Ah, New York. This land of bright lights and Broadway, of bagels and beeping taxis, has long inspired travelers to city breaks in the USA. Whether you come for a quick bout of shopping down 5th Avenue or a longer sojourn to explore the crevices of Midtown Manhattan and the beaches of Long Island, you’re sure to be wowed by the sheer scale and audacity of it all. Yep, this is where soaring skyscrapers mingle with gritty districts, where the Hudson Valley gives way to the gleaming green Statue of Liberty. Bucket-list sights are everywhere, and so are uplifting moments whizzing on the ice rinks of Central Park or gazing at the priceless works of MoMa. You’ll love it.
If all that’s stoked the wanderlust for a Big Apple outing this year, be sure to check out the offering over on Airbnb. The metropolis is home to a whopping number of individual apartments and home rentals, which range from jet-setter pads amid the skyscrapers of Midtown to cosy homes on the leafy outskirts. This guide has all the info you need to get started…
Although Airbnbs pepper all corners of NYC, there are actually some pretty strict laws governing short-term rentals in the Big Apple. Technically speaking, it’s illegal to rent out any property that’s in a multi-unit building for less than 30 days at a time. What’s more, local authorities have been getting tougher on hosts in recent years, and there’s been a noticeable drop in the number of places available via the platform. As a traveler, you might want to double-check that everything’s above board before you book. You can do that using the ‘contact host’ feature. Alternatively, consider choosing long-term stays (which often bring hefty discounts with them) or go for a private room that’s already part of an established hotel.
Where should I stay in New York Airbnb?
New York is one of the largest cities in the USA. Its heart is Midtown(1) Manhattan, where skyscrapers loom high and Times Square flashes with lights. Close to that come the subculture hub of Greenwich Village (2), the trendy retail and dining mecca of Chelsea(3), and the cultural mainstay of Tribeca(4). Across the East River in more lived-in Brooklyn is where you can find the upcoming hipster hoods of Greenpoint(5) and Williamsburg(6). To the north is the more intrepid Bronx (7), where tenements drop down to the pizza joints of Little Italy. For something totally different, you could also ride the ferries out to Staten Island(8) – a rare haven of green and relaxation in the confines of the Big Apple.
NYC’s most iconic attractions
World-class shopping on 5th Avenue
Home to MoMa – arguably the city’s best art gallery
Always, super, super busy
It’s a pricy place to be
Anchored on the legendary spire of the Empire State Building, Midtown is the Manhattan you’ve seen on the postcards. It’s shiny and steel-clad, covered in a forest of skyscrapers that pierce the clouds. Top-draw attractions like the Rockefeller Center (fantastic for an ice skate at Christmas) and the neon haze of Times Square (the place to be on New Year’s Eve) all reside within, along with the major transport hub of Grand Central Station and the shopping mecca of 5th Avenue. You certainly won’t get bored.
There was a time when Greenwich Village was the hipster hub of New York. It bred the beatnik movement of the 50s and the 60s, and saw poets and painters flock to its charming brownstone townhouses and smoky cafes. These days, there’s a distinct note of gentrification in the air, with modish clothes outlets and creative restaurants that serve fusion food in abundance. There’s still a taste of the old subculture to be had between the side streets, though, where jazz bars swing with music and underground pubs host slam poetry contests after dark.
Home to the Meatpacking District – for luxe shopping and eating
Gets very touristy
The curiously named Meatpacking District sums up the draws of the Chelsea neighbourhood. Formerly full of abattoirs, it’s now the stomping ground of independent ateliers and cool roaster cafés, all linked by the High Line (an old train track turned urban garden). Chelsea also sports New York’s characteristic redbrick architecture, which you’ll see on full display at the Chelsea Market – a place to shop for organic food sourced from Upstate and the Hudson Valley.
Greenpoint whisks you over the East River to gritty and down-to-earth Brooklyn. It’s known especially for its Polish expat and diaspora community, which means you’ll smell smoked cheese, blood sausage, and pierogi dumplings on all the corners. More recently, Greenpoint’s early 20th-century industrial depots have been converted into hipster complexes of art workshops and coffee houses. There’s now a buzzy nightlife scene that revolves around craft beer and live music, not to mention multicultural dining aplenty.
Williamsburg is a sea of street art, graffiti murals, and handsome redbrick tenements. Classic New York with a hipster edge, it’s considered one of the Big Apple’s most vibrant hoods – it seems like a new microbrewery or ethnic eatery pops up here every day! You can dine on everything from Swedish meatballs to Middle Eastern mezze, and enjoy the staple drinks of the famous Brooklyn Brewery. Later on, move to the cocktail joints (always staffed by capable mixologists) or hit the art-house cinemas with the locals.
Tribeca occupies a diamond-shaped corner of Lower Manhattan with its curiously historic cobblestone streets and brownstone buildings. You’ll be immersed in one of the most culturally rich districts of the Big Apple by picking an Airbnb here. The famous Tribeca Film Festival probably leads the charge, but you’ve also got oodles of independent bookshops and the exhibitions of Poets House (one for budding writers). Families might prefer the 18 holes of mini golf down on Pier 25 or the bustle of photogenic Canal Street as it leads the way to the cookhouses of Chinatown.
The Bronx is a whole borough of New York, stretching from the top of Manhattan to the start of the leafy Hudson Valley. Big, gritty and very down to earth, it’s not the safest part of town but does offer a unique glimpse of lived-in NYC. The best area to look to for Airbnbs is South Bronx, which is fast becoming something of a hipster hub. That’s also where you’ll find the hallowed ground of the Yankee Stadium. Further north can bring you to Little Italy, a touristy enclave that’s got the finest pasta and pizza in the metropolis.
There aren’t many places in New York to escape the humdrum of city life, but Staten Island does its best. The southernmost of the five boroughs, it fragments off Manhattan into the Lower Bay, unfolding with huge green spaces, waterside gardens, and cultural attractions. Urbanites flock here in the fall to see the changing of the colours around Latourette Park and Silver Lake. Others aim for the botanic displays and oriental enclosures of Snug Harbor. Mainstay draws also include the Staten Island Zoo (perfect for families) and the Staten Island Ferry (there are unrivalled views of the Statue of Liberty on that!).
You get that bona fide New Yorker vibe in this hip Brooklyn apartment. Set in a compact loft in the midst of multicultural Greenpoint, it’s all exposed-brick walls and flat-pack mattress beds. Speedy WiFi, a flat-screen TV, and polished real-wood flooring add to the mix. What’s more, the 30-night minimum stay comes with a weekly cleaning service at no extra charge.
Small but oozing authentic Queens character, this little cottage on the eastern side of the East River promises to be a convenient pad for any sort of break to NYC. You can access the sights and sounds of Manhattan via the Astoria Subway connection in under 40 minutes, but also get to enjoy the homey neighbourhood feel away from the skyscrapers. Guests get a separate bedroom, a small lounge with flat-screen TV, and an island kitchen to boot.
Situated in a luxury complex in the happening Upper East Side of Manhattan, this sumptuous pad has plenty of square metreage to host the whole family. A few Subway stops and you can emerge into the bright lights at the heart of the Big Apple. Or, you could just chill in the flat to make the most of the clean and breezy bedrooms and that gorgeous kitchen-dining area.
Ditch the hustle and bustle of Midtown Manhattan and choose the salt-washed shores of New York’s urban beaches instead, all by opting for this 14-bed house just a stone’s throw from the sands and waves of Rockaway. It’s got a total of four bedrooms and a large outdoor deck, backed up by a big garden that’s loaded with al fresco sofas, a BBQ, and even a fire pit.
Almost certainly. New York hotels are up there with the most expensive in the world, particularly the ones dotting the vibrant blocks around Midtown, the Upper East Side, and Lower Manhattan. In some cases, you’re looking at paying hundreds of dollars per night! Airbnb rentals are usually less than that, but also reduce the cost of NYC holidays by offering self-catering facilities and multiple bedrooms, so you can cook for yourself and share the total price between your whole travel crew.
That said, the Big Apple’s hotels are also known for their luxury and service. You simply won’t get the same level of pampering and personalised care in an Airbnb. Take an establishment like Arlo SoHo. It’s smack bang in the heart of the city, has chic rooms with metro tiles and floor-to-ceiling windows, along with frills like an on-site lobby bar and a rooftop terrace.
Few cities in the world can match the pizzazz and character of New York. Stretching across the mouths of the Hudson and East rivers, this is a vast metropolis of cloud-smashing skyscrapers and buzzy districts, world-famous parks and shopping to rival anywhere on the globe. Talk about an urban adventure!