By Sara Clemence
July 08, 2020
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This year’s World’s Best Awards survey closed on March 2, just before widespread stay-at-home orders were implemented as a result of COVID-19. The results reflect our readers’ experiences before the pandemic, but we hope that this year’s honorees will inspire your trips to come — whenever they may be.

One is fast-paced, the other sweet and slow. One is packed with glass and steel skyscrapers, the other with charming, low-slung inns and mansions. New York and Charleston may not seem to have much in common, but both are East Coast cities with important harbors — and some of the best city hotels in the contiguous United States.

Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L invites its readers to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Hotels were rated on their facilities, location, service, food, and overall value. Properties were classified as city or resort based on their locations and amenities.

Three of the 15 best city hotels in the U.S. are in New York; two are in Charleston. The Surrey, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, is No. 7 on the list. Though not as edgy as some other New York hotels, it’s undeniably cosmopolitan, with a robust collection of modern art and clean-lined rooms designed in neutral tones. Wentworth Mansion in Charleston is tied with the Surrey for seventh place. Built in the 19th century for a wealthy family, its columns, ornate ironwork, and Tiffany stained glass both stand out and fit right in with Charleston’s lacy architecture. Its 21 guest rooms have opulent moldings and velvet swags above the beds.

Francesco Tonelli/Courtesy of The Mark Hotel

As different as they are, they both made the list in part because they strongly reflect the personalities of their respective cities. The same goes for other hotels on the list, such as the Hotel Emma (No. 15) in San Antonio, which proudly showcases its past as a landmark brewery and stocks its mini-bars with South Texas treats. The rooms at the Inn of the Five Graces (No. 11) may be peppered with Silk Road finery instead of Southwestern textiles, but that dovetails perfectly with the artsy, freewheeling spirit of Santa Fe.

In addition to staying true to local culture, the best city hotels also offer all-important proximity. Most people travel to cities not to stay cloistered in a hotel, but to experience the shopping, dining, museums, and bars. New York’s top hotels are a short stroll from world-famous museums; the Kimpton La Peer Hotel (No. 4) is in L.A.’s walkable Design District. You may have to travel far to reach these top spots, but once you get there, everything else is right outside your door.

This year’s No. 1, The Mark, epitomizes the glamour for which Manhattan’s Upper East Side is famed. Read on more about what makes it so popular with T+L readers, as well as the full list of the best city hotels in the United States.

1. The Mark, New York City

Scott Frances/Courtesy of The Mark Hotel

Score: 96.24

More information: themarkhotel.com

Manhattan’s Upper East Side is known for being elegant and packed with culture, but there’s a lingering misconception that the neighborhood can be a bit old-fashioned or snoozy. That’s hardly the case, especially at this year’s winning hotel: “The atmosphere is hip and fun, and the staff was very warm and accommodated all of my family's requests,” shared one reader, who also went on to praise the food (“top notch”) and rooms (“fresh and specious, with one of the most comfortable hotel bathrooms I've ever seen”). Several travelers also pointed to location as a key attribute, noting that the property is a short walk from Central Park, among other marquee attractions. Guests also tout the “happening” bar, which like the restaurant, is overseen by Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

2. The Georges, Lexington, Virginia

Courtesy of The Georges

Score: 96.19

More information: thegeorges.com

3. Santa Monica Proper Hotel, Santa Monica, California

Courtesy of Santa Monica Proper Hotel

Score: 96.00

More information: properhotel.com

4. Kimpton La Peer Hotel, West Hollywood, California

Laure Joliet/Courtesy of Kimpton La Peer Hotel

Score: 95.62

More information: lapeerhotel.com

5. The Row Hotel at Assembly Row, Somerville, Massachusetts

Courtesy of The Row Hotel at Assembly Row

Score: 95.00

6. The Post Oak Hotel at Uptown, Houston

Courtesy of The Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Houston

Score: 94.77

More information: thepostoakhotel.com

7. (tie) Wentworth Mansion, Charleston, South Carolina

Courtesy of Wentworth Mansion

Score: 94.76

More information: wentworthmansion.com

7. (tie) The Surrey, New York City

Courtesy of The Surrey

Score: 94.76

More information: thesurrey.com

9. Kimpton Hotel Born, Denver

Courtesy of Kimpton Hotel Born

Score: 94.58

More information: hotelborndenver.com

10. The Bristol Hotel, Bristol, Virginia

Courtesy of The Bristol Hotel, a Charlestowne Hotel

Score: 94.48

More information: bristolhotelva.com

11. Inn of the Five Graces, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Courtesy of Inn of the Five Graces

Score: 94.29

More information: fivegraces.com

12. John Rutledge House Inn, Charleston, South Carolina

Courtesy of John Rutledge House Inn

Score: 94.26

More information: johnrutledgehouseinn.com

13. The Art, a Hotel, Denver

Courtesy of The Art, a hotel

Score: 94.11

More information: thearthotel.com

14. The Lowell, New York City

Courtesy of The Lowell

Score: 93.95

More information: lowellhotel.com

15. Hotel Emma, San Antonio, Texas

Nicole Franzen/Courtesy of Hotel Emma

Score: 93.92

More information: thehotelemma.com

See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2020.