From Uptown’s bustling avenues to the quiet, cobblestoned streets of downtown, New York is a study in contrasts.

By Travel + Leisure
August 12, 2012
Plaza Hotel

From stays at the restored Plaza Hotel—where you can browse for art books at Assouline, try on vintage-inspired baubles at Kenneth Jay Lane, or cozy up at the spruced-up Oak Bar, overlooking Central Park views—to drinks at the Peninsula New York’s 1930’s Shanghai-style rooftop bar, dinner at French-inspired Café Cluny, where waitresses wear Audrey Tautou pigtails, and nightcap at Smith & Mills, a tiny TriBeCa boite in a former carriage house where the cozy banquettes can accommodate only a dozen-odd patrons, there are plenty of chances for love to blossom. Bright lights, big city? From this vantage point, New York feels like a small town.

Salon de Ning

The Peninsula hotel's roofbar, Salon de Ning, is punctuated with global accents like Moroccan lanterns, Chinese daybeds, and Venetian mirrors. Nab a spot on the western terrace to catch a glimpse of the MOMA Sculpture Garden, and try the Baojing Vodka Martini.

The Plaza Hotel

The Palm Court's famed stained-glass ceiling was re-created pane-for-pane with the help of New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission. Touch-screen AMX systems in the 282 guest rooms deliver on their promise to make easy the tasks of controlling lighting, contacting the concierge, and summoning your white-gloved butler. Unfortunately most of the Central Park views went to the 142 new condos. (Try to score one of the Plaza or Deluxes rooms adjacent to an Edwardian Park Suite - they're the cheapest ones partially overlooking the park.) Still, for a European-palace-style experience, this is the only game in town.

Lafayette House

You're on your own at this hip approximation of a Victorian pied-à-terre, but that's one of its selling points. Checking in means ringing the buzzer so a staff member can come up from the basement and hand you the key. Occupying an unmarked 19th-century town house, the inn's 15 spacious rooms are tasteful arrangements of upscale flea-market finds—hand-picked carpets, scroll-arm sofas, four-poster beds, velvet curtains—and all have their own gas fireplaces, flat-screen TV's, and DVD players. (King rooms also have kitchenettes, outfitted with copper kettles and mini fridges.) Two layers of double-paned windows manage to keep late-night noises from Noho's bar district at bay. B Bar, the popular spot next door, does room service (it keeps keys after-hours), but given the happening location, why stay in?

On the Ave.

Popular among student travelers and Columbia-visiting academics, this upper-Broadway hotel offers a surprising amount of comfort and style for an affordable price. The 282 streamlined rooms (many of which often go for well below $300) all have beds with suede headboards, down duvets, and 300-thread-count Egyptian-cotton linens; other high-style touches include stainless-steel sinks and complimentary Godiva coffee. The 16th-floor garden terrace with its row of Adirondack chairs is a supreme summer lounging spot (the adjacent penthouse, No. 1602, has stunning views of the Hudson River and is worth the splurge). The property will have two restaurants, a bar, and a fitness center by spring 2008.

Café Cluny

Owned by Lynn Wagenknecht of Odeon fame, Café Cluny is a West Village bistro attracting diners with its eclectic décor and menu of simple, French-inspired cuisine. The dining room has closely-packed tables and a small corner bar lined with stools. Knick knacks and artwork adorn the walls, and the glass case full of stone birds is particularly eye-catching. The Odeon’s influence is felt in Café Cluny’s menu, which includes such items as frisee salad aux lardons and coriander crusted Long Island duck breast. The wine list is mostly French varietals with a number of organic selections.

Smith & Mills

Housed inside a renovated horse stable in Tribeca, Smith & Mills is an urban bar with a vintage, industrial feel. The small space, which has only two plush booths and a handful of barstools, is decked with antiques and retro-inspired pieces; ship plans from the early 1900’s serve as wallpaper, and an elevator is repurposed into a bathroom. The bar serves a selection of classic cocktails like Manhattans and martinis, as well as wines and beers. Lunch and dinner items, such as the salmon tartare and the Hungarian meatballs, are available as well.