New York might not even be the official capital of the USA (that honour goes to Washington D.C.), but the Big Apple has a fair claim to being the cultural and financial capital of the world. And that means more attractions, eateries and accommodation options than you can shake a stick at. Picking where to stay in New York will have a great impact on your trip - here’s where to start.
The Upper East Side is synonymous with luxury, where the beautiful people come to shop in trendy boutiques and sate their hunger in a clutch of elegant cafés. It edges Central Park - the city’s green lung - ripe for a picnic, and hosts Museum Mile for sightseeing. This stretch of 5th Ave is packed with museums and art galleries: there’s the Guggenheim , the MET , the Jewish Museum or the Neue Galerie to choose between to get your culture fix.
For first-timers, Midtown Manhattan is one of the best areas to stay in New York. You’re within easy walking distance of all the heavyweight sights - Times Square, Central Park, Broadway, the MoMA - and there are plenty of accommodation options to suit every kind of traveller. And while you can get to most places on foot, it’s super well connected by subway, too. Midtown makes a great place for any New York holiday.
A bit further from the main tourist drag, the Lower East Side is primarily residential, and is the best neighbourhood to stay in New York for those who have been a few times before and are no longer concerned with checking off the major attractions. Multicultural and diverse, the Lower East Side is achingly cool, with a plethora of thrift shops and buzzing restaurants, trendy bars and a stellar live-music scene.
Today there are few hints of the Meatpacking District’s past, where factories and slaughter houses once lined the streets, cheek by jowl. Instead, the area is hip, hopping and happening. Bars and clubs are where it's at in the Meatpacking District, a 24-hour neighbourhood where the throbbing nightlife is backed up by a fabulous line-up of super-cool restaurants and super-chic designers boutiques. The wider area of Greenwich Village, and Chelsea, just to the north, are arty areas with street musicians, jazz bars and comedy clubs.
A true bastion of African-American heritage, Harlem is a lively and diverse neighbourhood where West African and soul food restaurants and jazz clubs reign supreme. The street life is vibrant and the architecture - characterised by elegant, 19th-century brownstones - makes for some of New York’s prettiest streets.
If New York cool has indeed crossed the river from Manhattan to Brooklyn, Williamsburg is a great place to be. Once associated with grit and gangsters, it’s now laden with trendy wineries, glamorous boutiques and independent coffee shops. And though gentrification has come to Williamsburg, its arty (and hipster) credentials are still evidenced by the small galleries, live-music venues and artisan stores that remain.
Up and coming and cutting-edge, all glinting skyscrapers and new hangout haunts: Long Island City in Queens is one of the best places to stay in New York if you want to keep up with what’s hot. Home to a treasure-laden flea market, fresh-faced galleries and performance spaces, and clutches of ultra-cool bars and restaurants, Long Island City is a great neighbourhood to explore. MoMA PS1 is a must-see. The added bonus? It’s just a short subway ride from Midtown Manhattan, so you’ll not miss out on any of the action.