The Plaza Athenée first opened its doors in 1984, and today it still feels like a chic European townhouse; a luxurious and low-key hideaway in the heart of New York. Its brilliant setting, close to Central Park and a short stroll from some of the finest luxury stores in Manhattan such as Bergdorf Goodman, Barney's and Henri Bendel, as well as The Frick, MOMA and Rockefeller Center, makes it one of the most sought after locations in the city. This is one of my favourite New York hotels for its central location, quiet rooms and seamless service.
As soon as you arrive you'll be enchanted by the Athenée's beautiful traditional décor. The lobby is adorned with marble floors, gilt lamps, statues and gorgeous painted murals of countryside scenery. Large rooms and suites have been recently renovated and elegantly designed with French Beaux Arts style furniture, huge beds, crisp Italian linen sheets and lots of heavenly pillows, with ample space for sitting by the windows and admiring the rooftop views at the back of the hotel. Brand new en-suite bathrooms with marble floors, under-floor heating, rainfall showers and vast tubs are completely luxurious, topped off with fluffy white bathrobes and Penhaligon lotions that make you seriously consider never leaving your hotel room. Elizabeth Taylor famously favoured the Athenée's Penthouse Suite as her NYC bolthole, and the suites are always sought after by celebrities looking for somewhere reliably low-key for a city-break. I feel the carpets are a bit tired, but this niggle aside, I would happily recommend the Athenée to any of my clients looking for understated luxury in a central location.
The staff at the Athenée are absolutely charming and they couldn't be more accommodating every time I stay. From the friendly bellmen who greet you on arrival, to the receptionist who knows everyone by name and the concierge who makes you feel like nothing is too much trouble, they'll make sure you get the very best experience of the city. And it's in the little Athenée touches, like the small tray of delicious Ladurée macaroons and welcome note in your room, that make a stay feel like a special treat. This also happens to feel like one of the safest places to stay in the city with a security team at the door - somewhat of a comfort in this day and age (particularly for women travelling alone).
New York's fine-dining scene is begging to be devoured, with countless wonderful restaurants to try in the neighbourhood. But if you have a few nights in the city then be sure to have dinner at Athenee's gold-domed Arabelle, which has a wonderful reputation as an intimate dining room serving organic food with a great wine list. I also love the ambience at Bar Seine with its dark leather flooring, velvet furnishings, animal prints and comfy chairs. It's a cosy meeting place with a real buzz about it – the perfect place for afternoon tea or a cocktail before heading out into Manhattan's frenetic streets. The hotel's Spa Valmont is another reason why the Athenée feels like the ultimate urban retreat. It's the only hotel in NYC to carry Valmont products (created in Switzerland in 1985), and with four beautifully soothing Asian themed treatment rooms, each with its own bathroom and steam shower and offering facials, massages and reflexology, it's the perfect indulgence after a day hitting the sights. There is also a fully-equipped 24-hour gym with a treadmill, elliptical & cycle machine.
Whilst the Athenee is most suited to adults in search of a calm retreat in the concrete jungle, children and pets (small dogs) are welcome at the hotel, and the excellent concierge is more than happy to suggest things to do. The NYC Zoo nearby is delightful for small children who will love visiting the penguins and little red pandas, and Serafina Always, around the corner, is a great snack bar to take the kids.
Every time I explore a new destination, whether it’s on an adventure holiday in Peru or a luxury beach escape in the Indian Ocean, I return home full of excitement to share the amazing sights I have seen. Through my own experiences I have developed a love of helping others experience the great wonders of the world; truly getting under the skin of the extraordinary destinations that are at your fingertips. Getting the details right, from which hotel is perfectly located for exploring away from the crowds, to which local guide is most knowledgeable on history or culture or art, is of paramount importance to me. I am constantly seeking out new and exciting experiences and exploring off the beaten track to ensure my clients are receiving the best and most honest first-hand advice.
Take a look at my travel diaries for food for thought on your next trip...