One thing about deciding where to stay in a new city

One thing about deciding where to stay in a new city

Whenever people visit New York City, I always ask where they’re staying–and whenever the answer is Midtown or Times Square, I always cringe on the inside. Sure, there are tons of hotels and a bunch of the main “touristy” spots in the city (Grand Central Terminal, New York Public Library, Empire State Building, etc.). But there’s no character! No one lives in Midtown! There are a ton of chain lunch places but barely any cute coffee shops! Nothing is open on the weekend!

On paper, staying in the “center of the city” seems to make sense. But I almost always prefer staying away from the main tourist attractions in a more laid-back and culturally diverse neighborhood. You get all of the good coffee shops, dive bars, quirky cafes, gardens where people are walking their dogs and a heck of a lot more locals. I’d almost always rather stay in a neighborhood like that and just spend one day exploring in the heart of all the touristy stuff. And to be honest, taking public transportation or just navigating around the city is usually an experience in itself!

In New York City, I recommend looking at SoHo, Williamsburg or TriBeCa: all have plenty of hotels, shopping and transportation options but are also places where people actually live. In Paris, I always stay in the Marais. In Melbourne, Fitzroy or St Kilda are both way more vibrant and interesting than the CBD. And if I went back to Montreal, I’d definitely want to stay in Mile End.

Whenever I’m traveling to a new city now, I always try to do some research around up-and-coming neighborhoods or to find a few really cool restaurants and bars, and then see what the reviews are like on the AirBnbs in the neighborhoods they’re located in.

How do you decide where to stay in a new city? What do you look for?


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  • Caroline Eubanks

    In New York I always stay in Hell’s Kitchen, mostly for when I worked at Javits trade shows. But I also stayed at a hotel in the Meatpacking/Chelsea area. Both were easy to get around and felt more like where people live.

  • In New Delhi, I always stay in JW Marriot. It is a great place stay and very affordable as compared to the services the hotel provides. Thanks for sharing your experience with us. Keep sharing.

  • camorose

    Yes! Chelsea is great, I love that neighborhood–still super close to all the touristy things, but a ton more cafes and restaurants and more local vibe.

  • New Denizen

    Although I definitely agree with staying in places where people live when you’re first visiting a city, I will say this: After living in NYC for basically all of my adult life, then moving a little over a year ago to Denver, I’ve been back to NY several times for work, staying in midtown in the dreaded Times Square area.

    Although I would have rather have DIED than spend any more time than necessary in that area when I lived in NYC, I’m actually finding the charm, convenience, and touristy-ness of the neighborhood a kinda fun, different side of New York that I didn’t really understand, and which I fully embrace now that I’m returning as a “tourist” of sorts.

    I would actually say for people who have been long-time natives of a city or town, actually staying in the “touristy” part of the city can actually be a learning experience (and sorta fun) for you if you ever return.

  • camorose

    Oh I don’t mind that perspective! Worth keeping in mind!

  • Maddie Harden

    If you ever come down to Baltimore — Fells Point, Canton, or even Mount Vernon are great not-touristy neighborhoods! I assume most tourists stay in Inner Harbor or Downtown, which is full of chains, but still great to go and spend a day exploring the area at least.

    I stayed in Midtown NYC last time I visited on a layover from Iceland, and for quick visits I like being in the middle of everything, so you can quickly knock everything off your list with a limited amount of time.

  • camorose

    I would love to make it to Baltimore sometime so I’ll keep that in mind! 🙂

  • Grace B

    I highly recommend the American Visionary Arts Museum in Bmore!

  • camorose

    Ohhh I gotta make it there!