Where to stay: New York City

As you may remember, we spent a week in New York back in October, so I thought it was about time that I shared with you my ideas on where to stay. It’s hardly original to call New York one of the greatest cities in the world, yet with its infectious energy, diverse neighbourhoods and iconic sights it’s hard to beat, and unsurprisingly it’s a very popular honeymoon choice – either on its own, or combined with another destination.

Hotels are ridiculously expensive in New York – at most times of year, you’ll struggle to get a decent (ie not a flea pit) hotel room for under £100. If you’re travelling in off-season (generally Jan & Feb, but with other brief windows during the year) then you’ll have a lot more luck with finding reasonably priced accommodation, and should be able to find a good deal; at other times of year, be prepared to shell out a fair amount, even for the most basic place.

New York is a fantastic place to self-cater, and I would whole-heartedly recommend doing this – we had a fantastic apartment in the Lower East Side for around £100 a night, which was far nicer, and offered us far more space, than any similarly priced hotel. However, from 1 May 2011, it will be illegal for people to sublet or rent out their apartments for less than thirty days, which isn’t great news for visitors. Whether or not people will still be renting out remains to be seen (I expect they will be and that it will just be a little more underground), so it’s not worth writing off entirely – sites worth using include HomeAway Holiday-RentalsVRBO and AirBnB, though I’d recommend booking an apartment that has a few reviews behind it, just to make sure it’s all legit.

New York is made up of a number of distinctive neighbourhoods, but no matter where you stay you’ll find it easy to explore, both on foot and by subway. If it’s your first visit to the city then I’d recommend staying in Manhattan, but if you’ve been before then perhaps consider staying out in Brooklyn or Williamsburg for a different experience. Here’s a breakdown of where to stay based on a number of areas in the city, though it’s by no means extensive – I’ve just stuck to Manhattan for the time being. All the prices quoted are the cheapest rates available, so be prepared for prices to be considerably higher if you’re travelling outside of low season.

Lower East Side and the East Village

Bordering Chinatown, Little Italy, Soho and the East Village, the Lower East Side is an eclectic mix of old tenement buildings, thrift stores, cool bars and restaurants and has a definite shabby chic. It’s one of the most up-and-coming areas of Manhattan, and though it’s fairly far down on the island, it’s still well placed for exploring the city – we walked everywhere from our apartment: Greenwich Village, the Financial District, Central Park, Brooklyn….  It’s a great neighbourhood that still feels very “local” rather than touristy, though you’re right around the corner from the famous Katz’s Deli (see photo below), and it’s especially vibrant at night. Just north of the LES, the East Village is crammed full with coffee shops and independent stores, and is a great place to spend the evening with lots of good restaurants and bars.

Where to stay: For amazing views of the city, you really can’t beat Hotel on Rivington (see a picture of the view here), with rooms from £140 a night. If you’d rather be closer to Soho’s shopping, check out the stylish 60 Thompson, with its fantastic rooftop bar (from £134 a night). In the East Village, head for the very cool and quirky Bowery Hotel (from £206 a night). If you’d rather save your pennies for food and sights, then check out the cute East Village Bed & Coffee (from £85 a night) – it might not be the most stylish place in town, but it gets glowing reviews – just be sure to book as far in advance as possible as it is very popular.

Greenwich Village

Though it’s sometimes hard to escape other tourists in Greenwich Village, there’s a reason that visitors keep flocking here – an interesting mix of designer and independent shops, some of the city’s great jazz clubs, intimate restaurants and those gorgeous brownstone apartments for a start. And like any good neighbourhood, it’s not too hard to find a less touristy area, a bar that’s full of local accents rather than fellow Brits, or a reprieve in Washington Square Park (which is full of people playing music on a Sunday afternoon; see photo below) – this is picture-perfect New York, and it’s hard not to wander around and imagine upping sticks to live there.

Where to stay: If money was no object, then the Greenwich Hotel (from £317 a night) would be top of my list of places to stay, owned by none other than Robert de Niro. It’s seriously gorgeous and romantic, and also has one of the city’s most celebrated Italian restaurants, Locanda Verde.

Chelsea and the Meatpacking District

I stayed in Chelsea on my previous trip to the city in 2009, and even though only eighteen months had passed between then and our most recent trip, so much had changed. Chelsea is just a stone’s throw from Greenwich Village, moments from Union Square and the rest of Midtown, and yet it has a quiet, residential feel about it – I loved exploring the quieter streets and having breakfast in the sweet local cafes. The main reason to come here is for the Highline – a disused, elevated railway line that has been converted into a wonderful park that cuts through the back of the foodie heaven that is Chelsea Market, down to the designer shops of the Meatpacking District.

Where to stay: Make the most of the Highline by staying right over it at super-cool The Standard NY, which looks out onto the Hudson River for that real “we’re in New York” feeling (from £189 a night). For something a little bit quirkier, check out The Jane, in the Meatpacking District, with its distinctive seafaring theme and cosy “Captain’s Cabins” (from £142 a night).

Midtown

Midtown does exactly what it says on the tin – it’s in the middle of town. Though not the most distinctive or interesting area of New York, it’s chock-full of sights – from the Empire State Building and Radio City to Grand Central Station and the Chrysler Building. It’s a great position from which to explore the city of foot, and if you’re want to be close to the bright lights of Times Square then this is the area to stay – though personally I find Times Square a bit too touristy to stay too close to it.

Where to stay: Rivalling the Greenwich Hotel for my wanderlust affections is the Library Hotel, situated in a beautiful historic building. In keeping with its name, each floor is dedicated to a category of the Dewey Decimal System, and books can be found throughout the hotel, even in the bedrooms (from £142 a night). For something a little more youthful, check out the rather retro Ace Hotel (from £112 a night), close to the iconic Flatiron Building.

Upper East Side

If you’re a Woody Allen or a Gossip Girl fan, chances are the Upper East Side feels like something to aspire to. For me, the highlight of the area is undoubtedly Central Park – it’s even more impressive (in size and landscape) than you expect, and a great place to lose a few hours when the sun’s out. It’s also ideal if you fancy hitting high-end designer shops (or just Tiffany’s), and of course perfect for many of the city’s museums and galleries, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim.

Where to stay: For a bit of Upper East Side glamour and sophistication, head to The Surrey, where some of the sumptuous rooms boast private terraces (from £285 a night).

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