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The Best Neighborhoods in NYC: Where to Stay When You to Visit

A busy intersection with a yellow cab in New York City
Posted: 11/7/2018 | November 7th, 2018

Trying to find accommodation in New York City can be a painstaking long process given the large number of hotels and neighborhoods to stay in. This is a city of 10 million people. It’s massive and there’s a lot of choice.

What neighborhoods are good to stay in?

What’s central?

What’s safe?

Why does everything seem to cost a freaking fortune?

Where is the best place to stay?

As someone who has been working and living in New York City on and off for over five years, I’ve stayed in a wide variety of places here. I’ve Couchsurfed, stayed in cheap hostels, cheap hotels, expensive hotels (on points), B&Bs, pod hotels, friend’s couches, Airbnbs, and everything in between. There are a lot of things to consider when figuring out where to stay in NYC that looking at Google simply can’t tell you.

So, today, as fall and holiday season – the best season in the city – gets into full swing, I want to break down the best neighborhoods in New York City and the best accommodations in each of those neighborhoods so you can pick the right place to stay on your visit:

Best Neighborhood in Brooklyn: Williamsburg

a view over Williamsburg in Brooklyn; Photo by Pietro & Silvia (flickr:@googlisti)
Williamsburg in Brooklyn is hipster(ish) central. It’s home to offbeat restaurants, bars, clothing stores, and coffeeshops, and an “I’m cool because I’m different” attitude. You’ll find lots of flannel and beards here! It’s not as hipster as it used to be thanks to all the Manhattanites who came for cheaper rents (though the impending closure of the L train is forcing people back into Manhattan) but I really enjoy this area because it’s close to Manhattan, cheap, and filled with fun bars (check out Freehole), top rated restaurants, incredible bars, art, wonderful markets (Smorgasburg is the best), and music shows. I spend a lot of weekends here.

Best places to stay in Williamsburg

  • BUDGET: International Students Residence – This hostel isn’t just for students. It’s a comfortable place to stay with free Wi-Fi, comfortable and clean beds, kitchens to cook in, and an awesome common area.
  • MID-RANGE: Pointe Plaza Hotel – A luxury hotel but with budget prices, this place has spacious suites (with full kitchens!) and oversized rooms with friendly staff.
  • LUXURY: Wythe Hotel – The Wythe is a refurbished waterfront factory with brick exposed rooms that have heated floors and cool are. There’s a rooftop bar with a great view of Manhattan as well. It’s the best place to stay if you want to splurge.

Best Neighborhood for Nightlife and Food: East Village

young people hanging out in the East Village; Photo by peter burge (flickr:@peterburge)
Famous for its nightlife, Manhattan’s East Village is my all-time favorite NYC neighborhood. The bars scene here is excellent (you’ll find tons of cocktail lounges, speakeasies, and dive bars), the restaurants are amazing (so much good Japanese food around here), there are cool karaoke bars and barcades and just an eclectic mix of people It’s a lot of fun. There’s a lot to do here, it’s very central, and it’s pretty affordable.

Best places to stay in the East Village

  • BUDGET: American Dream Bed & Breakfast – This B&B has only private rooms. The breakfast is hearty, with cereals, baked goods, and fresh fruit. Snacks are available throughout the day, and you also have free use of the kitchen.
  • MID-RANGE: East Village Hotel – Each studio apartment has a fully equipped kitchenette so you can save money on food when you visit! The rooms are beautiful with exposed brick walls and the hotel’s central location can’t be beat.
  • LUXURY: The Standard – The Standard is one of the best hotels in the city and its East side location is better than the one in the Meatpacking district. The bar serves some of the best drinks in town and is usually always packed with NY’s fashionable set.

Best Overall Neighborhood: West Village

a park scene in the West Village; Photo by Nicolás Boullosa (flickr:@faircompanies)
The West Village is the place to be (and live). Despite its wealthy, celebrity-heavy demographic and plethora of fancy restaurants and boutiques, the area is pretty low-key. Walking around the cobblestone streets past sidewalk cafés, you feel as if you’ve left the crazy city behind and are in a quiet, suburban neighborhood. That’s the charm of this area. You’re in the city but really not. It’s busy during the day but, at night, it quiets down greatly making it a great place to sleep!

Best places to stay in the West Village

  • BUDGET: The Jane – This historic hotel was actually where the survivors of the Titanic were put up when they landed in NYC. Now, it’s probably the best budget hotel in town, with compact single rooms, comfy beds, and shared bathrooms.
  • MID-RANGE: The Marlton – The Marlton is a restored boutique hotel with brass fixtures and crown moldings and a tremendous bar that serves incredible cocktails.
  • LUXURY: Gansevoort – This chic hotel is one of the fanciest in the area. Technically it’s in the Meatpacking district but that’s basically the West Village so I’m including it! They have a great rooftop bar and hip, modern rooms. It’s a popular place with the celeb / model crowd.

Best Neighborhood for Overall #2: Chelsea

street view of Chelesa, NYC
Chelsea is one of New York City’s best neighborhoods. It’s got lots of restaurant offerings, cool lounges, art galleries, and is one of the focal points of LGBT life in the city. You can spend all day exploring flea markets and antique shops, grab some tacos at the Chelsea Market, walk the beautiful High Line (an old train track turned into a park), and then enjoy a drink at a speakeasy or a dive bar before calling it a night.

Best places to stay in Chelsea

  • BUDGET: Chelsea International – This is one of the largest hostels in the city and has an outdoor courtyard, a dining area, and two kitchens. Breakfast is included and there’s also a free pizza party on Wednesdays.
  • MID-RANGE: Heritage Hotel New York City – The Heritage Hotel has simple but clean and comfortable rooms, with air conditioning and a flat-screen TVs. There’s free Wi-Fi throughout the building and a 24-hour fitness center.
  • LUXURY: Ace Hotel – A centrally located artsy hotel with good dining. There is a coffee shop in the lobby that attracts lots of freelancers and start-up folks. It gives the place a great vibe!

Best Neighborhood for Families: Upper West Side

street view of the Upper West Side NYC; Photo by Juliana Swenson; flickr:@julianaswenson
The Upper West Side is definitely one of the more expensive parts of town, but it’s worthwhile to see the beautiful, famous brownstones and some of the museums nearby, like the American Museum of Natural History. It’s close to Central Park, and there are plenty of shopping, eating, and nightlife options as well. It’s one of the biggest family areas in the city so if you’re bringing kids or just want something a lot more laid back and quiet, stay here!

Best places to stay in the Upper West Side

  • BUDGET: HI New York City – One of the biggest and most popular hostels in the city with a ton of space, an outdoor patio, free Wi-Fi, events, activities, and a huge kitchen.
  • MID-RANGE: Royal Park Hotel & Hostel – You’re just a quick walk from Times Square when you stay here. Rooms are simple, but you have all the amenities, like free WiFi and air conditioning.
  • LUXURY: Hotel Lucerne – Just a few blocks away from Central Park and the Hudson River, Hotel Lucerne has luxurious rooms (the beds are fantastic!) with free Wi-Fi and 24-hour in-room dining, as well as spa services and valet parking.

Best Neighborhood for Sightseeing: Midtown

night lights in Times Square, NYC
Midtown has a lot of NYC’s biggest tourist attractions like Rockefeller Center, Times Square, and the Museum of Metropolitan Art, Madison Square Garden, Broadway, and Koreatown. There’s a lot going on! I don’t love staying in this part of town as it’s touristy, really busy, and there are far cooler neighborhoods in the city. BUT, if you must stay here, the below places are where you should stay!

Best places to stay in Midtown

  • BUDGET: Jazz Hostel – This hostel on Columbus Circle is my favorite hostel in New York (there’s also one on the Upper West Side). It provides a friendly environment, a kitchen, comfy dorms, free WiFi, and a common area on every floor.
  • MID-RANGE: YOTEL – A modern, high-tech hotel that even has a luggage storage robot (seriously). The rooms are great, but the incredibly large outdoor terrace is the real winner. Grab some grub and enjoy the view.
  • LUXURY: W Hotel Times Square – You’re literally on Times Square at the W Hotel, next to big attractions like MoMA and Radio City Music Hall. There’s onsite dining, free WiFi, and a W MixBar in every room.

If you want to stay in Midtown East, you’ll be closer to Grand Central Station, the Chrysler Building, and the Empire State Building.

Best places to stay in Midtown East

  • BUDGET: Vanderbilt YMCA – The Vanderbilt YMCA is close to everything you want to see and do in Midtown East, and within walking distance to Times Square, the New York Public Library, MoMA, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The rooms are simple, but they’re all private, and guests can take advantage of a shared kitchen and luggage storage. You can also use the fitness center and steam room, as well as the pools.
  • MID-RANGE: Pod 39 Hotel – Pod 39 is located in Murray Hill, close to all the hustle and bustle but quiet enough to enjoy a good night’s sleep. It’s near Grand Central Terminal, with easy access to the rest of the city. The rooftop at this hotel is worth visiting in the summer. It’s stunning!
  • LUXURY: The Library Hotel – If you’re a book lover, you’ve got to splurge on a stay here! Each room has a library feel to it, with wood furnishings and individual libraries full of unique books. Rooms have Wi-Fi and all the amenities you need. You’ll also get free breakfast!

Best Neighborhood for Museums: Upper East Side

the Guggenheim, NYC
Upper East Side is another area known for being family friendly and as a cheaper place to live than downtown (a lot of my friends live here). It’s the best area for Museum Mile, home to the Guggenheim, Frick, Museum of the City of New York, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Additionally, thanks to all the young kids that live here, you can find a lot of incredible bars in the area. It has a really good nightlife and restaurant scene!

Best places to stay in the Upper East Side

  • BUDGET: The Franklin Hotel – The rooms here are simple, but the Franklin Hotel has a lot of perks, like a free buffet breakfast and a free wine-and-cheese reception very evening. There’s also 24-hour espresso and cappuccino! All rooms come with large TVs, iPod docks, and comfy pillow-top mattresses. It’s also close to Central Park and Museum Mile.
  • MID-RANGE: Bentley Hotel – An affordable boutique hotel with great views over the East River. The rooms are super comfortable, and all the beds come with down comforters. There’s a nice lobby bar and the breakfast buffet is $18.
  • LUXURY: Hotel Wales – A boutique hotel in the Carnegie Hill area, Hotel Wales has some beautiful historical architecture but also lots of modern luxuries, like down duvets and a really great spa. Paola’s Restaurant serves really excellent Italian food too, including handmade pasta dishes. There’s also a 24-hour fitness center.

Best Neighborhood for Eating & Drinking: Lower East Side

People walking through the busy Lower East Side; Photo by alans1948 (flickr:@alans1948
The Lower East Side is a prime shopping, eating, and drinking neighborhood in the city. It’s an incredibly diverse area – there are gritty pubs and bars, late-night comedy clubs, tattoo parlors galore, and a number of art galleries too. The Tenement Museum, one of my favorite museums, is also located here. You’ll get the full NYC experience staying in the Lower East Side and it’s one of my favorite neighborhoods.

Best places to stay in the Lower East Side

  • BUDGET: Blue Moon Hotel – A clean, friendly place to stay with dorm rooms. They have a brand new lobby bar/café area, and a TV common room for guests. You’re just a quick walk to the subway from here!
  • MID-RANGE: The RIDGE Hotel – Small rooms, but with some great amenities like iPod docking stations and wall-mounted TVs in each room. The helpful concierge can help you book tours.
  • LUXURY: Hotel Indigo – This hotel is dedicated to supporting local street art and artists, and you’ll see plenty of their work throughout the building. Locals flock to the Mr. Purple rooftop bar and pool area in the evening for fancy cocktails.

Best Neighborhood for History: The Financial District

view of NYC's skyline in the Financial District
The Financial District area of New York City definitely caters to business workers during the day but it’s become a lot cooler of an area in the last few years. It’s now a popular place to live in the city. Here you’ll be able to take in the old city: the historic churches, buildings, and taverns that have been around since the 1700s. You’ll also find Federal Hall, the Statue of Liberty, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, Wall Street, and Battery Park. In short, it may be busy but there’s a lot to do here!

Best places to stay in the Financial District

  • BUDGET: Eurostars Wall Street – There are not many budget options in this area, mostly because it caters to people traveling on business. But Eurostars consistently offers good prices, and amenities include a microwave and TV in each room. Free WiFi, too.
  • MID-RANGE: Hilton Garden Inn NYC Financial Center/Manhattan Downtown – A 24-hour convenience store (The Pavilion Pantry) and the fitness center are just two reasons to love this place. It’s also a stone’s throw from the Charging Bull on Wall Street and Battery Park!
  • LUXURY: Club Quarters Hotel Wall Street – With its newly renovated rooms and great location right next to awesome restaurants and bars, Club Quarters Hotel is an ideal place to stay. Fun perks: free snacks and in-room yoga mats and resistance bands.

Best Neighborhood for Arts/Culture: TriBeCa

street view in Tribeca
TriBeCa (Triangle Below Canal) is where former warehouses have become lofts, galleries, and performance spaces. In the evening, the streets heave with people out for a drink or a bite to eat in one of the new “it” spots. It’s one of the hippest areas of town. Be on the lookout for Taylor Swift, New York City’s official tourism ambassador. She’s lived in NYC since 2014!

Best places to stay in TriBeCa

  • BUDGET: Sheraton Tribeca New York Hotel – A 4-star hotel but with budget prices, this Sheraton has really modern rooms and a nice 24-hour gym. There’s shopping across the street and a Starbucks onsite. You’re also less than a block away from the subway!
  • MID-RANGE: Duane Street Hotel – This boutique hotel has some really fantastic touches, like terry bathrobes and classic books in each room. You can use their complimentary iPads, or take a bike out for the day.
  • LUXURY: The Frederick Hotel – Located near the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, the Frederick Hotel is a funky, contemporary spot offering air-conditioned rooms with sofa beds, free Wi-Fi, and a great workout area. You can also take advantage of their complimentary walking tours through the neighborhood.

Best Neighborhood for Arts/Culture #2: Harlem

street art in Harlem; Photo by Jose Carlos Machado (flickr:@joseclm)
Harlem often gets a bad rap, but in recent years it has become one of the trendiest, up-and-coming neighborhoods in New York City. The area has deep African-American roots and was known for its importance to music, literature, dance, and art. The famous Apollo Theater (where the Jackson 5 once played, among many other famous performers) is also here.

Best places to stay in Harlem

  • BUDGET: Harlem YMCA – With its key location next to a number of 24-hour train lines, the Harlem YMCA is an excellent place to stay. All the rooms are private, but guests share a common bathroom. You also get to take advantage of the full fitness center, swimming pool, and sauna area.
  • MID-RANGE: Edge Hotel – Even luxury is fairly affordable in Harlem! Each room here is ultra modern and comes with a city view, and you’ll also receive free breakfast. There’s a 24-hour fitness center and free Wi-Fi.
  • LUXURY: Aloft Harlem – Aloft is a trendy hotel located within a few minutes’ walk to the Apollo Theatre. Each room comes with free Wi-Fi, a work desk, coffee facilities, and a flat-screen TV. If you’re thirsty, grab a drink at the W XYZ bar. Rooms go for $185 (in the winter) and $260 (in the summer).

Best Neighborhood in Queens: Astoria

architecture in Astoria, Queens
Although Astoria, in Queens, was traditionally NYC’s Greek neighborhood, there’s now a huge number of Italian, Brazilian, Baltic, Irish, and Egyptian residents in the area. As a result, it’s one of the most culturally diverse parts of NYC, especially in terms of food and art. Astoria is far from the action of Manhattan but it’s a cheap place to stay and has lots of amazing cultural things to do. It’s a whole different NYC than what you imagine! Check it out even if you don’t stay in the area.

Best places to stay in Astoria

  • BUDGET: Giorgio Hotel – This hotel also has small and affordable dorm rooms, so you have plenty of options here to fit your budget. It’s a great location and within walking distance to a number of restaurants, bars, supermarkets, and laundry facilities. There’s also free Wi-Fi.
  • BUDGET: The Local NYC – The dorm rooms at The Local are comfortable and clean, and the staff here is excellent. There’s a lobby bar, guest computers, a rooftop area, and single sex rooms available.
  • MID-RANGE: Hotel Nirvana – Hotel Nirvana is next to a metro station that takes you directly to Manhattan. Take advantage of the free Wi-Fi, terrace, and fitness center. Bonus: you get a free continental breakfast each morning!
  • LUXURY: Paper Factory Hotel – Warm colors and elegant furnishings have transformed this former factory into a homey hotel. Each room is large and comes with its own unique touches. There’s a coworking space and a game room!

***
Where do you stay in NYC? Well, that wll be up to you but wherever you end up booking your hotel or hostels, chances are you’ll never be far from a subway line so it will be easy to get around the city. New York City has a lot of amazing neighborhoods and accommodation options so use this guide the next time you’re visiting the city and enjoy some great places to stay!

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Book Your Trip to NYC: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Get Your Guide
Check out my detailed guide to planning a visit to NYC with suggested itineraries, places to stay, things to do, where to eat, and how to get around. Just click here to get the guide and continue planning today!

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay elsewhere, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use them all the time.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think will help you too!

Photo credits: 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 13

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