This is where I live--upstairs, of course!
I never really know what to tell people about Albany-- usually they don't believe that it is a wonderful place because it has been the butt of many a joke over the years. The television industry tends to use our name to imply a generic backwater. I assume this reputation is due to comparison with New York City, which is very apples to oranges—plus I personally feel that New York City's allure is rather overestimated as well. Albany's charm lies in the fact that it is a small old city-- just populated enough that you feel like you're part of a larger web, but open enough that you don't feel like you’re in a tin of sardines. You can get from the uptown SUNY campus to the heart of downtown in about twenty minutes. Albany is the center of the tri-cities area--through suburbs it bleeds into the cities of Schenectady and Troy (both also easily reached by highway in 15-25 minutes).
As for the old, Albany is technically the second oldest incorporated city in the United States--New Amsterdam/New York City is the oldest. Outside of the incorporation technicality I believe we are fourth, but suffice it to say- we are old by American standards (this means early 1600's--laughable to those in Europe and the Mediterranean but for us it's good!) Most everything you see in Albany is much newer than that however-- primarily from the mid 1800's on. There are a few revolutionary era buildings but we’ve gone through several periods of growth in which the old was replaced with new. You can actually follow the trends through architecture as you drive from downtown to uptown. The older parts of the city are closest to the Hudson River and packed with row upon row of brick townhouses—a little bit like The Village in New York City.
As you move out there is a band of huge Victorian mansions—giants with dozens of rooms and interesting little details. These are a beautiful mix of Queen Anne and imported styles of the day- Neo-Gothic, Romanesque Revival, Italianate Palazzo, Moorish etc. Beyond the Victorian region, there are two family houses from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s and finally ‘pop’ architecture from the 1920’s on. You’ll see the same houses scattered throughout the city, or sometimes even side by side. On my short little street, I live in one of three identical houses. This can be really confusing when drunk—fortunately my neighbors have faux stuffed parrots on swings hanging on either side of their doors so I catch on before I rattle the door knob. Some of these styles are very out of place in the Northeast including Adobe Village (exactly what it sounds like) and Little Hollywood (west coast bungalows and Spanish-style stucco mini-villas that were popular in California in the 20’s and 30’s).
Oddly enough, a Florentine plazzo on the park...
Albany is split up into neighborhoods. I live on the border between Pine Hills and Helderberg, but my very favorite neighborhood in town is Washington Park, which is right at the border between downtown and midtown. It is full of brownstones and row houses and a few large Victorian apartment buildings, and obviously by the name contains Washington Park.