Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators.
Historic 1930s hotel that housed jazz musicians and Broadway stars -- some still live in the 104-room building! Very old rooms and free Wi-Fi make it feel disjointed.
The Buckingham website proudly lists the many famous pianists, opera singers, and performers who have stayed at the Buckingham over its 80-year history. One of them is Ignacy Jan Paderewski, a pianist and composer who became the first Prime Minister of Poland. As symbols of its history, piano and violin parts are made into and displayed on the dark wood-paneled walls, creating a glowing mechanical diorama.
Grandness and old-world luxury are implied, but sadly not delivered. Rooms are old, very old. What once were apartments of Broadway actors now serve as outdated hotel rooms with mismatched furniture and broken fixtures. In spite of this, the rooms are spacious (two or three times bigger than most N.Y.C. hotel rooms) and have a homey charm. Every unit comes with a kitchen and living area. It's easy to see why artists would use this hotel as a home base for, say, a month-long residency at Carnegie Hall.
Not everything is outdated. The lobby and fitness center were renovated in 2005, and are well-kept. One guest summed up the experience this way: "It's a little idiosyncratic. My room is very old-school, but then I'm here at this modern lounge using the free Wi-Fi."
To this day, there are a dozen tenants who still live in this 104-room hotel. Among them is a retired singer from the musical "Cats." Big band music is piped in the hallways, and in the elevator there's a list of musical events going on in the neighborhood. It's a fascinating place, so it's a pity the hotel falls short in creating a unified -- and updated -- look and feel for this storied building.
Perfunctory service that's not always reliable or friendly. However, long-term guests seem satisfied.
The service was perfunctory and not terribly friendly. Whenever I called the operator to ask a question or request a service, she sounded like I had bothered her midday nap. When I asked for a late checkout, it was granted, though begrudgingly. When I asked for help in adjusting the temperature on the old, old, no one came. My request for a cooking pot and pan came in 10 minutes, which is fine, but not great.
However, for a hotel that gets a lot of long-term guests, it seems that the staff has built a solid relationship with those guests over time. A playwright I spoke to spoke highly of the staff, saying they are very helpful in answering questions and fulfilling requests. He had been in the hotel three weeks, and was coming back for another two weeks soon after.
The hotel is on 57th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. It's a busy street in Midtown Manhattan, because it triangulates corporate offices, Fifth Avenue shopping, and Central Park. There's constant traffic during the day, but at night the area gets quiet. There's a across the street, and a deli called two doors down. A 24-hour is on the corner of Sixth Avenue. Two other hotels are on the same block: the Salisbury Hotel (similar price and room size, less value) and the upscale . It's safe to walk around at any hour.
The famous concert venue Carnegie Hall is at the corner of Seventh Avenue, about a three-minute walk from the Buckingham. The historic Steinway Hall, an amazing piano store and museum, is right beside the hotel and it's definitely worth a visit.
There is no parking available at the premises, but QuikPark at 235 W. 56th St. offers a discounted rate of $28/24 hours. Hotel guests must validate their parking ticket at the front desk. For other parking options, check out Best Parking.
About 30 to 90 minutes from three airports.
New York City has three nearby airports: JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark (in New Jersey). Flying into JFK or LaGuardia is typically easiest and the least time consuming. From JFK, it's a flat-rate $45 (one hour) taxi to anywhere in Manhattan. From LaGuardia, it's about a $40 (30 minute) metered cab ride to midtown Manhattan. Rides from Newark cost at least $40 (plus tolls) and can take over 1.5 hours. Don't forget to tip your driver 15 to 25 percent.
To save some cash, group shuttles are available at all three airports for about $14 per person. For more information on the shuttles, go to Super Shuttle or New York Airport Service. You can also take public transit from any of the airports for as little as $7 per person, but travel times can take up to two hours and involve a lot of lugging bags up and down stairs. For mass-transit directions right to the hotel, check out HopStop.com.
Rooms are very large. The smallest studio is 400 square feet, which is two or three times the size of most N.Y.C. hotel rooms and larger than many apartments in Manhattan. There isn't much consistency to the rooms, though. While the hotel only advertises two room types -- studio and -- the furniture and upkeep of the rooms vary considerably. It's no wonder the Buckingham has gotten mixed reviews from TripAdvisor. You have as much chance of getting a modern room with a flat-screen TV and a new mattress as you have of getting one with furniture from the '80s.
The rooms and bathrooms are clean and tidy, but there are obvious signs of disrepair. Paint was peeling off my tub drain, and the ostensibly old pipes underneath the kitchen sink were heavy with layers of caulking. When I tried adjusting a flickering lightbulb, the stem holding the bulb broke off. "You can see the paint cracking on the windowsill," a guest shared.
Despite these minor details, the rooms are very relaxing. The old furniture gives that feeling of staying at a local's apartment, not an anonymous hotel room. My studio had a living area a few feet away from the boring striped bedspread. There was a hanging tulip-shaped light that glowed a bright red, and black-and-white photographs of New York landmarks. When I turned on the radio, classical music played. The big, old TV set and VCR show that the room hadn't been updated in a while.
Hard-wired Internet is available in the room, but to get it, an engineer needs to first install a modem in the room -- hardly worth the hassle and the price ($12/day).
The full kitchen is an incentive for choosing this hotel over others in the neighborhood, such as the Salisbury. There's a stovetop, mini-fridge, and microwave. The long-staying guests greatly appreciate this feature, as many of them cook their meals instead of paying for food outside the hotel. I awoke to the smell of bacon, and in the evening a meat dish was clearly stewing. A playwright who was staying for three weeks said, "The best part is that the next morning everything is clean. You don't have to wash the dishes. It's like magic!"
The bathrooms are a decent size. The bath products provided are Gilchrist & Soames, a common brand among big-chain hotels. One thing I noticed was a -- nothing wrong with that, just another item that made me think someone actually lived in that apartment.
The lounge on the second floor is a gathering place for guests who need to use the free Wi-Fi or watch CNN on the flat-screen TV. It's the only spot in the building where Wi-Fi is available.
Beside the lounge is a fitness center with stark yellow walls and a very colorful mural of musicians and dancers. The equipment is modern and in good condition. They include two Life Fitness treadmills with individual screens, a multi-purpose Vectra weight machine, medicine ball, elliptical, exercise bike, and free weights. An extra feature that sets this gym apart from other small hotels is the sauna. It's small (good for one person), but it's a nice addition.
The apartment-style accommodations are ideal for families. At 400 square feet, the studio suite provides a lot of space for a small family. The is twice the size and has a separate living area. I spoke to a family of four who raved about the amount of space. "We appreciated having a separate room for our two toddlers," the father said. The little ones cuddled up on a pull-out sofa in the living room, while the parents enjoyed the privacy of the bedroom.
Roll-away beds are available for $20/night. Cribs are complimentary.
The Buckingham is in a safe area close to children's attractions like the Central Park Zoo and the famous toy store FAO Schwartz. Most of the kid-friendly museums (the Museum of Natural History, Hayden Planetarium, the Children's Museum of Manhattan) are on the west side of the park. They are all within walking distance of the hotel.
Pets less than 40 pounds are allowed at no charge, but there are no special services.
Pets are allowed at no charge. In a studio, only one pet is allowed. In a , up to two pets are allowed, so long as they are less than 40 pounds each.
The Buckingham's website claims the hotel offers an "extensive range of pet-friendly services," but I found this to be untrue. The hotel itself does not have any treats or services for the pets, but they do offer to contact an outside service for dog-walking and other requests.
Rooms are in varying states of refurbishing. While everything is kept clean and tidy, some rooms have noticeably newer appliances and updated furniture. What the hotel needs is a complete renovation. There was chipped paint on my window sill and tub, rust on the stovetops and , and old sink with a heavy layer of caulking.
No hotel restaurant or bar. Organic Dutch fast-food on the next block, and other international cuisine options in the neighborhood.
There is no hotel restaurant or bar. The Buckingham is currently constructing a restaurant in the empty space adjacent to it, though there's no word on when it will open or what cuisine it will serve. As of the moment, there's no food or drink for sale anywhere in the building. If guests want to use their kitchen, they can shop for groceries at the Morton Williams supermarket on 57th Street and Broadway, about a 10-minute walk west.
Food delivery is available from a number of neighborhood restaurants which serve a variety of cuisines, including Italian, Japanese, and American. The better option is to head out to one of the many notable restaurants in the area which don't deliver. This is an upscale neighborhood, so a good, sit-down meal will cost you. Of note are business-lunch venue Aquavit (pricey Swedish fare), trendy hot spot Nobu 57 (expensive fusion Japanese), and Italian favorite Trattoria dell'Arte (on the pricey side, but great for groups).
For meals that won't break the bank, there are small cafés like Urban Spoon.two doors down from the hotel, where a slice of pizza or a turkey sandwich are under $6. Check out more dining options in the Midtown West area at
For breakfast, lunch, or brunch, I highly recommend Danku on 57th Street between Sixth and Fifth Avenues (just cross the intersection right by the hotel). This Dutch fast-food eatery has wonderful krokets (balls of fried stuff, also known as "croquettes") that come in flavors like chicken curry and macaroni & cheese. They also serve paninis, salads, and organic cream root beer. If the colorful, geometric wallpaper won't draw you in, their emphasis on natural, organic food will.
HOTEL TEMPORARILY CLOSED FOR RENOVATIONS. IT WILL REOPEN AS 'THE QUIN' IN EARLY 2013. Two blocks from Central Park and near New York's best highbrow venues, the Buckingham has a fresh lobby, a modern gym, and a long musical history. Some of the rooms date back to the '80s, but they're huge (2-3 times bigger than most N.Y.C. hotel rooms), and their full kitchens and pull-out sofas are great for families.