I used to live in the FiDi! I love the Seaport!
If you want to be IN Manhattan I highly recommend the Upper East and Upper West Sides. These areas can be more more affordable then Midtown or Downtown (depending on the location obviously). I like that they are quieter and not as hectic and loud as some of the other areas. You feel a little bit removed from all the action – which to me is a good thing. If you want to go out a lot I recommend looking in Murray Hill or the village. Every nieghboorhood has it’s own personality.
I’m bored so I’ll give you a mini-breakdown of the areas.
Financial District: Close to the water, lots of business shut down earlier, busy busy during rush hour, empty during “off” hours besides tourists. Good places to look: Battery Park City, South St. Seaport
Chinatown/Little Italy: You don’t want to live here. Loud, tourist filled. Visit for lunch and that’s it.
Lower East Side (LES): One of the city’s newer “hip” hoods. Lots of bars, restaurants, etc. Very hipster.
SoHo: Great shopping, lots going on. Very hip and trendy. Very pricey – and apartments are generally really small for the price.
East Village: Artsy, great restaurants, cool bar scene, very NYU. Check out Stuy-Town, very cool place to live.
West Village: Lots of bars, less “artsy” then the East side. Beautiful brownstones. Very very pricey.
Union Sq: Nice area. Lots of shopping. Pricey (big surprise).
MeatPacking District: Clubbing headquarters. If that’s you’re scene it’d be a cool place to live, personally it’s not my scene.
Gramercy: Residential for still being a downtown area. Nice restaurants, Madison Sq Park is nice. If you work in Midtown you’ll have a really short commute!
Murray Hill: Murray Hill is a very young neighborhood. Lots of young-single-20-somethings. Big bar scene. Apartments aren’t cheap but a lot of people cram into a 1-bedroom (turn it into a 2 or 3 bedroom) and make do.
Midtown: Say from 34 – 59th St – personally I wouldn’t live here at all. Very busy. Lots of offices, not residential. Too hectic and crazy for my taste. There are some nice buildings though so maybe someone else will have a better expeirence.
Upper East Side: East of Lexington Ave you can find a really great deal. Also lots of great restaurants along 2nd Ave. Close to Central Park and a good mix of city life + quieter not so crazyness.
Upper West Side: Really fun place to be (if I do say so myself!). Close to the Park. Charming buildings. Good restaurants and a nice general attitude among the residents.
Harlem and beyond: Honestly I don’t have enough experience with these areas to comment.
Outer-Boroughs (some good places to consider)
Long Island City
Hope that all helps!!