Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Oozing Old World elegance, the Hotel Elysee is a bastion of a New York that's otherwise faded into memory, charming its mostly older clientele with tales of former habitues Tennessee Williams and Vladimir Horowitz -- who you can almost hear pounding away at the the piano keys just around a lavishly decorated corner.
Founded in 1926 by a Swiss man who wanted a specifically European-style hotel, the Elysee still reflects his aesthetic, with Renaissance oil paintings and cameos, rococo wallpaper, glittering crystal chandeliers, and enough Old World touches to make you think you may have accidentally entered a portal into the back halls of the Louvre. A later owner let his children design each room according to their whims -- that eclecticism is now seen mainly in the suites, such as the grand Vladimir Horowitz Presidential Suite, named after the late pianist. (It still houses his piano.) The common area is spacious and comfortable, with lounge chairs that beckon guests to spend hours people-watching from the second-floor window overlooking the street below. (Though, on our visit, the Club Room was completely empty except for staff.) Clientele is mostly older, made up of half corporate and half leisure guests -- with many of the latter being regulars of the hotel.
In Midtown East, with well-situated for great department-store shopping and Midtown sightseeing
Hotel Elysee has a prime spot for those visitors to New York who think the center of cultural gravity is still somewhere between Lincoln Center and Times Square. It's on a convenient location in Midtown East, and some of the city's best shopping is only a matter of a few minutes' walk away. It's a 10-minute walk to Central Park, and both Times Square and the Empire State Building are within a 25-minute walk. The hotel is right on Park Avenue, which means that guests won't be able to pop next door for most travelers' needs, but drugstores, restaurants, and delis are only a few minutes' walk away, and the Monkey Bar, though not technically the same business as the hotel, is right next door -- guests can slide right in through the connecting door in the lobby. Younger, hipper tourists, who may prefer a quick ride into Brooklyn, more vivacious nightlife, or more than a slight chance of a tattooed bartender, should save this hotel for visits to New York with their parents and grandparents, and find shelter farther downtown or in the outer boroughs.
Rooms are all gorgeously decorated, though non-New Yorkers may find the standard rooms small. Suites are spacious, and themed suites are grandly appointed.
All rooms have refined, traditional decor, in line with the look of the rest of the hotel. Expect details such as chandeliers, crown moldings, and French armchairs. Standard (known as Deluxe) rooms, however, may seem small to those not used to New York's economy of space -- one room's entry door, for example, butts right up against the elevator doors. Junior suites and larger suites don't suffer the same issue, though bathrooms remain snug. The presidential suites (named after former guests Tennessee Williams, Vladimir Horowitz, and Vaclav Havel) are positively grand. The Horowitz Suite features the pianist's own piano, a dining table, a separate kitchenette with walk-in closet, a (non-working) fireplace and a balcony with a small garden table -- all appointed with an eye to European Renaissance styles.
The hotel's age shows in its lack of amenities most modern places now take for granted, but the Elysee makes up for this by playing to its strengths.
The hotel takes pride in its long history, but its 1920s origins show through in its lack of certain amenities -- which the Elysee makes up for, often by playing to its strengths. Though the hotel doesn't have its own gym, it offers New York Sports Club passes to guests that are good at any branch in the city. There is no in-house hotel kitchen, so the hotel relies on its longstanding special relationship with the adjacent Monkey Bar, which supplies room service till 10 p.m. Though the closest thing the lobby has to a common area with seating is a small sitting room, the second-floor Club Room is large and is the site of the daily happy hour (with wine and appetizers) and free Continental breakfast.
All Old World charm and elegance, the 103-room, upscale Hotel Elysee is superbly located for the high-end department-store shopping of Midtown East and the Upper East Side, and has enough tales to keep history buffs entranced for an entire stay. (They may feel as if they're spending the night with some of the city's most interesting friendly ghosts.) The free Wi-Fi, breakfast, and happy hour help enhance the boutique feel. Younger hipsters with an eye for scenes and not history, however, may wish to find somewhere sleeker to stay.