As a native New Yorker, I tend to think of New York City hotels as shimmering Xanadus that I enter only when friends come to town; or for the the occasional special occasion. Rarely do I get to holiday in my own hometown. So where to stay when you want a break from the everyday? Whether you want to explore uptown or downtown, surround yourself with classic elegance or millennial chic, or experience New York’s newest or vintage architecture, there’s a unique city hotel that will transport you to another place – even if you can still hear the F train rumbling by.
Crosby Street Hotel
Nobody does quirky English luxury better than this SoHo star, a fixture of the downtown firmament that is coming up on its 10th anniversary. Set back from the street and with a sizeable courtyard planted with fruit trees and other greenery, this hotel cocoons its guests from the busy streets outside. This cosy feeling is helped immensely by co-owner (along with husband Tim) and designer Kit Kemp’s unerring ability to layer elaborate wallpaper, embroidery, fabrics and soft furnishings in the 86 rooms and suites – the woman is a literal genius when it comes to headboards – that somehow manage to combine a country house vibe with city views. One second-floor suite even has its own native wildflower meadow outside French doors, planted with butterfly weed, sumac and coneflowers.
The public areas such as The Crosby Bar and the Drawing Room are stuffed with oversized artworks of dogs and comfortable sofas and all-day tea and coffee. Plus there’s the spectacular afternoon champagne tea, and right outside, all that glam SoHo shopping. It’s not like you’re sending your credit card on holiday, is it?
Doubles from $695 (£540)
Mandarin Oriental New York
Neighbourhood: Columbus Circle
This paean to modern luxury just as successfully sequesters guests away from the city, but by keeping them high above it – the 35th floor and above to be specific. Located at the southwest corner of Central Park at Columbus Circle, this sophisticated aerie is in the Time Warner Center, which also houses the Jazz at Lincoln Center and the new Bluebird London. The 244 tasteful rooms and suites have views of the park, the skyline, upper Manhattan and the Hudson River; as does the duplex spa with its six treatment rooms, 75-foot lap pool, hammam, and hydrotherapy pool.
Sharing those incredible views are chef and master of molecular gastronomy Grant Achatz’s two lounge-bar-restaurants The Aviary and The Office on the 35th floor – if you’re feeling homesick, try the Wake and Bake, a rye-based cocktail served inside an ‘aroma pillow’ that gives off the scent of a New York breakfast: coffee, OJ, and – what else? – bagel.
Doubles from $995 (£765)
Neighbourhood: Upper East Side
On the other side of the park, this residential-style hotel embodies Upper East Side elegance and white-glove service. A recent redesign, overseen by co-owner Dina De Luca Chartouni, brought together London architect Mark Pinney and American interior designer Michael S. Smith, for a fresh look in the lobby with French furniture and a David Hockney lithograph, the intimate Club Room, and a new marble staircase and entry to the Pembroke Room where afternoon tea is served.
The biggest change was the debut of the instant-hit Majorelle restaurant from restaurateur Charles Masson, formerly of establishment favourite La Grenouille, who also is known for his spectacular and elaborate floral arrangements. But the many discreet charms remain untouched: such as homemade jam for breakfast and the wood-burning fireplaces in some of the 74 rooms and suites, where you can while away the evening under a cashmere throw in perfect comfort.
Doubles from $885 (£690)
The William Vale
What do you get outside Manhattan? The answer, as every New Yorker knows, is square footage and views – oh those views. Take a trip across the East River to Williamsburg where the designers of this 23-story hotel took advantage of low-rise north Brooklyn and gave every one of the 183 rooms a balcony and floor-to-ceiling windows. In summer, the place to be is by the Vale Pool, at 60 feet, it’s the longest in Brooklyn (square footage, remember?).
But anytime of the year, the sights from the 22nd-floor Westlight bar give new meaning the word panoramic – the entire sweep of Manhattan’s East Side is there, plus most of Brooklyn besides and a bit of the harbour beyond. More earthly pleasures can be found at the ground-floor Leuca from Andrew Carmellini, one of the city’s top chefs who seems to have found the magic formula of what New Yorkers want when they go out to eat. Join them for a bowl of lemony spaghetti alla ricci or rich squash agnolotti.
Doubles from $335 (£250)
Neighbourhood: Lower Manhattan
What are the chances that James M. Farnsworth, architect of Temple Court – completed in 1883, the same year as the Brooklyn Bridge, just a block away – had a time machine and said “look lads one day this atrium is going to be Instagrammed many thousands of times, so it had better be spectacular”? Social media aside, this early skyscraper near City Hall was restored in the 21st century and now its nine-story Victorian atrium lined with ornate, cast-iron railings and brackets is definitely the main attraction, whether you’re looking up or down. Sip a vintage cocktail in the verdigris-coloured Bar Room underneath it or stay in one of the 287 offices-turned-guest-rooms off of it and you’ll feel in tune with old New York.
Doubles from $499 (£380)
Neighbourhood: Times Square
When it comes to old New York and architecture, it doesn’t get any more bold-faced or historical than Stanford White, part of the McKim, Mead and White firm that built famed beaux art beauties such as the Washington Square Arch and the Century Club. Originally opened as the Lambs, a theatrical club, the landmarked hotel is steps from the Broadway palaces on West 44th Street in the Theatre District, and the Lambs Club bar is the preferred pre- or post-theatre drink spot for many locals. The 76 rooms and suites are decorated in a sumptuous art deco style by designer Thierry Despont that evoke the days of transatlantic crossings and Louis Vuitton luggage, with curving cabinets and closets wrapped in faux textured leather and nightstands that resemble deep steamer trunk trays.
Doubles from $885 (£690)
The Greenwich Hotel
Downtown in Tribeca, Robert De Niro’s brick boutique hotel is a haven of no-expense-spared, Tuscany-meets-Japan aesthetic, truly a place apart. The interior courtyard is planted with pots of ferns, creeping ivy and other shade-loving greenery, while the lobby is fitted out with reclaimed oak beams and leaded glass. Each of the 88 rooms are individually styled, with tiles from Morocco or silk rugs from Tibet; but they really went the extra mile, or rather 16,000 miles, with the Shibui Spa on the lower level. A 250-year-old bamboo farmhouse was shipped over from a village near Kyoto and traditional Japanese craftsmen installed it in the spa where it houses the lantern-lit pool.
Most of the common areas are for guests only, so the parade of movie stars and other celebs who stay here are assured their privacy; but the public can dine at the hotel’s restaurant, Locanda Verde, another Italian-inspired neighbourhood joint from chef Andrew Carmellini.
Doubles from $795 (£610)
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