New York comes alive in the springtime when the city thaws out after its long winter and before it swelters into sticky summer days.
And although it is the city that never sleeps, the Big Apple does have quite a fine collection of places to lay one’s head. Here are eight of Manhattan most distinguished addresses to call home for a night or two (or three, or four) this spring.
Nowhere in Manhattan exudes understated glamour quite like The Carlyle. Long a favourite of the who’s who set, from JFK and Jackie O to George and Amal Clooney to the Prince and Princess of Wales, and recently (and perhaps regretfully) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez the night before she attended the MET Gala, the hotel avoids the splashy glitz of its Upper East Side hotel neighbours in favour of a discreet, perhaps even secretive, air. Tucked away on the corner of Madison Avenue and East 76th Street, The Carlyle’s thirty-five floors offer truly breathtaking views of Central Park and the surrounding urban jungle. Yet it’s not entirely just the views, marble and velvet adorned interiors, monogrammed pillows, and heated bathroom floors that keep guests loyal to this establishment. It might just be its bar—Bemelmans Bar—a venerable hotspot of New York City life since it opened back in 1947. So named for Ludwig Bemelmans, the legendary creator of the much-beloved Madeline children’s books, the walls are graced in Bemelmans mural, the waiters don white tuxedo jackets, the live jazz (you’ll find some of the genre’s best here) goes until 1am, and the martinis and Manhattans will cost you as much as a cab ride down the length of the island. Bemelmans has been enjoying a new popularity with a younger generation of Manhattanites since the pandemic, when city dwellers were seemingly drawn to its old-world charms like moths to a flame. As such, the wait might for a table may be upwards of two hours. But the esteemed and much welcomed guests of The Carlyle are seated faster than you can say New York, New York.
You will certainly find more tourists at The Plaza than locals, but the hotel remains one of the New York City’s most iconic places to stay or visit. “Meet me at the Plaza” rings as true today as it did in 1907 when the hotel first entered the scene, thanks to its central and fashionable location at the southern edge of Central Park and Fifth Avenue, across the street from the landmark Paris Movie Theater and iconic shopping palace Bergdorf Goodman. Perhaps no building in Manhattan has played host to so many monumental moments, both in real life and in fiction. Among the many films that add The Plaza as a main character are Barbara Streisand’s The Way We Were and Robert Redford’s Barefoot in the Park. It was in one of the meeting rooms where The Beatles signed the paperwork that would officially dissolve their musical bonds, and in the halls and dining rooms where the children’s book character Eloise was immortalised. This is sacred New York City storytelling ground and that air of legend and romance is apparent from the moment you step through the front door (we recommend arriving by cab for full effect). The rooms here are spacious, with parquet floors, gold embellishments, positively gilded, and filled with the aroma of gardenias thanks to The Plaza’s signature scent. The hotel’s soaring Palm Court remains the place in the city for afternoon tea, an occasion enjoyed in the city only for the most special of occasions. The Plaza is as much a castle as it is hotel and it’s tempting to stay inside, donned in a hotel robe, gazing over Central Park, glass of champagne in hand.
The new New York City outpost from the Barrière Group, Fouquet’s has infused Parisian sensibilities to Manhattan’s downtown since it opened last Autumn. Fouquet’s New York is the baby of the family who own (among other properties) the iconic Barrière Fouquet’s on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, and who are the only French family to own a luxury hotel in the city of lights. Even in the big apple, Fouquet’s exudes a familial warmth and a French elegance, with a soft, playful colour palate that stands in direct contrast with Manhattan’s uniforms of blacks, whites, and greys. The natural light-filled rooms – particularly the suites—are designed to evoke the feeling of private apartments, more than hotel rooms, apartments with marble soaking tubs, Art Deco furnishings, and sweeping views of Manhattan, that is. Earning a reputation as a spot for locals, thanks in part to its culinary program under the directorship or Michelin-starred Chef Pierre Gagnaire, Fouquet’s boasts a restaurant evocative of its red-awning namesake on the Champs-Élysées (where, among others, Edith Piaf was a regular), and its roaring ‘20s inspired Titsou Bar. Already Fouquet’s has quickly and quietly carved out a name for itself in what is otherwise a very crowded hotel landscape, and is truly as much a gathering spot for stylish New Yorkers as it is for discerning travellers in the know.
Truly the most sparkling hotel in the city, the Baccarat is a crystal palace in the heart of midtown, steps from Fifth Avenue and directly across from the Museum of Modern Art. The hotel is at once modern and minimal yet traditionally adorned with, what else but Baccarat crystal and splashes of Baccarat’s signature bold red. With just 114 rooms and suites, the hotel oozes sophistication from its shiny lobby to subterranean swimming pool to its crystal showroom. Every inch of the hotel is a breath of Baccarat Rouge 540, the brand’s signature (and cult followed) scent. The interiors, by Paris-based design partners Gilles & Boissier, are an elegant and sleek palate of greys and whites, almost as if mirroring the exteriors of the buildings in the neighbourhood it calls home. But it’s not all city coldness here. Despite the cut glass and cool tones, the hotel exudes a sophisticated warmth. As it opens up for the season, grab a table at Le Jardin, Baccarat’s outdoor cocktail terrace with a menu crafted by the hotel’s culinary director, the James Beard-award winning and two Michelin starred chef Gabriel Kreuther. To further luxuriate in what is already a lavish experience, Baccarat boasts an intimate Le Mer Spa. If you do venture out, Baccarat’s complimentary guest car will take you anywhere you would like to go within a fifteen-block radius.
Perhaps more aspirational than anything else, Aman deserves a spot on our list thanks to the sheer size of its rooms—a true and rare luxury in New York City. Everything is bigger at Aman, its rooms, its beds, its bathtubs, and with that, the price tag. Occupying Manhattan’s former Crown Building, an iconic piece of 1920s Art Deco architecture, Aman manages to blend a feeling of old-world New York with the smooth, modern lines its properties around the world have become known for. With interiors inspired by its hotels in Southeast Asia, Aman New York is more earthy and muted than big city splash. It’s that understated, east-meets-west allure that draws in guests; that and the oval soaking tubs, Balinese-styled doors, and layouts designed to mimic one’s home. All of the guest accommodations here are suites and all boast central fireplaces, something New Yorkers, the five boroughs over, dream of having. Aman’s dining spaces, including its standout Nama which serves elegant Japanese dishes and features a Hinoki wood counter for multi-course omakase dining experiences, are open to guests and Aman Club Founders only. But the hotel’s subterranean speakeasy-style jazz club is open to the public and offers live music nightly.
The Hotel Chelsea
Immortalised in legend—and lots of stylish black and white photographs—the H0tel Chelsea is a window into another, long-lost era of New York City. First opened back in 1884, the Victorian Gothic building is best known for its heyday as the long-term home of a rolodex of musicians and artists of the mid and late-mid-century—people like Tennessee Williams, Bob Dylan, Jackson Pollock, Janis Joplin, Andy Warhol, Patti Smith, and Leonard Cohen, just to name a few. The Hotel, which quietly reopened to the public in 2022 following a multi-year overhaul and renovation, is now a thoroughly modern homage to the building’s more bohemian days. The new Hotel Chelsea is designed to feel as though nothing has changed, with minimal décor and original elements such as stained-glass windows, extra tall ceilings, and marble fireplaces. It’s a dream of nostalgia for a New York that is long gone, yet still sought after on every street corner. This dream, however, has nicer sheets, cleaner rooms, and a higher price tag. El Quijote, a Spanish restaurant where many of the hotel’s most famous residents used to hang out, reopened along with the hotel, and stands up to the test of time. A new lobby-side bar that centres on champagne and oysters, stands at the ready. A spa is in the works.
Anyone who is unfamiliar with the history of New York’s Lower East Side may assume that The Bowery is a longstanding relic, however it is a relatively new addition that has become a key landmark of the area. Named after the Manhattan artery that stretches from China Town to the East Village, The Bowery offers glimpses of the Empire State Building from its bold and awe-inspiring floor-to-ceiling windows right from the comfort of one’s room. One simply cannot escape New York’s desirable cityscape when indulging in this handsomely furnished abode. There is a real individuality to this space as it was built entirely from scratch and is adorned with panelling that was salvaged from old buildings in the Philadelphia region. Amongst the mounted antlers, velvet upholstered armchairs and old-world paintings, this lounge space is the ideal place to hibernate, especially after a day or night out in the hubbub of everyone’s favourite metropolis.
Rarely does a Manhattan retreat boast elegance and grit under one roof as effortlessly as The Ludlow. Situated in the thick of the Lower East Side, one of the Big Apple’s trendier districts famed for its booming nightlife, shopping experiences, dive bars and, of course, Katz Deli just around the corner – the restaurant from the iconic scene in When Harry Met Sally – The Ludlow is one for the travel bucket list. Subtly glamorous and full of character, this boutique hotel instantly feels homely yet eclectic with its living room-esque lobby/bar area coated by the warmth of a distressed limestone fireplace, visually striking chandeliers and Moroccan rugs. In fact, many of The Ludlow’s beautifully selected features appear to channel quintessentially Moroccan furnishing, yet another reason to revel in its individuality. This is in many ways an ideal stay for both locals and tourists alike as its aura is deeply nostalgic, despite being relatively new – a wink to the New York of days gone by.