Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
A Euro chain hotel masquerading as a boutique, the Jolly Hotel Madison Towers mostly attracts Italian tourists with its familiar name in a big, unfamiliar city.
On its website, the Jolly Madison bills itself as a "charming Italian Boutique Hotel located in the heart of Manhattan on Madison Avenue at 38th Street." That's not quite accurate.
First off, its entrance is on 38th Street, not Madison Avenue. And, more importantly, it's as much of a boutique hotel as the Marriott, though with a European bent. The hotel is part of the Jolly Chain of Italian hotels that's akin to Marriotts in the U.S. In 2007, Jolly was taken over by a larger Spanish hotel group, NH Hotels. These business dealings don't have a direct effect on the average hotel guest, but they can be felt. Staying there, it's hard to get a handle on just what the hotel (and presumably its changing management) is trying to be and do. Rooms are clean enough but not sparkling, and décor in the standard rooms is dated, not boutique cute. The hotel's restaurant, Cinque Terre, closed in the summer of 2007, and the space remains empty and unused with sad signs still hanging on the windows alerting patrons to the closure. Amenities are lacking: no gym, no business center, no concierge. But then, there are odd, nice touches here and there: Italian candies on the nightstand, the USA Today by the door in the morning, a cool bar.
Still, for the hotel's price, it's clean and comfortable enough. Not surprisingly, it mostly attracts a European crowd -- young Italians and Spaniards looking for a cheapish place to stay, who've stayed in NH or Jolly hotels before. The overall vibe of the hotel is extremely relaxed. Children play on banisters in the lobby. Bellhops sport long hair or facial scruff. The adjoining bar boasts a two-for-one "Jolly Hour." Just note that due to the long, narrow lobby, the hotel doesn't have a grand entrance or inspire a communal feeling.
On a quiet block between Grand Central Station and the Empire State Building, the hotel has few nightlife options nearby. It's at least four blocks to the subway.
Though "Madison" is in its name, the Jolly Hotel Madison Towers entrance is actually on East 38th Street, not Madison Avenue. Madison Avenue is just around the corner, though it's not the famed fancy stretch of the avenue. That's another 20 blocks or so north.
While there's a Staples across the street, the hotel is mostly surrounded by pretty, upscale residential buildings in Murray Hill. The hotel's immediate surroundings are relatively quaint for the area: There's an old, pretty church just around the block, as well as that New York rarity: trees. Two nicer, more expensive hotels, the Kitano and 70 Park Avenue, are also just around the corner.
A variety of public transportation options are nearby, but all require at least a four-block walk. Grand Central Station is four and a half blocks away, with connections to the 4, 5, 6, and 7 subway lines, as well as a shuttle train to Times Square. More subway lines, and the huge, historic Macy's department store are a little more than a half-mile away at Herald Square. Beautiful Bryant Park is also in walking distance, just four blocks away.
The area surrounding the hotel is safe, but extremely quiet at night. There aren't many bars or restaurants open for dinner in the immediately surrounding area. It's a destination for worker bees during the day, not for party animals during the night.
The standard superior rooms are big, basic, and dated. Deluxe rooms are more luxurious, but guests could stay elsewhere for the price.
Deluxe rooms were renovated in 2008, but Standard Rooms and other guestrooms are bit more dated. But all 242 rooms have "European ambiance," with red and white tones, dark wood furniture, and work desks with leather chairs.
There's no gym, the business center is a computer by the front desk, and the small spa only offers shiatsu.
A relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere and free cribs, but no adjoining rooms or roll-aways.
The hotel offers free cribs, and standard rooms are able to accommodate them. However, no adjoining rooms or roll-aways are available. Some standard and deluxe rooms have two double beds but most have a single king bed. Guests wanting rooms with two double beds should make that request when reserving, as the hotel only has a limited number. Room rates are based on single or double occupancy. The hotel charges an extra fee per night for a third person, but children 12 and under are free. Families with older children, however, should take note. Junior suites, some with pull-out sofa beds, are available at about the same cost as the deluxe rooms. However, like the standard superior rooms, they're dated and in need of renovation.
For guests needing a babysitter, the front desk provides the number for The Babysitter's Guild, a childcare agency that specializes in caring for children in from out of town.
Animals under 10 pounds are welcome, at no extra charge.
Guests can bring their purse-size pets at no extra cost. They must sign a waiver saying they'll take responsibility for any damage caused by their pets.
Sure, guest-rooms on the lower floors need some renovations and fresh décor, but they're just dated, not dirty. This is thanks, in large part, to the cleanliness of the bathrooms. Showers and tubs are almost completely mildew-free. I had to search to find the tiniest bit of gunk in a little bathroom crevice, and it was miniscule. Carpet is old but freshly vacuumed. In the bathrooms, maids fold the top tissue in the box into a little blossom, and there's a feeling that the place is cleaned with care. Rooms smell reassuringly of cleaning products. Hallway carpets have lines from recent vacuuming. Sure, wallpaper is threatening to peel on some walls, but the hotel still feels clean, if not cleaner, than most old hotels in this price range. Guests shouldn't expect everything to be sparkly and new. They can expect well-cleaned but well-worn rooms.
There's no real restaurant, just a breakfast served in what looks like a conference room. The room service is unappetizing.
Caffe Buongiorno is the breakfast room. The hotel's website describes it as a "quintessential Italian breakfast room, where your morning cappuccino becomes an 'experience.'" It looks more like a conference room with a sign that says "Caffe" in front of it. The breakfast buffet goes from 7-10:30 a.m. A continental buffet is $22, while an American buffet with eggs and bacon is $32. I ordered smoked salmon and poached eggs on an English muffin from room service. It came covered in a hollandaise-like sauce the color of baby vomit. That was $15 wasted. I turned to my room service cappuccino for consolation, expecting delicious Italian espresso. Instead, it tasted more like instant coffee -- an insult to fine Italian roasts around the world.
Still, there's a diner just around the corner called Moonstruck that's open late and popular with hotel guests. One block away is Butterfield 8, a trendy restaurant and lounge. Asia de Cuba, an expensive Asian-fusion restaurant and bar, is also just a block away in the Morgans hotel.
The Whaler Bar has a great happy hour, and a surprisingly good atmosphere.
The Whaler Bar has good lighting, a nice atmosphere, and even live jazz some nights. Even better, it has a true New York hotel rarity: a happy hour with half-price drinks from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Drinks on offer are pretty basic (no specialty cocktails) and beers on tap are pretty standard, but $5 for two Stella Artois drafts is a great deal. The bar serves no food, save for a healthy bowl of snack mix.
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 (one-hour) $45 flat-rate taxi ride to anywhere in Manhattan. From LaGuardia, it's about a (30-minute) $40 metered cab ride to Midtown Manhattan. Rides from Newark cost at least $40 (plus tolls), and can take more than 90 minutes. Don't forget to tip your driver 15 to 25 percent.
To save some cash, try the group shuttles that 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 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.
Located in residential Murray Hill, just south of Midtown East's skyscrapers, the Jolly Hotel is a not-too-swanky 242-room European chain -- not the "charming, Italian boutique" promised on its website. Standard rooms are worn, but clean. There are few extra amenities. But its updated Deluxe rooms make it a fair choice for the price.