Which Manhattan Neighbourhood is Right for You?

26 Jul 2016

Planning a trip to New York? In this post (which originally appeared on Travelzoo's US blog) our Stateside colleagues run you through the best neighbourhoods in the city.

If you ask most Manhattanites where tourists should spend their time, you’ll likely elicit a battle of the zip codes since, let’s face it, New Yorkers hold a deep-seated sense of pride for the area they call home. The fact is that New York City caters to a variety of tastes and each section has that special something (yes, even Times Square).

Our NYC-based Deal Experts have put together a list of their favorites, broken down by different neighbourhoods, and a guide on selecting the right area for you.

Upper West Side

One of the most family-friendly areas in the city and the focal neighborhood in “You’ve Got Mail,” the Upper West Side is stroller central. Central Park and Riverside Park border the neighbourhood so there is no shortage of walking paths; perfect for nature-lovers and those needing to stretch out or go for a quick jog. For a dose of culture, Lincoln Center of the Performing Arts and the Museum of Natural History are right there as well.

Every holiday allows for a little sugar high, and the Upper West Side’s Levain Bakery makes one of America’s best chocolate chip cookies according to Food & Wine Magazine.

Where to Stay?

Tribeca

If you're on the hunt for celebs, you just may cross paths with the likes of Robert De Niro or Leonardo DiCaprio, two of the many celebrities that take up residence in the city’s most expensive precinct.

Down cobblestone streets, you’ll stumble upon high-end shops, top-notch restaurants with prices to match, and rehabbed industrial lofts owned by the rich and famous. Dollar signs and desirability go hand in hand, and this neighborhood, albeit pricey, has everyone longing.

Where to Stay?

  • The newly renovated Sheraton fits in with the neighborhood’s stylish vibe. Also, the Dominique Ansel Bakery, which introduced the cronut to America, is a 10-minute walk away

Times Square, Midtown West

Despite all New Yorkers’ pleads to avoid Times Square at all costs, to be fair, if this is your first visit to the Big Apple, you have to tick off all of the tourist boxes. The best way to do that in a quick trip is to stay in the heart of the action. While strolling the main strip, make a pit-stop at the TKTS booth for discounted tickets to last-minute Broadway shows, and if you are craving Italian, Carmine’s is a favorite in the area and Becco’s offers one of the best pre-show dinner deals in town.

Where to Stay?

  • Hilton Times Square - in the absolute thick of it, on West 42nd Street along one of Times Square's most riotous and touristy blocks

Midtown East

Photo from Flickr by Eric Wüstenhagen

Home to Bryant Park, the Empire State Building and the iconic New York Public Library, this neighbourhood is quieter outside business hours and weekends, plus it is a convenient starting point with five subway lines at Grand Central. We especially love Grand Central’s food court — it includes NYC staples like Magnolia Bakery and Shake Shack — (but skip it during rush hour!), and the far more elegant Oyster Bar, which has been open since 1913.

Where to Stay?

Flatiron District

Photo from pisaphotography/Shutterstock.com

Marked by the iconic building of the same name, it’s steps from Madison Square Park (more Shake Shack!), Eataly, walking distance to Union Square, and just a block away from the south area of Fifth Avenue shopping, which is comparable to SoHo (but with FAR less crowds). This is a great spot for visitors who are looking for more of a local vibe near fantastic shopping (the more affordable kind – think J. Crew vs. Gucci).

Where to Stay?

  • The Flatiron Hotel - our boutique pick, just off Broadway and a block from Madison Square Park

Meatpacking District

Photo from stockelements/Shutterstock.com

Arguably the city’s most glamorous neighborhood; cobblestone streets line the short walk to great eats and shops at Chelsea Market. Plus, this puts you just north of the quaint West Village, where we love to wander and stumble into great little coffee shops. Be warned: at night it turns into club central; however, art lovers will be pleased to know the Whitney American Museum of Art recently relocated to this area and its renowned onsite restaurant serves up dishes as artistic as the masterpieces the museum houses. Reservations well in advance are recommended.

Where to Stay?

  • Dream Downtown - marvel at eye-popping decor including glass-bottomed pool cantilevered over the lobby

Chinatown

Photo from Flickr by Daniel X. O’Neil

Brace yourself as you turn the corner on Canal Street because you will feel as though you've entered a whole other world. Peddlers will bombard you with designer knockoffs, and it’s your perfect chance to test out your bargaining skills and score the cheapest goods in Manhattan. Strolling Mott and Grand Street you’ll walk past stalls of exotic fruits and fishes and more Chinese restaurants and bubble tea shops than you can count. You’ll find cuisine from all provinces in China, but if you are stumped on where to choose, seek out restaurants with long lines like at Joe’s Shanghai. They are experts at efficient seating, so you won’t be waiting too long to feast on award-winning dumplings.

Where to Stay?

Outside Manhattan: Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Photo from Flickr by LWYang

Cooler than cool, hipster central has Manhattanites flocking to live in the Burg, and real estate is now at a premium. The Williamsburg Music Hall lures in indie-rock fans, and the Brooklyn Bowl doubles as a popular concert venue. The Brooklyn Flea Market sells local crafts, and Smorgasburg features some out-of-this-world food trucks where you can nosh on ramen burgers, a must-try, and my personal favorite, the cemitas. To wash it all down, head to the Brooklyn Brewery for a sampling of beers by award-winning brewmasters, or  head to the Wythe Hotel for swanky rooftop cocktails. In a nutshell, Williamsburg has enough to offer to keep you from ever leaving the borough.

Where to Stay?

Upper East Side

Photo from Flickr by Drew XXX

On the opposite side of Central Park, you’ll cross into the Upper East Side, and similar to its counterpart on the West, this quieter section of the city is a favourite with families. Museum Mile claims a stretch of Fifth Avenue from 104th Street down to 82nd Street.

Along here you’ll find El Museo del Barrio, Cooper-Hewitt National Museum of Design, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the list goes on.  If you visit outside of winter, the Met has a rooftop garden with sprawling views of Central Park and Midtown.

Where to Stay?

  • The Bentley Hotel - swanky property boasting panoramic city views from rooftop bar and restaurant and a location near shops on Madison Ave

Chelsea

Photo from Flickr by David Berkowitz

If you have a penchant for art galleries, nightclubs and unique interpretations of parks, then Chelsea is the place for you. The High Line, an elevated park converted from an old rail track, is the star attraction in this section and a must-see on any visit to NYC.

Chelsea Market is a one-stop shop for an eclectic sampling of food, boutiques, and if you are lucky, a knockout sample sale in true NYC fashion. Despite the commercialised feel of this area, though, you’ll still find plenty of hidden gems.

Where to Stay?

  • Dream Downtown - where guests receive exclusive access to the hard-to-get-into PH-D nightclub and rooftop lounge

Lower East Side

From drab to fab, the Lower East Side is one of the city’s most dramatic transformations. The once shabby area is now home to some of New York’s most legendary eateries like Katz’s Delicatessen, indie boutiques, and enough bars to make LES the place to be on any given night. Tour the Tenement Museum followed by drinks and tapas at the swanky Stanton Social for a taste of both past and present.

Financial District

Located at the Southernmost tip of Manhattan, the Financial District is more than just an epicentre for Wall Street tycoons. It’s the entry point of the Brooklyn Bridge, the address of City Hall, and home to the World Trade Center Memorial. If your to-do list includes a visit to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, you are in the right spot since Statue Cruises picks up from the World Financial Center Ferry Terminal. No need to trek up to Central Park either. New York’s other famous park, The Battery, sits at the downtown tip of the island and overlooks New York Harbor.

Where to Stay?

SoHo

Photo from Flickr by Chris Ford

Most NYC visitors will flock to Fifth Avenue for high-end retail therapy, but I suggest you head south to downtown Broadway for a trendier shopping experience in SoHo, aptly named for it’s location South of Houston Street. Once New York’s manufacturing district, SoHo has since transformed into the city’s prime shopping section. Old warehouses have converted into cast-iron storefronts selling hip bargain garbs, top brand labels, chic home-decor, sample sale clothing, and so much more.

Where to Stay?

  • Soho Grand Hotel - for the ultimate chic New York experience, plus complimentary bike rentals

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