Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators.
First opened in 1903, the Belleclaire's Beaux-Arts landmark building was designed by architect Emery Roth, who also designed the Warwick Hotel and Ritz-Carlton Central Park. Unfortunately, though, its pedigree and stately exterior don't reflect its interiors -- this is little more than a clean, basic, reasonably priced option a short walk from Central Park and the American Museum of Natural History.
The hotel is located on the upscale Upper West Side, a mostly residential neighborhood populated by well-heeled families, successful young professionals, and the occasional pedigreed dog. Because of its quiet uptown location, the hotel stays pretty quiet. For most travelers, the Upper West Side is simply a comfortable alternative to the flashing lights of Times Square or the super-hipness downtown.
Like its similarly priced neighbors -- the Lucerne, Beacon, and On the Ave (just across the street) -- the Belleclaire attracts more families and vacationing couples than business travelers, as well as those needing to be close to Columbia University, an easy 10- to 15-minute subway ride north. The Beacon, with its giant rooms and in-room kitchens tops the list as the best place for families and the Lucerne offers a little more service and class. On the budget end, On the Ave brings more style, making it a more attractive choice than the Belleclaire.
Generally polite and friendly, but not always the most helpful
Service is far from doting, and not always the most helpful, but being a small-scale hotel, check-in is quick, and the staff is generally polite and friendly. This means that the desk clerk might offer up a stack of NYC maps to help you navigate the city, but if you ask for anything extra -- even something simple like some extra towels -- they might never show up (as happened in my case).
Though the hotel does staff a concierge, I didn't find her to be especially knowledgeable. For example, when I asked her to recommend a good deli, she suggested Europa (a generic sandwich place) rather than Zabar's, a New York institution only three blocks up the street. Service tends to be a bit better at the On the Ave hotel.
Set on the beautiful, clean, but rarely crowded streets of the mostly residential Upper West Side, the Belleclaire is near dozens of great restaurants, but not the all-night bar scenes found farther downtown or the corporate skyscrapers and tourist crowds in Times Square.
It's three long blocks (about a 10-minute walk) from Central Park, the Museum of Natural History, and the New York Historical Society, and 15 minutes walking distance (or a quick subway) from Lincoln Center.
Just about any part of New York is accessible from any area in the city by subway, just bear in mind that it might take a little longer to get to downtown bars or east side shopping and museums from the Upper West Side. What this means is that there are fewer subway lines near the Belleclaire than at other, more popular tourist destinations like Times Square. The 1 train is two short blocks up at Broadway at 79th Street, and you can also catch the 2 and 3 lines four blocks south on 72nd Street.
Rooms were last renovated in 2007 and aren't fancy, but they're equipped with comfortable beds, 32-inch flat-screen TVs, and free, but very sluggish, Wi-Fi. In most rooms, the furniture was replaced in 2007 (though some still have old carpet as opposed to hardwood floors), but the cheapest, economy rooms -- which also have shared bathrooms -- have not seen a recent update.
A more spacious -- and often brighter -- room can be found across the street at On the Ave, which also has more luxurious beds, especially for the price. But if you do end up staying at the Belleclaire, request any room not facing the interior -- they're oppressively dark. Rooms along Broadway, which the hotel refers to as the "06" line, offer much more light.
Clean, well-equipped fitness center and free Wi-Fi, but it crawls
Rooms are small, and both cribs and cots require a fee
Like On the Ave and the Beacon, the Belleclaire is well placed for families. It's three long blocks (about a 10-minute walk) from Central Park, the Museum of Natural History and Hayden Planetarium, and 15 minutes walking distance (or a quick subway) to Lincoln Center.
However, rooms are small, as is common in New York, but they're about one-third smaller than the base-level rooms at the nearby Beacon hotel, whose rooms all have kitchenettes (and suites have full kitchens). And unlike most hotels, parents at the Belleclaire have to pony up $20 per night for cribs and rollaways.
Family suites, about 400 square feet (small by suite standards), can sleep up to six people and you can also connect an additional room with either a queen bed or two doubles.
In the rooms, the furniture is in good condition, but the white grout in between the green tiles in the bathroom is beginning to show some mildew. Also, the air conditioner and window ledge could use a wipe-down. Otherwise, the property is well-kept.
No restaurant or bar, but the diner across the street delivers 24 hours, and there are ample great restaurants within walking distance.
There's no room service at the hotel, but food can be ordered for delivery (i.e. a paper bag filled with food) from the very reasonably priced Manhattan Diner, located across the street. The tab for my fresh-squeezed orange juice and Bagel with cream cheese and tomato came to less than $10. Sandwiches range between $9.25 and $14.95. Because this is from an off-site provider, orders must be paid in cash and cannot be charged to the room. It's not as elegant as room service, but the food is just as good, if not better, and far cheaper.
In general, the Upper West Side is home to some great eats of all prices. H&H Bagels, often considered one of the city's best, is just a few blocks north of the hotel on 80th Street. Then there's Zabar's (gourmet market), Sarabeth's (excellent brunch), Gray's Papaya (killer hot dogs), and Dovetail, which New York Times food critic Frank Bruni gave a very rare (and laudatory) three stars.
Located on the relaxed, upscale Upper West Side, a 10-minute walk from Central Park and the Museum of Natural History, the 197-room Belleclaire has the basics -- clean, well-equipped rooms and a bright fitness center -- but the rooms don't size up to the brighter, friendlier, and better-appointed competion across the street, On the Ave.