Several of the city’s chicest boutique hotels are in the Gramercy/Union Square area. Luckily you do not have to be a tourist to enjoy their lounges, restaurants, and other amenities. Whether it is to linger over afternoon tea, admire art by contemporary masters, or sip cocktails alfresco, stopping by these fashionable spots will make you feel as if you are on a mini vacation—without having to deal with cramped airplane seats and jet lag.
201 Park Avenue South (between 17th and 18th Streets)
W New York—Union Square. Image: MusikAnimal/Wikimedia
This hotel is housed in a Beaux-Arts building that dates back to 1911, but you would never guess it upon entering the sleek, streamlined lobby. While the proportions of the grand staircase recall those of Gilded Age mansions, its lack of furbelows and frills puts it firmly in the 21st century. In its bar, dubbed the Living Room, you can sit at one of the numerous nooks for an intimate drink. On Friday evenings a deejay often hosts a set; other times a tarot-card reader might hold court. The hotel’s restaurant, Irvington, takes advantage of its proximity to the Union Square Greenmarket to source many of the ingredients for its Mediterranean-influenced fare (prosciutto pizza, pan-seared striped bass with ajo blanco). The W hosts an artist-in-residence program too, with the featured talent changing each quarter. Mixed-media artist Maxwell N. Burnstein kicked off the program in 2016 with a fashion-inspired installation; this autumn the program featured Jamour Chames’s “Girl All Over the World” portfolio.
56 Irving Place (between 17th and 18th Streets)
The Inn at Irving Place. Image: Beyond My Ken/Wikimedia
You could easily stroll right past the Inn at Irving Place; the two 19th-century brownstones that make up the hotel fit in seamlessly with the rest of the block’s structures and are not distinguished by any sort of sign or awning. Stepping inside the inn is a bit like stepping back in time to the Victorian era. The petite lobby is furnished with fringed lamps and tufted armchairs, mantel clocks and Aubusson-style rugs. The same aesthetic carries through to Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon, where you can enjoy a traditional five-course afternoon tea service—soup or salad, sandwiches, scones, gâteau de crepes, and of course, petits fours—along with wine or cocktails. For a more-bohemian experience, stop in at the inn’s Cibar lounge, where clear acrylic barstools and lip-shape chairs complement the more-traditional tufted armchairs and leather banquet; there’s an intimate patio as well, embellished with greenery. Here you can enjoy cocktails with names (Swipe Right, Ex-Girlfriend) that would have scandalized the brownstone’s original inhabitants, wine, beer, bottle service, and small plates that range from Kobe beef sliders topped with quail egg to cookies and milk.
Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon at the Inn at Irving Place.
2 Lexington Avenue (at 21st Street)
Lucius performing at the Gramercy Park Hotel’s Rose Bar. Image: Sachyn/Wikimedia
Before it was converted to a hotel in 1925, the Gramercy Park Hotel was the residence of famed (and infamous) architect Stanford White. In 2006 it was given another overhaul, by architect John Pawson and artist/director Julian Schnabel. With its Louis XV-style chairs, red velvet draperies, and bronze door handles and finials (forged by Schnabel himself, no less), the design pays homage to the original Renaissance Revival aesthetic. The 190-room hotel also displays a rotating collection of contemporary art, featuring works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Fernando Botero, Damien Hirst, and David Salle, among other blue-chip artists. As if the art were not enough of a draw, the Gramercy Park Hotel is also home to Maialino, a modern-day trattoria renowned for its pasta dishes and tasting menus. After your meal you can retreat to one of the hotel’s two bars. The exclusive Rose Bar, which after 9 p.m. is open by invite only, often features music showcases; the adjacent Jade Bar is a more intimate (and more accessible) alternative.
201 East 24th Street (at Third Avenue)
Purists might argue that because it is a block north of 23rd Street, the Marcel at Gramercy Hotel is not officially in the Gramercy Park neighborhood. But it would be a shame to let a city block keep you from stepping into the hotel’s inviting lobby, with its circular leather sofa and textural neutral-tone mural. On a bright day you can enjoy a continental breakfast alfresco on the terrace of the Marcel’s 10th-floor lounge. And if you cannot decide between Italian or Japanese for dinner, head to the hotel’s Natsumi Tapas restaurant. In addition to traditional sushi and sashimi, the menu includes imaginative offerings such as spicy tuna caviar flatbread pizza, green-tea gnocchi with asparagus and capers, and sashimi seaweed ceviche.