Where you stay in New York City will not only impact how much you pay, but will likely shape your experience of the city. Below, you'll find a list of the top neighborhoods for hotels, with both their pros and cons for visitors.
The Financial District
In this part of downtown (it’s at the southernmost, bottom tip of Manhattan), you are far away from the bustle of Midtown. Busy during the day, the Financial District empties out at night, creating an almost eerie calm to the neighborhood.
Best for: Visitors doing business in the Financial District during the week, people who like things quiet (as quiet as they get in Manhattan) at night. Plus, there are some substantial savings to be found when staying at a Financial District hotel on a weekend.
Drawbacks: It’s a fairly long cab/subway/bus ride to many attractions.
TriBeCa, The Lower East Side and Nolita
Arguably the most expensive real estate in New York, TriBeCa is a mostly residential neighborhood with excellent restaurants. Both TriBeCa and the Lower East Side offer a taste of New York neighborhood living with lots of street life. Nolita is a bit less residential and is a bustling area of shops and restaurants.
Best for: A taste of life Downtown with a capital “D.” The Lower East Side, in particular, boasts some of the city’s most vibrant clubs and hippest restaurants.
Drawbacks: All three neighborhoods are a little off the beaten track in terms of sightseeing, and the LES is hard to get to via public transportation.
Despite numerous chain stores moving into SoHo, the area still has great charm, due to its abundance of cast-iron buildings. In terms of hotels, the neighborhood is strictly high end.
Best for: A stay in the SoHo area offers close proximity to Chinatown, designer-name shopping, and some very fine restaurants.
Drawbacks: You won’t find much in the way of budget/value accommodations in the neighborhood. Also, because of the downtown arts scene, with its important arts fairs, Soho has two high seasons: May and June as well as the fall months. So you’ll find fewer deals here than in other areas.
Greenwich Village, despite the influx of big name stores, still has that romantic appeal, with its winding, narrow streets, brownstones, and intimate dining spots.
Best for: People who love to explore classic/historic old neighborhoods, close to shops, restaurants, bars, and clubs.
Drawbacks: Can be noisy and crowded, particularly on weekends. While it’s got its residential streets, Downtown is where New York (and the surrounding area) goes to party.
Now the center of contemporary art in Manhattan, Chelsea has also surpassed the West Village in housing the largest and most prominent gay community in the city. You’ll find some good nightlife in Chelsea, and it’s just a short walk to the shopping of Herald Square, to Union Square, and Madison Square Garden.
Best for: People who want to be close to the action, but not in the center of it; a good range of accommodations from high-end to moderate.
Drawbacks: Can be noisy at night along the main drags (especially the avenues and along 23rd Street).
Union Square, Flatiron District & Gramercy Park
Farmer’s markets, topnotch restaurants, an active street life and pockets of charming brownstones and historic buildings—what’s there not to like about this tripartite district? I think it’s probably the best place in the city to base yourself, partially because Union Square is one of the most useful hubs in the subway system, hosting a crosstown train (the L), several that go from east to west (the N, Q, and R) and the green line that runs up the east side (4, 5, 6).
Best for: People who like a centrally located neighborhood that’s not dominated by skyscrapers, but still has great lodging, shopping, theater, and dining options, and easy subway connections.
Drawbacks: Not the cheapest neighborhood in Manhattan, plus no museums or other tourist sights are here.
Times Square & Midtown West
Times Square might be the heart of Manhattan, but it’s also the city’s most congested neighborhood (if you can really call it a neighborhood). Corporate Midtown West is centrally located, but as a result, high in demand for both business and leisure travelers. Hotels here are almost always fill up fast, thus prices tend to be substantially higher than most other areas.
Best for: People who want to be in the center of “the city that never sleeps”; steps from Broadway theaters, and both high-end and affordable restaurants.
Drawbacks: Staying here puts you among tourists, rather than locals and keeps you from experiencing more of the “real” New York. It’s also the most frenetic, exhausting, loud neighborhood in the city (so not great for sleeping).
Midtown East & Murray Hill
This is "Mad Men" territory, where the barons of advertising and big business reside. As a result, you’ll find some of the grandest hotels—and also the most expensive.
Best for: People who like to stay in a more residential area, with a wide variety of (more high-end) accommodations.
Drawbacks: There’s not a lot of variety in the dining options (particularly in the budget category), and a lot of the city’s attractions are found more to the West side or further uptown.
Upper West Side
Families and chain stores are the chief residents of the Upper West Side, though it also has some significant sights (including Lincoln Center, Central Park, and the Museum of Natural History).
Best for: Visitors who want a more residential neighborhood, not as congested and noisy as Midtown, and who are comfortable on the bus or subway; rooms are often larger and a better value than in Midtown.
Drawbacks: Midtown attractions are a bus/subway/taxi ride away, and downtown ones even more so.
Upper East Side
Beautiful townhouses, world-class museums and the shops of Madison Avenue define the Upper East Side. It’s a tony, quiet area to use as a base.
Best for: Visitors who like an upscale residential neighborhood, close to Central Park and Museum Mile, with luxury shopping and some fine dining.
Drawbacks: It’s not the best-served by public transportation and can be one of the more expensive areas of town.
Brooklyn and Queens
The properties in these two boroughs often offer substantial savings compared to what you would pay across the river, and that's especially true for Queens. Some are in vibrant neighborhoods, others in areas that are just beginning the gentrification process, but all are safe and more convenient to the sights of Manhattan than a New Jersey hotel would be.
Best for: Visitors who are planning on outer borough as well as Manhattan activities; people comfortable with public transportation; foodies who want to be close to some of New York City’s most interesting restaurants.
Drawbacks: You’ll be taking a cab/subway/bus ride to Manhattan and its various attractions, activities, and restaurants. With that in mind, I’ve ONLY listed hotels that will be less expensive than their Manhattan equivalents.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.