The Onyx Hotel Rating: 3.5 Pearls
North End and Beacon Hill, Boston, Massachusetts

Oyster Review Summary

Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators

Pros

Cons

  • On a quiet, barren block in a neighborhood far from most tourist sites
  • Business center is one PC in the basement.
  • Fitness center is small and dark.
  • In-room Wi-Fi is charged per stay if you are not a Kimpton InTouch member (if you sign up for free membership, the internet will be free too)
  • Pricey overnight parking

Bottom Line

On a barren street in the desolate West End, the once-stylish Onyx Hotel is affordable and convenient if you're catching a Celtics or Bruins game at TD Garden or visiting nearby Mass General Hospital. But otherwise it's fairly removed from prime tourist attractions. And while the rooms are comfortable (if small), amenities are slim and the service could be more polished.

Oyster Awards

We investigate in person.
Like your mother-in-law.

Categories

Oyster Hotel Photos

Customers Who Viewed The Onyx Hotel Also Viewed

W Boston
14% viewed
W Boston
Back Bay, Boston
Boston Harbor Hotel
14% viewed
Boston Harbor Hotel
Downtown and Waterfront, Boston
The Westin Boston Waterfront
14% viewed
The Westin Boston Waterfront
Downtown and Waterfront, Boston
Hotel Veritas
14% viewed
Hotel Veritas
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Oyster Hotel Review

 Scene

A once-stylish boutique hotel with small, comfy rooms, but in a desolate part of town

"Emerging art" is the hotel's theme.
"Emerging art" is the hotel's theme.

In a city that's chockablock with hotels capitalizing on Boston's colonial past, the 112-room, Kimpton-owned Onyx Hotel distinguishes itself with its comparatively contemporary decor and playful amenities (in-room Nintendo and pet room service anyone?). Every Kimpton has a cultivated "story," and the Onyx's is "emerging art." Yet save for a few unremarkable modern paintings in the lobby by a local artist and a copy of ARTnews in guest rooms, the execution of that motif seems half-hearted.

The rooms themselves, with sleek dark wood headboards, rich red upholstery, and grey and black checkered carpeting, try more for a seductive, loungy aesthetic than a high art feeling. The color palette of oranges, reds, and beiges and the chenille throw blankets help make rooms warm and cozy, but the space can be tight. My 280-square-foot standard room featured two double beds and not a lot of extra room to maneuver. Certainly I wouldn't have been able to avail myself of the hotel's "Body. Mind. Spa." services, which include free yoga mats for practicing your downward dog.

Service is noticeably spotty -- the staff doesn't seem particularly interested in meeting, let alone anticipating, guests' needs. But nice touches like the daily free wine reception, an exhaustive list of pet-friendly amenities, and modern in-room electronics (like an iPod dock and flat-screen TV) mostly make up for inattentive employees.

For affordable, relatively stylish lodgings in a desolate area that's largely defined by its proximity to other neighborhoods (the North End and Beacon Hill) and convenience for Celtics and Bruins games, the Onyx trumps the comparably priced Bulfinch Hotel down the street. But the Hotel Marlowe, another Kimpton property across the Charles River in Cambridge, more successfully delivers on its theme of "discovery," and has bigger rooms to boot. For not much more per night, the boutique Hotel Commonwealth in Back Bay offers a better location, a livelier bar, bigger standard rooms, and significantly more polished service.

 Service

With an unpolished staff, services seem better on paper than in practice.

Valet parking is $40 a day.
Valet parking is $40 a day.

The Onyx has a modest menu of services -- 24-hour room service (but no dedicated concierge), in-room massages (but no spa) -- but the seemingly green staff sometimes has difficulty carrying out simple tasks. When I called the front desk to request soap, I was subjected to 15 seconds of giggling before someone said hello, and after a half-hour wait I had to call again to remind them. And when a couple returned to the lobby of this pet-friendly hotel from a walk in the rain with their dog, the front-desk receptionist seemed mystified by their request for a towel to wipe off the dog's paws.

  • 24-hour room service
  • Front desk staff doubles as concierge.
  • Free copies of New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal available in lobby
  • Free coffee and tea service in Ruby's restaurant
  • Same-day laundry and dry-cleaning
  • Valet parking with in and out privileges is pricey, though typical for Boston.

 Location

The quasi-industrial West End, a neighborhood defined by its proximity to other neighborhoods

Awkwardly situated between the charming North End and old-school Beacon Hill, the Onyx is in the nondescript West End, an area that's best defined by its proximity to other neighborhoods. Once a lively immigrant community, the area was razed in the 1950s and is now a barren, largely industrial territory. TD Garden, home of the Bruins and Celtics, is two blocks north of the hotel, and Massachusetts General Hospital is a 15-minute walk. But Boston's main tourist draws are farther afield, and the surrounding streets are populated with little beyond sports bars and fast-food joints. However, Beacon Hill's lively Cambridge Street, with an array of eating and drinking options, lies three blocks south, and the North End, Boston's Little Italy, is equidistant.

  • Two blocks to Haymarket T station (Boston's subway system)
  • Three blocks to North Station transportation hub, including trains to surrounding communities
  • Two blocks to TD Garden
  • Five blocks to the North End, where you'll find Boston's Little Italy on Hanover Street.
  • 15-minute walk to Museum of Science
  • 30-minute walk or four-minute drive to the U.S.S. Constitution
  • 10-minute walk to Faneuil Hall, a pedestrian mall and tourist haven lined with pubs, restaurants, and chain stores
  • 30-minute T ride to Fenway Park; 10 minutes by car
  • 10-minute T ride to the 50-acre Boston Common, the country's oldest park and the start of Boston's 2.5-mile Freedom Trail
  • 15-minute T ride to Harvard Square and the entrance to Harvard University
  • 20-minute cab to Logan Airport.

 Rooms

Small but comfortable, with excellent beds and sparkling bathrooms

The DoubleDouble Deluxe Room
The DoubleDouble Deluxe Room

Striped cream wallpaper, grey and black checkered carpeting, dark wood headboards, and red throw blankets and club chairs converge to give the small 280-square-foot standard rooms a cozy feel. But save for a conspicuously placed copy of ARTnews, the vibe is decidedly more 1940s pinup dressing room than "emerging art," the theme of the hotel.

  • Double/Double Deluxe Rooms feature two delightfully comfortable full beds swathed in silky white sheets, puffy down comforters, and four down pillows per bed.
  • Hotel website advertises other pillow varieties on request, yet I found no pillow menu in my room.
  • The 37-inch flat-screen TV, honor bar with organic snacks, sizable work desk, and red upholstered club chair are all nice touches, but they help make the room feel cramped.
  • iHome iPod docks in every room
  • King Deluxe Room is the same price and square footage, but, with less furniture to contend with, it offers a bit more space to maneuver.
  • Bright, clean bathroom features a tub/shower combo with excellent water pressure and Gilchrist and Soames toiletries.
  • Leopard-print robes that hang in the bathroom might not be everyone's idea of stylish, but they're nubby and comfortable. Fuzzy slipper-socks -- available for purchase only -- in the closet.
  • Stocked minibar includes Kimpton "Suite Life" compilation CD and intimacy kit.
  • Nintendo on demand available.
  • Wi-Fi has a flat-fee per stay; sign up for free as a Kimpton InTouch member, and the internet is free.
  • At 325 square feet, King Premier Rooms are an inexpensive upgrade from the standard Double/Double Deluxe Rooms.
  • Unfortunately, the hotel's claim to fame -- its Britney Spears Room, created to coincide with the singer's ill-fated 2004 Onyx Hotel tour -- was done away with in 2008, so plan to bring your own Cheetos.

 Features

Free wine hour, but the gym and business center are tiny

The cramped fitness center
The cramped fitness center

Amenities are few at the Onyx. There's no pool, spa treatments are in-room only (and unimaginable given how small the standard rooms are). Both the tiny gym and business center are in the basement, contributing to the overall feel that these features are more afterthoughts than genuine perks.

  • Small basement gym features two treadmills, one elliptical machine, one recumbent bike and a suite of free weights; open 24 hours.
  • Business center is simply an unenclosed desk with one Mac, a printer and an ATM machine. Internet use is $5 per 15 minutes.
  • The Mind.Body.Spa. program offers a free tote filled with a yoga mat, strap, and block for use in the room when guests tune to TV to the Mind. Body.Spa/Yoga Channel.
  • Exhaustive pet-centric amenities available (see Pet Friendly section)
  • Free wine reception every day
  • In-room spa services can be arranged through the front desk, such as the 50-minute Calm Mind Massage; in-room yoga kits and massages would be hard to make use of in the cramped Double/Double Deluxe Rooms.

 Family

Kid-tolerant but not remarkably kid-friendly

Rooms feature Nintendo on demand
Rooms feature Nintendo on demand

The Onyx's streamlined KimptonKids program provides children with a special gift (ranging from milk and cookies to backpacks stocked with cards, crayons, yo-yo's, and puppets) at check-in. The in-room Nintendo on demand will likely appeal to children (and adults) of a certain age, and a kids' menu offers up miniburgers, mac and cheese and other child-friendly fare. But that's the extent of it. There's no pool. The front desk provides a list of kid-focused activities, but it's up to you to make plans.

  • Location is quiet, remote and a little sketchy after dark -- not ideal for bumming around with the kids in tow.
  • 15 minute walk to the Museum of Science
  • Adjoining rooms available
  • Cribs and strollers are free; rollaway beds are free but can't be used in Double/Double Deluxe Rooms.
  • Kids' menu, available at Ruby Room and via room service, features items like mac and cheese and miniburgers.

 Pet Friendly

Pets of all shapes and sizes stay free of charge and get VIP treatment.

Visiting pets are welcomed by name.
Visiting pets are welcomed by name.

There's no charge for pets of any size -- the hotel merely asks that you notify them in advance about your plans to bring your furry friend.

  • Free dog treats in lobby; signage welcomes pets by name.
  • One floor is given over to guests traveling with pets so as to keep other guests who might have allergies out of harm's way.
  • Cages, food, and water bowls, dog walking services, and doggie beds on offer
  • Room service features a special menu "For the Pampered Pet," including an eight-ounce sirloin with Kibble and gourmet dog or cat food.

 Cleanliness

A few scuffs and stains in rooms, but no egregious cleanliness issues

I spotted some scuffs, smudges, and dust on the headboards and desk, and one stain on the carpet in my room. Plus, I found a troubling brown stain on the white sateen comforter on one of the beds. The Onyx pumps its signature Kimpton fragrance into public spaces, but the whiff I got in the hallway was unpleasantly chemical.

 Food

The restaurant, Ruby Room, while good for a cocktail and appetizer, is nothing special.

Ruby Room is more bar than restaurant.
Ruby Room is more bar than restaurant.

The hotel's restaurant, Ruby Room, serves a full dinner menu Monday through Saturday and a breakfast buffet every day, but the atmosphere is more of a bar/lounge that happens to have a food menu. You don't have to commit to a full meal at Ruby's. A cocktail and a few appetizers -- nibbles are half-price in the evening -- will suffice. Sample items include minicheeseburgers and fried calamari.

 Bottom Line

On a barren street in the desolate West End, the once-stylish Onyx Hotel is affordable and convenient if you're catching a Celtics or Bruins game at TD Garden or visiting nearby Mass General Hospital. But otherwise it's fairly removed from prime tourist attractions. And while the rooms are comfortable (if small), amenities are slim and the service could be more polished.

Things You Should Know About The Onyx Hotel

Address

  • 155 Portland Street, Boston, MA, 02114

Hotel Is Also Known As...

  • Onyx Hotel
  • Onyx Hotel - a Kimpton Hotel
  • Onyx Hotel Kimpton

Room Types

  • Double/Double Deluxe Room
  • King Deluxe Room
  • King Premier Room
  • Parlor Suite with No Bed
  • Standard Room

Find the Lowest Price - Enter Dates

Check-in
Check-out
Guests
 AVG/NIGHT 
Hotels.com  
Expedia.com  
Tingo.com  
Booking.com  
Travelocity  
Otel.com  
Priceline.com  
CheapTickets.com  

All About Oyster

You Can't Return a Bad Vacation.

Our special investigators visit, photograph, review and rate each hotel. We uncover the truth, before it's "uh-oh" time.

Go undercover with an Oyster Investigator The Today Show
Go Undercover with an Oyster Investigator
See 56 Videos of Oyster on TV

Nearby Hotels to Consider

The Boxer Boston
  • The Boxer Boston
  • North End and Beacon Hill, Boston
  • Rating: 30 Pearls
  • Distance: 0.1 mi
Wyndham Boston Beacon Hill
Millennium Bostonian
Ames, A Morgans Original Hotel

Hotel Features

Number of Rooms: 112
Pool: N/A
Fitness Center: Yes
Spa: Yes
Pets Allowed: Yes
Cribs: Yes
Jacuzzi (in room): N/A
View All

Hotel Information

Location: North End and Beacon Hill, Boston
Address: 155 Portland Street, Boston, MA, 02114
(See Map)
Loading Live Rates
Loading...