By the end of 2014, some experts approximate that the number of hotel rooms in New York City will
total 90,000. That makes it harder than ever to answer one seemingly simple question: “Where should I stay right now?” (Or, if you wish, swap out “I” for “my mom,” or “my best friend.”) Hence our third attempt to select 18 of the city’s most iconic places to lay your head. The first two iterations aimed to balance newer outposts that capture the city’s zeitgeist (your Nomads) with century-old grande dames that boast historical pedigrees longer than their room service menus (hello, Plaza). This revision aimed to strike the same balance, adding on some relative upstarts as well as storied institutions heretofore unrecognized on this site. Eligible hotels have been open at least one year. Agree or disagree with the roundup? Leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section below, or let us know via e-mail which accommodation options should stay and which should go when we return to revise the Hotel 18 once again.
Condo drama aside, the landmarked Plaza remains iconic in the NYC hotel world. The hotel, designed by the Dakota’s Henry Janeway Hardenbegh, opened in October 1907 after a $12 million, two-year construction process. At the time, rooms cost $2.50/night. (Today, they cost just a bit more.) Movie appearances include North by Northwest, The Great Gatsby, and Home Alone II—and, of course, the hotel has a long-standing association with Eloise.
Ace Hotel New York
The Ace Hotel is one of the newish crop of hotels that sprang up in its neighborhood, whether that
neighborhood is WhoDi, NoMad, or the Canal Street of Midtown. It’s also one of the more affordable
hotels on this list, with a lobby beloved by the city’s startup kids.
After its initial inclusion in last summer’s Hotel 38, the Library Hotel has made the cut again due to
its overwhelmingly positive guest reviews. One of a number of themed hotels in the city, design of the Library Hotel is inspired by the Dewey Decimal system, with each floor (of 10) devoted to one Dewey category. Nor is that the limit of the book theme—each room is decorated in an on-topic way, via one of the collections within the category. The room pictured, for example, contains a shelf full of fairy tales, and the pillow reads “Book Lovers Never Go To Bed Alone.” There’s an ancient languages room on the fourth floor and a dinosaurs room on floor five, the math and science floor. Naturally, the 14th floor’s Bookmarks Lounge has book-themed cocktails.
Waldorf Astoria New York
The hotel, an Art Deco landmark, was designed by Schultze and Weaver and takes up the full block
between 49th and 50th streets and Park and Lexington avenues. Fun fact: the hotel was the first to
ever offer room service. It also contains some of the city’s most expensive rentals within Waldorf
Towers, a separate division of the hotel located on its upper floors, and a secret subway platform
underneath the hotel where dignitaries could access the building without being seen.
The Mercer is the sister hotel to the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood, so, naturally, it’s pricey and
popular with celebrities. (The lobby is always a place to spot power players.) William Schickel
designed the 1890 building—a Romanesque Revival landmark—as offices for the Astor family; before it became a hotel, it housed artists’ lofts. The 75 hotel rooms and suites were designed by Christian Liaigre, and the hotel is part of the Andre Balazs empire.
The New York Palace Hotel
The Palace Hotel—yes, the one from Gossip Girl, and it’s had cameos on 30 Rock and Law & Order, too—just completed a renovation of all 900 of its rooms. The hotel actually began as a private residence, designed by McKim, Mead & White for Henry Villard and built in 1882. That original residence now contains the hotel’s Villard Ballroom.
SoHo Grand Hotel
Readers clamored for the Soho Grand’s inclusion in this list, and it’s passed the bar for yet another
iteration. A hospitality pioneer in its neighborhood, the 352-roomer’s past-meets-present design is
meant to intertwine the historic grandeur of the 1870s with the more mod stylings of the 1970s. It’s
also pet-friendly, with sculptures of canines throughout, and earlier this year the hotel debuted a
dedicated dog run overhung by twinkle lights, “complete with fire hydrant water stations, bespoke
benches, and design by gardener-to-the-stars Rebecca Cole.”
JW Marriott Essex House
Perhaps more iconic than the hotel itself is its sign. For all the existing, recently opened, and
still-to-come high-end hotels just south of Central Park, Essex House will remain a force, simply
because its name is lit up in irremovable red neon lights atop its roof. The Art Deco hotel opened in
1931, and the sign was put up the following year. Ownership of the 40-floor, 394-room property has
been handed around over the decades, but it’s now a JW Marriott. Famous guests include composer Igor Stavinsky and author Herman Wouk; the sign (or just the hotel) makes cameos in All The Presidents Men, Madagascar, Doctor Who, and early Saturday Night Live episodes, among others.
The NoMad Hotel
The NoMad has a completely different feel from the nearby Ace—the NoMad’s aesthetic leans more toward the European, with Paris-inspired interiors by Jacques Garcia featuring clawfoot bathtubs and reclaimed maple floors. The individual rooms range from standard to apartment-esque—the Suite Royale is an 1,800-square-foot space with a private terrace.
The St. Regis New York
The 110-year-old Beaux Arts hotel, founded by Titanic victim John Jacob Astor IV—one of the wealthiest people in the country at the time—as a counterpart to another li’l property that he owned, the Waldorf, is named for a lake in the Adirondacks, which got its own moniker for a monk allegedly famous for showing hospitality to travelers. Salvador Dali, William Paley and Marlene Dietrich rested their heads there; its King Cole Bar is also the birthplace of the Bloody Mary.
The Standard, High Line
Hotel guests’ peep shows have generated some headlines, but The Standard also has things to offer to the non-nudity-inclined. The building straddles the High Line, for one thing, and contains an ice rink and rooftop bar. There’s always fun public art.
Gramercy Park Hotel
An incredible roster of famous people have swept through the Gramercy Park Hotel, which opened in 1925. Humphrey Bogart got married on the rooftop terrace! The Rolling Stones and U2 are among the many musicians who’ve stayed there. These days, with art collector Aby Rosen at the helm, the hotel’s look is artsy and includes pieces by Damien Hirst, Keith Haring, and Andy Warhol. Julian Schnabel redesigned the hotel (which also has Gramercy Park views, as the name suggests) several years ago. Off the lobby is Danny Meyer restaurant Maialino.
The Greenwich Hotel
Robert De Niro is an owner of this hotel, and he’s occasionally clashed with the city’s Landmarks
Preservation Commission over the penthouse he added without LPC approval. Whatever questions the LPC might have had about how that penthouse fit into the neighborhood, De Niro and his hotel helped put Tribeca on the map. The hotel itself is worth a stay, too. Each of the 88 rooms has different rugs and furnishings, and the hotel’s restaurant is the celebrated Locanda Verde.
The Peninsula New York
In its early days, 1905-built Gotham Hotel was overshadowed by the Plaza to its north and the St.
Regis across the street. It failed largely due to its inability to get a liquor license, but the
Italian Renaissance architecture remains. Fast forward to 1988, when it was bought up by the Hong
Kong-based Peninsula group; to 1999, when it reopened after a gut renovation; and then to the present, when the property boasts 185 guest rooms, 54 suites, and a pretty sterling reputation. Oh, and a bespoke BMW is the house car.
The Hudson Hotel
One Curbed commenter describes the rooms at The Hudson as “tiny but impeccable” and the lobby as a “Manhattan marvel.” The entrance is designed to be eye-catching, with a 30-foot glass tunnel enclosing the elevator up to the lobby.
The Bowery Hotel
Here’s another neighborhood gamechanger. A poster child for the evolution of the Bowery, the hotel combines a few common New York City design elements like “industrial styled windows” and loft-inspired layouts with a well-known event space for up to 600. Guests might
end up downstairs from a film premiere or photo shoot.
The Wythe, once the only Brooklyn hotel on this list, opened in May of 2012 and boasts design by
Morris Adjmi of a converted 1901 factory. The 70 rooms once included spaces specifically for bands, sleeping four to six, and standard rooms named for their sizes and views. There’s no room service, but the beds are made from the building’s own reclaimed ceilings.
King & Grove Williamsburg
Though it opened around the same time as the Wythe, King & Grove’s Williamsburg outpost didn’t
immediately make the same kind of splash—though it did gain some attention for its place-to-be-in-
summer saline pool and hopping rooftop nightspot. It’s also home to lauded restaurant The Elm. The 64-roomer, with glassy facade and modern meets mid-century interiors, boasts views of the city and McCarren Park and is a short walk from the L train. King & Grove has properties in Nomad and Montauk, and is currently responsible for the Hotel Chelsea’s transformation from rundown SRO to sleek boutique, so it’s definitely a hotelier to watch.