Iconic landmark hotel with a rich history and dramatic interiors
Outstanding Midtown location, right by major sights and shopping
Spacious, traditionally decorated rooms with lovely views
Some rooms have panoramic views of St. Patrick's Cathedral
Luxe touches like bathrobes, slippers, and minibars in rooms
Opulent Villard Restaurant gives a decadent place for breakfast (fee)
Three atmospheric bars on site -- one by reservation only
Well-equipped fitness room with locker rooms and steam rooms
Full-service spa offering a full menu of treatments (in-room available)
On-site coffee shop for takeaway pastries and coffee/tea
Ample event space including ballrooms for weddings
Room service available around the clock
Older hotel showing small signs of wear and tear
Wi-Fi costs a pricy additional fee (free in Tower rooms)
Missing in-room USB ports and coffee/tea facilities
Standard bathrooms aren't luxurious with shower/tub combos
An iconic NYC landmark, the Lotte New York Palace is utterly palatial, with gilded stairways, marble floors, and a courtyard that reflects its palazzo design. Travelers are drawn to its high glamor and its incredible location, right behind St. Patrick's Cathedral and a short walk to Rockefeller Center and Fifth Avenue shopping. Rooms are split between two sections: The Palace (773) and The Towers (176), a separate hotel-within-a-hotel with a residential feel. (Read about The Towers here.) All Palace rooms have soaring views plus luxe extras like bathrobes, slippers, and free shoeshines. Decor is traditional and old-fashioned, and so is the tech: There are no in-room USB ports, and Wi-Fi costs a steep fee. Bathrooms are also a disappointment, with shower/tub combos that feel pedestrian. Both rooms and public spaces suffer from some wear, too. But fans of the property overlook these shortcomings to focus on its supreme glitz.
A grand and imposing NYC landmark with plenty of sparkle but a few cracks showing
An icon of Midtown New York since the 1880s, the Lotte New York Palace is indeed palatial. It began as the private residence for a railroad tycoon who longed for a Roman palazzo on home turf. A hundred years later in the 1980s, it was operating as a hotel infamously run by Leona Helmsley (aka "The Queen of Mean"). But for millennials, it will always be best known as the glittering backdrop to "Gossip Girl," the CW's frothy fictional show that followed the lives of young high society and their scandals.
Today it's owned by the Lotte hotel group, and it remains a tribute to New York City's "old money." The photogenic palazzo courtyard continues to dazzle, especially during the holidays when it's strung with fairy lights and anchored by a Christmas tree. The central atrium is up to its eyeballs in gilded molding and marble. And the various ballrooms twinkle with humongous chandeliers. On the surface, the Lotte New York Palace is pure grandeur.
But a closer look gives the impression that the property has suffered some neglect since its Gossip Girl heyday. Scuffed walls, cracked crown molding, and empty fountains show that the hotel could use a little more T.L.C. Several features are also seemingly untouched since the last decade: The hotel still has a payphone off the lobby, and bathroom attendants are manning the lobby bathrooms and collecting tips. These touches can either feel charmingly retro or impossibly out of touch depending on your perspective. A lack of modernity continues into the rooms, which are missing the obvious up-to-date touches found in other luxury hotels (USB ports, iPhone docks, touch-screens, etc.).
Business travelers dominate the hotel during the week, but they have plenty of company as the week stretches into the weekend with couples celebrating romantic occasions. Perhaps the most surprising guests, given the grandeur of the property, are the children staying here. We found plenty of (well-behaved) kids here on a Big Apple getaway with their parents. Still, it's worth saying, most kids were on the older side often in their tween years. A large portion of the guests were international, well-heeled travelers from Europe or Latin America, and it wasn't uncommon to hear French or Spanish chatter in the hallways. It's also not unusual to see diplomats or other United Nations VIP here.
Note that the hotel is split between the central Palace and the loftier Towers, which offers larger, residential-style rooms made for extended stays.
Phenomenal Midtown location in the heart of the action
Location is a major selling point for the Lotte New York Palace. It's set down in the heart of Midtown, surrounded by top Manhattan sights and famed shopping along Madison and Fifth Avenue. The hotel's courtyard faces St. Patrick's Cathedral, and it's a block away from Saks Fifth Avenue and Rockefeller Center, with its ice skating rink and ginormous Christmas tree in winter. Luxury shops abound -- Bergdorf Goodman, Tiffany's, Chanel, and the Louis Vuitton flagship are all within a 10-minute walk. Cultural landmarks are here as well, with the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) an eight-minute walk away. The base of Central Park can also be reached in 10 minutes on foot, and Times Square can be reached in 13 minutes. It's worth noting that this is an area full of other iconic hotels, including The Plaza and the St. Regis.
While there's plenty of sightseeing close at hand, some attractions might require a subway or taxi ride. The closest subway station is a quick five-minute walk from the front door. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (aka The Met) is a 17-minute ride, while the 9/11 Memorial can be reached in 24 minutes. John F. Kennedy International Airport can be reached in a little over an hour by public transit or 40 minutes by taxi (depending on traffic).
Tastefully decorated rooms with plush extras, yet lacking modern amenities and full maintenance
Rooms at the Lotte are split between two sections: the main Palace rooms and the extended Towers rooms -- larger, residential-style units often catering to those on extended stays. (The Towers is really a separate hotel-within-a-hotel. Read our review here.)
Palace rooms are a study in soft beige with tasteful, traditional decor. Cream colored Greek-key wallpaper, white molding, and wall-to-wall carpets in a basket-weave pattern set a muted backdrop. Big crystal lamps in an urn shape and white leather headboards add high-end touches, while bed skirts in a brocade print edge toward old fashioned. Here and there, gold frames bracket abstract artwork that bring in a small dollop of brighter colors. All rooms are furnished with enormous king beds (or two twins), glass-topped desks, lacquered consoles, and a slipper chair or two. Larger rooms have armchairs and bedside benches, too. Control panels by the bed let guests adjust the temperature and lighting.
However, as with much of the hotel, a closer inspection reveals some wear and tear of time gone by: scratches on the closet doors, touches of rust around bathroom lights, sink fixtures slightly akimbo. It's here the hotel feels a bit down at the heels. Another downside is the tech situation, which feels positively retro. In-room Wi-Fi costs a hefty fee, and there are no USB ports to be found nor any other modern touches, such as iPhone docks. Instead, an ethernet cable is on hand for those that want to plug in.
Still, those shortcomings are often overlooked by travelers who can't tear their eyes away from the view. Broad wall-to-wall windows give panoramic vistas of Midtown's skyscrapers, and Corner Cathedral Rooms seem to soar above the spires of neighboring St. Patrick's like a private jet. (Roman blinds can block these out for those that want maximum darkness or privacy.) Another virtue: All rooms are incredibly spacious, especially by New York City standards.
Standard amenities include phones, alarm clocks, flat-screen TVs with multilingual options, a full minibar with lush extras -- Grey Goose vodka and Francis Coppola wines join the usual Coca-Cola and Snickers. One notable absence: There's no coffeemaker or electric kettle for tea/coffee, and requesting one from the front desk will incur a fee. (Some higher-category rooms do include them.)
Closets are appropriately stocked with a set of slippers, bathrobes, doorman umbrellas, and extra bedding. Irons and ironing boards can also be found here along with giant safes big enough to house the crown jewels. (It's worth mentioning that our room was oddly missing one of the bathrobes and one umbrella, despite being double occupancy.)
Bathrooms can feel like quite the step down from five-star heights. Pedestrian shower/tub combos (versus the separate soaking tub and walk-in shower in other luxe establishments) are a low point, even lacking a rainfall showerhead that could make them a touch special. And single sinks set in granite countertops feel more suited to a run-of-the-mill Marriott. However, they do come generously stocked with individual Molton Brown toiletries, such as pink peppercorn body wash or bars of milk soap. Shower caps and vanity kits with cotton pads and swabs are also on hand. Other helpful additions include magnifying mirrors, hairdryers, and scales. One retro touch -- another landline is parked by the toilet basin here.
Majestic breakfast room, several bars, and a fitness center -- but no full restaurant or pool
For a five-star hotel, Lotte New York Palace's features are marked by some absences. One big one is the lack of a full restaurant. In the hotel's heyday, it held the famed Le Cirque, which was considered the special occasion spot by many New Yorkers. Today, the only restaurant on the premises is Villard, a jewel box of a breakfast room, topped with a domed, gilded ceiling. Breakfast or brunch is appropriately decadent here, with Champagne on offer, a Bloody Mary bar, and items like lemon mascarpone pancakes topped with organic rhubarb on hand. But prices naturally match the atmosphere, and service ends either midday or in the early afternoon (depending on the day of the week). The only other venue for dining is the Pomme Palais, which the hotel bills as a French market bakery, but it's really little more than a coffee counter (although great pastries and croissants can be purchased here). On-site dinner options are limited to room service, but it is available around the clock.
What the hotel does offer in quantity is venues for drinking. Off the lobby, the slinky Trouble's Trust pays cheeky homage to Leona Helmsley and her notoriously spoiled pup with cocktails named "The Queen of Mean" and "The Pampered Pooch," the latter served in a glass stamped with a dog sporting a crown surrounded by dollar signs. Tavern on 51 has a dark and moody tavern vibe with wallpaper in boudoir-red brocade and loads of wood-paneling. The clubby Rarities is by reservation only, which makes it sound rather exclusive, but really anyone can ring up reception and book themselves.
The lobby lounge becomes an extension of Trouble's Trust in the evenings, with table service from the bar. In the mornings, it acts as default seating for Pomme Palais, as the little coffee-and-pastries counter lacks its own spot to plunk down.
Another notable absence for a luxury hotel -- Lotte New York Palace is missing a pool, and the hotel's spa and fitness room feel more functional than fabulous. The narrow, carpeted gym on the eighth floor is equipped with a well-rounded supply of cardio and strength-training machines including Life Fitness treadmills, ellipticals, and free weights. Speakers here pipe in pop music like Jason Derulo, keeping the atmosphere appropriately upbeat, if unremarkable. Guests can also refuel and rehydrate with free apples and fruit-infused water. Down the hall from here, gender-divided locker rooms offer blond-wood lockers to stash clothes, plus showers and eucalyptus-scented steam rooms. Thoughtful amenities here like razors with shaving cream or mouthwash in a crystal decanter allows guests to properly freshen up. That said, the two massage rooms here feel like an afterthought and lack the atmosphere of a proper spa. Apart from spa treatments in a dedicated space, guests can also opt for in-room treatments that are appropriately tailored to their typical clientele, such as the pampering "Executive Escape" or couples massages.
As a landmark property, the Lotte hosts its fair share of weddings, an it's well equipped to host large gatherings with multiple ballrooms and salons that can also be booked for meetings. A bank of computer terminals in wooden cubbies are just off the lobby (together with a single payphone, oddly). There are also a handful of shops on the premises selling suits and jewelry.
Other services include 24-hour laundry and dry cleaning and free shoeshines for all guests. Free copies of the New York Times are set out by the elevator banks for guests to peruse, and Wi-Fi is available, but it costs extra. Nearby parking can be arranged for a hefty fee, and small pets are welcome, too, but again, with a fee.
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