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Ten years ago, people would still raise an eyebrows when you told them you were staying in Brooklyn on a trip to New York, but oh how things have changed! These days, it is almost cooler to stay in Brooklyn and NOT in Manhattan, and more and more people are seeking a more authentic New York experience that goes beyond the Midtown hotels that visitors usually stay in during their first visit to New York.
The thing with staying in Brooklyn is: this borough is massive! When you take a closer look at the map of Brooklyn, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, because there are so many neighborhoods (over 60!), and so many different places to stay.
While some people opt to stay in Brooklyn for the ‘cool factor’, others want to stay in Brooklyn simply because it’s cheaper than staying in Manhattan. If you are familiar with Manhattan hotel prices, you know what I’m talking about. More and more hotels have been opening in Brooklyn over the past few years, especially around the Brooklyn Bridge / Downtown Brooklyn area, as well as in the trendy Williamsburg neighborhood. The Williamsburg hotels are great if you’re looking for a splurge (check out some of my favorite hotels below) and want to base yourself in the most “happening” part of Brooklyn.
Your budget is definitely something that plays a crucial role when deciding where to stay in Brooklyn. If you’re more of a frugal traveler, you’ll be happy to hear that Airbnb’s are still very affordable in Brooklyn – especially if you consider staying in a room instead of a full apartment (if you don’t have an Airbnb account yet, use my referral code to sign up and get up to $40 off your first booking). I am sharing some of the best neighborhoods to rent an Airbnb in Brooklyn below.
Remember that Brooklyn is larger than most of the major cities in the U.S. and Europe – larger than Barcelona, Boston, Dublin or Washington, D.C. Also remember that there are 70+ neighborhoods in Brooklyn, which means that even traveling within Brooklyn can easily take around one hour – and getting to Manhattan and the New York City’s other boroughs can even take longer. It’s important to know the layout of New York City when booking an Airbnb or hotel in Brooklyn to avoid getting frustrated with long commutes.
Where to stay in Brooklyn
The Airbnb map gives you a better idea of the layout of New York City, and also shows you how large Brooklyn is. My recommendation would be to stay as close to Manhattan as possible, especially if you are looking to spend a considerable amount of your time outside of Brooklyn. The further south you go in Brooklyn, the cheaper it gets, but that’s because the commute to Manhattan gets notably longer. You have to decide what’s more important to you: convenience and less time spent on public transportation / in Ubers, or a cheap place to stay.
The closest Brooklyn neighborhoods to Manhattan are:
- Brooklyn Heights
- Downtown Brooklyn
These neighborhoods also have the best public transportation access to Manhattan, i.e. a direct subway connection (except Greenpoint).
Note: Neighborhoods south of Prospect Park and east of Prospect Park are quite far from Manhattan. Many Airbnb hosts boast in their description “20 mins from Manhattan” (by subway) but in reality that usually means just across the East River. To give you a few examples:
This is a neighborhood you’ll definitely come across if you look for an Airbnb in Brooklyn, because Bed-Stuy, as the locals call it, is one of the neighborhoods in Brooklyn with the most Airbnb’s. They’re usually around the Utica Ave subway station (on the A / C lines).
- Utica Ave to Fulton Street (first stop in Manhattan on the A Express Train): 15 mins
- Utica Ave to Central Park: 40 mins
- Utica Ave to Times Square: 35 mins
Bushwick is another neighborhood with lots of Airbnb’s, and while you’re quickly in Midtown with the M or L train, you’ll have to change trains in Manhattan to get to places of interest:
- Myrtle-Wyckoff to Delancey Street (first stop in Manhattan on the M train): 15 mins
- Myrtle-Wyckoff to 1 Ave (first stop in Manhattan on the L train): 20 mins
- Myrtle-Wyckoff to Central Park: 40 mins
- Myrtle-Wyckoff to Times Square: 35 mins
Flatbush / Kensington
A neighborhood south of Prospect Park, which has many inexpensive Airbnb’s. Here are the travel times to Manhattan:
- Beverly Road to Fulton Street (first stop in Manhattan on the 2 / 5 Trains): 30 mins
- Beverly Road to Canal Street (first stop in Manhattan on the Q Train): 25 mins
- Beverly Road to Times Square (on the 2 train): 45 mins
- Beverly Road to Central Park (on the 2 train): 55 mins
These are just a few examples to show you the actual travel times to some of the places of interest you may want to visit in Manhattan. Before booking an Airbnb in Brooklyn, I would recommend doing the following things:
Tips for booking an Airbnb in Brooklyn
1 Get in touch with the host and ask what the closest subway station is. Then use GoogleMaps to map out some of the routes you know for sure you’ll be taking. For example, if you want to see a Broadway show, how long will the ride back to your Airbnb be? Are you planning to visit Harlem or the Upper West Side, or places in other boroughs such as Queens or the Bronx? Map out how long the commute will be. Once you know how long these rides will be, decide if (possibly) long commutes are worth the cheap accommodation. I had visitors tell me that they wished they’d booked something closer to Manhattan because it was usually too far to go back to their place in between activities.
2 Read the reviews of previous guests. Guests usually mention in their review how long the commute to major sights is, and they will also mention other issues – if there were any. Airbnb’s in Brooklyn can be hit or miss. Unfortunately, there are quite a few not-so-great Airbnb’s listed, which is why it’s important to read recent reviews.
3 Research the neighborhood your Airbnb is in. Just a quick search on GoogleMaps to see if there are good restaurants nearby, a coffee shop, a supermarket.. that will give you an idea of what’s around your Airbnb. Bed-Stuy and Flatbush for example are huge neighborhoods – you want to make sure you have a few things nearby so that you don’t have to get on the subway or take an Uber every time you want to go out to eat or to shop at a grocery store.
Where to stay in Brooklyn: The best areas for Airbnb’s in Brooklyn
Williamsburg: This is the most popular neighborhood in Brooklyn, a young crowd, lots of restaurants, bars and nightlife in walking distance. You’re also just one stop away from Manhattan on the L (subway). There is a big WholeFoods supermarket on Bedford Ave, the main commercial street of the neighborhood, if you’d like to make some of your meals in your Airbnb, but there are also plenty of good restaurants and coffee shops nearby.
Greenpoint: Greenpoint is just north of Williamsburg, a charming neighborhood with a plethora of restaurants and cafes, beautiful architecture and a tranquil vibe. The only thing that’s not great about Greenpoint is the fact that there’s no direct connection to Manhattan. You have to take the G (subway) either south to Williamsburg and connect to the L, or north to Queens and connect to the E / M / 7 trains to get to Manhattan.
Park Slope: A beautiful historic district close to Prospect Park, popular with families. This neighborhood has many great places to eat and drink along the two main commercial drags, 5th Ave and 7th Ave. There are supermarkets nearby, and you have several subway connections to Manhattan: the 2/ 3 from Grand Army Plaza, the G / F from 7 Ave and 4 Ave, the R from Union Street.
Bushwick: A quirky neighborhood with lots of street art and a large artist community, but also home to a large Hispanic community. There are excellent places to eat, cool bars and some places to go out in Bushwick. This neighborhood is popular with a younger crowd and alternative travelers. It takes about 30 mins to get to places of interest in Manhattan, and there are two subway lines, the L and M (and the J / Z lines in South Bushwick).
Clinton Hill & Fort Greene: There are some great Airbnb’s in these two historic neighborhoods, where you find gorgeous Brownstone architecture and historic homes. There aren’t as many restaurants and bars as in Williamsburg, but still a decent number of very good eateries nearby. If you’re Airbnb is in Clinton Hill, you’ll be close to the G line (subway), which connects to the A train in Downtown Brooklyn to get you to Manhattan. If you’re staying in Fort Greene, you will be close to Atlantic Terminal, where lots of different subway lines go to Manhattan (the 2, 3, 4, 5, N, R, Q, B, D) as well as a direct train to JFK Airport (the LIRR).
Where to stay in Brooklyn: Airbnb vs Hotel
Airbnb’s are definitely cheaper than hotels in Brooklyn, especially if you’re only renting a room in somebody’s apartment – you can find rooms for as little as $50 a night.
With hotels, it’s similar to Airbnb’s: the closer to Manhattan, the more you’ll be paying for your stay.
The best hotels to stay at in Brooklyn
Downtown Brooklyn is the neighborhood in Brooklyn that has the most chain hotels, like:
- Holiday Inn (rates start at US$105)
- Even (rates start at US$100)
- Sheraton (rates start at US$112)
- Hilton Brooklyn (rates start at US$141)
- Aloft (rates start at $229)
Downtown Brooklyn is also close to a large number of subway lines and it is close to Manhattan.
The best (read: fanciest!) hotel in this part of Brooklyn is the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge (rooms start at $249 per night), which has an exquisite rooftop pool and stunning views right over the Brooklyn Bridge and the Downtown Manhattan skyline.
Budget Boutique Hotel in Brooklyn
A cheaper option in Downtown Brooklyn is the NU Hotel (rates start at US$164), as of now the only boutique hotel in that area. The NU Hotel has a great artsy vibe and features street art from local artists in the room.
Hotels in Williamsburg, Brooklyn: the trendiest area of Brooklyn
Most people who visit Brooklyn want to stay in Williamsburg, which is known as Brooklyn’s hipster neighborhood. Because of its popularity, many boutique hotels have opened in Williamsburg over the last few years, and if you love boutique hotels as much as I do, you’ll want to treat yourself to a stay at one of these five hotels – they’re all in a great location near the East River, just one stop on the subway or the ferry from Manhattan, and surrounded by dozens of fantastic bars, restaurants, cafes and shops.
- The William Vale (rooms start at $249)
- The Hoxton Hotel (rooms start at $199)
- The Williamsburg Hotel (rooms start at $200)
- The Indigo Williamsburg (rooms start at $129)
- The Wythe Hotel (rooms start at $200)
- Le Jolie (rooms start at $149)
Budget option in Williamsburg: The Pod
The Pod Brooklyn is located right in the heart of Williamsburg and Queen Pods start at only US$85! (Note that rates fluctuate drastically, depending on what season you’re visiting New York).
High-quality budget hotels in Brooklyn
Most of these hotels are a bit further away from Manhattan, but offer great value for money. Before booking any of them, I recommend putting the address into GoogleMaps and get directions to a place you’re planning to visit in Manhattan, so that you’ll get an idea of what your commute will be. For someone who plans on seeing a Broadway show, the 45-minute commute to the RL Hotel in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood might be too much of a hassle.
Here are the best Brooklyn budget hotels that are further away from Manhattan but that offer great value for money: