Best for luxury: The Park Hyatt
The city’s newest five-star hotel has a restrained but luxurious look courtesy of designers Yabu & Pushelberg. The marble pool area, Spa Nalai, is a sybarite’s delight, while the all-American wine list at the Back Room at One57 is spectacular.
■ Rooms: Doubles from $607 (£402). newyork.park.hyatt.com
Best for budget: The Lexington Hotel
OK, so the lobby can be frenetic, but Dash Design and Warhol’s muse-turned-art-curator Paige Powell have taken a rundown 1920s Jazz Age hotel and turned it into a polished tourist pad with lovely visual touches.
■ Rooms: Doubles from $125 (£83). lexingtonhotelnyc.com
Best for urbanites: Row NYC
The largest hotel in New York when it opened in 1928 as the Hotel Lincoln with 1,331 rooms, Row NYC reopened last year following a $140m (£90m) investment. Just a few minutes’ walk from Times Square, the lobby has a young and lively feel — a great place to sit and people-watch. The Ron Galella suite is the room to opt for — mirrored cocktail bar, huge walk-in shower, views across the Hudson River and a paparazzi-inspired theme with Galella’s photos covering the walls.
■ Rooms: Doubles from $300 (£190). rownyc.com
We recommend: St Regis
Manhattan’s definitive grande dame property was Colonel John Jacob Astor IV’s residence until he died on the Titanic. A massive refurbishment hasn’t pleased everyone, and the suites are undeniably more mainstream in their approach to luxury these days, but the pitch-dark King Cole Bar (birthplace of the Bloody Mary) is still as chic and cocoon-like as ever, even if the iconic Maxfield Parrish mural has been restored to a near-lurid brightness. A white-gloved butler comes with your room, and there’s a Bentley Mulsanne on hand for local chauffeuring. The gilt touches in the lobby, from 1901, are fabulous, and the food in the bar, from posh mac ’n’ cheese to fish with a lush Asian twist, is excellent.
■ Rooms: Doubles from $581 (£385). stregisnewyork.com
Best for singletons: The Marlton
This new hotel is a tough act to beat by virtue of location alone: just off Washington Square Park. It describes itself as ‘a baby grand’: the rooms are tiny, and particularly great for single travellers, but they’re still beautifully finished — all white, with ornate plaster ceilings, modernist Serge Mouille three-armed ceiling lamps and meticulous bathrooms. While this is a mid-range operation, the country-house style lounge and restaurant Margaux have made it a white-hot hangout for the New York fashion crowd.
■ Rooms: Doubles from $230 (£153). marltonhotel.com
Best for indulgence: Greenwich Hotel
Robert De Niro’s hotel was one of the first to shun stark, and indeed Starck, boutique style in favour of a softer, more comfortable approach. Lighting is muted, elegant figurative oils fill the walls, rooms have huge wooden-framed beds and tenement-style tiling in the bathrooms. There’s a gorgeous drawing room and a backyard for summer cocktails, plus an incense-infused spa and pool area. The Locanda Verde restaurant serves contemporary Italian food — don’t miss the whipped ricotta with honey and herbs on toast.
■ Rooms: Doubles from $575 (£382). thegreenwichhotel.com
We recommend: The High Line
Chelsea locals often call it ‘Hogwarts’ since the 19th-century General Theological Seminary has been turned into a smart mid-range hotel by superstar rough luxe designers Roman and Williams. It still looks like something out of a fantasy movie, incongruous and rural compared with all the heavy-hitting art galleries (Gagosian, Mary Boone etc) across the Avenue. The lobby branch of Intelligentsia Coffee, with its patio and espresso truck in summer, is a gem and serves some of the best lattes in the city.
■ Rooms: Doubles from $266 (£175). thehighlinehotel.com
Best for budget travellers: Carlton Arms Hotel
With the iconic Chelsea Hotel going upmarket, this is one last gasp of no-frills, old bohemian New York in quasi-flophouse form. A speakeasy during Prohibition, today it’s clean but funky, and every weathered inch of it screams ‘downtown’ — some rooms have shared bathrooms. But the draw is: each room has been decorated by a different artist, including Banksy.
■ Rooms: Doubles from $120 (£80). carltonarms.com
Best for shopping & foodies: Ludlow Hotel
The Ludlow would be the jewel in high-fashion hotelier Sean MacPherson’s crown even if it didn’t happen to have the Lower East Side’s most difficult-to-book restaurant, Dirty French, on site. Once you’re done with the OTT cool crowd, the innovative French-goes-Moorish food, and cosy lounge bar and garden, the rooms are chic and comfortable, mixing vintage downtown tenement touches with all manner of Salone del Mobile smart stuff, Margiela bath mats and, surprisingly, giant bathtubs. Notepads on the bedside tables comprise wads of black paper, with accompanying black pencils. Très cool.
■ Rooms: Doubles from $195 (£130). ludlowhotel.com
We recommend: Inn at Irving Place
Close to the bustle of Union Square, but with a touch of genteel New England teatime in its famed Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon (complete with ornate fine china), this unmarked, antique-filled guesthouse is a pleasing timewarp. It features 12 elegant, plush and cosy rooms spread across two 19th-century brownstones.
■ Rooms: Doubles from $430 (£282). innatirving.com
Best for something offbeat: Paper Factory Hotel
This giant old industrial space has been carved up into several floors of huge (by New York standards) budget bedrooms and suites. While the soundproofing and heating could be improved, the design is fresh and interesting, and the hotel is in the centre of a new, exciting scene. Check out Mundo, the old neighbourhood favourite Latin restaurant that has reopened in the lobby and basement. It’s loud and fun, with great cocktails. Everyone comes for the ‘Red Sonja’ bites of red lentil, bulgur and spices served on lettuce, then stays on for the dancing.
■ Rooms: Doubles from $110 (£74). paperfactoryhotel.com
Best for nightlife: Wythe Hotel
When the Wythe first opened, eyebrows were raised: a luxury hotel in Brooklyn? Now its Williamsburg location is nightlife central. The upstairs Ides bar roars with noise and offers a watery view of the Manhattan skyline. Bedrooms embody swish loft living: underfloor heated concrete floors, expanses of white wall and floor-to-ceiling panelled glass windows. Negative points: 11am checkout, and hi-vis glass panels between bedrooms and toilets! Still, this really does feel like the epicentre of Brooklyn cool, right down to its craft IPAs and locally distilled gins.
■ Rooms: Doubles from $376 (£250). wythehotel.com
We recommend: Aloft
In the heart of downtown Brooklyn, Aloft opened back in 2011 next door to the Sheraton as a more affordable version of Starwood’s W Hotel brand. Slick, modern facilities are prevalent at this pet-friendly number, while the 176 rooms are stylish and comfortable and, pleasingly for New York, spacious with free wi-fi and bottled water. The ‘signature platform bed’ is not only enormous but comfortable, while the ‘oversized shower’ is almost impossible to get out of. The W XYZ Bar and the rooftop Brooklyn Terrace — with views of the Statue of Liberty and the East River — offer sophisticated drinking spots.
■ Rooms: Doubles from $122 (£81). aloftnewyorkbrooklyn.com
Published in the June 2015 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)