Last updated on January 12, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in New York

Where to stay in New York

Is New York the most spectacular and diverse city in the world?

Probably it is. Surely it is one of the most populated and expensive, no wonder you still questioning where to stay in New York, especially if you are on a budget.

The good news is that this is a vast city, in fact so vast that, at the end of the day, it’s not that complicated to find the best place to stay in New York, based on your type of trip.

There are quiet and green areas for families with kids, a few cheap neighborhoods for travelers on a budget, boutique blocks for a romantic stay and of course plenty of nightlife streets and areas.

And if you are visiting around Christmas, keep reading for more information on special accommodations and restaurants that customize the own service for that special time of the year.

Let’s get straight into it

New York by night
New York by night

Once in New York, I suggest reading the Arts & Entertainment Guide of the New York Times, a great resource for the latest events.

Where to stay in New York for any budget – In a nutshell

  • 5 areas of New York City: New Your City is divided into 5 counties, called boroughs. They all have their own identity that goes back to 1898 when they were all united in one municipal government. The best area to stay, especially on a first trip, is probably Manhattan. However, I would not discount the other boroughs, especially if you want to explore outside of the beaten path. Here below a map of the boroughs. They are all connected with city subways, buses and ferries. Read more below on all the 5 counties
Best areas to stay in New York City
Best areas to stay in New York City – The famous Manhattan is only that green marked island
  • Best place to stay in New York first time: My suggestion is to stay in Manhattan, unless:
    • you want to book your accommodation close to U.S. Open Tennis Championship (and in this case you should look for a hotel close or well connected to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens)
    • you are traveling on a budget and you plan a long stay, one week or more. I will talk more about it later

    read more below on Midtown and Greenwich Village, my 2 favorite parts of Manhattan, with a few suggested accommodations.

Where to stay in Manhattan
Manhattan Island – You can read more on my dedicated guide
  • Where to stay in New York on a budget: in Manhattan Island, you will find the most affordable accommodations in Harlem. You may find little gems also in other parts of The City, like Chelsea Pines Inn (Great Value) in Lower Manhattan, but it’s more of a rarety. The alternative is to be based in Long Island, in Queens, on the other side of the East River and facing Manhattan. You can be in Midtown in 10 minutes by subway and on a hot day you can also think to head down to the beach (1hour by train). Read more below about a budget stay in New York, including a few great accommodation options.
  • Where to stay in New York City with family: the easiest area for a stay with kids is the Upper West Side, just west of Central Park. It’s one of the safest parts of New York City, besides being closer to the biggest park in Manhattan. Read more below about a stay with your family, including all the best activities.
  • Where to stay in New York for a unique stay: there are two areas that win in this section, SoHo and Tribeca. Both have great boutique accommodations around, and you will be close to great restaurants and cafes. It’s the quintessential New York experience. Read more below about SoHo and Tribeca, with a few unique accommodations.
  • Best place to stay in new york city for tourists: Midtown East is the most central part of New York City. Besides the well-known attractions as Times Square and the Central Station, you will be connected in no time to all this city has to offer, and it’s a lot. The downside is that this is probably the most expensive area to stay. Read more below about Midtown East, including a few hidden gems to spend the night.
  • Where to stay for nightlife in NYC: there are bars and clubs a bit everywhere in NYC, however, Greenwich Village in Lower Manhattan tends to have the highest concentration of theatres, bars, concert venues, clubs and you name it. Read more below about Greenwich Village, including a few suggested spots to visit
  • Best area to stay for arts and sightseeing: the Museum Mile in Upper East Side can keep you busy for a short and long stay with all the museums, galleries and exhibits. You will be also close to Central Park, great for a nice morning walk. Read more below about the Upper East Side, including a few suggested galleries
  • Where to stay in New York cheap: the cheapest area to stay is probably Union City, which is technically speaking in New Jersey but just a short commute to Manhattan across the Hudson River (by train or ferry). Read more about Union City below, with a few suggested cheap places to stay
  • Where to stay in New York at Christmas: A stay in Midtown Manhattan will put you in the heart of all the action during Christmas time. This is where you will also find the famous Rockefeller Christmas Tree. Read more below about Christmas in New York, including a few epic restaurants to have your Xmas lunch/dinner.
  • Can you tell me more about Manhattan: yes, I have written a full guide about the Island of Manhattan that you can read here.
  • Another great city to visit from New York: Washington DC is only 4-5 hours south (by car or train). It is one of the most interesting city in the country, really unmissable. I highly suggest spending at least 3 days in Washington DC. However, plan everything in advance and you will be surprised by how many things you can experience in just 2 days in D.C.. You can check out my guide to over 10 itineraries of Washington DC, based on your length of stay and your interests, with detailed morning and afternoon plans.
  • Do you want to go straight to your hotel? Pre-order an airport transfer that will wait for you directly at the airport. So easy.
View to Manhattan in autumn
View to Manhattan in autumn

Where to stay in New York on a budget 

This city is a lot of things but cheap is not one of them. Answering the question of where to stay in New York on a budget is not an easy one.

New York is currently the 9th most expensive city in the world to live in according to a 2019 report by Forbes.

It is not just expensive for the resident.

You as a tourist will have to find ways to save money without compromising on your authentic New York experience.

Fortunately, the city does have some budget-friendly locations for you to explore while on your trip.

Harlem (in Manhattan on a budget)

Harlem is located in Upper Manhattan and is without a doubt the most affordable district in this swanky borough.

This eclectic community is best known for its amazing culture influenced heavily by African American history.

So if you are in the mood for some jazz in your heart and soul food in your belly then plan a trip to Harlem.

One place you definitely do not want to leave without visiting is Sylvia’s Restaurant. They are famous for their southern comfort food cuisine and the very generous portions of the same.

So after a long day of exploring Manhattan, you know where to vanquish your munchies.

Another awesome café worth visiting in Harlem is The Edge Harlem Café. This is a trendy little spot where the coffee is always strong and the baked goods always fresh.

Suggested accommodations in this area:

Long Island City (well connected)

Another great place to stay while on a budget is Long Island City which is located on the east side of Queens, facing Manhattan and just a stone away from it

Arts in Queens
Arts in Queens

It is one of the most densely populated parts of the city so you may have to live with the noise and crowds in order to save a buck or two on accommodation.

The good news is that its affordability does not come at the expense of your experience.

Long Island City offers amazing views of Manhattan, access to the beach (1 hour by train) and a quick 5-10 minutes ride by public transportation to Midtown Manhattan.

There are also many awesome restaurants and cafés for you to try out.

One of them is Blend on the Water Restaurant. This latin-inspired cuisine restaurant offers not only great meals but also breathtaking waterside views. It would be the perfect spot for a nice romantic budget-friendly evening out on your trip.

If you are looking for something simpler, then Café Grumpy is a great option. It is a great place to enjoy yummy drinks and decadent snacks while interacting with the locals.

Suggested accommodations in this area:

Where to stay in New York cheap (under $100)

If Long Island and Harlem are still a little too costly for your budget then you might have to look for options outside the city.

In this case, Union City and Jersey City are your best choices.

Being away from the big city means that everything from the accommodations to entertainment and amenities will be more affordable.

The best part is that the two cities are well connected to Manhattan by train.

With a short commute back and forth you can still enjoy all that New York City has to offer.

Do it with the ferry and it will be epic.

Suggested accommodations in this area:

Best place to stay in New York first time 

If it is your very first time visiting the Big Apple, you need to stay in places that allow you to truly immerse yourself in this iconic city’s culture.

This means a place where you have easy access to things like the famous New York 1$ pizza slice and must-see attractions like The Statue of Liberty and Broadway.

In all of New York City, there are 2 areas that offer all this and more making them the ideal places to stay as a first-time visitor.

Midtown

The central business district of the city is as New York cliché as it gets and you do not want to miss out on it.

Lights of New York
Lights of New York

You don’t even have to work too hard or spend too much money in order to make memories.

Seriously; just take a walk to Times Square or Penn Station and with that, you have crossed off one of the most popular bucket-list items.

There are so many other attractions here including Gulliver’s Gate Exhibition, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum and the monumental Columbus Circle.

You could also hit up Madison Avenue for some retail therapy when the sightseeing gets to you.

In addition to all these, Midtown has a lot to offer foodies with the likes of Carmine’s Italian Restaurant on Times Square.

This restaurant has managed to achieve enviable levels of luxury and decadence while maintaining a welcoming family-owned establishment vibe.

Another great restaurant to try out is Butter Midtown. Your wallet might take a blow with this upscale restaurant but the delicious food, craft cocktails and ambiance more than makeup for it.

Suggested accommodations in this area:

Greenwich Village

Greenwich Village is another part of New York City where the party never stops.

If you are a night owl and big into the clubbing scene then this is where you want to be.

Located in Downtown Manhattan, this neighborhood offers a wide variety of entertainment options from jazz clubs and off-broadway productions to numerous bars and clubs.

One popular cocktail spot to try out is The Up & Up. This is a trendy cocktail lounge that serves everything from craft beer to fancy wine.

Greenwich Village also happens to be home to restaurants that are ideal if you are looking to make a romantic getaway of your trip.

One of the best for this specific need is Olio e Pui.

This beautiful French restaurant really delivers on romance with its setting, menu and extensive wine list.

For a more chilled and laid-back café vibe, Café Reggio should be on your radar.

This is one of the oldest cafés in the region, having been around since 1927.

Their artisanal coffee and croissants are just what you will need after that wild Greenwich night.

Suggested accommodations in this area:

Where to stay in New York City with family

New York is one of the most family-friendly cities to visit. This is mainly because there is so much to do and see that you will truly never have a dull moment on your trip.

However, when it comes to cost and security, not every part of the Big Apple is good for your family.

All these factors considered, the Upper West Side takes the cake as being the best for you and your kids to use as a base of operations for your NYC exploration.

View to Mahattan from the bridge
View to Mahattan from the bridge

Upper West Side

As earlier stated, this part of the city is just the perfect combination of everything.

It is modern and developed while still being decently occupied by green space.

It is tranquil yet full of exciting attractions.

It is affordable yet safe and beautiful.

What more could you want as a family?

Easy and quick access to the biggest park in the city to break your exploration with some family time at the park, enjoying the green and the playgrounds, playing some football, or just watching a game.

Suggested accommodations in this area:

What to experience in the Upper West Side

So what will you do to keep your kids busy on your trip?

Well, West Manhattan has a plethora of options.

These include the Children’s Museum of Manhattan and the National Geographic Encounter.

In addition to these, West Manhattan has really awesome playgrounds all over the districts which will be a lot of fun for your younger kids.

These include:

  • Rudin Family Playground: Rudin offers a nice nature-buffered experience for the children. There are all sorts of play structures from slides to sandboxes. There is also a station for chess and checkers which the older kids might appreciate.
  • Minetta Playground: it is a small colorful playground built mainly for toddlers and young children. It is gated for security and offers plenty of sitting space for parents to monitor their children. 

Looking for a place to eat out as a family after all this fun and running around?

A great family-friendly option would be Spring Natural Kitchen.

This place serves organic farm-to-table meals that are not only wholesome and filling but also very affordable.

It is perfect if you have vegans and non-vegans in your family as the menu caters to everyone.

Another awesome restaurant to try as a family is Shake Shack.

This is a hamburger chain restaurant that the children will really enjoy.

The best part is that it is easy walking distance to all the district’s major attractions including Central Park and The American Museum of Natural History.

Where to stay in New York for a unique stay

If you are looking for a very unique experience during your stay in New York, there are two neighborhoods for you to consider.

These two have the typical New York look and feel but with a little bit of edge and hints of evolution.

They also happen to offer exclusive boutique accommodations, unlike anything you will find in other parts of New York.

So what are these mystery locations you ask?

Walking in Soho
Walking in SoHo

SoHo

SoHo is an edgy upscale neighborhood in the Lower Manhattan area.

Everything about this part of town screams chic and trendy from the colorful townhouses to the cobblestone streets.

SoHo is probably best known for the shopping scene, being home to some of New York City’s most exclusive and luxurious stores.

If you are looking for an authentic SoHo shopping experience then you must check out Artists and Fleas Market.

This offers an open retail experience that is unlike anything you will ever see.

SoHo also has some amazing restaurants.

One of the most popular and unique is Cocotte.

This is a Basque-inspired French restaurant featuring dark-painted walls and dim light for a really warm and inviting ambiance.

The food is also really good especially if you are a huge fan of exotic cuisine.

Suggested accommodations in this area:

Tribeca

Tribeca has come a long way from being a rural farmland settlement to being New York City’s most hip neighborhood.

It stands out with its unique architecture featuring Georgian-style buildings with ornated cast-iron details.

Tribeca also has a lot to offer in terms of cultural experience.

It is an artistic hub featuring numerous galleries and hosting the world-famous Tribeca Film Festival.

For all the foodies out there this neighborhood does not disappoint.

Locanda Verde is a great example.

This Italian restaurant has it all from the edgy decor to the decadent meals and you will definitely want to book a table.

Suggested accommodations in this area:

Best place to stay in new york city for tourists – Midtown East

Midtown East is the home of New York attractions as already stated previously.

You have all your movie-inspired bucket list options including Grand Central Station and the neon-lights laden Times Square.

Then there are the hidden gems that you might miss out on as a tourist.

One of them is the David Zwirner Gallery that features work by contemporary artists.

Another well-kept Midtown Secret is Paley Park which is a bubble of tranquility and sanity in one of the busiest parts of one of the busiest cities in the world.

The Midtown restaurant scene is also perfect for tourists and sightseeing with the likes of Le Bernadine.

This is a swanky seafood spot that truly embodies all of New York City’s extravagance and beauty.

Another must-try restaurant is The Modern which is located in the Museum of Modern art.

There is nothing like having your fancy dinner with fancy wine in a fancy museum.

Suggested accommodations in this area:

Union Square on a summer day
Union Square on a summer day

Best area to stay for arts and sightseeing – Upper East Side

Museum Mile really does not disappoint in terms of attractions.

Museums, galleries and special exhibits are never in short supply in Upper East Side, so you will have your itinerary pretty full.

You have the likes of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Smithsonian Design Museum, The Met Breuer, The Frick Collection and so many others.

The best part is the diversity in all these exhibits including everything from historical treasures to modern art installations.

The Upper East Side also has some pretty awesome must-visit restaurants for you to try out.

One of their finest is the Tanoshe Sushi Sake Bar.

Upper East Siders love their sushi and when you are in the Upper East Side you must live as they do. This restaurant is simple and serves a wide variety of delicious sushi.

Suggested accommodations in this area:

Where to stay in New York at Christmas 

Ah Christmas; it really is the most wonderful time of the year. Especially if you are in New York.

The city during Christmas is a scene straight out of an enchanting snow globe.

There is a beautiful contrast between the snow and the Christmas decoration that are definitely bound to put you in that holiday mood.

Christmas time in New York (without snow)
Christmas time in New York (without snow)

Midtown

Midtown Manhattan is a great place to stay during this season as it puts you in the heart of all the action.

It is actually where the famous Rockefeller Christmas Tree at the Rockefeller Center is displayed every year.

Trust me; you do not want to miss out on this iconic tradition.

A magical place to stay during Christmas in Midtown Manhattan is the Lotte New York Palace. And if you find a room be quick to book it during Christmas time.

This luxury hotel is by far the most notable Christmas holiday destination in New York (see more hotel photos here).

It is a beautiful and tranquil paradise whether you are traveling with your kids or just with your partner

Check availability at the Lotte

Entrance to the spectacular Lotte New York Palace
Entrance to the spectacular Lotte New York Palace

Where to eat in New York at Christmas 

If you are after a neighborhood in Midtown to stay within walking distance to great restaurants that create special menus for Christmas time then Union Square has to be.

You will find so many food options including restaurants like Irvington.

This is an American cuisine restaurant and bar that will fill you up with your favorite traditional Christmas meals when the season comes.

It also has a great bar with unique artisanal cocktails for you to try out.

Another great Christmas eatery is Gotham Bar and Grill. This is a classy restaurant that really knows how to do Christmas.

They go all out on the decoration converting this already beautiful location into a real winter wonderland.

They predominantly serve seafood which though not traditionally Christmas food still hits the spot.

Union Square is also a great option due to the great subway with multiple busy lines including the IRT Lexington Avenue Line, the BMT Broadway Line, and the BMT Canarsie Line.

View to Manhattan from the Staten Island Ferry
View to Manhattan from the Staten Island Ferry

Best areas to stay in New York City

Straight to the point about the naming.

New York City consists of five counties: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx and Staten Island.

Manhattan is quite often confused with New York City itself, however, it shouldn’t. 

I think the mistake may come with the fact that Manhattan is often referred to as The City and it’s coextensive with New York County.

Best areas to stay in New York City
Best areas to stay in New York City
  • Manhattan (county of New York): the central borough, the most popular one, often referred to as The City. This is where you will find most of the attractions, from Central Park to the Empire State Building, from Time Square to the MoMa, and so many others.
  • Brooklyn (county of Kings): the second most famous borough, with more locals than tourists, you can definitely have a different kind of experience, probably more genuine, however, you will be far from the famous attractions. I would suggest Brooklyn on 3rd or 4th visit when you want to discover a new part of New York City. On a hot day head down to Coney Island beach and the nearby amusement park.
  • Queens (county of Queens): the biggest boroughs of all going from the East River (facing Manhattan in the north) to the Ocean Coast in the south, where JFK Airport is located. Queens becomes the best area to stay in Sydney during the U.S. Open Tennis Championship if you want to be next door to the event (book well in advance though). Queens is also evolving more and more in an arty area, which should be visited on a long stay in New York City.
  • Bronx (Bronx County): this area is also known and signaled as just BX. This was one of the toughest areas in the US, with the highest crime rate in the country, in the 70s and 80s. It is now a much safer borough, especially around the main attractions as Bronx Zoo (a must-visit if you are in the genre), the Yankee Stadium and the Botanical Garden. I would not recommend booking your accommodation in the BX. At night it all becomes a bit shady and possibly dangerous (you may read more info on safety here)
  • Staten Island (Richmond County): the least visited borough of all. There are not iconic attractions however the colonial architecture of the buildings make it an interesting area to walk around. The ferry from Manhattan to State Island (25 minutes) is a very cost-effective way to explore the Upper Bay and have a great view of the Manhattan skyline
Yankee Stadium in the Bronx
Yankee Stadium in the Bronx
Photo credits on a few photos in this post
Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

5 thoughts on “Where to stay in New York [5 best AREAS, from budget to expensive neighborhoods]”

Leave a Comment