The Knickerbocker isn’t the only hotel John Jacob Astor IV built in Manhattan. He opened The St. Regis on Fifth Avenue two years earlier, in 1904. This landmark Beaux Arts property retains a sumptuously elaborate interior harking back to the end of the Gilded Age. The hotel recently completed a multimillion-dollar renovation of its guest rooms and public areas, including the King Cole Bar & Salon, famous for both its Bloody Marys and the striking “Old King Cole” mural by Maxfield Parrish. Accommodations combine classic furnishings with contemporary art and feature marble-tiled entryways, crystal Waterford chandeliers, silk wallcoverings and opulent Italian marble baths. As befits an Astor-built hotel, all guest rooms come with butler service — each floor has one on duty 24 hours a day.
AT A GLANCE
LIKE: The sumptuous décor; the historic atmosphere; the central location; the superlative service.
DISLIKE: The lack of outdoor space.
GOOD TO KNOW: The hotel has a salon on site, but the Remède Spa is closed for renovations. Spa treatments can be arranged in the guest rooms.
The St. Regis 98 Grand Luxe Room, $945. Astor Suite, $1,250. 2 East 55th Street, New York, New York. Tel. (212) 753-4500.
Directly across Fifth Avenue from The St. Regis, The Peninsula will appeal to those who prefer luxury with a more contemporary feel. The grand neoclassical entry hall, illuminated by an oversize crystal chandelier, feels suitably impressive, and guest rooms exhibit restrained good taste. Opt for a Grand Luxe Room or better, which have small televisions mounted over their deep soaking tubs. I love relaxing beside the sunny swimming pool surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows; in fine weather, it’s bliss to recline on a lounger on the terrace (The Peninsula also has a beautifully appointed spa). The rooftop Salon de Ning is one of my favorite spots for a sunset cocktail in summer.
AT A GLANCE
LIKE: The excellent Midtown location; the classic/contemporary guest rooms; the in-room technology; the warm staff; the beautifully presented à la carte breakfasts; the pool; the rooftop terrace and bar.
DISLIKE: In winter, Midtown can be a little gloomy, and at this season, I prefer a hotel on Madison Avenue or closer to the park.
GOOD TO KNOW: Suites include the use of a chauffeured MINI Cooper for up to three hours daily.
The Peninsula 91 Grand Luxe Room, $995; Junior Suite, $1,195. 700 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York. Tel. (212) 956-2888.