New York City is crowded with well-known and well-loved landmarks. From Manhattan’s Empire State Building to Central Park via the Brooklyn Bridge – there's certainly no shortage to the icons that come immediately to mind, but the city’s hotels deserve a spot on the list, too. Some of these luxury stays are the best NY attractions in themselves, while others are recognized as the most illustrious accommodations in the world. Many are considered the top hotels in the state, but one thing's for sure: all of them are worth a visit. Even if you only go to enjoy a drink and soak up the old-school New York beauty.
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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 spot even spiffier. The hotel was designated an official landmark by the NY City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1969 and to this day has the honor of being the only 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 this Midtown West hotel and major writers such as William Faulkner and Maya Angelou have stayed here. The genteel, Edwardian oak-paneled library is full of literary vibes, while tuxedo-clad waiters serve boozy cocktails to well-heeled guests. And if you've got a moggie, bring them along, as felines are more than welcome. The Algonquin has a long history of having a house cat; the latest is Hamlet, who took over duties in 2017 after the sad passing of former resident cat Matilda.
Built in 1926 by Max Haering, a Swiss man who wanted a European-style hotel, the Elysée was named after after the fanciest French restaurant around at the time. The ghost of Tennessee Williams, who lived in the hotel for 15 years and died in the Sunset suite, is said to haunt the halls. Marlon Brando had his own room too, now dubbed the "Sayonara" suite after his role in Teahouse of the August Moon. Hang out at the infamous Monkey Bar, a former mafia hangout of yesteryear that was 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. Given its grand old age, the Waldorf is currently undergoing a complete renovation and restoration, but so iconic is it in New York's history that we couldn't leave it off the list. Every President since FDR has slept in one of the 26 Presidential Suites and, for a pretty penny, so can you when it reopens in 2021.
The gorgeous Beaux Arts St. Regis was built in 1904 by 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 absolutely 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. Situated on Billionaire's Row, the 368 rooms here are some of the largest in New York City. And, fun fact, the Four Seasons was a regular stop over point for a certain Mr. Big from Sex and the City.
Built in 1924 near Grand Central Station, The Roosevelt's lobby is everything an icon 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.
Swiss hotelier César Ritz not only lives on in the legacy of his swanky hotels, but he is also the reason we now have the word ritzy. This 33-floor limestone building on Central Park South was formerly the St. Moritz Hotel, but was reopened as the Ritz-Carlton 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 fills the place with character from a bygone era. The original murals in Bemelmans Bar, painted by the bar's namesake Ludwig Bemelmans (author of the Madeline children's books), are absolutely worth stopping to admire.
This stalwart of the New York hotel scene is still as classic and elegant today as the day it opened in 1930. The Rotunda on the ground level is a must-see. The curved walls and grandiose murals – painted by Edward Melcarth in 1976 – make the room feel like it was plucked straight from a rococo fairytale. It was newly renovated by Daniel Romualdez to include a full bar and light snacks in the afternoon and evening.
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, the Gramercy is packed with character and celebrity gossip. Humphrey Bogart was married here, Babe Ruth made use of the place as a regular hangout and 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 artwork by Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. Guests staying the night get a key to the beautiful private Gramercy Park next door, as well as access to the pool in summer, which changes to a hot tub in winter.