It’s not hard to find a good time in New York, but it can be a challenge finding a good hotel. With so many options crammed into a boggling array of hot neighbourhoods, how do you know what’s worth the famously sky-high prices? The good news: it is possible to bag a (relatively) reasonable rate, without sacrificing on the Big Apple’s signature cool.
Choosing somewhere with independent flair helps you find the vibe that matches what you want out of your trip, whether that’s partying on the Lower East Side, living the high life on the Upper East Side (which will cost you), or going full hipster in Williamsburg.
While tourists tend to be drawn into the thick of Midtown mania, there are more interesting districts for getting a feel for Manhattan – and don’t discount the other boroughs. Brooklyn is arguably NYC’s hottest hood these days, while affordable Queens is a compelling mix of old-school locals and new-school cool.
Best for party people: PUBLIC
Neighbourhood: Lower East Side
The neon “disco” escalators ought to be your first clue this is an Ian Schrager enterprise; the second is the pervading party atmosphere, because what else would you expect from the legendary co-founder of Studio 54? With a prime location in the midst of the scrappy-and-happening Lower East Side, with Soho and the East Village right next door, the scene at PUBLIC is enough that we wouldn’t blame you for staying inside. A lamp-lit, ivy-strung courtyard is the setting for seasonal plates by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, while the sexy rooftop bar has daybeds and 360-degree views. Rooms are small, but impeccably designed, with huge windows serving up skyline views.
Rooms from $255 (£210)
Best for exploring modern Manhattan: The High Line Hotel
There’s a pleasingly old-school feel about this hotel, set in a Gothic-style, 19th-century seminary: think antique rugs, decorative fireplaces, vintage furniture and rotary-dial phones. The neighbourhood, though, is anything but. Two of New York’s most popular attractions are right on the doorstep: the wildly successful High Line – an elevated, pedestrian-only park set on a disused railway track – and Hudson Yards, home to the Escher-esque, 150ft Vessel (a sculpture and staircase in one). Not to be outdone, the hotel has its finger on the pulse, too: the cocktail garden, Ingo’s, was among the first in the city to mix a “Frozen Negroni”, now a summer staple.
Rooms from $239
Best for an urban sanctuary: 1 Hotel Central Park
A Park King room, complete with window seat, at 1 Hotel Central Park (1 Hotel Central Park)
An oasis in the thick of Manhattan’s busiest neighbourhood, this is a “best of both worlds” option, close to the flashy theatres of Times Square, Fifth Avenue’s bougie department stores and the calm of Central Park’s placid lakes and picnic lawns. A “living”, ivy-covered exterior, and rooms featuring lots of salvaged barn wood and hanging plants, instil a sense of zen – try snagging a room with a window seat overlooking the park. The nature theme continues through to the restaurant, where acclaimed chef Jonathan Waxman – credited with bringing California’s farm-to-table ethos to the Big Apple – plates bright, fresh, seasonal flavours, in an airy space of exposed brick and reclaimed oak.
Rooms from $289
Best for old-money swank: The Lowell
Neighbourhood: Upper East Side
The marble bathtub in The Lowell’s penthouse (The Lowell)
Join the Manhattan elite on the Upper East Side, where this privately owned boutique hotel channels Park Avenue pomp. We’re talking Persian rugs, original fireplaces, afternoon tea in the salon, and sinking into a velvet banquette for a stiff nightcap at the bar. Some suites have private, landscaped terraces with Central Park views, and you can expect in-room treats like Dean & DeLuca gourmet goodies, marble baths, and cashmere throws. From the high life (Hermès next door), to the high-minded (Museum Mile a little further up Fifth), this is all about classic elegance – right down to the personalised service (you’ve got to love a porter who brings macarons to the room).
Rooms from $700
Best for beginner’s Brooklyn: Wythe Hotel
Located in the heart of Williamsburg, Wythe Hotel is well located for exploring this hip neighbourhood (Wythe Hotel)
The epitome of Williamsburg cool, this former factory offers enough original brick, pine beams and concrete floors to make even the most hirsute hipster blush. Views from the rooms’ oversized, iron-framed factory windows are outstanding – sweeping over Williamsburg’s industrial waterfront to the Empire State Building – and, if you’re feeling extra flush, you can stay in your own ridiculously cool, duplex loft. There’s a rooftop bar and farm-to-table restaurant (natch), but given you’re staying in the heart of Brooklyn’s most hoppin’ neighbourhood, missing out on the vintage markets, elevated fried chicken restaurants and arcade bars outside would be a mistake.
Rooms from $212
Best for cheap but chic: The Paper Factory
Neighbourhood: Long Island City
Need convincing Queens is a thing? Look no further than this 100-year-old former paper factory, now an artsy, design-led hotel. Exposed pipes and “Instagrammable moments” (see the soaring pillar of books in the lobby) give off decidedly Brooklyn vibes, but this borough-on-the-up has its own charms, and offers more affordable rates to boot. While you’re only across the river from Midtown Manhattan – and have the skyline views to prove it – Long Island City itself is full of great cocktail bars, creative restaurants (mmm, brisket ramen) and museums. Neighbouring Astoria is also a top spot, particularly for a swim at Astoria Park pool, in the shadow of Robert F Kennedy Bridge.
Rooms from $179
Best for the epicurious: The New York EDITION
Feast on Michelin-starred food at The Clocktower (Nikolas Koenig)
Set within the striking Metropolitan Life Clock Tower, right by Madison Square Park, this 273-room boutique is all sleek-and-sexy sophistication. And just as seductive as its silk rugs and lasciviously curvy staircase are the views: upper floors ogle the Empire State Building, while the slender Flatiron is just two blocks west. The hotel is particularly tasty, however, for gourmand guests. Its restaurant, The Clocktower, is the work of British chef Jason Atherton (of Pollen Street Social), who won a Michelin star for its upscale takes on American classics (hello, slow-cooked ox cheek mac and cheese). Directly next door, former world’s best restaurant Eleven Madison Park dishes up a triple-Michelin-starred 10 courses. Wear something with an elasticated waist.
Rooms from $595
Best for design nerds: The Beekman
Neighbourhood: Financial District
The Beekman is also home to an extensive art collection (The Beekman)
One of New York’s first-ever highrises, 5 Beekman Street’s red-brick, turreted grandeur was left tragically derelict for decades. That is, until the Thompson Hotel Group swooped in, and polished up some mercifully preserved original features: the central, nine-level atrium, with cast-iron railings leading up to a pyramidal skylight, is a jaw-dropper. (Happily, you can gawp up at it with a signature cocktail in the sumptuous bar.) There’s something cinematic about The Beekman’s meticulously arranged interiors, as though you’ve stepped into a glamorous Gothic fairy tale. If you can drag yourself away, the redeveloped World Trade Centre and 9/11 Museum are a five-minute walk, as is the pedestrian path over Brooklyn Bridge.
Rooms from $499
Best for feeling like an insider: Gramercy Park Hotel
Neighbourhood: Gramercy Park
Staying at this extravagant boutique – all red velvet and heavy drapes – gives you an insider experience that even most real-deal New Yorkers can’t claim. Across the street, pretty Gramercy Park is Manhattan’s only private park: exasperating for those who can’t slip inside the locked gates, but thrilling for hotel guests, who are provided with a key. Back inside, the over-the-top aesthetics belong to artist and filmmaker Julian Schnabel, with the odd Warhol and Hirst thrown in for good measure. And then there’s Maialino, by renowned NYC restaurateur Danny Meyer (get the suckling pig), and Rose Bar, routinely filled with Big Apple socialites and celebs.
Rooms from $349
Best for a hipster pool party: The William Vale
When the city heats up, cool down in The William Vale’s rooftop pool (The William Vale)
Williamsburg isn’t just warehouses-turned-galleries and beardy blokes on bikes. Now the ’burg is basically a byword for “happening”, a more glamorous side to Brooklyn’s best neighbourhood is emerging, epitomised by The William Vale. In a new-build glass tower, all 183 rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows with knockout views across the East River. Better still, everyone gets an open-air balcony, big enough for pulling up a seat and watching the sunset spread over Manhattan. The pièce de résistance, though? Its 60ft outdoor pool, surrounded by luxe loungers and cabanas. Add in Frette sheets, a popular rooftop bar, burgers served from a vintage Airstream and, just a block away, the famed Brooklyn Bowl, and this just might be NYC’s best address.
Rooms from $235