New York City is crowded with well-known and well-loved landmarks, from Manhattan’s Empire State Building to Central Park, from the Brooklyn Bridge to Radio City Music Hall, but New York City’s most iconic hotels also deserve a spot on the list. Some of these luxury hotels are the best New York attractions in themselves, while others are recognized as the most illustrious accommodations in the world. Many of them are considered the top hotels in the city, but all of them are worth a visit, if only to enjoy a drink and soak up the old-school New York beauty.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best hotels in NYC
Most iconic hotels in NYC
Nothing says classic New York like the century-old Plaza Hotel, which sits majestically on the southeastern corner of Central Park. The Plaza was the site of Truman Capote’s famous Black and White Ball and home to a section of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. A $400 million facelift in 2008 made the luxurious landmark even spiffier. The hotel was designated a cin 1969 and it has the honor of being the single hotel with that classification. Sip a glass of bubbly in the lobby Champagne Bar or revel in the splendor of the Rose Club.
The New Yorker magazine was founded at the Midtown West hotel, and writers from William Faulkner to Maya Angelou have stayed here. The genteel, Edwardian oak-paneled library is full of literary vibes, and tuxedo-clad waiters serve boozy cocktails to well-heeled guests. Say hi to the hotel cat, Matilda, who roams the Algonquin like she owns the place.
Built in 1926 by Max Haering, a Swiss man who wanted a European-style hotel, the Elysee was named after after the fanciest French restaurant around at the time. The ghost of Tennessee Williams, who died in the Sunset suite, is said to haunt the halls. Marlon Brando had a suite here, now dubbed "Sayonara" after his role in Teahouse of the August Moon. Hang out the Monkey Bar, a mafia hangout of yesteryear redesigned by David Rockwell in 1995.
The original Waldorf Astoria began as two hotels on Fifth Avenue built by feuding relatives in 1893. The lobby is everything an iconic hotel should be—grand, chandeliered, and full of art deco luxury. A dress code is strictly enforced after 6pm—no jeans! Every President since FDR has slept in one of the 26 Presidential Suites, and for a pretty penny, so can you.
The gorgeous Beaux Arts St. Regis was built in 1904 by the tycoon John Jacob Astor IV, and it’s the sort of place that deserves a visit, even if you don’t have the big bucks to stay. The King Cole Bar’s Bloody Mary was supposedly the first ever, and it’s spicy, delicious and worth the splurge. Chandeliers are everywhere and the white-gloved butlers are on call 24/7.
In terms of serious design cred, The Four Seasons has it all. Architect I.M. Pei—the designer of the Louvre Pyramid in Paris and the east building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.—created the lobby with sweeping ceilings and limestone galore. The 368 rooms here are some of the largest in New York City. PS: the Four Seasons was Mr. Big from Sex and the City’s favorite place to stay.
Built in 1924 near Grand Central Station, the Roosevelt Hotel’s lobby is everything an iconic hotel’s should be—replete with two-story ceilings, polished marble floors and a gigantic chandelier. Wall Street, Maid In Manhattan and Men In Black 3 have scenes that take place here, and The Roosevelt figures largely in Mad Men, where the characters sometimes spend a night or two after fighting with their wives.
The term “ritzy” comes straight from the hotel’s name, and for good reason. The 33-floor limestone building on Central Park South was formerly the St. Moritz Hotel, and the Ritz-Carlton reopened the hotel in 2002. Its rooms have panoramic views and telescopes, the better to soak it all in with. The Star Lounge, right off the lobby, serves a spot-on, apropos Manhattan.
This former bohemian Washington Square hot spot is more than a century old. It opened as the Hotel Earle, a place that offered cheap rooms to the city’s famous writers and artists. Dylan Thomas was a regular and Bob Dylan lived in Room 305. Now it’s full of NYU parents and tourists, but the Art Deco lobby is still stunning, as are the Washington Square Park views. Stay for a drink at the Deco Bar and check out the pretty mosaic floor and wrought-iron gate.
Since 1930, presidents, celebrities and big deal artists have stayed at the Upper East Side Carlyle. Kennedy and Marilyn reportedly trusted their affair to the discreet white-gloved staff here. The original designs are by Dorothy Draper, and the Louis XV lobby furniture makes the place seem from a bygone era. The original murals in Bemelmans Bar, painted by Ludwig Bemelmans, the author of the Madeline children's-book series, are absolutely worth stopping to admire.
The Pierre—and its opulent rotunda—has been on Fifth Avenue across from Central Park since 1930. About that rotunda: every surface of the curved walls and sky-high ceiling are covered in ornate trompe l’oeil paintings. It’s gorgeous and dizzying. The India-based luxury hotel brand Taj spent $100 million renovating the property in 2009, and added colorful silks and Indian paintings. For a certain set of very rich New Yorkers, the ballroom here is popular for parties and weddings.
The Palace's famous façade was built as a private mansion in 1882. Since 1980, the original building was converted into a hotel, and a 55-floor tower full of rooms was added to the building, which has a gorgeous courtyard overlooking St. Patrick's Cathedral. A grand staircase leads up to rooms with sweeping city views and sleek décor. Get into some trouble at Trouble's Trust, the Palace’s clubby cocktail lounge.
Built in 1925, is packed with celebrity gossip. Humphrey Bogart got married here and Babe Ruth hung out at the Gramercy. In 2006, Ian Schrager reopened the hotel, with filmmaker/designer Julian Schnabel. There’s a matador’s jacket in the lobby, an abundance of plush velvet and art from Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Keith Haring hanging on the walls. Hotel guests get a key to the beautiful private (i.e. locked) Gramercy Park next door, and access to the pool in summer, which changes to a hot tub in winter.