Long synonymous with old money and pricey real estate, the Upper East Side remains home to multimillion-dollar town homes, designer boutiques, five-star restaurants, world-class museums, and, of course, ultra-luxe hotels. New York doesn’t get much more exclusive than this.
A historic high-society hotel across the street from Central Park, the Pierre offers a taste of grand Old New York to those staying in its 189 traditionally decorated guest rooms. Those rooms have top-of-the-line everything, by the way, from Bose wave radios to Molton Brown toiletries. The large staff (staff-to-guest ratio is reportedly three to one) provides impeccable service, but the Pierre lacks some of the on-site amenities (like a full-service spa) that can be found at other by-the-park luxury hotels, like the Plaza and the Four Seasons.
The Mark, a historic hotel built in 1927, re-opened in 2009 as one of the best contemporary luxury hotels in New York. The hotel's stunning interiors are colorful and bold rather than gilded and stuffy, and there's a restaurant and bar from Jean-Georges Vongerichten, one of New York's (and the world's) most famous chefs, plus 24-hour room service. Though the Pierre's rooms are a touch more luxurious, the Mark's 152 subdued rooms have stunning Art Deco-inspired bathrooms and great details, like down pillows and Italian sheets by Quagliotti on the custom-made beds and remotes to control the lights, window shades, temperature, flat-screen TV, and Blu-Ray DVD player.
An iconic luxury hotel, the Carlyle figures into New York's annals as host of local and international celebrities, including an impressive run of presidential guests. The 1930 hotel maintains much of its original style: Louis XV lobby furniture, original murals in Bemelmans Bar by the author of the famous Madeline children's-book series, and classic stylings in the 193 rooms and suites (and those apartment-style rooms are bigger than what is found at similar iconic hotels). In addition to the famous Bemelmans Bar, the Carlyle also has a French fine-dining restaurant and a cabaret supper club (where Woody Allen regularly performs). Guests have free use of the fitness center, which is a touch less impressive than the one at the Mark, which is open 24 hours and has a martial arts and boxing studio.
This enduring property has been a New York institution for over 50 years, and was once the favorite New York City getaway of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. Today, guests are a bit more down to earth (mostly middle-age executives) but they’re still here for the same luxurious details and easy comfort that made this place a stunner for the Hollywood elite. The entire hotel underwent a complete overhaul in 2013, and rooms are now sophisticated, modern, and airy. Though not as opulent as the ones at the Pierre, the Mark, or the Carlyle, Loews' rooms are full of thoughtful extras, including ergonomically designed desks, Frette linens, and bathroom mirrors with embedded TVs.
In lieu of the gilded-to-the-gills lobbies and extensive features you'd find at the Plaza or St. Regis -- not to mention the daily battalion of tourists wandering in to snap photos -- the Surrey offers a private, more intimate experience, more like the Carlyle. But instead of the Carlyle's hushed lobby full of Louis-XV-inspired decor, expect a hushed lobby full of Art-Deco-inspired decor. Starting at a spacious 330 square feet, rooms are bigger than at the Carlyle, and feature extraordinarily comfortable custom Dux by Duxiana mattresses topped with Sferra linens. The occasional weird design choice (a cheap-looking armoire, pillows with corny poetic quotes) take the rooms down a notch from those at the make-no-mistakes Carlyle. The service is attentive and extensive enough to make you feel like minor royalty. Still, you’d feel even more royal at the Carlyle, where there’s a white-gloved elevator operator and twice-daily housekeeping.
Sister to the world-renowned Hotel Plaza Athenee in Paris and one-time home to Princess Diana and Elizabeth Taylor, this historic property has European-style decor and charming period details. The spacious rooms (a touch less luxe than those at the Surrey) feature Sferra linens, flat-screen TVs, and gorgeous bathrooms with deep soaking tubs. Some rooms also feature glass-enclosed solariums or terraces that offer excellent city views. Other suites have fully equipped kitchens. The bar and restaurant are intimate and romantic, serving excellent fine-dining fare and cocktails. The acclaimed Plaza Athenee Spa has stunning treatment rooms and the well-equipped fitness center overlooks tree-lined 64th Street. Above all, though, is the hotel's dedication to service, made evident from the outset with a sit-down check-in, and continued throughout guests' stays by the excellent Clefs d'Or concierges.
The Sherry-Netherland is the type of luxury hotel where white-gloved elevator operators greet guests by their name, and hand-woven French carpets muffle the sound of steps in the hallways. The marble, vaulted lobby modeled after the Vatican Library can feel a little intimidating, and the hushed and exclusive vibe is certainly not for everyone -- but those looking for a unique boutique with large rooms, classic elegant decor, and top-notch service will probably not be disappointed. The adjacent Harry Cipriani restaurant provides room service and guests can access the hotel's fitness center and hair salon, but, unlike Plaza Athenee, there is no spa here.