Can you believe over 1.5 million people live on an island that’s just about 22 square miles? Clearly, something’s going on there. Within those 22 square miles, you have over a dozen wildly unique neighborhoods and enough bars, restaurants, and art galleries to fill the entire country. Writers, artists, poets, and visitors flock to this epicenter because it’s packed with inspiration and history.
Aside from its stunning architecture, New York City boasts unbelievable geographical features. First of all, it’s situated on an island stacked with skyscrapers. One hop and a skip to the east and you’re at the beach. Another hop to the north and you’re cozying up to the mountains. It’s incredible. You can compare New York City to the Mona Lisa, featured prominently in the Louvre. Everyone wants to take a look and you’ll quickly find out why as we explore the best neighborhoods to stay in New York City.
Hell’s Kitchen is where you come when you’re ready to eat. We’re talking empanadas from Argentina, ramen from Japan, street food from Thailand, and bourekas from Israel.
To fuel your soul for the day, stop by Kashkaval Garden on 9th. This is a Mediterranean small plates restaurant nestled between brick walls and smooth candlelight. It’s quiet, but not necessarily a romantic’s haven. It’s more of a calm, cool oasis amidst the West Side hubbub. You’ll want to be adventurous here and select a bottle of wine you’ve never sampled before, order some skewer meats, and savor the Turkish flatbread.
Or, if you’re looking for the best ramen this side of the Pacific, head to Totto Ramen. Bring your patience with you because the lines are inevitable. Their menu is savory and mouthwatering but here’s the kicker. They only accept cash! Don’t make it all the way to the hostess stand only to find out you can’t pay for this delightful treat.
After you’ve sampled world-class cuisine, you’ll want to step up into the High Line - an old rail yard that’s been turned into a botanical oasis - and walk all the way down to Chelsea, whose nefarious delights are listed below.
Travelers Review: Awesome 9.2 (from 1,663 reviews)
Address: 414 West 46th Street, New York, NY 10036 (see map)
Price: from 296 USD
Travelers Review: Awesome 9.2 (from 326 reviews)
Tribeca, named for TRIangle BElow CAnal Street, enjoys the reputation as one of the safest corners in New York City. It borders on the Financial District and Soho - two of our stops below. It has some of the lowest crime rates, tons of access to mass transit, waterfront access, and streets lined with lovely loft-style apartments, in case you’re looking to stay a while.
Two of the highlights in this neck of the woods are Robert DeNiro’s Tribeca Grill, where you wouldn’t be hard-pressed to stumble upon a celebrity, and Nobu. Nobu is one of Manhattan’s top sushi spots and another celebrity favorite.
But, the best way to cap off your evening is with a stop at The Django Jazz Club, located within the Roxy Hotel. It’s a fantastic way to absorb old school New York City vibes, partake in a little people-watching, and listen to all the right jazz notes float through the charismatic New York City air.
Next to Tribeca, you have the Financial District. You won’t find much of a neighborhood vibe here, the way you might in Tribeca. But it, too, is rather safe and clean. It’s eerily quiet at night - after all the suits have retreated to their favorite wine bars and highrise apartments for the evening - but enormously bustling during daytime trading hours.
What’s great about the Financial District is that it butts up against Battery Park. After you’ve strolled down Wall Street and visited the Federal Reserve, Battery Park offers cool breezes and a refreshing stroll along one of the edges of this enigmatic island.
But here’s the most important element to this edge of the island. It’s where you’ll board a ferry to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, or Staten Island. What self-respecting selfie-taker wouldn’t want the Statue of Liberty in the background of their latest Insta story?
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Chelsea is an interesting spot. It’s nestled along the water so you can enjoy something out of the ordinary, like a kayak adventure off Chelsea Piers. When you hop back on land, you simply must explore the Chelsea Market. It’s ripe with stands upon stands of fresh food, from seafood to strawberry tart.
You’ll want to take your sugar high and head for any number of art galleries. Chelsea is the capital of the New York art scene, with over 200 galleries. You’ll find most of them centered between 20th and 28th Street. Some of the most notable names in that strip of land include the Gagosian Gallery on 24th and the Matthew Marks Gallery on 22nd.
While you’re here, you simply must check out Francisco’s. Their lobster is appropriately mouth-watering and the aroma from their savory sangria will lure you in for more. Be careful there, it’s secretly seductive. Expect robust crowds here. So, if that’s not your jam, try Elmo for something on the trendy side, offering a chic cocktail menu and delightful comfort foods.
What’s interesting, though, is that, for a neighborhood with such expensive real estate, Chelsea’s crime rate is slightly higher than other corners of Manhattan. So, just remember to be a savvy city slicker while dabbling in Chelsea’s gritty glamour. If you’re out late at night, skip the affordable subway ride and hop in and out of an Uber for door-to-door service.
If you came to New York ready to burn through your credit card, this is where you want to stay. SoHo features cobblestone streets and cast-iron buildings. These narrow, charismatic streets are lined with some of the finest bars and restaurants. It also features rows and rows of glossy boutiques and brand name shops. You can trust you’ll walk into your favorite lounge every evening loaded with shopping bags and beaming with delight.
Start with Grand Bar & Lounge at the SoHo Grand Hotel. Their martinis stream straight from the hands of the martini gods. Or, if you’re not donning your Gucci loafers and Louis Vuitton handbag that day, slip into a more casual affair at SoHo Park, an outdoor restaurant/garden with beer taps that never seem to sleep.
If you’re looking to rub elbows with a celebrity or two, see if you can get into The Mercer Kitchen one evening. Or, if food is your main purpose, you’ll love Balthazar for a French affair and Dos Caminos for the kind of chips and guac that’ll whisk you away to the shorelines of Mexico.
Located in lower Manhattan, Chinatown has been home to Chinese immigrants since the early 1870s. It’s truly a delight to see so many historic buildings trimmed in tiled roofs, harkening back to the country of their ancestors. Dragons all but roar through these streets. Speaking of architectural delights, don’t forget to dip into the enchanting Mahayana Buddhist Temple.
But, of course, we’re here to eat! You know you’re going to need some dim sum, a Chinese staple. Start with Ping’s Seafood on Mott Street. They’re renowned for their dim sum and the pleasant atmosphere will put you - and your belly - right at ease.
Two of the other top-rated restaurants include Oriental Garden on Elizabeth Street for Cantonese-style dishes and Green Bo on Bayard for Shanghai-style cuisine. On a final note, many of these restaurants are cash-only! So, keep a couple of bills in your wallet for this stretch of your New York City vacation.
While you’re here, you’ll start to wonder about the intoxicating scents breaking through the forcefield of noodles and ginger. That’s the beckoning of Little Italy. Feel free to continue your culinary journey to the land of chicken parmigiana, Chianti, espresso, and cannolis.
Soho Garden Hotel
Address: 276 Canal Street, New York, NY 10013
Price: from 516 USD
Travelers Review: Good 7.9 (from 50+ reviews)
Address: 91 East Broadway, New York, NY 10002
Price: from 240 USD
Travelers Review: Good 7.4 (from 50+ reviews)
After the energy of Soho sinks deep into your soul, you’ll want more. That’s when it’s time to pencil in the Lower East Side. This neighborhood also lays claim to some of the finest bars and restaurants under the New York City skyline.
With its waves of eccentricity, this neighborhood is quickly gentrifying, bringing in a delightful surge of eclectic souls. If you like to dance until your ankles cry, then this is your spot. The Lower East Side sways to the beat all night long. But, if you like to retreat to a quiet oasis when all is said and done, you might not want to stay the night here. Just come for the party. Then, at the end of the evening - or as the sun starts to rise - hop into a cab and sink into a luxury hotel in the quiet realm of, say, Midtown.
The Lower East Side is home to the Bowery Ballroom, where the most talented musicians in the world flock, Mercury Lounge, and Rockwood Music Hall - all viable options. When you’re done, slip into Rosario’s Pizza on Orchard for a late-night nibble. Conversely, if you find yourself back in this neighborhood on a Sunday morning, check out the Clinton Street Baking company for what will be one of your most memorable brunches.
In the picture above, you’ll notice the Tenement Museum. In the early 20th-century, the Lower East Side was one of the most densely-populated working-class settlements in Manhattan. You’ll learn so much about the rich history of this city throughout your tour there and go home with newfound appreciation for your tiny studio apartment or three bedroom abode.
Ah, yes, Greenwich Village. Entertainment options abound in Greenwich Village, or West Village, or simply “The” Village. In fact, let’s go ahead and call it. This may be the best neighborhood to stay in New York City. Manhattan is easy to master because it follows an intuitive grid pattern. But, The Village steps out of order. It actually takes on the feel of a small European city, intertwined with shops and independently-owned boutiques.
The buildings are shorter, diminishing some of the crowding from the skyscrapers, allowing little twinkles of sunlight to speckle the streets. Given its charm, the likes of Dylan Thomas, Bob Dylan, and Jack Kerouac once flocked this corner of the earth. It is, indeed, an artist’s haven.
You simply cannot leave New York without savoring a slice of pizza. And this is where you’ll want to make it happen. Slip into John’s Pizzeria on Bleecker Street while you’re here. Founded in 1929, you’ll have visions of this authentic New York-style pizza dance in your head for the rest of your stay.
Or, if you’re looking for a little romance, reserve a table at One if By Land, Two if By Sea. It’s a stunning, upscale, restaurant located on Barrow Street. Nestled inside a 1767 carriage house, you don’t get any more Prince Charming than this. But, to top it off anyway, it’s also considered one of the most romantic restaurants in a city flooded with charm.
Don’t stop there, though. There are two more must-haves. The first is a gallop through the Greenwich Village Literary Pub Crawl. You and your literary friends will explore literature and history in bars frequented by some of the greatest authors this world has ever known. The second is the Blue Note Jazz club where the likes of Ray Charles and Dizzy Gillespie intoxicated the air with their jazzy fumes.
Midtown is kind of what everyone envisions when they think of New York. You’ve got Fifth Avenue, lined with high-end luxury shops, including Tiffany’s and Cartier. You’ve got Madison Avenue with super high-end boutiques and luscious art galleries. You’ve got Rockefeller Center, the amazing Saks Fifth Avenue, the New York Public Library, and all your world-renowned museums, including the Museum of Modern Art.
You won’t even need to cab it if you stay here and explore for a day. You can stroll right into Central Park in the morning and dip into any number of restaurants for lunch and dinner. Come evening light, you can sip on a cocktail from a rooftop bar, including the lovely Library Hotel, listed below, and then slip into a remarkably quiet slumber, given your station in the beating heart of Manhattan.
Library Hotel by Library Hotel Collection
Address: 299 Madison Avenue
CCTV outside property Smoke alarms Library Fax/photocopying Internet services Use of cleaning chemicals that are effective against Coronavirus Lift Physical distancing in dining areas
The Upper West Side eventually leads into Hell’s Kitchen. It’s primarily a residential neighborhood, making it a safe space for visitors. On the other edge of its perimeter, the Upper West Side also bleeds into Central Park and the American Museum of Natural History.
But, the character in this neck of the woods is enough to make you put on your flats and simply stroll around one morning. It boasts some of the finest brownstones, showcasing quintessential New York City architecture.
Celebrities from our past and present love to call the Upper West Side home, from Humphrey Bogart to Michael C. Hall. When your feet start to give out, dip into the Shake Shack for a fast but high-quality burger or Carmine’s for some family-style Italian. Another great option is Shun Lee West, offering delightful, upscale Chinese cuisine.
Inspiration vibrates off the streets
There’s no denying New York City’s infectious delights. It’s why people from all across the globe swarm to this tiny little island, relatively speaking. Something about it magnetized the most engaging people way back in the 18th century and it hasn’t stopped evolving since.
As you dip in and out of art galleries and sway to the beat of the streets, know that every drop of energy will stay with you forever. Inspiration all but vibrates off these streets and it’ll do wonders for your soul.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour through the best neighborhood to stay in New York City. Let’s meet over some dim sum someday! Until we do, I wish you the safest of travels and the happiest of memories.
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