New York City’s architecture is famously eclectic and beautiful, and these impressive rooms in NYC prove just that. Sometimes those stunning exteriors of beautiful NYC buildings are nothing more than a pretty façade, but they contain some very ordinary interiors. So we gathered this collection of the best-looking bars, restaurants, public spaces, libraries and New York attractions that have some of the most jaw-dropping and breathtaking indoor areas. In a crowded city full of cramped offices and tiny hole-in-the-wall eateries, these spaces evoke awe and inspiration. Brilliant in their architecture and design and reflective of New York’s diversity and history, here are the most impressive rooms in NYC.
Most impressive rooms in NYC
Say what you will about the new World Trade Center Transportation Hub (like, that $4 billion was way too much to spend on a train station), the Oculus leaves quite an impression. The structure was designed to resemble a bird taking flight, and its space is more expansive than the concourse in Grand Central Terminal. Standing inside the Oculus beneath its sky-high curved white beams feels almost like standing inside the ribcage of whale, except that it is so bright with natural light that the feeling is instead much more ethereal. Its grandeur is almost startling and deserves to be experienced in person (not just via Instagram).
The Morgan Library and Museum, once the personal library of J.P. Morgan, houses and preserves a collection of ancient literature, manuscripts and art. The items on display, including works by Michelangelo and original Gutenberg Bibles, are a sight to see, but the East Room of the library is magnificent in its own right. Three tiers of bookshelves line the walls, accessible only by out-of-sight staircases. On the ceiling are paintings of zodiac signs and scenes of art and science. The room is a little haven for lovers of books, art and history, and it’s the perfect place to pretend to be Belle from Beauty and the Beast.
The room housing the Temple of Dendur in the Metropolitan Museum of Art inspires visitors with its giant wall of windows, from which light illuminates the temple and bounces off the still waters of the reflecting pool. The dramatic background draws your attention to the star of the show, the temple itself, which was originally commissioned by Emperor Augustus of Rome, who is depicted carved in relief on its walls. The room’s architects, Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo, designed the space to resemble the temple’s home in Egypt. The reflecting pool is a stand-in for the Nile River, and the bright lighting is meant to portray the strong sunlight in the Egyptian desert.
After a two-year period of renovations, the beloved Rose Main Reading Room in the New York Public Library reopened to the public in 2016. This was great news for all the bookworms and quiet-lovers who missed it, along with anyone who hasn’t yet visited the library hall that spans two city blocks. Massive windows, bare-bulb chandeliers and brass lamps light up rows of wooden tables, chairs and the two floors of bookshelves that encircle them. Look 52 feet above your head to the ceiling and notice a painted mural of the sky surrounded by ornamental plaster rosettes.
The Plaza Hotel is filled with majestic rooms, but among the ornately embellished great halls and ballrooms, the Palm Court has a lighter, balmy atmosphere that is a little surprising and entirely delightful. The ceiling-height palm trees and potted plants, green glass Tiffany ceiling and enormous arched windows inject airiness into what could have been a space weighed down with opulence. Tourists can enjoy the room at afternoon tea time, and since its renovation in 2014, late-night drinks are now available at the circular bar in the center of the room.
If you ever go out for drinks and dancing at Kinfolk 94 in Williamsburg, you may find yourself pausing amid the mass of gyrating bodies to simply admire the architecture. The space was designed to be converted for different uses, such as art exhibits, events, movie screenings and good ol’ dancing. Geometric light oak wood panels known as shells cover the walls, creating a dome that opens up to the ceiling. One seating area is raised on a platform while another is a niche lowered into the floor, giving the club a very dynamic flow and making it an endlessly fascinating space.
Buddakan feels more like a nightclub than a restaurant, which lends the dining experience a nice buzz of anticipation. The great room here is the main hall (which you might recognize from the rehearsal dinner scene from the Sex and the City movie). With an absurdly high ceiling, low-hanging chandeliers and enormous candlesticks, there is a distinctly medieval vibe in addition to sporadic Asian design accents. Best of all, the restaurant’s glitz and glamour are not compensating for mediocre food—chef Michael Schulson provides the quality that any pan-Asian-fusion restaurant ought to strive for plus some well executed authentic dishes.
On the 35th floor of the Mandarin Oriental New York, elegantly set tables situate diners to enjoy panoramic views of the Upper West Side. The food is high-end Asian, and to sit by the window costs an extra $50 per person. But if you love the feeling of city-gazing, Asiate offers one of the best viewpoints available while you dine. Come for lunch during the day to get the clearest glimpses of Central Park or for dinner at night when the surrounding buildings begin to glimmer in the darkness.