The Peninsula New York Rating: 4.5 Pearls
Midtown East, Manhattan, New York City

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Pros

  • Large indoor pool with food and drink service
  • Exceptional gym -- ample space, new equipment, steam rooms and saunas, free yoga and fitness classes
  • In-room printer/copier/fax machines with a dedicated phone number
  • Popular rooftop bar and lounge, Salon De Ning
  • ESPA spa and salon, among New York's best
  • Two blocks from two subway lines; more within walking distance

Cons

  • Small, 27-inch TVs in standard rooms
  • No iPod-docking radios in most room types
  • No in-room coffeemaker
  • Fitness center and pool open only from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Bottom Line

The 239-room Peninsula has small TVs in the standard rooms, but the indoor pool, superb gym (free workout gear, organic teas, and a sauna and steam room), widely praised spa and salon, and in-room fax machines make it a fine choice for a quiet, classically luxurious hotel. And for designer shopping, its 5th Avenue location is ideal.

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Oyster Hotel Review

 Scene

"Old New York"-style opulence, like the others; but a superb spa, gym, and pool to best the rest

The indoor pool
The indoor pool

Set in a grandiose, century-old building on 5th Avenue -- amid eclectic, highest-of-the-high-end jewelry boutiques, long-lauded restaurants, and some more mainstream retailers like the Gap and the World of Disney -- the 239-room Peninsula Hotel evokes a quiet, classic, business-leaning elegance that's similar in spirit to that of the Ritz-Carlton. Virtually every square inch of the property is gilded, coated in marble, flourished with something French (or Asian), or (less-thrillingly) carpeted. Its doormen are quick to hail cabs and they'll rush out into the rain to open a car door, umbrella in hand. But, naturally, this is par for the course for a New York hotel at these prices.

So, what differentiates the Peninsula? In terms of elaborate, awe-inspiring beauty, the Peninsula is arguably bested by the St. Regis (across the street), the Pierre, the Plaza, the New York Palace, the Four Seasons, the Mandarin Oriental, and a number of other steeply priced competitors. And while the standard guest rooms are significantly larger than the average hotel room in New York, they have small TVs, lack iPod-docking radios, and their firm beds fail to meet that too-plush-to-wake-up standard of comfort found at most other high-end hotels (as well as some cheaper big-chain hotels).

But the Peninsula has one clear advantage -- one of the best indoor pools, gyms and spas in the city (only the pool at the Mandarin Oriental compares). The rooms, too, have some notable perks -- a printer/copier/fax machine, a one-touch "mood lighting" control panel on the bedside table, and a speaker system in the bathroom connected to a control panel in the tub so that you can switch from classical to adult contemporary midway through a soak. Considering this, and the fact that the hotel is often less expensive than the hotels directly on Central Park -- the Ritz-Carlton, the Plaza, and the Mandarin Oriental, among them -- it can be an excellent luxury pick for the price.

 Service

Formal, attentive service -- prompt doormen, white linen on the room service carts, knowledgeable concierges. A dozen extra free bottles of water for the room? Just ask.

Attentive doormen
Attentive doormen
  • 24-hour room service, including high-quality, late-night sandwich and salad options from Fives restaurant
  • Staff attendants at the pool and gym, poolside dining and cocktails available (though, unlike other Peninsula hotels, like those in Hong Kong or Beverly Hills, the attendants don't automatically bring guests water and towels)
  • Free fitness classes (yoga, aqua-aerobics, and boot-camp-style cardio, among others); free water, tea, and coffee; even free workout clothes to borrow
  • Free DVD library
  • Free local newspaper of choice, including the New York Times and the Financial Times
  • 24-hour valet service; attentive doormen

 Location

Surrounded by some of the highest-end retailers on 5th Avenue

Though its building sits along the dense, shopping stretch of 5th Avenue -- such ultra-upscale outfits as Bottega Veneta (purses) and Takashimaya (elaborate, bejeweled miscellanea) share the block -- the Peninsula's entrance is actually along East 55th Street, across from a beautiful church and significantly less foot traffic than you'd find along the avenue. More mainstream retailers like the Gap, Tommy Hilfiger, and the World of Disney also fit snugly along 5th Avenue, drawing considerably more tourists than you'd find farther north in the Upper East Side (near the Pierre Hotel, for example), but the Peninsula's more central location is not without its perks -- Adour, the signature French restaurant by internationally renowned Chef Alain Ducasse is just across the street at the St. Regis Hotel.

  • Two blocks from the E or V subway lines; many other subway stations are within a four block radius
  • Four blocks from Central Park
  • One block from the Museum of Modern Art
  • Six blocks from Radio City Music Hall
  • Eight blocks from Rockefeller Center
  • Five blocks from St. Patrick's Cathedral
  • 20-minute subway ride from Times Square
  • 20-minute subway ride from the Empire State Building
  • 40-minute subway ride from the ferry terminal to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
  • 25-minute subway ride (one transfer) from the American Museum of Natural History

 Rooms

Large, comfortable rooms with great work areas -- fax machines included -- and small TVs

The Superior room
The Superior room

When it comes to well-thought-out room features, the Peninsula's guest rooms are a cut above. Individual printer/copier/fax machines; a single-button system to set the room to "mood lighting" from the bedside table; a console in the tub that'll let you control the radio -- all unique highlights you won't find at the Mandarin Oriental, the Carlyle, or the the Plaza (the Four Seasons and the St. Regis, however, do have fax machines in the rooms).

But when it comes to the basics, the room doesn't quite hold up to the luxury standards elsewhere. No doubt, the down pillows are superb, but the especially firm mattress doesn't quite have that over-the-top plushness found at other high-end hotels. Plus, the 27-inch flat-screen TV is a bit too small to read subtitles from bed (comparatively, most other luxury hotels have at least a 37- to 42-inch screen). And while the bathroom speakers might seem nice, most other hotels in this price range have an iPod hookup so that you can pick your own tunes.

  • The Superior Room, the standard room type, comes with a king-size bed (only) and starts at a comfortable 370 square feet -- larger than the standard rooms at the Pierre and Carlyle hotels; smaller than Four Seasons, Plaza, Ritz-Carlton, and Trump International. Deluxe Rooms offer a bit more space at 440 square feet.
  • Bedside electronic control panels let you adjust the lights (you can switch to "mood lighting" by the push of a button), the radio, the temperature, and the TV from bed; it's fun, but the only real advantage is being able to turn off the lights before bed without having to get up.
  • Well-stocked minibar
  • Large workdesk with built-in power outlets, an additional pullout wing (for even more workspace), and a printer/copier/fax machine (private number and paper provided)
  • Small, 27-inch flat-screen TV with 100 plus channels including HBO, HBO2, and Showtime (more than at most other hotels) in most room types; 42-inch TVs come in the suites
  • DVD player and a list of movies you can borrow for free
  • Free Wi-Fi and hard-wired Internet
  • No iPod-docking radio, except in some of the suites
  • Deep tub, great shower pressure (it's almost painful), bathrobes, slippers, and aromatic (but lesser known) bath products from Davi
  • Firm mattress; down pillows and duvet, high-quality sheets
  • Standard and Deluxe Rooms and Junior Executive Suites (620 square feet) have "interior views," which makes the rooms quiet, but you're not likely to get much natural light (rooms above the 15th floor, however, have a slight view from the locked balcony); Grand Luxe Rooms (480 square feet with a king beds or two doubles), Junior Suites (575 square feet), Executive Suites (725 square feet), Deluxe Suites (1050 square feet), Grand Suites (1625 square feet), and The Peninsula Suite (3,300 square feet and redesigned in 2012 with a grand piano, library, private dining room, and black Jacuzzi tub, among other highlights) all overlook either 5th Avenue, 54th or 55th Street.

 Features

Large indoor pool and incredible gym with plenty of freebies, including fitness classes

The fitness center
The fitness center
  • Warm, glass-enclosed pool on the 22nd floor -- 42 feet long (enough for a short lap); 3.5- to 5.5-feet-deep; children welcome
  • Superb gym, one of the best in New York (open 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.) -- new Life Fitness cardio and strength-training equipment; free water, apples, headphones (for the private TV monitors on each of the cardio machines), magazines, organic teas and coffee, and workout clothes (even shoes); extra space to stretch; beautiful views of the New York skyline
  • Personal trainers and free fitness classes daily -- yoga, aqua-aerobics, and boot-camp-style cardio, among others
  • Outdoor sun terrace (open during warm weather)
  • Free access to men's/women's locker rooms, including their sauna and steam rooms

 Spa

Guided by Asian, European, and Ayurvedic philosophies, the ESPA spa was ranked among the best spas in North America by Conde Nast Traveler in 2008 and it still rivals the best spas in New York.

  • Free access to the aromatherapy steam room, Finnish sauna, ice fountain, and "experience shower" (unlike at most other New York hotels, like the Mandarin Oriental or the Waldorf Astoria, which charge as much as $50 per person, per day, to access the spa facilities)
  • Comfortable Asian Tea Lounge (organic teas) -- part of the reason they encourage you to arrive about an hour before your scheduled treatment
  • Facials, waxing, and other beauty and nail treatments from the salon

 Family

As there's only a king bed available for most room types, this isn't an ideal choice for families, but there are some notable advantages over other luxury hotels -- namely, the pool.

  • Large, indoor pool, but if two people happen to be swimming laps, there won't be much room for splashing (as is the case at just about any pool in New York)
  • Child-size bathrobes available, though you might have to call the front desk to get one
  • Kids' menus available for room service
  • Large rooms, but if you want more than one bed in the room, you'll have to upgrade to a Grand Luxe Rooms with two double-size beds

 Cleanliness

Well cleaned, throughout

Aside from some slight mildew along the edge of the tub, the entire hotel is kept exceptionally clean -- no stains, strewn room service trays, or dusty corners.

 Food

Fine for room service (available 24 hours), but the overpriced on-site restaurant is unremarkable when it comes to both the food and the ambience

Salon De Ning
Salon De Ning

The on-site cuisine at the Fives restaurant -- named for its location on 5th Avenue at 55th Street -- doesn't quite compare to the celebrity-chef-led destination restaurants at other high-end hotels, like the St. Regis, Trump International, and the Mandarin Oriental (just to name a few). But in general, the food is well prepared and focused on high-quality, local and organic ingredients. But for the price (about $90 for a humble breakfast for two) and the setting (a rather bare white room with a few paintings, potted plants, and no view to speak of) there are better restaurants in the neighborhood. Some personal favorites: Abboccato and Il Gattopardo (Italian, both about one block away); Anthos (Greek, three blocks away); Adour (French, across the street at the St. Regis); the Modern (exceptional American-Nouveau, two blocks away at the Museum of Modern Art); Burger Joint (some of the best, and cheapest, burgers in the city, only two blocks away).

  • Quiet and classic, the well-executed American fare at the Fives restaurant averages about $35 to $40 for the average entree, like free range chicken with a truffle jus or miso glazed tuna; menu options also available from room service, available 24 hours.
  • Styled in the spirit of 1930s Shanghai, Salon De Ning -- a 23rd-floor rooftop terrace that's popular among locals for its beautiful views and swank outdoor setting -- offers excellent, $22 cocktails.
  • The Gotham Lounge, a quiet, elegant meeting area just off the lobby, hosts a popular afternoon tea from 2:30 to 5 p.m. Monday through Sunday. Otherwise, it's a quiet space for a more mature clientele to indulge in a $22 martini without the clubby riffraff.

 Airport Transportation

About 30 to 90 minutes from three airports

New York has three nearby airports: JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark (in New Jersey). Getting to town from JFK or LaGuardia is usually more convenient than getting there from Newark, but travel times are heavily dependent on the time of day and traffic conditions. From JFK, a taxi to anywhere in Manhattan costs a flat rate of $45 and takes around an hour in average conditions. From LaGuardia, a metered cab ride to midtown Manhattan costs about $40 and can take 30 minutes if traffic is light, three times that if it's bad. Rides from Newark cost at least $40 (plus tolls) and can take more than 90 minutes. It's customary to tip your driver 15 to 25 percent.

Those looking to save some cash can use the privately run shuttle buses 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. Public transit is also available 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 stairways.

For mass-transit directions right to the hotel, check out HopStop.com.

 Bottom Line

The 239-room Peninsula has small TVs in the standard rooms, but the indoor pool, superb gym (free workout gear, organic teas, and a sauna and steam room), widely praised spa and salon, and in-room fax machines make it a fine choice for a quiet, classically luxurious hotel. And for designer shopping, its 5th Avenue location is ideal.

Things You Should Know About The Peninsula New York

Address

  • 700 Fifth Avenue At 55th, New York, NY 10019

Hotel Is Also Known As...

  • New York City Peninsula
  • Peninsula Hotel New York
  • Peninsula New York City

Room Types

  • Deluxe Room
  • Deluxe Suite
  • Executive Suite
  • Grand Luxe Room
  • Grand Suite
  • Junior Executive Suite
  • Junior Suite
  • Superior Room
  • The Peninsula Suite

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Hotel Features

Number of Rooms: 239
Pool: Yes
Fitness Center: Yes
Spa: Yes
Internet Access: Yes
Pets Allowed: Yes
Cribs: Yes
Jacuzzi (in room): Some
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Hotel Information

Location: Midtown East, Manhattan
Address: 700 Fifth Avenue At 55th, New York, NY 10019
(See Map)
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