Where to Stay in New York City – 5 Best Neighborhoods
Wondering where to stay in New York City? Here are my picks for the best neighborhoods to stay!
New York City is really a huge metropolis, and that makes it hard to decide where you want to stay the first time. After all, there are so many different options, each with a different price tag.
It can also take quite some time to travel from one side of the city to the other. Fortunately, this guide should help you! I recently went on a trip to New York City and have done quite a bit of research to figure out where to book my accommodation!
What’s the most Central Area of New York City?
A brief explanation of the city. New York City, with its surface area of almost 800 km², is very large and also consists of five different parts. These are:
- The Bronx
- Staten Island
The island of Manhattan is where the city originated, and that is still seen as the center of the city. Here you will find most sights and activities such as Times Square, Central Park and Broadway. But it is also the most expensive part to stay. Incidentally, Manhattan also has neighborhoods such as Harlem, where hotels are cheaper.
Brooklyn is located south-east of Manhattan on Long Island. It’s famous for its cultural and art scene. You will find trendy cafes, restaurants with tastes from all over the world, colorful street art, and beautiful brownstone houses interspersed with warehouses that have been converted into shops.
Queens is located north-east of Brooklyn. It is the largest area of the city and is known for its diversity. It is even the most ethnically diverse district in all of America! Queens was once founded by the Dutch (after they had “bought” the land from the Lenape tribe of course). Back then it mainly consisted of villages and farms. The New York Mets stadium is here as well as the two major NYC airports — LaGuardia and JFK.
The Bronx is located north of Manhattan. It used to be primarily known to me as the place where Jennifer Lopez comes from (please tell me you understand this reference! :-)). Now you will find the Yankees stadium, a large zoo, and the New York Botanical Garden.
Staten Island is the neighborhood furthest away from Manhattan. You won’t find many sights here and it’s primarily known as the neighborhood where locals live who work in other parts of the city. You can take the free ferry to Staten Island from Manhattan, and get a cool view of the Statue of Liberty!
Where to Stay in New York City: the 5 Best Neighborhoods
You’ll like Midtown if you like staying in the midst of all the shiny skyscrapers, waking up to great views of New York, and sitting around the corner from all the entertainment the city has to offer!
Midtown is not only a neighborhood, but also a region in Manhattan. Roughly you can divide Manhattan into 3 parts: “Uptown”, “Midtown” and “Downtown.”
Uptown is a mix of the super chic (Upper East Side) and ethnically and culturally diverse (Harlem). Midtown is where you will find most sights and highlights. Downtown offers a mix of the financial center and many historic neighborhoods full of wonderful restaurants. Midtown and Downtown are the nicest parts of Manhattan.
If you really want to stay in the middle of the sights, Midtown is your best choice. This neighborhood reads like a travel guide. In Midtown you will find famous buildings such as the Empire State Building, Grand Central Station, the Chrysler Building, Broadway, and Times Square.
I find Midtown a little less atmospheric than Downtown, but you really can’t beat the location. You can easily walk from the Rockefeller Center, where you can catch a sunset over NYC, to one of the many restaurants in Hell’s Kitchen, and then settle down at a Broadway show. The ultimate New York experience, right?
Hotel in Midtown:
- Pod 39: This super hip hotel is really my best budget tip for Manhattan. The rooms are small but comfortable and the rest of the hotel is super cheerful and decorated with style. There is even a bar on the roof! Click here for prices & availability.
- Hotel Hudson: This 4-star boutique hotel is close to Central Park and has a beautiful courtyard with trees and ivy-covered walls. The stylish rooms are a wonderful place to relax after a city walk. Click here for prices & availability.
- The Evelyn: This boutique hotel is one of the most stylish hotels in Manhattan. The rooms are decorated in Art Nouveau style, and the hotel is around the corner from the Flatiron Building and many delightful restaurants. Click here for prices & availability.
You’ll like Bushwick if you like a neighborhood full of old factory halls that have been transformed into hip hotspots. Eat Ethiopian one evening, fusion sushi the next, and eat a hearty American breakfast in the morning with dinner on the corner .
My favorite neighborhood in New York? That would be Bushwick, the area where we spent a week in an Airbnb. Bushwick is located in Brooklyn and is without a doubt the hippest neighborhood of the moment. All hipsters, artists, and millennials who can’t afford the rest of the city reside here. It reminds me a bit of my favorite London neighborhood, the fun Shoreditch.
The area is full of great bars, good cafes, and restaurants from all over the world. Where at one moment you can settle down at a trendy cocktail bar with good prices, you can also eat tacos for a few dollars around the corner at a restaurant that has been around for decades.
The many abandoned factories now have hip restaurants and pop up stores, and the walls are decorated with all kinds of colorful art. I think the great thing about Bushwick is that you still walk around among locals. While Williamsburg can no longer be paid for “normal people,” Bushwick is still real. But you know how quickly things change in the city, so go there before it’s too late ;-).
Hotel in Bushwick:
Bushwick is developing rapidly, so there is not so much choice in terms of hotels. In this case I recommend you book an Airbnb (get a € 25 discount here!). Otherwise you can stay very nice in the neighboring Williamsburg!
- We slept in this Airbnb. Super handy location, and you have the entire upper floor to yourself (plus super cool roof terrace).
- This room in an Airbnb is close to public transportation, and has a large window, high ceilings and air conditioning.
- Want to stay in a real loft? This is possible in this Airbnb. Hip decorated, full of plants and the real “Brooklyn” experience in the heart of Bushwick.
You’ll like Downtown if you like staying in the middle of history. It’s a neighborhood where you can eat great food!
The nicest part of Manhattan is Downtown, specifically the “Lower East Side” district. The neighborhood was originally an immigrant neighborhood, where a large wave of people came to live in the 19th and 20th centuries.
They lived in “tenements”, buildings with apartments where many families often lived on their own. Circumstances were bad. If you want to learn more about this, I recommend you go to the Tenements Museum.
With every group of new immigrants, the neighborhood gradually broke into its own “mini-neighborhoods,” such as Little Italy, SoHo and Chinatown (the largest Chinese neighborhood in the Western Hemisphere).
For some ten or fifteen years, gentrification has had a big grip on the neighborhood: residential towers with expensive apartments are booming, in a neighborhood traditionally occupied by people with low incomes.
Downtown is also bursting with sights: from the 9/11 Memorial and Museum to Wall Street and Battery Park (where you can catch the Staten Island ferry).
Hotel in Downtown Manhattan:
- Orchard Street Hotel: The decor of the rooms is basic, but you get a great view in return. The hotel is surrounded by nice restaurants and coffee shops. Click here for prices & availability.
- Sister City New York: I would describe this hotel as Scandinavian design meets Mid Century Modern. So stylish that it should be in an interior magazine. Click here for prices & availability.
- SIXTY LES: The luxury rooms of this hotel have amazing views of the city. There is even a swimming pool. The 4-star hotel is within walking distance of SoHo, Little Italy and Chinatown. Click here for prices & availability.
You will love Williamsburg if you like being surrounded by the hippest restaurants, chic cocktail bars, and a mix of expensive shops and original boutiques. You also have great views of Manhattan here, and you will find some of the coolest hotels in New York here.
Williamsburg is the original hipster neighborhood of New York. And it is without a doubt a really nice neighborhood to visit because of the boulevard on the water and the many nice coffee shops and boutiques. Because it is across the river from Manhattan, you can easily combine the two.
Since Williamsburg is on the water, it became known for its shipyards. The products that arrived here were immediately processed in the factories and shipped on again.
In 1855 the town of Williamsburg was annexed by Brooklyn, and a large financial growth began. Initially the population was mainly German, but after the Brooklyn Bridge was finished in 1903, many Jews came to live here. This increased after WWII. If you walk through the neighborhood you will still encounter many Orthodox Jews.
When artists began to settle in Williamsburg in the 1990s due to low rents, more restaurants and stores started to open in the neighborhood, and rents went up. Williamsburg is now very expensive to live in. It is now one of the trendiest neighborhoods in New York, with a number of really cool hotels, great coffee shops, and a great food market. Moreover, you are in Manhattan in no time.
Hotel in Williamsburg:
- Wythe Hotel: This four-star hotel is in a converted hundred-year-old factory, giving the rooms an industrial look. From the large windows you have a view of the New York skyline. Click here for prices & availability.
- The Williamsburg Hotel: You get five-star urban luxury in the famous Williamsburg Hotel. Swim laps in the rooftop pool, or have a drink overlooking Manhattan. Click here for prices & availability.
- The William Vale: The most iconic hotel in Williamsburg, with a futuristic appearance. Look through the room windows to the Manhattan skyline, dive into the rooftop pool, and eat the culinary delights of chef Andrew Carmellini. Click here for prices & availability.
You like Brooklyn Heights if you want a quiet, green neighborhood full of chic homes in all sorts of architectural styles. Of course you will also find many nice restaurants, and you have a beautiful view of Manhattan.
I did not expect that I would like Brooklyn Heights so much, because I actually ended up there more or less by accident. But I thought it was one of the nicest places in New York. And if I had a bag of money, maybe I would live here in a beautiful brownstone on the wooded avenues. (It is quite a chic neighborhood, so that bag of money is needed).
Anyway, how I ended up in the neighborhood: After visiting the Brooklyn Bridge and taking photos on Washington Street, we scoured the waterfront boulevard and we ended up in Brooklyn Heights. And wow, it was beautiful and peaceful here! We sat in the sunshine with a view of the Manhattan skyline, one of my happiest moments in New York.
The Brooklyn Heights district began to develop after a steamboat connection was established between the area and Manhattan in 1814. The intention was that the houses in Brooklyn Heights would be sold to bankers and rich salesmen, so the connection had to be good.
In 1965, Brooklyn Heights became the first neighborhood to be protected by the Landmarks Preservation Law. Architecture enthusiasts will be able to indulge in the neighborhood as you come across such a diversity of building styles. I thought it was wonderful to just wander around without a plan, and to look at all the beautiful buildings that I came across. Middagh Street in particular is nice with its wooden houses.
Hotels in Brooklyn Heights:
- 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge: This is ultimate luxury. This 5-star hotel is within walking distance of the Brooklyn Bridge (which you can see with a bit of luck from your hotel bed), and a stay comes including free use of a Tesla taxi, a rooftop pool and the friendliest service. The stylishly furnished rooms are spacious with organic cotton bedding. Click here for prices & availability.
As you can see, my suggestions are really only for Brooklyn and Manhattan. Those are the two parts that I have been able to visit fairly extensively during my city trip. Next time I would like to discover a little more about Harlem, which seems to be developing rapidly. But I am also very curious about your suggestions!
What are your tips for where to stay in New York City? Any neighborhoods I’m missing?
General Travel Tips
- For accommodation, I always check Airbnb or Booking.com for the best prices.
- If your insurance at home doesn’t cover travel, you may want to look into SafetyWing for an affordable option.
- I always recommend checking Get Your Guide for the best tours in the USA and Tiqets for specific attraction deals.