Going back to New York never fails to bring excitement to your soul. There is so much to discover and experience that every visit is like a new one. Since this was my third time in the city I wanted to veer off the beaten path a bit and discover New York I haven’t seen before. This pertained not only to the sights but the hotel I picked to stay in. While I’ve stayed in chained-brand hotels before, this time around I wanted to experience something unique, more intimate yet sophisticated, with personalized service that would make me feel welcomed and at home. As part of my collaboration with Library Hotel Collection, a group of luxury boutique hotels, I was invited to stay at two of their properties in New York – Hotel Elysee and Library Hotel – which turned out to be the highlight of my New York trip and provided exactly the travel experience I was looking for.
So how would I describe Hotel Elysée? Imagine a place with history and distinct character that tells its story the moment you step inside the front door. As soon as the doorman welcomes you in, the tremor of New York fades away and you are transported to New York of yesteryear. This might be a biased opinion, but I felt like Woody Allen’s character Gil in Midnight in Paris, only I imagined finding myself in New York of 1920s, when Hotel Elysée served as a playground for the rich and famous of the roaring era. Alas, unlike Gil, I didn’t bump into anyone remotely as exciting as Ernest Hemingway, Zelda, and Scott Fitzgerald, or Tennessee Williams (who by the way passed away in this very hotel in 1983).
What I did find though, was an exceptionally warm and friendly service. Check in was a breeze and I soon found myself in my spacious Junior Suite on the 14th floor which instantly felt like home. Each of the 100 rooms in the hotel has a distinctive personality and charm. French elegance reigns the ambiance evocative of a time past. From the damask wallpaper and chandeliers to floral draperies, the classic European art, Louis XV chairs and other beautiful period pieces, the interior of Hotel Elysée exudes a charm and elegance of the French abode.
Not to say that any of the modern-day luxuries are missing. My room included two flat screen TVs, premium cable channels, a DVD player, a safe, reading material, an iron, an ironing board, toiletries and a hairdryer. Each room also includes a working desk which is perfect for a business stay or, in my case, catching up on some blog writing. Complimentary wifi is provided throughout your entire stay as well. Even though I didn’t use it, having our own fireplace added an extra layer of coziness to the room. Turndown service was also a very welcomed perk at the end of a full day of exploring.
Nestled among the skyscrapers in the heart of Midtown Manhattan on East 54th Street between Park and Madison Avenues, I couldn’t have asked for a more convenient location to stay. The hotel puts all of New York at your feet. Whether you’re after shopping on the 5th, admiring the latest art exhibition at MoMA, hitting the Theater District and Rockefeller Center, or strolling in Central Park, it’s all within a walking distance.
Each day started and ended in second floor Club Room where you can not only enjoy a light continental breakfast each morning, and the daily 3-hour complimentary cheese and wine reception, but also an all-day complimentary fruit, snacks and hot and cold drinks. It’s the special extra touches like this that makes the customer feel truly valued. My mom and I would nestle comfortably on the couch in the club room at the end of each day, going over the sights we saw and looking through the photos, while also drinking tea and treating ourselves to one too many of those cookies.
Speaking of culinary treats, we also discovered an abundance of wonderful restaurants around the hotel, including Benoit, Alain Ducasse’s upscale French bistro, and Il Gattopardo, serving refined versions of Italian comfort food – both excellent options for dinner.
Although, it’s the hotel’s Monkey Bar that steals the show and must not be missed. Featured as a backdrop to both Carrie Bradshaw and Don Draper’s cocktail-fueled adventures in episodes of Sex and the City and Mad Men, the Monkey Bar has been a home for free-spirited writers, tortured ad men, and other thirsty New Yorkers for close to eight decades. Built in 1936 as part of Hotel Elysée, the bar was purchased in 2009 by Vanity Fair editor-in-chief Graydon Carter and hotelier Jeff Klein and underwent a full restoration. Its candle-and-lamp-lit Art Deco dining room features sumptuous red leather banquettes and a large wraparound mural depicting sixty Jazz Age icons, from musicians Frank Sinatra and Duke Ellington to writers like Dorothy Parker and Langston Hughes. Once again, you will feel teleported to the bygone era of fedora hats and flappers. It is the perfect spot to slip downstairs for a pre-theater dinner or while away an afternoon posted at the bar. The menu offers a mixture of classic and up-to-date cocktails, paired with American-inspired cuisine.
I could probably talk endlessly about how much history Hotel Elysee hides, and it definitely left me longing to go back to discover more. If you’re like me and love staying in places that have a special story to tell, then this would be a perfect place for you.
Disclaimer: our stay at the hotel was partially complementary. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own and unbiased.