New York City is a city that’s forever changing. Restaurants come and go, railway lines become parks, and skyscrapers spring up like daisies. And the city’s hotel scene is in constant flux too, with new addresses opening their doors faster than you can say ‘Where’s my credit card?’. Nowhere is this more the case than in Manhattan, with many of its best hotels found between Chelsea and SoHo. Whether it’s a boutique bolthole or a seriously stylish chain, bedding down in the city’s most famous borough means you’re never far from the action. Many of New York’s best museums, restaurants and green spaces are all just a walk away.
For design: 11 Howard (££)
Leading the charge for hipsterisation in a still slightly scruffy corner of SoHo, 11 Howard may be cloaked in a bright and brash, multistorey mural, but inside it’s a Scandi minimalist’s dream. No surprise, then, that the creative force behind the decor in this converted post office is Danish design studio Space Copenhagen. It’s decked out the place with mid-century-inspired furniture and what might just be the city’s most beautiful bathrooms. Atmospheric bar The Blond has a different vibe altogether, though; the velvet couches, smoked mirrors and bar stacked with high-end liquor bottles have made it a go-to spot for models and socialites.
Rooms: Doubles from $165 (£129), room only.
For views: The New York Edition (£££)
With its spire and sharp angles, the Edition gives off some serious Gotham City vibes. It was once the world’s tallest building, and this 41-storey clock tower still looms over many of its neighbours; as a result, you get fabulous views of the Empire State Building from some of the upper-floor rooms. It’s owned by the man credited with inventing the boutique hotel, Ian Schrager — so everything’s tastefully restrained. Rooms definitely don’t come cheap, but if you have some cash left to flash, sit down for a meal at Jason Atherton’s Michelin-starred restaurant, The Clocktower.
Rooms: Doubles from $595 (£460), room only.
For families: Freehand (£)
Something of a cross between a boutique hotel and a hostel, Freehand is budget-friendly without being all function and no form. It’s kitted out with retro furniture and custom pieces by art students from New York State’s Bard College, and there are five cafes, restaurants and bars — including the rooftop Broken Shaker. Yet, you won’t just find double rooms and suites here — there are four-person bunk rooms, as well as triples in which your child can sleep in a cabin bed above your head.
Rooms: Triples from $179 (£139), room only.
For entertainment: Arlo SoHo (£)
It may offer what it calls ‘micro rooms’, but Arlo SoHo makes up for its compact quarters with its many public spaces, where there’s always something going on. Choose from live music sessions, photography workshops, spirit tastings and rooftop exercise classes, or settle down on a couch in the Living Room for the weekly movie night, when you can eat dinner from the hotel’s Harold’s Meat + Three restaurant while you watch. There are also regular ‘vinyl hours’ in the Library, during which you can sift through the hotel’s record collection.
Rooms: Doubles from $160 (£123), room only.
For being seen: Mondrian Park Avenue (£££)
In a prime position on the corner of Park Avenue and East 30th Street, spitting distance from both the Flatiron District and Empire State Building, this 2017 opening is the fifth Mondrian in the sleek, design-led group. The 20-storey, 189-room hotel has a distinctly boutique feel with a small, sparse lobby which gives few clues to its actual size. The rooftop bar and basement club give it added cache but it’s the Cleo restaurant that really makes it a destination. Headed up by chef Danny Elmaleh, the menu’s based on the Eastern and Southern Mediterranean region. More importantly, it has a separate feel from the hotel and is clearly a hit with locals.
Rooms: Doubles from $459 (£355), room only.
For service: Kimpton Hotel Eventi (££)
Warm, welcoming and enthusiastic, the greeting at this Kimpton is exactly what you need in a frenetic city like New York. The buzzing Italian restaurant L’Amico serves exquisite pastas and pizza, while a daily, free wine hour is a signature Kimpton bonus. Some rooms and suites provide glimpses of the Empire State Building and views across 6th Avenue. Decor is sleek, refined and modern but comfortable too, and the beds enormous. The ‘Forgot List?’, meanwhile, is a treasure trove of phone chargers, plug adapters, deodorant, hairdryers, coffee makers and so on. Style and substance is a rare thing.
Rooms: Doubles from $229 (£177), room only.
For rooftop dips: Royalton Park Avenue (£££)
The Empire State Building likes to show off, and it does just that when you’re on the roof of Royalton Park Avenue — a prominent address on the city’s most elite street. The 20-storey rooftop space is kitted out with a year-round heated pool (with ample seating and the occasional DJ set), a plush bar/lounge with speciality cocktails, brunch, and one of the best panoramic vistas in town. The hotel itself, formerly an upscale apartment block, has 249 rooms and suites with Juliet balconies — all surprisingly large compared to the average New York hotel room. Ristorante Asellina, the dimly lit Italian eatery, serves feel-good food like tagliatelle bolognese.
Rooms: Doubles from $220 (£170), room only. preferredhotels.com Words: Farida Zeynalova
For dining: Hotel 50 Bowery
It takes guts to try to compete with Chinatown but 50 Bowery’s Rice & Gold restaurant is going for it. With a lengthy Asian-fusion menu, you don’t even need to set foot outside the hotel to get your fix of dumplings, noodles and fluffy bao buns. Later, join the crowd for a nightcap at the rooftop bar, The Crown. The rooms are decorated to a formula (grey palette, concrete ceilings, quirky art) but are a whole lot hipper than the hotel’s glossy tower-block exterior might suggest.
Rooms: Doubles from $269 (£208), room only.
For old-world glamour: The NoMad Hotel
Built in 1903, this landmark beaux-arts building has been considerately restored by French designer Jacques Garcia. The 168 rooms and suites have real character and are styled in keeping with the building, meaning even the occasional mod-con is subtlety disguised. Freestanding roll-top baths, vintage-style furniture and original artwork ensure the unique feel. The Michelin-starred restaurant, and cocktails in the Elephant Bar complete the formula for European decadence.
Rooms: Doubles from $275 (£213), room only.
For hipsters: Ace Hotel
Millennials tapping away on MacBooks? Check. Distressed original floor tiles and wooden features in a turn-of-the-century building? Check. Hipster coffee shop, oyster bar and boutique shop? Check. The Ace Hotel might almost be a pastiche of a style sweeping urban areas across the globe, but it all feels very natural rather than forced. The distinctly multipurpose, retro-cool property on the corner of Broadway and 29th offers rooms in a range of budgets.
Rooms: Twin bunks from $179 (£139), room only.
Published in the October 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)