Edited by Jess Wright
No matter where you are in the world, east or west, you’ve undoubtedly heard of the Big Apple, and possibly even had dreams of visiting NYC. I moved to New York from New Jersey thirty years ago; after three decades of dwelling in the city that never sleeps, so who better to ask? If asked to sum up my city in a line, that’s easy, “We’ve got it all”. Know the old joke from the David Letterman show; when Mayor Julian proposed new slogans for New York? The one that won was simply; “we can kick your city’s ass”. And judging by the record number of tourists that pass through the city on an annual basis – 62.8 million at last count – it must be true! Between the five boroughs of – Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island – there are places to stay in NYC that suit any and every niche travel desire; finding the one that’s right for you is just a matter of insider information. In this guide, you’ll find the most central, cheapest, trendiest, and most arty neighborhoods on the map, with everything in between. No matter who you are, where you’re from, or what your particular Empire City dream looks like you can be sure that there is a neighborhood here with your name on it; after all, New York has it all.
When planning a visit to New York consulting a decent New York City neighborhood guide is a wise choice, so well done; you’re halfway to finding your home base. A huge chunk of the planning would also have to be budget; namely the size of yours. Brooklyn Heights is close to Manhattan and has great views, and is a good pick for where to stay in New York City on a budget. Don’t be fooled by the relative affordability of Brooklyn; it’s a stellar borough with plenty to do that won’t break the bank. The closest of Brooklyn’s suburbs to Manhattan after crossing the bridge, the whole area has a charming tree-lined residential feel, with iconic historical townhouses, leafy spots to have a picnic and of course breathtaking panoramic views of the Manhattan skyline from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Apart from the everyday comforts of modern like shopping, dining, and music performances the neighborhood also offers a taste of culture at the Brooklyn Historical Society.
Greenwich Village, East and West
Whether you opt for trendy, youthful East Village or the more upscale West, when choosing where to stay in New York City you can’t go wrong with Greenwich Village, one of the only places in NYC that fall “off the grid” by which the entire city is mapped. This suburb is a winding maze of leafy lanes, obscured alleys, and now chic townhouses that once housed famous creative minds. Overflowing with the occupants of New York University, the quirky stores, cafes, and coffeehouses buzz with a youthful energy that spills on Washington Square, a lively park space that by its very nature encourages people-watching. In summer you might be graced by the prowess of musicians and street performers, but even without them, the collection of native Village-dwellers are worth watching if only to observe a slice of life in the vast city.
Close to Midtown but shy of the accompanying chaos, Chelsea is an area on Manhattan’s west side. One of the trendier neighborhoods in NYC, with some worthwhile speakeasies, foodie hotspots and real-deal dives, it’s a good bet for visitors wanting to experience NYC nightlife. In fact, with cobblestone streets lined by boutiques and cafes, the GreenMarket in Union Square and the urban chic that permeates the place, not to mention the proximity to (and distance from!) the bustling Midtown, it’s an ideal suggestion for where to stay in New York City for tourists overall. A particularly magical experience awaits those travelers who choose to stay in Chelsea over Christmas, when the holiday spirit takes hold and Union Square transforms into a Christmas Market of epic proportions. Year-round the area is also one of the best places in New York for art lovers and foodies alike with art galleries,
The birthplace of New York, Lower Manhattan is veritably is steeped in history; 400 years of it! Situated between the Hudson and East Rivers the haphazard maze of streets where the original Dutch "New Amsterdam" settlement was first established in 1626, the neighborhood encompasses the Financial District, Battery Park City, and parts of the Civic Center. A striking duality of old and new, Lower Manhattan is a juxtaposition of energetic financial activity (the likes of Wall Street) and historical landmarks. The Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, and Trinity Church all occupy this portion of the map, drawing visitors from all over, while hip eateries, bars, and trendy stores cater to a more local market.
Lower East Side
Another NYC neighborhood that wears its diversity with pride, Lower Manhattan has historically been a center of multiculturalism. With an energetic vibe that pervades the vintage-clothing stores, hip restaurants, and vibrant nightlife scene, the once downtrodden neighborhood has undergone revitalization on a grand scale. For lovers of architecture, the suburb is a feast for the eyes, with one block different from the next – modern glass structures contrast perfectly with historic pre-war tenements, while street art brings a contemporary urban feel to 19th-century buildings. The Tenement Museum on Orchard Street is an ode to the 19th-century immigrant experience, while the New Museum is a showcase of cutting-edge contemporary art. And while the suburb has undergone a historical and cultural revolution over the decades, the residents and shop owners that frequent the sidewalk in chairs are a testament to a firmly rooted community.
Park Slope is everything you want for your family – a passionately committed community, quiet streets, parks filled with dog-walkers and kids and stores patronized by locals – all with the convenience of being just a short subway trip from the main center of NYC activity. If you want an electric nightlife with club open till dawn; skip to the next paragraph, but if you’re looking for where to stay in New York City with family, a pleasant home base, with lush green spaces, plenty beer gardens and a casual restaurant scene, then this is the place for you.
Upper West Side
Near Central Park and Riverside Park, the Upper West Side of Manhattan is one of the best neighborhoods in NYC for those with a love for the performing arts, or anyone who wants the chance to glimpse the set of some of their favorite NYC-set TV scenes! Home to the stage lights of Broadway, the Metropolitan Opera and New York City Ballet (both housed in Lincoln Centre) the Upper West Side also happens to be the typically leafy, residential apartment neighborhood you would have spotted in household favorites like Seinfeld, You've Got Mail and Gossip Girl. For those too young (your kids) to recognize the setting of these classic hits, there is so much more on offer – apart from being one of the safer areas in NYC, the close proximity of Central Park, the American Museum of Natural History and the Children’s Museum of Manhattan (among other great attractions) make the Upper West Side a hit with people exploring the city with children.
One of the great reasons to visit NYC is the diversity of its neighborhoods and nowhere is there more diverse a history than in Soho, Tribeca. Once a factory and warehouse hell (quite literally nicknamed Hell’s Hundred Acres) with dismal working conditions, the neighborhood now boasts million-dollar lofts, stylish shopping options and a vibrant food and arts scene unlike any other, home to many of NYC’s highest rated restaurants, straddling a vast variety of cuisines. The fabulous lifestyle offered in this eclectic mix of refurbished warehouses, apartment buildings and boutique stores is a drawcard for the rich and famous, and is a delight to stay in, while perhaps not being as pretty on the pocket!
If you imagine yourself seated at the window of a cozy cafe, with naked bulbs dangling above you as you type your new novel or create a sketch, looking up every now and then at a view of old industrial buildings, while probably wearing handmade leather boots and vintage tortoiseshell specs; Williamsburg is for you. One of Brooklyn's up-and-coming neighborhoods finds that perfect hipster sweet spot between the old and new, without even trying. It simply has a timeless feel to it, while being saturated with young creative energy and an effortless cool. Staying in Williamsburg means exploring a vivacious art and music scene, browsing boutique and cafeś, and – possibly best of all – dining at Michelin star eateries.
If the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple are precisely what you crave, Midtown might just be one best neighborhood to stay in New York City for you. Full with skyscrapers and the bright lights of Times Square, Midtown is central to pretty much every landmark you might want to see with the added authenticity of honking cab horns at 3am. It’s busy, it’s loud and yet still It’s an ideal pick for where to stay in New York City for first-timers with architectural gems like the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, and busy Rockefeller Center, as well as the must-visit Fifth Avenue all within walking distance. Dotted with celebrities, NYC attractions, and glittering city lights, Midtown is simply what New York dreams are made of.
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