Where to stay in New York City for first time: 7 Safe areas

Finding where to stay in New York City as a first-time visitor can be overwhelming. That’s why, in today’s article, I will give you the list of what I believe are the best and safe areas to stay in New York City for first-timers and tourists (including a map + areas to avoid).

I’ll also share with you where I stayed in New York City, and recommend some of the best hotels in New York City for travelers of various budgets.

New York City, often abbreviated as NYC, is one of the most populous cities in the United States and is known for its iconic skyline, diverse culture, and vibrant lifestyle.

NYC is divided into five boroughs that includes Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and  The Bronx. Each borough has its own unique character and attractions.

The city is home to numerous iconic landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Central Park, Empire State Building, and Brooklyn Bridge. It’s also home to Wall Street, the United Nations headquarters, and numerous Fortune 500 companies.

The city boasts world-class museums, theaters, and galleries, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and Broadway, known for its theater productions.

NYC has an extensive public transportation system, including the subway, buses, and a vast network of taxis. It is served by JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark Liberty International Airport.

Is New York City safe to visit?

Yes, New York City is generally safe for visitors, with a strong police presence and reduced crime rates in recent years. Popular tourist areas, like Times Square and Central Park, are well-patrolled. 

However, like any major metropolis, it’s essential to exercise caution. Stay aware of your surroundings, avoid deserted areas at night, and keep belongings secure. Petty theft, like pickpocketing, can occur in crowded places. 

Also, the city’s diversity means that safety may vary by neighborhood. Stick to tourist areas and using common sense are the best precautions for a trouble-free visit.

Where to stay in New York City for the first time?

The best and safe areas to stay in New York City for first-timers and tourists are Midtown Manhattan, Upper East Side, Upper West Side, Greenwich Village, Lower East Side/Soho, Williamsburg, and Long Island City. While NYC is safe for the most part, it is essential to stay alert no matter where you stay.

Midtown Manhattan is the most popular area for first-time visitors to book accommodation. It is home the famous Times Square, the Theater District, and many major attractions. It’s bustling and well-patrolled, so it’s generally safe. However, be cautious of pickpockets in crowded areas.

The Upper East Side and Upper East Side are affluent neighborhoods with a reputation for being safe and family-friendly. It’s home to many museums, upscale shops, and Central Park.

Greenwich Village is a historic neighborhood and is generally safe, especially in the well-lit and busy areas. It’s known for its artsy and bohemian vibe.

Lower East Side/Soho have become trendy and safer over the years. Soho is a shopping and arts district, while the Lower East Side has a vibrant nightlife scene.

Williamsburg (Brooklyn) is considered safe and is popular among young professionals and artists. It has a vibrant food and nightlife scene.

Long Island City (Queens) is a great area to book a hotel if you travel on a budget. It is relatively safe and has seen significant development in recent years. It offers stunning views of Manhattan and is close to attractions like MoMA PS1.

There are a few areas to exercise caution or avoid, particularly for tourists and newcomers. Some parts of the Bronx, like South Bronx, may have higher crime rates. East New York and Brownsville in Brooklyn have had reputations for higher crime as well.

In Manhattan, Harlem has improved but still has pockets of higher crime. Certain parts of Queens, like Jamaica and Far Rockaway, may also have safety concerns.

During my trip to NYC, I stayed in Midtown Manhattan, at the Radio City Apartments. It is a very value for money hotel, centrally located within walking distance from major sights such as Time Square and Rockefeller center. It also offers easy access to subways, making it a great base to explore the city.

Below is a map of the popular areas in New York City for first-time travelers. You can scroll down to view the live map.

Map of the safe areas to stay in New York City first time
Map of the safe areas to stay in New York City first time

Let’s get into the details of the recommended areas to stay in New York City, especially for first-time visitors. I’ll provide you with some suggestions for the best places to stay in each area, catering to every budget. 

All hotels in New York City have been carefully selected by me, with guest review scores of at least 8.0 or higher at the time I chose them. If you don’t like my suggestions (perhaps they don’t suit your budget or preferences), you can click the “MORE HOTEL DEALS” button where you can choose your own hotel.

7 Safe areas to stay in New York City for first-timers and tourists:

1. Midtown Manhattan

Midtown Manhattan is one of the best areas to stay in NYC for first-timers and travelers who prioritize convenience, easy access to attractions, and don’t mind the hustle and bustle of a central location. 

Midtown is in the middle of Manhattan, making it easy to access many of NYC’s top attractions. Times Square, Central Park, the Theater District, and Fifth Avenue shopping are all nearby.

Midtown is home to famous landmarks like the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It’s also close to Broadway theaters, making it ideal for catching a show.

Midtown has great subway and bus connections, making it easy to explore other parts of the city. You can quickly reach downtown, uptown, or other boroughs.

You’ll find a wide range of dining options, from upscale restaurants to food carts. There’s something for every palate and budget.

Fifth Avenue offers high-end shopping, while Times Square has numerous stores. There’s also easy access to Madison Avenue and luxury shopping.

Consideration: Midtown can be extremely crowded, especially around major attractions and Times Square. If you prefer a quieter environment, it may not be the best choice. Also, be prepared to pay a premium for its prime location.

Best places to stay in Midtown Manhattan for first-time visitors:

  • Luxury ($$$): Hard Rock Hotel New York, great 5-star hotel, centrally located on West 48th Street, close to major attractions such as the Times Square, Central park, and Broadway.
  • Mid-range ($$): Riu Plaza Manhattan Times Square,  a very popular 4-star Fabulous hotel, located in Central New York, within easy distance from Times Square, Radio City Music Hall and Broadway Theatre. It has a 24-hour front desk and family rooms. 
  • Budget ($): Radio City Apartments, great 3-star good value for money accommodation, conveniently located in Midtown Manhattan, within a short walk from the Rockefeller Center and the 49th Street underground station.

2. Upper East Side

The Upper East Side of Manhattan is a great base for your first visit to New York City. It offers a more residential and upscale experience compared to Midtown. It provides a break from the city’s hustle and bustle.

The neighborhood is adjacent to Central Park, allowing for leisurely strolls, picnics, and outdoor activities. It also offers some of the city’s most upscale shopping, especially along Madison Avenue.

The Upper East Side is home to “Museum Mile,” including famous institutions like The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Museum of the City of New York. If you’re interested in art and culture, this is a great location.

Aside from museums, you’ll find cultural landmarks like the 92nd Street Y, known for lectures, concerts, and events.

The area boasts a variety of fine dining and upscale restaurants, making it a great choice for food enthusiasts.

Best places to stay in NYC in Upper East Side for first-timers:


3. Upper West Side

Like the Upper East Side, the Upper West Side is a safe, upscale, family-friendly, and residential neighborhood located close to Central Park. It’s a quieter and more relaxed area compared to Midtown.

The neighborhood is home to cultural institutions like the American Museum of Natural History and the New-York Historical Society. It’s also close to Lincoln Center, known for its performing arts venues.

In addition to Central Park, Riverside Park runs along the Hudson River on the western edge of the Upper West Side, providing beautiful views and recreational opportunities.

The area has good subway access and is well-connected to other parts of Manhattan and the city’s subway network.

Best places to stay in NYC in Upper West Side for first-timers:

  • Luxury ($$$): The Wallace Hotel, great 5-star good value for money hotel located on West 76th Street, Upper West Side, in a quiet location within easy walking distance to Central Park. It offers spacious comfortable rooms.
  • Mid-range ($$): Hotel Beacon, great 4-star hotel located on Broadway, Upper West Side, short distance from the famous Central Park, close to subway, easy access to all Manhattan attractions.
  • Budget ($): HI New York City Hostel, very popular backpacker hostel located on Amsterdam Avenue, a short walk from Broadway Street, Central Park, Riverside Park, and the 103rd Street Subway Station.

4. Greenwich Village

Greenwich Village is a great area to stay in NYC if you appreciate a creative, artsy, and eclectic atmosphere, and you want a local, authentic experience and a break from the typical tourist destinations. 

Greenwich Village is known for its artistic and bohemian history. The neighborhood features picturesque tree-lined streets, historic brownstones, and cobblestone streets in some areas, providing a charming and unique atmosphere.

Greenwich Village is home to iconic places like Washington Square Park, the Village Vanguard jazz club, and the Stonewall Inn, an important site in the LGBTQ+ rights movement.

You’ll find a wide range of dining options, including cozy cafes, restaurants, and bars. The neighborhood is known for its culinary diversity.

Greenwich Village offers unique boutiques and specialty shops, making it a great place for shopping for distinctive items.

The neighborhood comes alive at night with a vibrant nightlife scene, including live music venues, comedy clubs, and bars.

Greenwich Village is relatively centrally located, making it easy to access other parts of Manhattan and the city using public transportation.

Best places to stay in NYC in Greenwich Village for first-timers:

  • Mid-range ($$): The Marlton Hotel, 4-star boutique hotel located in the heart of Greenwich Village, offering a complimentary daily breakfast. It is a short walk from Washington Square Park, as well as subway stations, and New York University (NYU).
  • Mid-range ($$): Washington Square Hotel, 4-star hotel short walk from Washington Square Park, New York University, and the subway station.
  • Mid-range ($$): Walker Hotel Greenwich Village, 4-star hotel located in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, within walking distance from Union Square and the Union Square subway station.

5. Lower East Side & Soho

The Lower East Side or Soho are great locations for visitors who want to experience a vibrant, trendy, and artsy side of New York City. Both neighborhoods offer unique cultural and culinary experiences. 

The Lower East Side is known for its vibrant and hip atmosphere, with a mix of old and new New York. It boasts a lively nightlife scene with many nightclubs, bars, and live music venues. It’s especially popular with a younger crowd.

 Soho is known for its high-end shopping with designer boutiques, art galleries, and stylish shops lining its cobblestone streets.

Best places to stay in Lower East Side & Soho for first-timers:

  • Luxury ($$$): The Dominick Hotel, great 5-star hotel, located on Spring Street, SoHo, featuring free airport shuttle service, an outdoor swimming pool, and family rooms.
  • Mid-range ($$): citizenM New York Bowery, 4-star accommodation located on Bowery, Lower East Side, within walking distance from Bloomingdale’s, SoHo, Lower Manhattan, and Little Italy. 
  • Budget ($): Best Western Plus Soho Hotel, great 3-star hotel situated in Walker St, Chinatown, close to Soho and Lower East Side. Easy access National September 11 Memorial & Museum, Brooklyn Bridge and New York University.

6. Williamsburg/Brooklyn

Williamsburg is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a more local and authentic New York City experience. The neighborhood is known for its artistic and hipster culture. You’ll find street art, galleries, and a vibrant creative scene.

Williamsburg features unique boutiques and vintage shops, making it a great place for shopping for one-of-a-kind items.

Williamsburg is renowned for its dining and nightlife scenes. You can explore a wide range of restaurants, bars, breweries, and music venues.

The waterfront area offers stunning views of the Manhattan skyline and provides pleasant walks along the East River.

Williamsburg has a more laid-back atmosphere compared to the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. The Williamsburg Bridge provides a direct connection to Manhattan’s Lower East Side, making it easy to explore both boroughs.

Take a note that Williamsburg Bridge is not as centrally located as some Manhattan neighborhoods. Be prepared for a slightly longer commute to major tourist attractions.

Best places to stay in NYC in Williamsburg/Brooklyn for first-timers:

  • Luxury ($$$): The William Vale, 5-star hotel featuring a rooftop swimming pool, short distance from East River Ferry stop and the Bedford Avenue Subway Station (L Train).
  • Mid-range ($$): Penny Williamsburg, 4-star accommodation offers free bikes for guests, and 24-hour front desk. It’s close to the subway station, easy to explore both Williamsburg and Manhattan.
  • Budget ($): Pod Brooklyn, 3-star popular accommodation, short distance from Music Hall of Williamsburg, a subway station, and State of New York – East River State Park.

7. Long Island City/Queens

Long Island City (LIC), Queens, is an excellent area to book your accommodation if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, appreciate great views of the Manhattan skyline, and don’t mind a slightly longer commute to the city’s central attractions. 

It’s especially suitable for travelers who want a more relaxed and less crowded environment after a day of exploring the bustling city. LIC is ideal for those who appreciate art, scenic riverfront views, and a diverse dining scene.

LIC offers some of the best views of the Manhattan skyline. Many hotels have rooftop bars or rooms with spectacular views of the city.

LIC has good subway and bus connections to Manhattan and other parts of the city. You can quickly reach Midtown and downtown Manhattan.

You can enjoy outdoor activities and scenic views at parks like Gantry Plaza State Park along the East River. There are cultural sites like MoMA PS1, the SculptureCenter, and the Noguchi Museum, making it great for art enthusiasts.

Best places to stay in NYC in Long Island City/Queens for first-timers:

  • Budget ($): LIC Hotel, 3-star great value for money accommodation, only 20 mins subway ride from Central Park, only a few mins walk from a grocery store and subway station (Court Square).
  • Budget ($): Hyatt Place Long Island City, 3-star good value for money hotel located in the middle of Queens, close to subway station and Target, easy access to major attractions in Manhattan.
  • Budget ($): LIC Plaza Hotel, great 3-star good value for money hotel located in the center of Queens. It is within walking distance from 2 different metro stations, a short train ride away from the popular Midtown Manhattan.

In conclusion, Midtown Manhattan, Upper East Side, Upper West Side, Greenwich Village, Soho, Williamsburg, and Long Island City are the best and safe places to stay in New York City for first-timers and tourists. Safety can vary within areas, and it’s essential to exercise caution regardless of where you stay. 

You can continue reading these articles about NYC and USA:

There you have it, my recommendations for the most popular and safest neighborhoods that you can stay during your first trip to New York City. I hope you found my article helpful and enjoy your holiday!

If you have any questions or would like to share your thoughts, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. Your feedback is invaluable and helps me continue to create more quality content.

About Author: Ocean Cameron

I'm Ocean, founder and main editor of travelhotelexpert.com. I’m a passionate traveler who specializes in uncovering the best hotels and locations in every city, especially for first-timers, all without the need for a car.

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. This means that, at absolutely no additional cost to you, I'll earn a small commission if you click through and purchase something I've recommended. I only recommend products that I use myself or firmly believe in. Thank you!

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