For dynamism, cultural impact and sheer diversity, New York City is hard to beat. The city is a global leader in art, architecture, music and food, and is crammed with iconic sights, from the raised torch of the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, to the hipster haunts of Brooklyn - so it's often difficult to even start unpacking where to stay in New York City.
With accommodation in New York City eating up the lion’s share of most travellers’ budgets, deciding where to stay may be your most important choice. Whatever kind of trip you’re planning, here’s the lowdown on the best areas to stay in the city, taken from the new edition of The Rough Guide to New York City.
Best for art and fashion: Meatpacking District
These days the Meatpacking District is the domain of late-night clubs, wine bars and fashion designers, where the boutiques of Diane Von Furstenberg, Tory Burch, Alexander Wang and friends line the cobblestone streets. Just to the north, Chelsea has been at the heart of New York City’s art scene since the 1990s, with hundreds of galleries slotted into warehouses beneath the High Line.
Style and value: Gansevoort Meatpacking NYC. Rooms in the heart of the fashionable scene, with access to one of the most stylish rooftop pools and bars in the city.
Impeccable cool: The Standard, High Line. The super-hip André Balazs hotel with fabulous views from floor-to-ceiling windows and the High Line running under it.
The High Line, New York © Shutterstock
Thinking of visiting New York? We can help! Try our tailor-made travel service and enjoy a fully personalised trip, planned just for you.
Best for daily New York life: Harlem
The most famous black community in America, Harlem has not been spared New York City’s rapid gentrification, but it remains a bastion of African-American culture, with a vibrant street life, fabulous West African and soul food restaurants, a dynamic local jazz scene and some of the prettiest streets in the city.
Best guesthouse: Soul Food (Mount Morris). Elegant 19th-century brownstone, just across from Marcus Garvey Park, with shared kitchen and freshly baked cakes every day.
Apartment stay: The Harlem Pearl. Small apartments with kitchenettes, in a lovely building, that dates from 1910, in the Sugar Hill neighbourhood.
A traditional brownstone in Mount Morris, Harlem © Shutterstock
Best for bar-hopping: Williamsburg (Brooklyn)
A once-gritty Brooklyn community, Williamsburg is now more famous for hipsters than gangsters, with Bedford Avenue at the heart of a rapidly expanding zone of coffee shops, boutiques and bars – everything from the taproom at the Brooklyn Brewery and venerable Pete’s Candy Store, to some of the city’s swankiest rooftop cocktail lounges and beer gardens.
Best pool scene: McCarren Hotel & Pool. Chic hotel featuring an outdoor pool with one of New York City’s liveliest party scenes in the summer.
© Ryan DeBerardinis/Shutterstock
Best for old-fashioned luxury: Upper East Side
The Upper East Side has been home to dynasties such as the Rockefellers, Whitneys and Astors since the 1890s. A world aptly portrayed in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Sex and the City and Gossip Girl, it still boasts the plushest hotels, the most elegant cafés and the swankiest shops.
Elegant and tasteful: The Sherry-Netherland. Absolute luxury since 1927. The ornate lobby is modelled after the Vatican Library and room service comes from the in-house Harry Cipriani restaurant.
A step back in time: The Surrey. This plush Relais & Châteaux hotel has hosted guests such as Bette Davis and JFK since 1926, sports its own modern art (including a Kate Moss portrait by Chuck Close), and contains the Coco Chanel-inspired Bar Pleiades.
© Jon Bilous/Shutterstock
Best for sightseeing: Midtown Manhattan
Midtown Manhattan is the most obvious area to stay in New York City, and it’s where most of the city’s accommodation is located – all within walking distance of key attractions such as Times Square, MoMA and Central Park. You’ll be sharing the sidewalk with plenty of other tourists but the proliferation of hotels means there are lots of bargains to be had (in New York terms, anyway).
Quirky, mid-budget gem: Pod 51. This hotel features top value “pods” (solo, double, bunk, queen and “double double”), each reminiscent of colourful ship's quarters.
Eco-luxe: 1 Hotel Central Park. The eco-friendly hotel chain with a three-storey living wall, reclaimed rustic-chic furniture, cardboard clothing hangers and everything organic.
© Songquan Deng/Shutterstock
Best for value for money: Long Island City
This up-and-coming neighbourhood in Queens lies just across the East River from Midtown Manhattan (effectively a short subway ride away). Long Island City itself boasts one of the city’s best flea markets, the highly rated MoMA PS1 gallery and Silvercup Studios.
Pick of the hostels: Q4 Hotel. Hip hostel with neat, clean dorms, small but stylish doubles, a shared kitchen and some of the cheapest rates in New York City.
Steampunk style: Paper Factory Hotel. Former radio manufacturer and paper factory with eclectic décor, original polished concrete floors and reclaimed materials giving it a retro vibe.
© View Apart/Shutterstock
Best for nightlife: Lower East Side
Historically the epitome of multiculturalism, the Lower East Side is today one of Manhattan’s most exciting neighbourhoods, with the city’s best vintage-clothing stores, restaurants and especially happening spots for drinking, dancing and live music.
Traditional meets modern: Blue Moon Hotel. Lower East Side tenement transformed into a luxurious boutique hotel, with rooms named after 1930s and 1940s starlets and decked out with period iron-frame beds and the odd antique.
Best boutique: The Ludlow. Chic boutique hotel with gorgeous terraces, black and cream silk rugs, white-marble tables and round brass chandeliers from Morocco.
© Sean Pavone/Shutterstock
This feature contains affiliate links; you can find out more about why we’ve partnered with booking.com here. All recommendations are editorially independent and taken from The Rough Guide to New York City.
Top image: Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn, including Brooklyn Bridge © Taiga / Shutterstock