New York budget hotels: The best places to stay on the cheap in the Big Apple

Cathy Adams, Juliana Shallcross, Laura Chubb
The Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge at Moxy Times Square: Warren Jagger
The Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge at Moxy Times Square: Warren Jagger

Long ago, staying in a cheap hotel in New York City conjured up images of a filthy room in a questionable neighbourhood, with a surly receptionist and only the bare necessities consisting of a bed, dresser, toilet and TV, none of which necessarily worked properly.

Today, the city’s most affordable hotels are the most stylish and tech-savvy spots in town, thanks to an influx of design-forward brands that encourage guests to hang out in lobbies with carefully curated lounge scenes or on rooftops amid sweeping city views.

This might mean the rooms are on the smaller side, but what they lack in size they make up for in artful decor, fun amenities and great technology.

Of course, a “budget” hotel room in the Big Apple still costs about $150 a night, depending on the season, but you can score further discounts by booking directly through a hotel’s website or by becoming a member of their loyalty programme.

Additionally, several hotels offer discounts with their advanced pre-pay rates. Be aware that these rates are non-refundable, however, so be certain you’ll make your stay or risk losing out.

The Independent's hotel reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and book, but we never allow this to affect our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

Best for food and drink: Moxy Times Square

Neighbourhood: Midtown

A Corner King Room at Moxy Times Square (Moxy Times Square)
A Corner King Room at Moxy Times Square (Moxy Times Square)

Moxy sits on the ever-busy 7th Avenue at 36th Street, along the border of the Fashion District and Times Square, but it’s eschewed the usual modern Gotham look favoured by nearby hotels for a natural, organic and playful one. Under a soaring lobby atrium, guests can either check-in at a dedicated kiosk or can access a mobile room key through the Marriott app instead. The guest rooms (more than 600 of them) are tiny – the biggest one is a studio suite at 350sq ft – but they’ve been designed by fancy firm Yabu Pushelberg, a design team who have worked on several luxury hotels in NYC, and kept the decor style a tad rustic with neutral colours. Amenities include daily housekeeping, fast wifi, plush bedding, a 43in flat-screen TV, and walk-in rain showers. At night, guests can while away the hours at Bar Moxy on the second floor, indulge in a proper meal at Legasea, a seafood brasserie from the Tao Group, and watch the sun go down at the Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge, the largest all-season hotel rooftop bar and lounge in the city. And, for the morning after, guests can shake off their hangover at Egghead, an all-day breakfast spot at the hotel. JS

Rates from $176
moxy-hotels.marriott.com/nyc/timessquare

Check Availability
Check Availability

Best for city views: citizenM Times Square

Neighbourhood: Hell’s Kitchen

Enjoy panoramic city views from citizenM's rooftop lounge and bar (Adrian Gaut/citizenM)
Enjoy panoramic city views from citizenM's rooftop lounge and bar (Adrian Gaut/citizenM)

CitizenM proudly sniffs its nose at the old hotel clichés, giving guests a thoroughly modern hotel experience where in-room tech is more important than white-glove service and where lobbies are meant for hanging out and relaxing in, rather than just checking-in guests and storing luggage. The rooms are miniscule, no bigger than 200sq ft, but they come with extra-large beds, fluffy pillows and wall-to-wall windows. Fear not: those windows are triple-glazed and the walls are soundproofed too. Guests can control their own mood lighting and stream their own content to the TV. Downstairs, the lobby includes towering bookshelves, interesting artwork and plenty of seating. The canteen in the lobby serves a proper breakfast buffet with barista-made coffee, but it’s also open 24-7 for snacks, drinks and light bites. Up on the roof, there’s cloudbar – a panoramic lounge and bar, which opens every day at 4pm. Best of all, entrance is exclusively for hotel guests. JS

Rates from $138
citizenm.com/destinations/new-york

Check Availability
Check Availability

Best for cocktails: Freehand

Neighbourhood: Flatiron District

The Three's Company room at Freehand: a single bunk above a double-bed (Adrian Gaut/Freehand)
The Three's Company room at Freehand: a single bunk above a double-bed (Adrian Gaut/Freehand)

The new kid on the block in the Flatiron District is the Freehand, a hostel-hotel hybrid concept that began in Miami and became an instant hot spot, thanks to its tropical-inspired bar. Here in NYC, the historic George Washington Hotel has been lovingly restored and transformed into a relaxed hangout with Instagram opportunities in every nook and cranny. Guestroom options are a mix of queen, king, bunk, and even threesome rooms (a single bunk that’s above a double-bed), all accompanied by artwork from Bard College’s past and present students. Two restaurants – Simon & The Whale and Studio – give guests (and locals) dining options for day and night while a takeaway café, Smile to Go, offers choices for between meals. But the main attraction is the rooftop oasis that is the Broken Shaker, where innovative cocktails such as the Curry in a Hurry (made with vodka, gin, red curried honey, citrus and pineapple) are served alongside fresh bites like arepas, cheese boards and soft-serve ice cream. JS

Rates from $113
freehandhotels.com/new-york

Check Availability
Check Availability

Best for an urban oasis: Arlo Soho

Neighbourhood: Soho

Take in the city views from the rooftop bar at Arlo Soho (Arlo)
Take in the city views from the rooftop bar at Arlo Soho (Arlo)

Arlo is another hotel brand that subscribes to the “small rooms, big hangouts” theory. This Soho hotel has 325 guest rooms no bigger than 150sq ft, but all feature smart design and useful amenities, such as bedside charging outlets and flip-down desks, so that no space is wasted. Arlo also has a variety of room options from bunk bed rooms to terrace rooms and alcove rooms with up-close-and-personal city views. Downstairs, sweet confectioner Dylan’s Candy Bar enables those looking for a sugar fix to make a purchase at the 24-hour Soho Bodega, while the hotel’s rooftop goes all in on the urban oasis vibe. JS

Rates from $141
arlohotels.com/arlo-soho

Check Availability
Check Availability

Best for history: The Jane

Neighbourhood: Greenwich Village

A Cabin Room at The Jane (The Jane)
A Cabin Room at The Jane (The Jane)

One of the Big Apple’s oldest hotels, The Jane first opened in 1908 along the Hudson River as a hotel for sailors (a few survivors of the Titanic stayed here after being rescued). A renovation in 2008 brought the landmark building up to somewhat modern-day speed, as the style of the hotel borrows heavily from the golden age of travelling. This might explain why the teeny standard rooms resemble sleeping cabins on a ship with shared bathrooms. Never fear. If you desire more privacy, the Captain’s Cabins look like proper guest rooms with en-suite baths and either river views or private terraces. The Jane’s Old Rose restaurant is an all-day affair that can get quite busy at night, while the hotel’s rooftop is open during the warmer months. But the real reason to stay here is for the hotel’s choice location walking distance from the High Line, The Whitney Museum and the shops and restaurants of Greenwich Village. JS

Rates from $130 (bunk bed room start at $78 with shared bath)
thejanenyc.com

Check Availability
Check Availability

Best for proximity to Central Park: Pod 51

Neighbourhood: Midtown East

The colourful sleeping space at Pod51 (The Pod)
The colourful sleeping space at Pod51 (The Pod)

As the hotel’s name suggests, the guest rooms here are small, utilitarian pods equipped with free wifi, flat-screen TVs, air conditioning and a hairdryer. There are different pod configurations too, ranging from bunk bed with a shared bath to queens with a private bath, and a studio pod that can sleep four people and has its own tub. Guests seeking a break from city explorations can head to the rooftop where they can unwind in relative peace. Pod 51, so called for its location on East 51st Street near all the midtown sights, including Central Park, also has a burger and beer joint called Clinton Hall and a courtyard garden cafe where guests can actually BYOB. JS

Rates from $75
thepodhotel.com/pod-51

Check Availability
Check Availability

Best for wellness: HGU hotel

Neighbourhood: Midtown

The Queen Deluxe room at HGU Hotel (HGU Hotel)
The Queen Deluxe room at HGU Hotel (HGU Hotel)

It has an odd name but the HGU Hotel, near the Empire State Building, is quite the little gem. Named for Hotel Grand Union, the original hotel that occupied the 1905 Beaux-Arts building, HGU has turned something old into something very new. Each guest room features premium mattresses and bedding (from Sealy Posturepedic and Frette), custom Turkish patchwork rugs, 24-hour room service, top-of-the-line Toto toilets, free wifi and iPads to use during your stay. The hotel is also “obsessed” with wellness, offering in-room guided meditations and vitamin-infused IV drips from registered nurses, as well as access to cryotherapy centres and private training sessions at a nearby gym. A restaurant, lounge (complete with jazz band) and rooftop round out the nightlife amenities. HGU was recently named a Small Luxury Hotel of America, so get a room while you can still afford it. JS

Rates from $136
hgunyc.com

Check Availability
Check Availability

Best for families: The Paul NYC

Neighbourhood: NoMad

The Terrace King Room at The Paul (The Paul)
The Terrace King Room at The Paul (The Paul)

The Paul Hotel is located in the hip NoMad neighbourhood, but it’s not quite as hip as its other hotel counterparts like The Ace Hotel or The Eventi. Its price point and peppy attitude will perfectly suit penny-pinching millennials, however. To that end, the hotel has a variety of room configurations including bunk beds, king beds, rooms with terraces and the option to connect rooms for families. Decor is simple with hardwood floors, occasional pops of colour and original artwork. Amenities include free wifi, rainfall showers and flat-screen TVs. There’s a Paul restaurant and bar onsite, with some select items available for room service, while up top is a small rooftop bar and lounge. JS

Rates from $119
thepaulnyc.com/en-us

Check Availability
Check Availability

Best for futurism: Yotel Times Square

Neighbourhood: Hell's Kitchen

The Yobot, responsible for storing guest’s luggage, at the Yotel (Yotel)
The Yobot, responsible for storing guest’s luggage, at the Yotel (Yotel)

In the middle of the theatre district is a hotel with a futuristic, space travel vibe, as evidenced by the purple mood lighting in the lobby, the check-in kiosks and the Yobot who stores guests’ luggage. Founded by the same man who created the Yo! Sushi chain, Simon Woodroffe, Yotel drew its inspiration from the Japanese capsule hotels often found near airports. While Yotels first launched near Gatwick, Heathrow and Charles de Gaulle airports, this Yotel was the first not connected to a terminal. That gives Yotel more space to cleverly distract guests from its micro-rooms with cool amenities like an adjustable bed, free wifi and city views as well as a rooftop terrace. Families will also like this spot for its Executive Queen room, which has a bunk bed room and a queen bed. JS

Rates from $130
yotel.com/en/hotels/yotel-new-york

Check Availability
Check Availability

Best for music fans: The Redbury

Neighbourhood: NoMad

Music fans will love the musical heritage at The Redbury (The Redbury)
Music fans will love the musical heritage at The Redbury (The Redbury)

Just north of Madison Park is the suave Redbury Hotel, where the guest rooms are small but packed with cool décor, cherry red walls and furnishings selected by rock’n’roll photographer, Matthew Rolston. Amenities include cosy comforters, flat-screen TVs, mini-bars and Bluetooth Gramophone speakers. Downstairs, Danny Meyer’s popular Union Square Hospitality Group runs Marta, a Roman-inspired pizzeria that’s open for lunch, brunch and dinner with a portion of the menu available through room service. Two other Italian-style bars and a coffee shop round out the food and beverage options at the hotel. One thing to note: The Redbury charges a $30 “facilities fee” which includes wifi, daily coffee in the lobby, two bottles of water, day passes to all New York Sports Club locations and other nominal services. JS

Rates from $161
theredbury.com/newyork

Check Availability
Check Availability

Best for quirky design: Moxy Chelsea

Neighbourhood: Chelsea

The Fleur Room on the 35th floor of Moxy Chelsea (Moxy Chelsea)
The Fleur Room on the 35th floor of Moxy Chelsea (Moxy Chelsea)

Moxy Chelsea, on West 28th Street, is right in the heart of New York’s flower district. This floral theme makes itself known in every way: from a fresh flower shop, Putnam & Putnam, on the ground floor; to the 35th floor glassy bar, The Fleur Room, with blockbuster views across Midtown; to fat floral wallpaper on the walls in the soaring second-floor lounge. Rooms in this glass tower are compact (expect the sinks to double as shelving) as emphasis is placed on the floor-to-ceiling windows that take up one side of the room. Ask for a room on a high floor for high views across Chelsea. On ground level, a zippy Italian – Feroce – serves lively, made-with-love dishes. There are the fun Moxy quirks too – such as the in-room vintage phones pre-programmed with bedtime stories and guided meditation. The brand’s own TV channel runs weird-sexy ASMR videos of model Caroline Vreeland eating pasta, which makes a weirdly fun nightcap. CA

Rates from $159
moxychelsea.com

Check Availability
Check Availability

Best for space: The Boro

Neighbourhood: Long Island City

Find Manhattan views at The Boro (The Boro)
Find Manhattan views at The Boro (The Boro)

Directly opposite Manhattan across the East River, Queens’ Long Island City offers ever-evolving art, food and drink scenes, superior skyline views, and much bigger hotel rooms than you’ll find over the water – at more affordable rates. Case in point: The Boro, a super-slick, industrial-chic bolthole, where guests’ stylish digs (pine floors, factory windows) have 10ft ceilings, and refreshingly roomy en suites (with walk-in showers, no less). Downstairs, the lobby bar does a fine line in crispy, thin-crust pizzas and Negronis on tap. Don’t stay inside too long, though: you’re only two subway stops from Manhattan, and walking distance from Astoria, recently named a “coolest neighbourhood in the world” by the international team at Time Out. LC

Rooms from $159
borohotel.com

Check Availability
Check Availability

Best for discovering Brooklyn: Nu Hotel

Neighbourhood: Downtown Brooklyn

Nu Hotel is the perfect Brooklyn base (Nu Hotel)
Nu Hotel is the perfect Brooklyn base (Nu Hotel)

In case an in-room hammock isn’t enough to sell you on Nu Hotel (and may we ask, why not?), there’s also the fact it’s ideally located for exploring the best of Brooklyn, without paying oh-so-trendy Williamsburg rates. In between Cobble Hill’s beautiful brownstones, Atlantic Avenue’s boutique shopping, and Downtown’s commercial convenience (not to mention its brilliant Brooklyn Academy of Music), you’re also a short walk from seven different subway lines, so getting to artsy DUMBO, Brooklyn Heights’ elegant waterfront, and Williamsburg’s restaurants and bars is a breeze. Inside, minimal but bigger-than-average, light-filled rooms boast cork floors and organic linens. (Ask for one facing the back rather than the street.) You can even borrow a cruiser bike free of charge, the Brooklyn hipster’s transport of choice. LC

Rooms from $105
nuhotelbrooklyn.com

Check Availability
Check Availability

Best for a timewarp: The Harlem Flophouse

Neighbourhood: Harlem

Low rates and low amenities at Harlem Flophouse (Harlem Flophouse)
Low rates and low amenities at Harlem Flophouse (Harlem Flophouse)

A “flophouse” refers to the budget hotels that sheltered the jazz musicians, artists, dancers, literati, bons vivants and philosophers who flooded into this Upper Manhattan neighbourhood during the 1920s’ “Harlem Renaissance”. Appropriately enough, this 1890s townhouse turned guesthouse looks untouched from those days, the rooms’ vintage wallpaper and period details taking visitors back to a time that made stars of Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong and Thelonius Monk. Low rates reflect the amenities: no 24-hour concierge, televisions or air-con; only one room has an en suite (though shared bathrooms have antique clawfoot tubs). But, hey, you’re here for the atmosphere: Harlem still buzzes with speakeasy-style jazz clubs and soul food restaurants, and Manhattan’s more touristy districts are just a few subway stops south. LC

Rooms from $105
harlemflophouse.com

Check Availability
Check Availability

Read more on New York hotels

Best hotels in New York

Luxury hotels in New York

Boutique hotels in New York