For anyone visiting New York City for the first time, trying to figure out the best place to stay can be incredibly confusing. This is a BIG city. There are so many different things to see and do in every corner of the city, trying to figure out the best place to base yourself can be enough to drive you mental.
As a general guide, to be in the midst of the action, look for somewhere to stay south of Central Park.This is pretty much where all of the action happens and where you will spend most of your time. The streets surrounding and north of Central Park tend to be more residential areas, with lots of apartment buildings and few attractions.
The good news is that there’s not really just one “best area” to stay in the lower half of New York. Every neighbourhood around the city offers unique restaurants, exciting attractions and iconic landmarks and destinations. No matter where you choose to stay, you’re sure to be close to something!
Plus, the subway system in New York allows you to easily get around the city, with regular trains connecting every corner of the city together. There’s always a subway station a couple of blocks away from you, and trips on the subway are very cheap!
To help you figure out where to stay in the city, we’ve popped together a bit of a guide with an outline of what you can expect to find in each area of the city and why you might choose to stay there.
In this post:
Location: From 42nd Street to 59th Street, East of 5th Avenue
Why stay in Midtown: Our favourite base, staying in Midtown places you within walking distance of heaps of the city’s top attractions, including Central Park and Times Square. This central location means that subway rides are generally quite short, taxi rides aren’t too expensive and there are always heaps of food options for late night eats.
Famous streets around Midtown: Madison Avenue & 5th Avenue for shopping, home to some of the world’s most expensive flagship stores.
Highlights in Midtown: Rockefeller Plaza, Top of the Rock, Radio City Music Hall, Grand Central Station, Museum of Modern Art, Central Park, Empire State Building, St Patrick’s Cathedral.
Can’t miss stores in Midtown: FAO Schwarz, The Shop at NBC Studios, Barneys, Tiffany’s 5th Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman.
Fun fact: Rockefeller Plaza is a highlight of the city, with the it’s annual Christmas Tree famous around the world for it’s height and millions of sparkly lights. If you visit NYC during winter this is where you can find the iconic ice-skating rink below the Christmas tree. If you visit during the summer time there is a lovely cocktail garden set up here, where you can grab a margarita in between shopping sprees.
Times Square/Theatre District
Location: Between 40th to 59th Streets, from 6th Avenue to 8th Avenue
Why stay around Times Square: Arguably the most popular destination for tourists, everyone wants to be near Times Square. With skyscrapers covered in advertisements, large multi-story shops and many many people dressed as movie characters in terrible costumes, Times Square is definitely worth the visit.
Can’t miss around Times Square: Times Square, Carnegie Hall, Bryant Park, National Geographic Encounter, HOPE Sculpture, Madame Tuassauds New York.
Shopping highlights in Times Sqaure: M&M World, Disney Store, Hershey’s Chocolate World, Line Friends New York.
Hot tip: Hotels in the Times Square area are often more expensive due to popularity and demand. It’s worth looking just a few streets either side of the Times Square District for better deals.
Must do in Times Square: For the ultimate Times Square experience make sure you catch a Broadway Show. The shows in the Theatre District are some of the best around the world, with incredible actors and actresses taking to the stage every night. Visit the TKTS booth in Times Square for discounted tickets to shows each night.
Location: 5th Avenue to Park Avenue, from 27th Street to the top of Union Square
Why stay here: A popular spot for local skate-boarders, artists, performers and protesters. There’s always something different going on in the Flatiron District. Whilst not as popular as areas such as Midtown and Times Square, the Flatiron Distract offers lots of amazing restaurants and even more shopping options.
Highlights in the Flatiron District: Flatiron Building, Union Square, Madison Square Park, Tiffany Street Clock,
Can’t miss around the Flatiron District: Head to Shake Shack in Madison Square Park for burgers that have been widely recommended around the globe.
SoHo & Greenwich Village
Location: SoHo is found south of Houston Street and north of Canal Street and Greenwich Village is west of 7th Avenue
Why stay here: Feel like a local and have a more authentic stay in NYC by choosing accommodation in Greenwich Village or around SoHo. With beautifully restored townhouses and curvy streets, this is often the home to many NYU students, both local and international.
Also known as ‘The Village’, you can’t go past the food options here – with everything from boutique restaurants, to gourmet markets and super specific cuisines, like a whole store full of cookie dough! A walking food tour is a great way to experience everything Greenwich Village and SoHo has to offer, as well as checking out the neighbourhoods historical sites.
SoHo is also a shopping mecca, with heaps of stores lining the main streets. It’s one of the our favourite areas in the city to walk around and shop, because the buildings are shorter here letting heaps more light into the streets, and the architecture above the shops is absolutely stunning. It’s hard to believe this area was once an abandoned factory district.
Highlights around SoHo and the Village: Bohemian feel, The Friends Apartment Building, Washington Square Park, Bleeker Street, Shopping in SoHo, The Puck Building – home to Grace Adler Designs in Will & Grace.
Can’t miss in SoHo: Are you a fan of cookie dough? There’s a whole store here dedicated to the sweet treat, where you can buy a cup of cookie dough the same way you would usually buy ice-cream! DŌ Cookie Dough Confections offers heaps of different dough flavours, and they even have some gluten free options!
Chinatown & Little Italy
Location: Grand Street to Chatham Square and from Broadway to Beyond Bowery
Why stay here: A great way to experience the variety of cultures that live in NYC. The best place to buy anything replica -from handbags to watches, there are hundreds of street vendors lining the streets here.
During the warmer months Mulberry Street, the main street in Little Italy, becomes a pedestrian mall, with cafes and restaurants placing tables and chairs outside for patrons to soak up the environment.
Highlights in Midtown: Eat your way through Little Italy and Chinatown for delicious meals with reasonable prices. Street food in this area is also a highlight, as well as small market stalls that line the streets.
TriBeCa & the Financial District
Location: The triangle below Canal Street
Why stay here: TriBeCa is more of a residential area, with shopping and dining replaced by expensive real estate and apartment buildings. Many celebrities own homes in this area for when they are in the city, so you can often find them walking in or out of local juice bars, pilates studios or cafes!
At the very bottom of Manhattan Island you can find the Financial District, which technically is part of the TriBeCa triangle. If you believe what the movies tell you, this is where the money is made in America, home to Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange.
Highlights in the TriBeCa area: Celebrity spotting, Wall Street, New York Stock Exchange, the gold Charging Bull, Bowling Green, One World Trade Centre, 9/11 Memorial Museum, Brooklyn Bridge, Battery Park, the Stattan Island Ferry.
Can’t miss in TriBeCa: Make sure you take the time to visit the 9/11 Memorial Gardens while you’re in the TriBeCa area. This garden is a tribute to everyone who lost their lives in the horrific terror attacks of 2001, with two giant pools in the place of the original two buildings. The new Old World Trade Centre looms tall over the memorial, a stark contrast from the flat area of the gardens.
Location: West 15th Street to Gansevoort Street and 11th Avenue
Why stay here: The city’s latest hot spot includes outrageously expensive boutique hotels, top club scene and dining area. Great area for hipster and model watching, there are all kinds of eclectic people visiting the Meatpacking District. An area unlike any other, the Meatpacking District is definitely the place to be at night, even though you might spend ages in line to get in.
Highlights in the Meatpacking District: The Highline, The Sugar Factory, Chelsea Market, cutting edge restaurants, infamous bars and nightclubs.
No matter where you decide to stay in NYC, you’re sure to have a fabulous time. It really is the city that never sleeps and no matter how many days you have to explore here, you’ll always find something new to see.
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