New York is the top of a lot of people’s list of bucket list destinations. People have flocked to the big city for decades to see the most famous city in North America. Year after year, New York City is setting records for the number of visitors – in 2019, NYC saw 66.6 million visitors.
Once you’ve experienced New York City, like we did for the first time not too long ago, it’s immediately evident why. New York City is full of some of the best food, entertainment, culture, and tourist attractions not just in the US, but in the world. Most trips to New York tend to be between three and five days, and where to stay in New York City is an important decision that you’ll need to make before your trip.
Your choice will play an important role in defining what kind of New York City experience you’ll have. That’s why we wrote this guide to the best places to stay in NYC for all styles and budgets; to arm you with the information you need to plan your trip to New York City.
In this guide, you’ll find five amazing neighborhoods in NYC. A couple are pretty safe bets, and a couple that are a little more niche. You’ll also get some of my favorite gems in each neighborhood, like specialty coffee shops, small boutiques, and amazing restaurants, and my hotel picks in each.
Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post, like hotel links, are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, we make a little bit of money if you click through and book. That being said, we would never recommend something to you that we don’t stand behind 100%.
Where to Stay in New York City: A Complete Guide to Picking the Best Place to Stay
On my last visit, I spent a full week in New York City and stayed in three different neighborhoods during that time.
Prior to that, I had been to NYC for roughly 36 hours for work, and spent the entire time locked in a conference room. I really didn’t get a chance to explore at all, so I was stoked to have a full week to walk around and uncover some hidden gems and explore the city on a deeper level.
The first thing I was struck by was the buzzing energy that fills the streets of NYC at all hours. 6am? Tons of people out and about. 2am? Same same. It boggles my mind, but I guess that’s what happens when you pack millions of people into a place the size of Manhattan.
The second thing that blew my mind was the size of the buildings and the density. It truly is a concrete jungle.
I grew up in Seattle and live in San Francisco, and in both places there is a downtown area with massive buildings, and once you get out of that relatively small area, the tallest building is roughly three stories and you find green spaces around every corner. In New York City, I regularly looked up and saw a 40 story building when I was staying on the Upper East Side. The density is incredible.
It is important to think about what kind of New York experience you’re looking for. Are you there to eat all the best food and see the city like a local (I am)? Do you want to visit all the art galleries and museums? Or are you wanting to see as many tourist attractions as humanly possible (I don’t recommend it)? The best place to stay in New York City will vary depending on your style, budget, and expectations. Luckily for you, I have put together a guide of the best neighborhoods to stay in, complete with highly-rated hotels in each area.
Here are my top picks for the best areas to stay in NYC for all styles and budgets.
Psst! If you need to eat gluten free, you’ll want to read my guide to gluten free NYC to find the absolute best gluten free eats.
Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, I make a little bit of money if you click through and book. That being said, I would never recommend something to you that I don’t stand behind 100%.
Flat Iron and Nomad: My Personal Pick for Best Area To Stay In New York City
When I’m considering where to stay in a new city I look for local experiences. I want farmers markets, I want unique restaurants and bars, and I want a central area with good transport links. This is why I fell in love with these two neighborhoods in New York.
Flat Iron and Nomad are neighboring areas, separated only by Madison Square Park. It is mainly late twenty-early thirties creatives and tech entrepreneurs that live here, and they bring trendy cafes, unique bars, and plenty of restaurant choices.
Plus, some of our favorite hotels in New York city are here, which means you’ll have plenty of options in terms of places to stay.
Things To Do In Flat Iron And Nomad
- Visit Eataly New York. I’m going to preface this by saying it is completely set up for tourists, but Eataly is an artisanal Italian marketplace that is well-worth a stop in to peruse. There are several Italian restaurants, bookstore, cooking school, and homeware stores. While you are there, you can pick up the ingredients needed to make beautiful Italian food; the ingredients used by the chefs in the onsite Italian restaurants.
- Grab a coffee at one of the many cafes in the area. What is it about a neighborhood for young professionals that means an influx of cafes? I think if there is one thing you have learnt about me, it is that I love good quality coffee and since I often stay in this area I have a few go-to cafes. Birch Coffee, Black Press Coffee, Variety Coffee, and Stumptown are my top picks.
- Play ping pong at SPIN NYC. Even if, like me, you suck at ping pong, SPIN NYC is so much fun! There are a few of these bars all over New York, and it is such a good night out with a partner or friends.
- Eat your way through the neighborhood. There are so many good restaurants in these two neighborhoods. Little Beet Table is one of my favorites for brunch or dinner. It is a dedicated gluten-free restaurant with great natural light and fresh food. Other favorites are Cosme NYC, Enrique Olvera’s NYC outpost (of Pujol fame in Mexico City), Gramercy Tavern, and of course Shake Shack in the park.
Where To Stay In Flat Iron And Nomad
Part of the reason I like this particular area is the great assortment of charming hotels. From budget to boutique, it has something for everyone.
The Freehand NYC: Best Affordable Hotel in New York City
Listen, if you’re looking for an affordable place to stay in NYC, and you’re not too concerned with having all the bells and whistles that some of the upscale hotels have, this place is great. Besides, you won’t be spending much time in your hotel anyway, you’ll be out exploring!
We stayed here for three nights on our trip and were blown away by the value. The Freehand is a great option for groups of friends or couples travelling together. It is beautifully designed, minimalist hotel with really reasonable rates.
They have large plant-filled social areas and restaurants. My favorite part of this hotel was the rooftop bar and lounge; such a great way to finish up a day exploring!
The Ace Hotel: Best Combination of Style and Budget
Another fantastic option in the heart of NYC, I stayed at the Ace Hotel for 3 nights and it was a great home base for exploring the surrounding areas. In particular, it’s the best combination of style and budget in the neighborhood. Big, bright rooms, a mix of modern amenities and vintage touches, and a central location.
The Ace Hotel is located right in the middle of Nomad, a five-minute walk from Koreatown and some great cafes. The hotel public areas and rooms are decorated in vintage style with some of the larger rooms having a turntable. Rudy’s Barbershop is located onsite for a bit of pampering. I stayed here and loved how easy it was to get around by subway.
The MADE Hotel: Splurge-worthy Boutique Hotel
The Made Hotel is the hotel I have always wanted to stay at when visiting New York, but it was fully booked last time I visited. It has a zen-like vibe to the entire hotel with lots of exposed wood, greenery, and natural light. Aka my ideal style. There’s a café, rooftop bar, and a patio for hotel guests only. Minimalist rooms with sweeping city views and super comfortable beds are the main draw, though.
Midtown: Best For First Timers in New York City
For all visitors to New York City wondering where to stay in NYC for your first time, Midtown is probably the answer!
If you stay in Midtown Manhattan, you will be a short walk from Central Park, the Empire State Building, MOMA, and Times Square. Nightlife is plentiful, and Broadway is a short walk away, as are the bars and restaurants of 9th Avenue, or the food trucks on 6th Avenue.
Midtown is the best area to stay for your first time in New York City because you can easily stay within a 20-minute (on foot) radius of your hotel and have an amazing first trip to New York. But you definitely shouldn’t do that. If you want to venture further out and do some exploring, there are plenty of subway stations in Midtown to connect you to the rest of NYC.
Things to Do In Midtown
- Catch a Broadway show. There is so much quality theater in New York; you would have to be crazy not to catch a show. Choose an old favorite or find something new to make your friends back home jealous. We’ve seen the Lion King and Hamilton, and highly recommend them!
- Stroll to Central Park. Central Park is a famous New York icon, and you will certainly recognize parts of it from your favorite movies. There are plenty of walking tours that will show you the highlights, but I recommend just wandering around the park and taking in the beauty of it. In summer you are able to take a boat out on the lake which I would highly recommend.
- Eat at Bistango. This Italian restaurant on 3rd Avenue and 29th Street is top of my list of recommendations for gluten-free food in New York. While this is not a dedicated gluten-free restaurant, their whole menu can be made gluten-free, and they have separate facilities for preparing gluten-free food, thus preventing contamination. It’s also a great option for those of you who don’t need to eat gluten free.
- Grab a gelato at Grom Gelato. This 100% gluten-free gelateria is the perfect stop after a stroll through central park. All of their flavors are gluten-free as well as their cones.
- Take this full-day tour with a local professor who will cover most of NYC’s top sights. The guide is a native New Yorker and show you the city through a local’s eyes. The tour covers best places to eat and drink, history, iconic sights, and where celebrities hang out. This is a really fun tour to learn some quirky tidbits about the city.
- Take a coffee break at Bibble and Sip. This little café is a must stop for coffee lovers. Not only does it serve amazing coffee, from specialty coffee to inventive flavored lattes, they also make a bunch of amazing looking desserts in-house. None of them are gluten free, so I haven’t actually tried them, but the matcha cream puff would be HIGH on my list. Croissants, cream puffs, scones, and breakfast sandwiches – no matter your tastes, you’ll find the perfect accompaniment to your coffee at Bibble and Sip.
Where To Stay In Midtown Manhattan
There’s a nearly unlimited number of options in Midtown – here are three that we really like for different reasons.
Citizen M Times Square: best overall hotel in Midtown
First of all, we LOVE CitizenM hotels. They make our list of cool hotels in Seattle because they do one thing, and they do it well: affordable hotels with everything you need and nothing you don’t. Perfect for travelers that will be spending most of their time out exploring, they only have one room size. No more decision fatigue around whether you should choose “comfort” or “economy.”
The CitizenM Times Square is super highly rated. If it’s your first time in New York City, this might be the perfect place to stay. It’s located right in the heart of all the action with a Times Square address.
It’s a great value with no frills – instead of a reception desk, there is a self-check-in with staff on hand if you need assistance. There is a gym on the 20th floor with impressive views over the city and a rooftop bar, so they provide the things that count.
They also have a location in Lower Manhattan that would be a great location for business travelers who want to be close to the Financial District.
Pod 51: Best Affordable Hotel Near Times Square
This charming, affordable hotel is all about the location. Pod 51 is located in the heart of Midtown, 15 minutes from Times Square and across the street from Greenacre Park and it’s huge waterfall, but the prices would make you think it’s in Jersey.
The best feature is the rooftop deck with colorful sun loungers, perfect for soaking up the sun in summer. It also has an onsite restaurant and bar as well as a café. Hostel style rooms and private rooms are available.
Library Hotel: A Splurge-worthy Boutique Hotel
The Library Hotel is a super central option – a hidden gem located right near New York Public Library and Grand Central Station. It is library-themed, as you probably guessed from the name, and goes as far as designing its rooms on the Dewey decimal system. So room 500.005 is dinosaur themed, room 800. 005 is fairy tale themed and so on.
It also has a reading room on the second floor with Madison Avenue views and hundreds of books to browse. Coffee, tea, and cookies are always available in the reading room, so there is no need to ever leave to grab a snack or pick-me-up.
Chelsea: Best Place To Stay In New York City If You’re Young and Hip
Chelsea is one of the trendiest neighborhoods in New York. It is wedged firmly between Midtown and Greenwich Village, making it easy to get around and explore. It has pretty cobbled streets and plenty of quaint cafes to meander your way through.
Plus there’s the most unique garden in New York, the Highline, to wander slowly through and enjoy the greenery and art installations. Get up there in the early morning to take it in before the rest of the tourists show up.
Another big draw to the area for tourists is Chelsea Market which is packed full of little eateries and market stalls.
Things To Do In Chelsea
- Check out the Chelsea Market. This is the most popular thing to do while in the Chelsea area. The Chelsea Market is open every day of the week, and it is most known for the food stalls. You can find almost every cuisine in the world here. There are stalls selling other things here as well; there are plenty of vintage fashion and jewelry stalls as well as places to buy wine and cheeses.
- Walk the Highline. The Highline is a unique outdoor space in Chelsea. It has been repurposed rail line suspended above the streets. Now it is full of wildflowers, art installations, and shrubbery. It about a mile and a half long and runs between Chelsea and the Hudson Yards. I would highly recommend meandering along this track; it offers some spectacular views of the NYC skyline.
- Visit the Whitney Art Museum. The collection of the Whitney focuses on 20th century and contemporary American Artists with an emphasis on living artists. Expect to see famous works by artists such as Jackson Pollock and Georgia O’Keefe as well as discovering a few new artists.
- Eat at Friedman’s. Gluten-free fried chicken on cheddar waffles, need I say more? Friedman’s serve what I like to call “upscale American food” which is a mix of burgers, sandwiches, and comfort food. 99% of their menu can be made gluten-free, and their wait staff are all really knowledgeable and friendly. A good place to eat whether or not you’re eating gluten free, with locations around the city (including Times Square.
- Shop local. One of the best things about neighborhoods like Chelsea is the abundance of local brands that you can’t find anywhere else in the world. If you are looking to pick up a book for the plane ride home, visit 192 Books, if you need a recommendation the staff will definitely recommend a winner! Or visit the Gilded Grape to find out that you don’t know the first thing about wine. Did you know there are orange wines? The Gilded Grape stocks plenty of them! They also stock plenty of reds, whites, rosés, and sparklings if you are happy sticking with what you know. Malin + Goetz also has a location in the area if your skincare game needs some help.
Where To Stay In Chelsea
The Jane: Best Affordable Hotel in Chelsea
The Jane Hotel is steeped in history, first as sailors’ quarters, then to house the survivors of the Titanic. Now its ballroom bar is the place to on the weekends, and it is located near plenty of great cafes and restaurants. The rooms are a little small, but if you are looking for somewhere to stay in New York City that is reasonably priced and a home base, this hotel is a great choice.
The Standard, Highline: Best Overall Hotel
The Standard at the High Line is perfect if you’re looking for that extra glamour for your stay in New York. All of the rooms have floor to ceiling windows overlooking either the Hudson River or Highline Park. There is a German beer garden, two rooftop lounges, and a jazz lounge that is open for brunch until late at night.
The Maritime Hotel: Best Boutique Hotel
As the name suggests, there is a strong nautical theme to the Maritime Hotel, but it manages to stay on the tasteful side of the spectrum. Think warm woods, rich blues, porthole style windows, and squashy leather armchairs and you’ve got the aesthetic of the hotel. Breakfast is complimentary here as are the bicycles which allow guests to get out and explore everything the city has to offer.
Greenwich Village: Best Place To Stay In NYC For That Classic New York Feeling
If you are looking to experience the New York you see in movies, then Greenwich village is the best place to stay in New York City. There are plenty of brownstone-lined streets, long curving lanes, and romantic little cafes tucked away just waiting to be stumbled upon. Your favorite 90’s shows, like Sex and the City and Friends, were filmed in this part of the city. It is also the home of NYU which gives the area a young feel to it while still remaining upscale and picturesque.
If you’re lucky, you might even run into actors strolling the streets of Greenwich Village, or see world-famous artists in one of the many art stores.
This is where you should stay in New York City for a more laid back, New York experience.
Things To Do In Greenwich Village
- Eat at Senza Gluten. Senza Gluten is a dedicated gluten-free Italian restaurant located right near NYU. Their whole menu is gluten-free, and they have a wide range of dishes on offer. You will find lasagna, risotto, bruschetta, and Italian desserts. Whatever you do, be sure to order the gluten-free tiramisu, it was heavenly!
- Drink cider or beer at Amity Hall Sports Bar. There is nothing better than the atmosphere in a sports bar while watching a game. Amity Hall was a great find that we essentially stumbled upon while wandering. They offer 100% gluten-free beer and plenty of local cider.
- Learn about New York’s punk rock history on this unique tour. This Punk Rock History tour will open your eyes to the little known history of punk rock in New York. Your guide, who is a musician himself, will take you to places iconic to New York punk rock and tell you stories of the artists and venues.
- Shop at the Market NYC. If you like vintage and pre-loved designer goods, then this is somewhere you must stop. The Market NYC is widely considered the best market in New York. It is open every day with shorter hours on weekends, and you are sure to pick up a bargain!
Where To Stay In Greenwich Village
Unfortunately, the downside here is that there really aren’t that many places to stay in Greenwich Village. It’s fairly residential, but there are a couple of good hotel options.
Best Overall Hotel: The Walker Hotel
This romantic Art-Deco hotel is a gorgeous choice for a New York stay. The rooms are vibrant and stylish, and the Society Café, its onsite restaurant, offers dishes made of the freshest ingredients sourced from the local markets.
Washington Square Hotel: Best Boutique Hotel
This stylish but understated hotel has had its share of famous people stay within its walls. Bob Dylan and Ernest Hemmingway are the names that draw a lot of tourists to stay here. The rooms are minimalist with Art-Deco touches and lots of natural light. You should definitely request a park view when booking your room.
Upper Eastside and Upper West Side: The Best Area To Stay In New York For Families
The Upper Eastside and Upper West Sides are packed with classic townhouses and leafy streets. It is the best area to stay in New York for families because it is (relatively) quiet and filled with family-friendly establishments. While it is a little outside of the hustle and bustle of the Midtown and financial districts, it is well connected by the subway.
It is also just a few minutes’ walk from Central Park, which is great to explore whether you have kids or not.
If you have kids, this might be the best area to stay in New York City.
Things To Do In Upper Eastside and Upper Westside
- Wander aimlessly in Central Park. It is such a vast place, and there is so much to see and do, but I think it is better to just wander and stumble upon places. Throw the map out and just see where your feet take you!
- Visit the museums in Central Park. The Met and Natural History Museums are located in Central Park, so time a visit to one or both of them with your wanderings. The Shakespeare Garden lays between them and is worth checking out on the way. Recommended tour: VIP Night Tour of the Met.
- Try all the gluten-free food. Even if your motto is “the more gluten the better,” you’ll want to eat at some of these restaurants. There are so many fantastic gluten-free restaurants around the Upper East and West Side. Modern Bread and Bagel is one of my favorites, after all, you can’t visit New York without getting a bagel! TAP NYC is another favorite haunt of mine; they serve gorgeous Brazilian Tapioca crepes that are all gluten-free and delicious. For breakfast, there are two really good gluten-free bakeries, By The Way Bakery and Noglu NYC.
- Grab a coffee at Oslo Coffee. Oslo Coffee is located on the Upper East Side, and it is a tiny little café with minimal seating, but grab a coffee and go explore the streets or Central Park. The coffee is delicious, and they roast their own coffee on site.
- For non-gluten-free bagels head to Russ & Daughters. If you are craving a really good New York bagel and you don’t care about gluten, Russ & Daughters is a great choice. It’s routinely found on all the “best bagels in NYC” lists. The location on the Upper East Side is a sit down cafe, and is a fantastic brunch option.
Where To Stay In Upper East Side and Upper West Side
On the Upper East Side and the Upper West Side, you won’t find too many hotels, but it’s a great place to stay in an Airbnb, which will give you your own personal space and the option to cook and save money on eating out, both of which are important for traveling families.
Best Overall Hotel: The Beacon
The Beacon Hotel is one of the few apartment hotels in New York and is perfect for traveling families. While there are plenty of amazing restaurants and cafes around to keep you busy for your stay, all of the rooms have kitchenettes.
Top Picks: The Best Places to Stay in New York City
Don’t have time to read the whole post full of me waxing poetic about all the things I love about New York City? I totally get it.
Here’s a condensed version for you.
The 5 Best Areas to Stay in New York City for all Styles and Budgets
While all of the areas below are fantastic places to stay for your trip to New York, my absolute favorite place to stay in NYC is the area between Nomad and the Flatiron.
I spent the bulk of my time in New York City in this part of town, and it was a perfect home base for exploring all corners of the city.
I stayed first at the Freehand, which is a budget-friendly option a few blocks from the Flatiron building with relatively small rooms, but a great location and fantastic amenities.
I also stayed at the Ace Hotel, a classic boutique hotel option, which had roomier rooms and an amazing lobby (including Stumptown Coffee), but was a little bit more expensive. I wanted to stay at the Made Hotel, but it was sold out for the time I was there.
If it’s your first time in NYC, you should look at Midtown Manhattan.
It’s central, close to both Central Park, Chelsea, and Times Square, and it’s well-connected to the rest of the city via the Subway.
If you’re on a budget, look at Pod 51, a budget hotel with 358 basic rooms and a super accessible price point.
I’d also look at the CitizenM Times Square, one of the most highly rated hotels in the area.
Chelsea is home to Chelsea Market, which is worth a visit no matter what, and the High Line, along with countless hip bars, restaurants, and places to shop.
Greenwich Village, to me, feels like classic NYC with brownstones and bagel shops with lines out the door.
We stayed on the Upper East Side for a few nights, and it was a very pleasant place to be. Less hustle and bustle than Midtown, but still plenty busy and packed full of great places to eat, drink, and shop. Plus, the subway means that you’ll be able to get anywhere you want to go relatively quickly and cheaply.
Best Places to Stay in NYC: Top Rated Hotels
Here are my picks for hotels and Airbnbs to stay at in NYC. I’ve stayed at a couple of them, but not all.
For the places I haven’t personally stayed, I’ve scoured reviews, write-ups, and more to curate the absolute best places to stay in New York City.
In Midtown: The CitizenM Times Square – everything you need, nothing you don’t, all at an affordable price point.
In Chelsea: The Standard High Line. Stylish rooms and sweeping views steps away from the Highline.
I hope that guide helps you figure out where you should stay in New York City – it’s a big place, and it can be a little overwhelming at first. Once you figure out what the best neighborhoods are, it makes it a little easier to find the perfect spot to base yourself for an unforgettable trip.
You’re going to have an amazing trip to NYC, and I’d love to hear about it and the hidden gems you uncovered. Hit me up on Instagram, or shoot me a note.
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