I wouldn’t recommend staying here. It’s loud, and not as safe at night at some of the other spots on this list. Accommodations here range from cheap hotels like The Historic Blue Moon Hotel to luxurious boutique hotels like Gild Hall in the nearby Financial District.
SoHo and Tribeca: Chic and Stylish
SoHo and Tribeca, the aristocrats of the city, are a siren song for the chic and the hungry. A residential retreat south of Houston Street (hence the name), SoHo is a canvas of designer boutiques and modern art galleries. And it sits comfortably near Little Italy and lower Manhattan.
The perks are plenty:
- Fewer crowds
- A bit of a walk from public transport
- Crowded at peak hours
- Pricey dining
Top accommodations include The Dominick, SoHo Grand Hotel, and The Broome. SoHo and Tribeca are experiences, epitomizing high-end shopping and dining. Combined, they’re a perfect slice of the Big Apple.
Financial District: The Powerhouse of Global Finance
Lower Manhattan, the world’s financial epicenter, is a playground for deal-makers on Wall Street.
While it’s most famous for being the home of Wall Street, it’s also the site of the original Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam. It where the Hudson River meets the harbor, after all. History echoes through its cobblestone streets and vintage taverns.
Many come to see the World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. This writer’s personal favorite spot here is The Battery park, where you can catch views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Staten Island ferry. Plus the ferry docks to Governor’s Island are here.
While business travelers swamp the area during the week, you can snag weekend hotel deals here. Some of the hotels in the district offer awe-inspiring views of the World Trade Center and 9/11 Memorial. A subway ride away lies the vibrant Lower East Side bar scene. While it lacks a unique culinary scene and vibrant nightlife, for those in the fast-paced world of finance, it’s a captivating slice of New York.
Chelsea: The Top NYC Neighborhood for Nightlife
Chelsea, New York City’s nightlife hub, buzzes with bars, trendy eateries, and clubs. The High Line, a repurposed elevated train railway, draws tourists and locals alike. Stroll the 1.5-mile promenade, and be sure to stop into Chelsea Market along the way. Los Tacos No.1 has an outfit there.
Or visit Little Island, a unique park over the Hudson River.
For sports and entertainment, Madison Square Garden is the spot. For basketball fans, Chelsea is a slam dunk.
More Great Options not in Manhattan
Most first-time visitors assume that Manhattan is the only place to stay in New York City.
But of course, New York City hotels spread far beyond the standard tourist attractions. And having a less popular address for your temporary abode can help save money.
Besides, the view of the Manhattan skyline is better when you see it from off of Manhattan island.
Williamsburg, Brooklyn: Trendy and Hip
Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is across the East River from the East Village. Downtown Brooklyn for hipsters, this NYC neighborhood buzzes with artistic and nocturnal activity. Its perks include splendid Manhattan skyline views, a plethora of trendy bars and diverse eateries, less foot traffic, and green spaces. It’s also close to Brooklyn attractions, like Brooklyn Bridge Park.
The cons are a bit of distance from Manhattan’s main attractions and bustling nightlife. And honestly, it lately feels like much of the world has been becoming more like Brooklyn. So if you’ve been to a bar in Stockholm, Savannah, or Stamford, you’ve likely experienced the famous Brooklyn vibe.
Lodgings in Williamsburg vary from the budget-friendly Pod Brooklyn to the eco-luxury 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge in Downtown Brooklyn. Williamsburg is a sensory feast, with graffiti art, thrift stores, avant-garde eateries, and art galleries. As night falls, the diverse scene really starts buzzing, making it a bold and diverse part of New York City.
Long Island City: Queens’ Affordable Hidden Treasure
Long Island City, or LIC, is Queens’ budget-friendly gem. A culinary paradise with a wealth of global cuisine, it has excellent subway connections to Manhattan. LIC boasts art galleries, music venues, and local breweries. The LIC Flea Market is a haven for food and vintage lovers. Nightlife is subdued, and main attractions require a subway ride. But for a wallet-friendly New York City experience, LIC is a solid choice.
I bet you weren’t expecting a neighborhood outside of New York State, were you?
The town of Greenwich, Connecticut, is the first town over the border. It’s about 33 miles and a 40-minute express train ride from Grand Central Station. Or drive in, which takes about 45 minutes to an hour, from here to the Financial district of lower Manhattan, with no traffic.
Guests, especially visitors from the rest of New England, often stay with us at our Greenwich, CT, bed and breakfast and ride the train into the City. Having done the same myself plenty of times, our little town between the Hudson River Valley and Connecticut is the best of both worlds:
- Spend your days exploring the major attractions and activities in New York City, like the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx
- And return in the evening to a much calmer, bucolic setting, especially compared to the bright lights and fast pace of NYC neighborhoods
Not interested in a New England bed and breakfast? Greenwich has some of the best hotels in Connecticut, if you’d rather choose from Greenwich, CT, hotels:
- Delamar Greenwich Harbor, if you prefer a luxury hotel
- The J House Greenwich, a boutique hotel famous for their modern rooms and high tech
Tips for Choosing the Right NYC Neighborhood
Picking your NYC neighborhood is like choosing a fine wine – it’s all about taste. Crave the city’s icons? Midtown Manhattan, Upper East or West Side are your tickets. Seeking authenticity? Greenwich Village and Lower East Side are backstage passes.
Budget matters too. Lower East Side and Williamsburg are kinder to your wallet, while the Upper East Side and SoHo cater to the champagne tastes.
Finally, consider your quest. Art and culture? Upper East Side and Greenwich Village are your galleries. Family charm? Upper West Side is your playground. Trendy vibes? Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is your stage.
So, ponder location, budget, and purpose. Then, you’ll be sure to find the perfect NYC neighborhood for your tale.
New York City, a myriad of faces and tales, offers a feast for the adventurous. From Midtown’s towers to Greenwich Village’s bohemian charm, each borough boasts unique allure. With location, budget, and adventure in mind, you can craft unforgettable narratives in this sleepless city.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which area of New York is best to stay?
For a taste of the Big Apple, hit Chelsea and the East Village – a hotbed of top-notch cuisine and vibrant nightlife. Prefer tranquility? The Upper West Side or Greenwich, CT, is your peaceful haven. To delve into the city’s rich history, explore Greenwich Village and SoHo. Central Park offers a serene escape from the urban jungle. From Times Square’s razzle-dazzle to charming cobblestones, New York serves up a feast of experiences.
Is it better to stay in Brooklyn or Manhattan?
For a fleeting New York visit, Manhattan’s allure is irresistible. Brooklyn, though less crowded, lacks the tourist magnetism.
How many days is it good to stay in New York?
A three-day sprint through New York City? Hardly sufficient. Give it a good four or five days for a leisurely dance with the Big Apple. After all, the city doesn’t sleep, but you’ll need to.
What are some must-see attractions in Midtown Manhattan?
Midtown Manhattan, where Times Square dazzles, Broadway enchants, and Rockefeller Center towers.
What kind of accommodations can I find in SoHo and Tribeca?
SoHo and Tribeca, from budget flats to luxury hotels, cater to every whim. Brief visit or long stay, these vibrant neighborhoods have you covered.