Your First Time in New York? Best Area to Stay

Nadia Podrabinek Nadia Podrabinek

Written by Nadia Podrabinek

Nadia in New York Backpack

New York City, often referred to as the Big Apple, is a metropolis of endless adventure. At the same time, the choice of accommodation can significantly impact your NYC experience. 

For a first-timer, finding the perfect place to stay can be a daunting task given the city’s size and high prices. 

Here are my tips and insights on choosing where to stay during your first visit to this iconic city in 2024, along with a dive into the vibes of its five famous boroughs.

Key Takeaways 

  • When visiting New York, stay in Manhattan or nearby areas like Long Island City, DUMBO, Downtown Brooklyn, Brooklyn Heights, or Williamsburg for proximity to the city center. While Park Slope and Astoria are pleasant, they are farther from the heart of the city. Avoid staying in New Jersey as it’s not New York.
  • Hotels are pretty expensive in New York. Deal with it
  • Some cheap places to stay in NY: Carlton Arms Hotel, Pod Hotel in Brooklyn, Chelsea International Hostel, Wyndham Garden, Marriott in Long Island City.
  • Book your stay far in advance! At least 1-2 months prior to visit.
  • You can save a lot of money by staying near a subway station and not necessarily in the heart of Manhattan.
  • Airbnb is illegal in the city for stays under 30 days unless the owner is staying with you.
  • Never stay at Times Square; it’s better to be a few subway stops away.
  • You will not spend a lot of time in a hotel room, don’t overpay for the views.

What people say on Reddit

The nightlife scene (for young people anyway) is in the Greenwich Village/East Village/Lower East Side. Roughly, 7th Ave to Ave C, 14th street to Grand St. The hotels in that area tend to be the smaller, more expensive boutique hotels.


Time square is overpriced, over hyped and crowded. That is why you shouldn’t stay there. Instead visit it once and never go back, ever.

The villages they are referring to are the West Village, East Village or Greenwich Village. However there aren’t many big hotels there. If you want to stay there plan on staying in an small hotel or an airbnb. But honestly as a tourist you would be fine in Hell’s Kitchen, if you want a bigger chain hotel. There are lots of bars around there and it is close to all the tourist attractions. Another one to look at is SoHo.


I’d say Times Square is not the best place to stay, unless you really plan to see a lot of shows. Otherwise, you’ll tire of fighting the crowds all the time.

You can really stay at any hotel that is close to the subway. Obviously, a good view is going to cost you.

At that time of year, you should be able to get something decent for that price.


My family and I just got back from NYC yesterday. We stayed at the Dream Hotel Mid-Town. It was a nice hotel. It is two blocks from Central Park, next to a subway stop we took down the The Battery where we went to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. It’s also a block away from Times Square. Moreover there are a few parking garages within a block. We would stay there again.


What are the famous boroughs of New York City?

New York is made up of five boroughs. 

  1. Manhattan: Think of it as the chic heart of the city, where all the big stuff happens. It’s home to Times Square, Central Park, and Wall Street. 
  2. Brooklyn: This is Manhattan’s cool, artsy cousin. It’s got colorful neighborhoods like Williamsburg and DUMBO, plus plenty of hipster hangouts.
  3. Queens: The melting pot of NYC! You’ll find people from all over the world. Don’t miss Flushing Meadows-Corona Park or the delicious international food.
  4. The Bronx is famous for two things: Yankee Stadium and the birth of hip-hop. It’s a mix of city life and green space. 
  5. Staten Island: It’s the quiet sibling, a bit like the suburbs. But it’s got the excellent Staten Island Ferry with epic views and green spaces for outdoor fun.

My First Stay in NYC

Nadia in New York

I was well prepared for my first week trip to New York having read many travel forums. Obviously, I wanted to stay close to Times Square, but as it turned out, it is not the best place to stay unless you plan on seeing a lot of shows. Otherwise, you will get tired of fighting the crowds.

As for the areas and hotels, you can follow my recommendations in the “Key takeaways” section above, or stay at any hotel that is close to a subway station. 

For my first trip I chose the strategic location, a boutique Dream Midtown Hotel in the heart of New York City on West 55th Street near several subway stops.

As for me, it was a nice enough hotel with a pleasant welcome. There was an atmosphere of fun and parties on the roof. In the evening, you can go to the disco, and because of this, the lobby was crowded with visitors to the terrace, who go up by elevators. The hotel has everything you need for your guests. 

My room was clean, with a comfortable bed and bathroom. Breakfast was included in the price. I paid about $300 per night for the room. Considering the hotel’s convenient location, it was worth it. 

Best Areas for First Time Visitors in NYC 

Midtown Manhattan

Midtown Manhattan is like a sandwich filling between the tony Upper East Side and Upper West Side neighborhoods; it looks like the icing on the cake! It stretches from Central Park’s tip to Manhattan’s southern tip. 

Times Square: The brightest and shiniest center of New York, with its New Year’s Ball.  And then there’s Broadway – a place where people sing from the bottom of their hearts and don’t care about anything.

Central Park: If you want to be in an oasis of relaxation in the hustle and bustle of Big City life. 

Quite close to Central Park, you will find the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It houses 1.5 million works of art spanning 5,000 years of world culture.

You can see all of New York from the top of Rockefeller Center.

The Empire State Building is a skyscraper so high that it feels like you are in outer space. 

And there is an unusual Grand Central Terminal, and someone calls it a time machine.

Pros and cons of staying in Midtown Manhattan

The advantages of living in the center of Manhattan are undeniable. 

There is easy access to transportation, the presence of the subway, and the famous attractions that are all nearby. There are many museums, theaters, and galleries on every corner. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes for every taste, as well as cuisines from all over the world.

But at the same time, there are many disadvantages to living in the center of the city of Manhattan. 

The noise does not stop around the clock; imagine yourself at a rock concert at night. 

Crowds of tourists and passengers can cut you off if you suddenly decide to stop on the sidewalk. And then, of course, there are the sky-high prices for rentals and goods. 

Helpful tip Herald Square, around Bryant Park, along 5th Avenue, Grand Central Terminal, in the 50s Avenues, etc., are options to stay instead of Times Square. It’s a not-long subway ride to Times Square and easy to get to other parts, too.  

Recommended hotels in Midtown Manhattan

If you are willing to spend some money, stay at the St. Regis Hotel. It is royally luxurious. But you will pay for almost everything, with a hotel room from $1,150 to $15,000 per night. 

Another leader in the price category is the Ritz-Carlton Hotel overlooking Central Park with rooms from $1,400 to $6,400 per night. 

Among the mid-level hotels, I would recommend Andaz 5th Ave for the great location, with prices starting at $600 per night.

The New York Palace Hotel also has an excellent location and view. Rooms start at $800.

Other notable options would be Conrad Midtown, Thompson Central Park Hotel (renovated recently), Refinery Hotel with a beautiful indoor rooftop, Peninsula Hotel New York, and the Bryant Park Hotel.

As for cheap accommodations in the area, look for hostel stays at

Also, the Arlo Nomad Hotel is shockingly cheap (under $200 for sure) and has a cute, well-designed room short walk to Penn Station. It’s slightly on a side street but pleasantly quiet at night.

Recommended restaurants in Midtown Manhattan

East Village

The East Village is perhaps the most bizarre, eclectic, and challenging part of Manhattan, known for its artistic atmosphere, rich in history and culture, and located east of 14th Street. As you explore it, be prepared for surprises! 

St. Mark’s Place is the most hippy street in New York full of surprises – shops, restaurants where you can feel the punk rock atmosphere.

Astor Place is a one-block street which is famous for a giant cube and a magnificent theater. 

Tompkins Square Park is nothing but a green oasis for picnics and people-watching. 

The Strand Bookstore is a simple book lover’s paradise with miles of shelves to get lost in. 

Also, there are many restaurants and eateries in the area where you can enjoy a variety of cuisines, from ramen (Chinese and later Japanese noodles in a soupy broth) to traditional American dishes. 

Pros and cons of staying in East Village, Manhattan

If you love a creative and bohemian atmosphere, this is the place for you! Staying here is like attending an endless art show. This is a place where you can taste culinary delights from all over the world and immerse yourself in the nightlife. 

But there are also some drawbacks: Weekends and sometimes weekdays can be a bit noisy, rents are too high, and it is hard to save up for an apartment. Although it is a village, there is not much green in the park. 

Recommended hotels in East Village, Manhattan

The luxury options would be the Standard, East Village and the Bowery Hotel. Room rates range from $500 to $600 per night.

Mid-budget options are Hyatt Union Square Hotel, the East Village Hotel,

and Hotel Indigo Lower East Side, with prices starting $350 per night. 

For budget stays, I would recommend the Gatsby Hotel and HI NY City Hostel.

SoHo (South of Houston st.)

Soho is a historic and trendy neighborhood in Manhattan where you can find a lot of pretentious architecture in cast-iron buildings and a creative atmosphere. Housing in this area is insanely priced, and today, a loft in SoHo is being sold for millions of dollars. 

Main attractions, sights, shopping malls, etc.

With intricate cast-iron architecture, you will feel like you are in a historical movie. Here, you will also find an abundance of diverse and creative galleries, which is ideal for those who love history and culture. 

If you are into fashion, local high-end stores offer the highest quality goods and clothing. Check out this one and this

On Prince Street, you can walk along the cobblestones and feel the charm and historic atmosphere. Check out the famous pizzeria with extravagant square pizza.

Learn about the history of firefighting at the New York Fire Department Museum

Visit the Center for Contemporary Drawing and Visual Arts.

Pros and cons of staying in SoHo


  • Galleries and a creative atmosphere amidst historic cast-iron buildings that delight the eye every day will surround you.
  • You can enjoy shopping in luxury boutiques and stylish shops.
  • Central location, close to other parts of the city and the Hudson River


  • The area is expensive to stay in. 
  • Tourists flock the streets, especially on weekends, and you won’t be able to walk alone. 
  • There is not much greenery here. 

Recommended hotels in SoHo

Brooklyn Heights

Brooklyn Heights is a charming, postcard-perfect historic neighborhood in the New York borough of Brooklyn. You will be immersed in the atmosphere of cozy old buildings, brownstone mansions, and breathtaking views of Manhattan. 

First, take a stroll along the Brooklyn Embankment. You’ll have a breathtaking view of the Manhattan skyline.

The famous Brooklyn Bridge connects Brooklyn Heights to Lower Manhattan. 

For history buffs, the Center of Brooklyn History is a great place to learn about the area’s rich history and culture and the Brooklyn Museum with its diverse collections.

Additionally, you will find various cozy shops on Montague Street:

Check out Williamsburg, a trendy neighborhood in Brooklyn that attracts the modern young people for its chic stores, trendy cafes, and busy restaurants.

Pros and cons of staying in Brooklyn Heights


  • The charm of antiquity
  • The panoramic view of Manhattan!
  • It is a historic downtown
  • Excellent transportation options


  • The area is not cheap at all
  • Yes, there is a park here, but it is still not as green as other parts of Brooklyn
  • This place acts as a tourist magnet, especially on weekends near the waterfront. It seems that all New York tourists want to see these magnificent views.

Recommended hotels

  • 1 Brooklyn Bridge Hotel (luxury)
  • Wagner at the Battery Hotel (magnificent view of the harbor)
  • Hotel Tillari (mid-budget)
  • Red Lion Inn and Suites Brooklyn (budget)


Queens is one of the coolest neighborhoods in New York because it is incredibly diverse, and there are lots of eateries, too!

Is staying in Queens a good idea for a first time visit to New York City? 

Yes, if you are on a budget. Just stay closer to Court Square as it gives you access to multiple train lines and will make traveling to Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn much easier.

Eating out in Queens, NY

Queens is a treasure trove for food lovers! Here are some of the best food places there:

  1. Nick’s Pizza in Forest Hills. They’re a local favorite. 
  2. Rego Bagels 
  3. Sai (Japanese)
  4. Black Sea Fish & Grill (Mediterranean)
  5. Oceanic Boil (Cajun seafood)
  6. IL Triangolo (Italian)
  7. Mojo (Latin)
  8. Eddie’s Sweet Shop
  9. The Lemon Ice King of Corona (Italian ice-cream)

Pros and cons of staying in Queens


  • You will find people and food from all over the world.
  • Museums for lovers of art, history, and science are all here.
  • You can go to the Mets game and all the sporting events and sunbathe and enjoy the ocean beach of Rockaway.
  • East Asian and South Asian food are cheap and plentiful.


  • Getting to Manhattan may take a little longer.
  • During rush hours, some areas are busy with traffic.
  • Even though prices are generally reasonable, some areas still can be expensive.

Recommended hotels

Safe Places to Stay in New York City

  • Forest Hills, Queens is a peaceful area with beautiful gardens
  • Battery Park City, with views of the waterfront and the 9/11 Memorial
  • Upper East Side, where you can explore the Museum Mile with 8 museums and immerse yourself in the relaxation of Central Park.
  • Staten Island, where you can explore green spaces and take a scenic ferry ride

Cheapest Places to Stay in NYC

I still struggle to comprehend how expensive New York City is! There are no hotels in the city below $200 per night!

That being said, saving up for accommodation is a bit complicated. However, I prepared a list of some budget stays where you can get more value for your money.

Tips for Booking Hotels in NYC

  • Getting a nice hotel in NYC is a big deal. You’ll be tired from traveling plus doing a lot of walking.
  • Look at a variety of apps: Kayak, Expedia, etc. to see where you get the best deal. They typically have refundable options that are fairly standard. There are a lot of perfectly fine, but not great hotels – they can be clean and fine, but usually will have some sort of headache like street noise.
  • Also, you can save a few bucks by using the SpotHero parking app and looking at garages in the area of your hotel. They likely will be significantly cheaper than parking at the hotel if you don’t have a ton of luggage.
  • I recommend starting early because New York is an active tourist destination, so lodging may not be available on short notice. 
  • Calculate your budget and add 20 percent for contingencies such as tips, local taxes, and fees.
  • Think about saving time and transportation costs by choosing apartments near subway stations.
  • Sometimes, hotels offer low rates for specific dates, so be flexible with dates. Prices can vary widely depending on the day of the week.
  • Look for discounts and special offers on the hotel’s website or, more often, on travel websites.
  • Sometimes, booking through third-party sites can be cheaper; for example, Genius gives a 10 percent discount to loyal customers and sends various promo codes for specific dates. And in some cases, it may be cheaper to book on the hotel’s website. Compare prices! 
  • Read the cancellation policy because plans can change, and there is no sense in losing money. 
  • You can contact the hotel directly and get detailed information by email or phone.
  • Consider an airport transfer to save time and reduce stress upon arrival.
  • Think about where you will have breakfast; choose a hotel with a quality breakfast; this is important.
  • In New York State, I wouldn’t recommend booking through Airbnb because New York State law prohibits renting an apartment for less than 30 days when the tenant is not present. Apartment sharing is only legal if a homeowner (or tenant) also lives in the unit with guests.
  • Don’t forget about travel insurance to protect your trip in case of cancellation or delay.

Other Helpful NY Tips

  • Avoid being right next to anywhere really busy – major roads, especially any junction because the taxis will HONK HONK HONK 18 hours a day, etc.  NYC is so loud that even a “soundproof” window will let you hear the sirens, horns, etc.
  • Your hotel room will likely be very small and have no view. Even on the 20th or 30th floor, you may only be able to see across the street to taller buildings. But you won’t be hanging out there so no problem.
  • The district closest to the Statue of Liberty is the Financial District in Lower Manhattan. A free way to experience the Statue of Liberty is to take the Staten Island Ferry! You can ride the ferry out from and then back to South Station in Lower Manhattan and get incredible views of the Manhattan skyline, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty.
  • Don’t be afraid to use the subway, the main form of transportation in New York. It’s often faster than taxis and always cheaper than a taxi. New Yorkers use the subway at all hours of the night and use apps like Google Maps and Citymapper.

First time in NY FAQ 

Which area of New York is best to stay?

The center of Manhattan, especially around Times Square, is the best place for first-time visitors. It is close to many major attractions, shops, and restaurants.

Is it better to stay in Midtown or Downtown New York?

Everyone has their own preferences, so the choice is yours. Midtown suits for first-time visitors who want to be close to Times Square, Central Park, shops, restaurants, and theaters. Downtown offers a more relaxed atmosphere and is closer to attractions such as the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, and the 9/11 Memorial.

What is the most central location to stay in New York City?

Midtown Manhattan is the most central place to stay, but Herald Square is also considered instead of Times Square.

Where to stay in NYC on a budget?

Consider areas like Harlem, Queens, or some areas of Brooklyn if you are looking for affordable housing.

How many days do you need in New York for the first time?

Five days is plenty of time for a first trip to New York. You can take your time and visit the main attractions and museums at your leisure.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Become smarter traveler in just 5 minutes!