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?