Wall Street has seen the steady up-and-up of residential development in recent years. The occupants of these new high-rises, designed by the likes of Philippe Starck and created by Hilton, have generated a demand for shops and services. FiDi (the Financial District, now with its own acronym) is evolving into a 24-hour community, with high-end shops, hot dining spots and some notable hotels. In fact, the number of hotels here has tripled in the past 10 years, many now catering to leisure travellers as much as the suited and bespoke booted. And not surprisingly, hotel chains are clamouring to exploit the glorious architecture of FiDi’s vacated finance buildings.
We recommend: Andaz Wall Street
It’s all about swift service at the latest offering from the Andaz Group, the only hotel on Wall Street itself so far. Check in on a hand-held tablet, then take spa sessions in ‘shares’ (treatments in 15-minute slots) and ‘stocks’ (longer tailor-made sessions). The bar, Seven-Five, offers cocktails mixed tableside and for all its convenience, there is no lack of comfort or style. The hotel has rejuvenated the former headquarters of investment bank JP Morgan Chase and design details recall the building’s origins: patterns in the restaurant imitate watermarks on stock certificates, while outlines on walls in the lounge emulate Federal Exchange money boxes. Bedrooms are roomy and airy, with high ceilings and 7ft windows. Bathrooms are decked out in black marble, have rainfall showers and are stocked with C.O. Bigelow products. There’s a coffee bar/lounge with drinks ‘to go’ and a restaurant that sources produce from the nearby Hudson Valley.
Doubles are priced from $300 (£190) per night. Andaz Wall Street, 75 Wall Street, New York, NY 10005. T: 00 1 212 590 1234. www.wallstreet.andaz.com
X-factor: Andaz is the chain that brought us quirks such as peripatetic brass bands in the bar and the ‘reader in residence’. Don’t expect another soulless business hotel.
For decadent drinks: W Downtown
Try a Downtown Mule — a Moscow Mule with more of a kick — at the Living Room Terrace at the W Downtown. The fifth-floor terrace bar has a somewhat space age vibe, with undulating walls and ceiling. This curvaceous effect, a Lamella art installation developed by Graft, is covered with thousands of linear LED lights reflecting artily off the polished black granite floors. Guest rooms maintain similar curves, futuristic lighting and clean minimalist furnishings.
From $399 (£248) per night. 123 Washington Street, New York, NY 10006. T: 00 1 646 826 8600. www.whotels.com
For grown-up dining: Thompson Hotels’ Gild Hall
The Libertine is Todd English’s restaurant at Thompson Hotels’ Gild Hall, which opened in the heart of the financial district in 2008. Power-eating dishes include steak tartar and rack of lamb, and there’s a ‘raw bar’. The decor is half hunting lodge, half traditional brandy bar, and the 126 guest rooms have enough leather, dark wood and tartan to challenge a West Highland men’s club, albeit a very polished one. And there’s the usual Thompson array of sexy bathroom products and ‘adult’ toys.
Rooms from $309 (£192) per night. 15 Gold Street, New York, NY 10038. T: 00 1 212 785 5950. www.wallstreetdistrict.com
Midtown/Times Square is constantly on the move and it’s not just the traffic. It’s all change on the hotel scene, from the $4 million (£2.5m) renovation of the Plaza Hotel, the southern crown of Central Park, to the rebranding and revamping of two of Times Square’s Sheraton hotels. There’s a brand new InterContinental right on Times Square, with a bistro from chef and restaurateur Todd English. Other additions to Midtown’s landscape include the sister hotel to the Meatpacking’s Gansevoort Hotel (see opposite), which brings a bit of Downtown hip to Park Avenue, and the just-opened Setai, which rises 60 storeys above Fifth Avenue at a cost of $656 million (£410m).
We recommend: Hotel Ink48
Set in a former printing house, Hotel Ink48 is far enough from Times Square to ensure guests can decompress, yet close to the Broadway shows, shopping and nightlife. The hotel has 222 rooms and suites, with huge windows that offer – in west facing rooms – gorgeous Hudson River views. All rooms have soothing red and brown colour schemes, abstract art, Frette linens, L’Occitane toiletries and HD flatscreen TVs. At Print, chef Charles Rodriguez offers unpretentious seasonal food.
Doubles from $259 (£161). 653 11th Avenue, New York, NY 10036. T: 00 1 877 843 8869. www.ink48.com
X-Factor: the indoor/outdoor rooftop with its wrap-around terrace and long reflecting pool.
For full service on a budget: The Hotel@Times Square
One of the Apple Core franchise’s newly de-branded properties comes with bright modern furnishings and added tech amenities plus free wi-fi.
Rooms from around $100 (£62) per night. 59 West 46th Street, New York, NY 10036. T: 00 1 212 719 2300. www.applecorehotels.com
For old money glamour: The Pierre
The Pierre’s $100 million (£62m) renovations and new Le Caprice restaurant have given the hotel a contemporary edge under the Taj brand.
Rooms from $816 (£506) per night. East 61st Street, New York, NY 10065. T: 00 1 212 838 8000. www.tajhotels.com/pierre
The last decade has seen big name boutique hotels such as the Gansevoort and Soho House help raise the profile of the ever-gentrifying Meatpacking District to make it an international standard for posing. The adjacent Chelsea borders, until a couple of years ago, had stood firm against the encroaching tide of designer names and big rents, as an outpost for cutting edge galleries and retro diners. That was until the opening of the much-anticipated High Line last summer. The park, on Chelsea’s elevated dockside railway, has brought not just great views of the Hudson and the preservation of a spectacular piece of Manhattan’s industrial heritage, but a heap of smart hotels.
We recommend: The Standard
The High Line’s headline hotel is a starry creation astride the railway, looking out over the park and the Hudson River. The 18th-floor Boom Boom Room is where LA glamour comes to New York. The 337 guest rooms won’t disappoint, largely thanks to their feature picture windows, which make them as much about looking out as looking in and their quirky all-black bathrooms.
Rooms from $400 (£248). 848 Washington Street, New York, NY 10041. T: 00 1 212 645 4646. www.standardhotels.com
X-factor: The showy Grill is accessed by lifts playing video installations of heaven and hell.
For rocker chic: Ace Hotel
Design of the 260-room Ace varies wildly from room to room. In one are the words ‘play safe’ in an ornate script over the bed, in another turntables and record boxes.
Rooms from $99 (£61). 20 West 29th Street, New York NY 10001. T: 00 1 212 679 1939. www.acehotel.com
SoHo may have lost some of its cutting edge style to nearby Lower East Side and Nolita, but it still rules the roost for exclusive (and expensive) boutique hotels. Names such as the Tribeca Grand, 60 Thompson, The Mercer and The Soho Grand have set design principles over the last two decades that the rest of the city has emulated. The cobbled streets of the district, its painted warehouse buildings and big-name shops (like Apple and Bloomingdales Downtown) draw tourists by the tidal wave, but the place still has an inimitable buzz and is lately welcoming some pioneering new hotels on its blocks.
We recommend: Crosby Street Hotel
SoHo has gone green with the opening of this eco-conscious hotel that’s setting environmental standards for American hotels, and doing it with style. The first New York outpost of London’s Firmdale Hotels is set over 11 floors, with a peaceful sculpture garden and leafy patio off its huge bar. Rooms and public spaces are dressed with a mixture of contemporary art, big quilted sofas and well-chosen antiques and the Meadow Suite is so named because it looks over a small but true woodland meadow.
Rooms from $499 (£309) per night. 79 Crosby Street, New York, NY 10012. T: 00 1 212 226 6400. www.crosbystreethotel.com
X-factor: The hotel is going for the US Green Building Council’s coveted Gold LEED certification.
For Soho on a budget: The Sohotel
The Sohotel, on the borders with Little Italy and Nolita, comes with exposed brick walls, natty furnishings and 100 renovated rooms that offer many boutique trimmings.
Rooms from $99 (£61) per night. 341 Broome Street, New York, NY 10031. T: 00 1 212 226 1482. www.thesohotel.com
For sexy bathrooms: James Hotel
The James Hotel has 114 rooms with some exceptionally cheeky ‘peekaboo’ bathrooms, completely encased in glass and stocked with Turkish cotton robes — Egyptian is so last decade.
Rooms from $349 (£217) per night. 7 Grand Street, New York, NY 10013. T: 00 1 212 465 2000. www.jameshotels.com
Brooklyn is building hotels quicker than you can say ‘F-Train to Manhattan’. The clubby Hotel Le Bleu opened in 2008, the first full-service tourist address in the yummy-mummy neighbourhood of Park Slope, along with the loft-style Nu Hotel in the BoCoCa area that takes its clumsy acronym from three happening neighbourhoods: Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens. But the big news is in downtown Brooklyn. The district now has its own shiny new Sheraton and, opening January 2011, an Aloft, Starwood Hotels’ hip and affordable ‘loft-style’ hotel chain; just a few of the 3,800 bedrooms planned for this area, a 20-minute subway ride from Manhattan.
We recommend: Brooklyn Sheraton
Near the MetroTech Center and Brooklyn Academy of Music, it’s the first of several hotels scheduled for this area of Downtown Brooklyn. The Sheraton has 321 rooms and suites, and a fitness centre with pool and rooftop terrace with incredible views of Manhattan. Grubstake, the New American restaurant and martini bar, makes this not just a place to stay but a place to hang out, too. The hotel represents the first step in a big-vision municipal and private enterprise-led project to revitalise downtown Brooklyn.
Rooms from $259 (£160) per night. 228 Duffield Street, New York, NY 11201. T: 00 1 718 855 1900. www.sheratonbrooklyn.com
X-Factor: It’s Downtown Brooklyn’s first big franchise since the Marriott opened here in 1998.
For all-night parties: Hotel Le Bleu
The first full-service hotel in an area of B&Bs has a rooftop terrace with views of Manhattan, Staten Island and Brooklyn. Manhattan’s hipsters gravitate here for noisy, late-night DJ sessions.
Rooms from $229 (£142) per night. 70 4th Avenue, Brooklyn, New York, NY 11215. T: 00 1 718 625 1500. www.hotellebleu.com
For Williamsburg cool: Hotel Le Jolie
On the Williamsburg/Greenpoint borders, it’s unprepossessing from the outside, but is North Brooklyn’s best boutique hotel offering close to hipster Williamsburg.
Rooms from $200 (£124) per night. 235 Meeker Avenue, Brooklyn, New York, NY 11211. T: 00 1 718 625 2100. www.hotellejolie.com
Published in the Jan/Feb 2011 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)