New York

Where to stay in New York

6 October 20238 min read

A view of busy traffic in Times Square in Manhattan, New York with bright yellow taxi cabs and colourful billboards surrounding the streets

One trip to New York City is never enough to see it all – you could spend weeks in this urban icon and barely scratch the surface. So, make your Big Apple adventure count by choosing the right base to discover the side of NYC you’ve always wanted to see.

Whether you want to be in the heart of the sightseeing action or prefer to pitch up in its trendiest neighbourhoods, here’s where to stay on your holiday to New York.

Midtown, Manhattan

Looking for the quintessential New York experience? Chock full of the city’s most iconic landmarks and attractions, bustling Midtown in the centre of Manhattan is the place to be. You might have to share the sidewalk with a few fellow tourists, but it’s easy to navigate on foot and there are plenty of hotels to suit all budgets.

Start by ticking off New York’s biggest attractions: check out the bright lights of Times Square; see the cutting-edge art collections in the Museum of Modern Art; shop 'til you drop in Macy’s; hit the theatres on Broadway; and gaze across the city’s skyline from the Rockefeller Center’s observation deck.

You’re also spoiled for choice for architectural landmarks, with the Empire State Building, Grand Central Station, the Flatiron Building and the Chrysler Building all on your doorstep.

Music lovers will want to check the concert line-up at the Radio City Music Hall while sport fans should make a beeline for Madison Square Garden, the home of the Knicks and the Rangers.

Upper East Side, Manhattan

Once home to the Roosevelts and the Kennedys, and the setting for iconic TV shows and films such as Sex and the City and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, it won’t come as a surprise to hear that the Upper East Side is known as New York’s most stylish neighbourhood.

Luxury living is what it’s all about here – we’re talking upscale high-rises, five-star hotels such as The Mark, flagship department stores like Bloomingdales and swanky restaurants that you’ll want to book well in advance.

It’s also home to the ‘Museum Mile’ on Fifth Avenue. Put the eye-catchingly modern Guggenheim Museum and the colossal collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art at the top of your list.

Located on the eastern side of Central Park, you’ve also got the best of New York’s largest green space at your fingertips. Stroll through the Conservatory Garden, visit Central Park Zoo or hire a boat to paddle around The Lake.

Lower East Side, Manhattan

If hip-and-happening is more your vibe, stay south in Manhattan’s snazzy Lower East Side, known as LES to locals. An eclectic mix of old and new, traditional tenement-style buildings, family-run shops and graffiti-adorned alleys sit alongside fashionable apartments, indie boutiques and cool music venues.

Much of LES’ diversity and creative charm is owed to its immigrant history, which lives on in the area’s museums, synagogues and eateries. Dig deeper into the neighbourhood’s working class past at the Tenement Museum, before sampling authentic Jewish and Eastern European fare at legendary delis such as Russ & Daughters and Katz's.

Delancey Street and Hester Street are the beating heart of the neighbourhood where you can enjoy leisurely shopping and snacking by day before hitting up the cocktail bars and music clubs by night. It’s also where you’ll find the much-loved food vendors of Essex Market.

West Village, Manhattan

No write-up of NYC’s best stays would be complete without mentioning the most European of all New York neighbourhoods. The West Village in downtown Manhattan has it all: cosy restaurants, celebrity residents and cobblestone streets featuring brick homes and brownstones.

Start your morning with a solid cup of coffee and an egg dish at the Bus Stop Diner. One of the few remaining traditional diners that won’t deplete your wallet, locals head here for a great morning meal.

Just down the street lies the Whitney Museum of Art where you can gaze at masterful works of modern art and enjoy a glass of wine at the 8th-floor Studio Bar. Afterwards, take a stroll on The High Line. These old railroad tracks have been transformed to an urban oasis that’s ideal for anyone looking for a bit of greenery in the urban jungle.

If burgers are your thing, try the beloved Corner Bistro, or if you’re looking for cocktails, head to Employee’s Only for classics with a modern twist – their steak tartare isn’t too shabby, either.

Harlem, Manhattan

Located in upper Manhattan, Harlem is a fair subway journey from the city’s tourist hotspots. But if you want to get to know the real New York, the one with a rich cultural heritage, huge portions of soul food and a buzzing jazz scene, it’s well worth a visit.

Known as New York City’s most influential Black neighbourhood, it’s long been a hub for African-American culture. The Harlem Renaissance in the 20th century saw its residents transform the area into one full of art, music and fashion, all of which is just as prevalent today.

Food and music are the biggest draws here. Find incredible soul food on main avenues, such as 125th Street, where you can tuck into fried chicken, sticky pork ribs and cornbread. You can’t go wrong at Sylvia’s Restaurant or Red Rooster Harlem.

As for the latter, jazz steals the show when it comes to nightlife. Spend your evenings dipping into hip jazz dens for a night to remember or catch a show at the iconic Apollo Theatre where performers such as Ella Fitzgerald and Marvin Gaye once graced the stage.

Astoria, Queens

Queens often gets overlooked but it’s one of the best places to stay in New York and definitely shouldn’t be missed. Astoria, just across the river from Midtown Manhattan, is one of the most colourful thanks to the influence of its Greek residents.

Here you’ll find great restaurants (try Ovelia for bottomless brunch and Taverna Kyclades for the most authentic Greek food this side of Athens) as well as top-notch museums. The Museum of the Moving Image is one of the best of its kind in the world (where else can you see an exhibition on The Muppet Show?), while the Noguchi Museum features many works by the famed Japanese sculptor.

After a bite to eat, meander through nearby Fort Totten, an abandoned Civil War fort, or take the kids to Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the site of two World’s Fairs. A tourist favourite, Houdini’s grave site at Machpelah Cemetery is worth a visit. It’s spooky enough to appeal to fans of the macabre, but solemn enough to offer a moment of reflection.

Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Head across the epic suspension bridge from the Lower East Side and you’ll find yourself in one of New York’s coolest neighbourhoods: Williamsburg. Its hipster reputation is well-earned, and you’ll find artisan cafes, thrift shops and indie music venues drawing in a younger creative crowd. It’s an exciting place to stay, where street art-covered factories and rusty fire escapes go hand in hand with trend-setting restaurants, buzzy dance clubs and boutique hotels.

As for entertainment, you’ll find plenty to keep the whole family happy. Need a fun activity? Spend the afternoon at Brooklyn Bowl, a bowling alley, music venue and diner all rolled into one. Fancy some culture? Embrace Williamsburg's bohemian spirit at the Williamsburg Art and Historical Center. Looking for souvenirs? Find cool clothes and bric-and-brac at the Brooklyn Flea market (Saturdays and Sundays).

Prepare for your busy days with a big brunch. Sunday in Brooklyn is a great choice, or for an even larger array of options, get down to outdoor food market, Smorgasburg (open Saturdays between April and October).

Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

Whether Williamsburg is Brooklyn’s hippest neighbourhood is hard to decide when Prospect Heights is also in the mix. This once-overlooked area filled with Neo-Grec brownstones is now a great place to stay in New York and is teeming with restaurants, bars and shops doing brisk business – it recently earned historic status, too, thanks to locals who wanted to preserve its original flavour.

Vanderbilt Avenue is the main thoroughfare and you could easily spend the day gazing in shop windows or eating your way through a plethora of good restaurants. Start your day at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. It’s the spot to go to in April during cherry blossom season but is worth a trip any time of year – the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden and Lily Pool Terrace appeal to horticulturalists of all ages.

After a day of sightseeing you’ll have worked up a healthy appetite, so head to The Islands, a busy Caribbean restaurant that often has a line out the door thanks to its delicious jerk chicken and friendly service. If you’re not out too late and are travelling with little ones in tow, they’ll love Ample Hills Creamery, one of the best ice cream shops in the US.

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