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. It's crammed with iconic sights, too, 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.
Where to stay in the 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.
Best for 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.
Best for 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
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Where to stay in 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 for guesthouse vibes: Soul Food (Mount Morris)
Elegant 19th-century brownstone, just across from Marcus Garvey Park, with shared kitchen and freshly baked cakes every day.
Best for an 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
Where to stay in 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 for a trendy pool scene: McCarren Hotel & Pool
Chic hotel featuring an outdoor pool with one of New York City’s liveliest party scenes in the summer.
Williamsburg Bridge © Ryan DeBerardinis/Shutterstock
Where to stay in 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.
Best for tasteful elegance: 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.
Best for 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.
Upper East Side junction © Jon Bilous/Shutterstock
Where to stay in 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).
Best for a 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.
Best for 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.
Central Park in autumnal bloom © Songquan Deng/Shutterstock
Where to stay in 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.
Best hostel option: 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.
Best for 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.
Long Island © View Apart/Shutterstock
Where to stay in the 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.
Best for 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 for boutique charm: The Ludlow
Chic boutique hotel with gorgeous terraces, black and cream silk rugs, white-marble tables and round brass chandeliers from Morocco.
A store advertising its wares © 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 sunset © Shutterstock