We stayed at New York's top 2 luxury hotels to see which was better -- and the winner is clear

  • The Plaza Hotel in New York is one of the most famous luxury hotels in the world.
  • The Beekman was recently named the #1 rated hotel in New York by U.S. News & World Report.
  • We stayed at both hotels to see which deserves the title of best hotel in New York City.
  • The Plaza offered a more seamless luxury experience for a vacationer, while The Beekman was better suited for business travellers.

New York City is one of the most popular cities in the world to visit, and it’s only becoming more so. In November, NYC & Company, the city’s tourism agency, estimated that the number of tourists visiting the city last year had increased to a record 61.8 million people.

It is expected to be the eighth straight year that tourism hits a new high in the city.

As a lifelong New Yorker, it’s little surprise. Few other cities conjure the same starry-eyed gaze no matter where you are in the world. As author Joan Didion once wrote, New York is “no mere city. It was instead an infinitely romantic notion, the mysterious nexus of all love and money and power…”

There are few places in New York that evoke that romantic ideal more than The Plaza Hotel, called when it opened in 1907 “the greatest hotel in the world.” Even today, tourists from all over the globe come to stay at The Plaza for a taste of old New York luxury.

But as the city has developed, so has the hotel scene. In February, U.S. News & World Report announced that The Beekman, a boutique downtown hotel that opened in 2016, was the #1 hotel in the city.

I recently stayed at both hotels to see how they stacked up. While there are any number of ways these two hotels could be compared, we settled on: location, overall decor and style, architecture, communal spaces, check-in process, bedrooms, bathrooms, shower, bed, hotel bar, dining options, gym + amenities, internet, in-room entertainment, and attention to detail.

Keep reading to see which hotel emerged as the winner.

There are some 250+ hotels in New York City, but The Plaza is by far the most iconic. The unabashedly luxurious hotel has been featured in dozens of movies and books, and was for decades the place in Manhattan to see and be seen if you were rich or famous.

The Beekman opened in 2016 after a multi-year effort to renovate and restore the historic Temple Court building. Since its opening, it has received rave reviews.

The Plaza is adjacent to Central Park in midtown Manhattan. Meanwhile, The Beekman is located in the heart of the Financial District. Business travellers will appreciate The Beekman’s proximity to Wall Street, while vacationers will no doubt be taken with The Plaza’s view of Central Park. I give a slight edge to The Plaza because Wall Street is a ghost town at night.


The style of The Plaza is unapologetic grandeur, full of gilded surfaces and marble floors. President Trump would feel right at home. Perhaps that’s why he once owned the hotel. But whereas Trump’s gold buildings can seem gaudy, The Plaza reads as elegant. I felt very out of place in jeans when I visited.

The Beekman has a whimsical old-meets-new aesthetic that borders on “steampunk.” Designer Martin Brudnizki sprinkles a mix of textures and colours throughout the property, but it can occasionally leave the space feeling almost crowded. Still, it was the kind of place one would feel just as comfortable in jeans as in a suit, and that gives it the edge to me.

While there are numerous restaurants at The Plaza and a bar-cum-cafe in the main lobby, the hotel lacks a communal space not tied to dining.

The Beekman has numerous seating areas throughout the lobby and the first floor where one could meet with friends or associates, or sit and work. The spaces were inviting and encouraged me stay out of my room during my stay. Point for The Beekman.

While The Plaza’s grand lobby has moved since its mid-2000s renovation — when part of the building was converted to condos — the building is still spectacular. The glass ceiling of Palm Court, the famous tea parlor, was reconstructed during the renovation to look like it did upon opening in 1907.

The Temple Court building, where The Beekman resides, is equally historic, dating to 1890. The atrium is a breathtaking view from any floor. This, and the skylight above, may be the most beautiful piece of architecture in any hotel I’ve seen.

The check-in process at both The Plaza and The Beekman was seamless. Hotel employees greeted me amiably, handed me my keys within seconds, and set me up with wake-up calls and morning newspapers. A tie.

The rooms at The Plaza are decorated in the same baroque style as the rest of the hotel, but even the smallest room has a king-size bed, airy windows, and enough space to stretch out.

The smallest room at The Beekman feels cramped with a single window, a queen-size bed, and not much space to move around. While the Beekman is more current, the reclaimed antique-shop decor feels oppressive in such a small room.

No matter what room you stay in at The Plaza, you’ll find a bathtub adorned with gold-leaf mosaic tiles, gold fixtures, and marble. It makes you feel like a king.

The bathroom at The Beekman, though done in marble and wood, is nothing to write home about. Like the room, it’s cramped.

The shower in the Plaza room was in a separate room off the bathroom and spacious. The water pressure was like a massager and it got hot enough even for me (I like my showers near boiling).

The Beekman shower is no slouch either. It’s a much tighter shower space, but it has a rain shower-head, which mimics a heavy rain. It’s a delightful way to wake up. I’d say it’s a tie.

The king bed at The Plaza was very comfortable — firmer than my usual bed, but I found the next morning that I woke up feeling very alert. The linens were soft, but crisp.

The bed at the Beekman was exceptionally comfy. The perfect balance between firm and soft, with sateen Sferra linens. However, The Plaza wins here because all the rooms have king-size beds. Beekman’s entry-level room is a queen.

The Plaza’s hotel bar, the Rose Club, is steeped in history. It used to be known as the Persian Club and played host to legendary performers like Miles Davis and Duke Ellington. On Wednesdays, singer Kat Gang and her quartet play a mix of swing and cool jazz. As a jazz fiend, this was a big bonus.

But The Beekman’s Bar Room at famed chef Tom Colicchio’s Temple Court is a much more lively scene. A thoughtful mix of indie, neo-soul, and hip-hop played in the bar, which was packed until closing on a Tuesday night. It seemed to be a mix of after-work drinks, dates, and the occasional business meeting. I digged the vibe, and the Victorian library decor.

The Plaza has three in-house dining establishments, plus a food hall in the basement, meaning there’s no shortage of options. The $US18 chocolate fudge cake with blood orange cinnamon sorbet at The Rose Club was masterful. The $US24 cocktail of whiskey, ginger beer, and a few other accoutrements, was sickeningly sweet.

While I didn’t order any food at the Bar Room, I ordered a “Rob Roy,” the bar’s excellent take on a Manhattan, made with scotch. The rest of the cocktail menu was creative and left me wanting to come back for a mezcal-based Oaxacan Old Fashioned.

I didn’t have time to eat on the restaurant side of Temple Court, but the New York Times’ famed restaurant critic Pete Wells called the cooking “spotlessly correct” for its interpretation of Gilded Age “robber baron dishes” like duck à la orange.

Despite The Plaza’s wider selection, The Beekman’s dining options struck me as more creative and less overpriced.

The Plaza offers up an extensive gym, as well as a steam room and a spa run by French beauty brand Guerlain.

The Beekman gym has everything you need, but in a much smaller space and divided between two floors. The best part is the pricey Peloton bikes, which offer streaming cycling classes.

A major demerit for the Plaza is that free internet is not included with all rooms. While some rooms get access, others will have to pay. I find it ridiculous when high-end hotels charge for something a $US50 Airbnb gives without question.

Screenshot/Harrison JacobsThe Plaza Hotel.

Internet at The Beekman was free and plentiful. Fast enough that I was able to video-chat an acquaintance in Asia without issue.

The in-room entertainment at The Plaza left a lot to be desired. While premium channels like HBO are ostensibly included, I had a lot of trouble navigating the archaic interface and found many channels inexplicably blacked out.

I found no such issues at The Beekman, which had a much more user-friendly cable service and tons of channels. And there’s an in-room Chromecast, so I was able to watch whatever I wanted.

Lastly, a high-end hotel is all about attention to detail. In that regard, The Plaza was excellent. Guest services left a handwritten letter upon arrival, a forgotten toothbrush arrived with turn-down service, and I found a copy of the New York Times waiting outside my door in the morning.

I cannot say the same for The Beekman. I found a pair of someone else’s tights on the ground behind the armchair and, though I asked for it, I never received a copy of the morning newspaper. Maybe someone was having a bad day.

Bonus: It’s not really fair to compare, but The Plaza’s highest-end suite is a three-bedroom, 4,490 square-foot apartment that runs for $US30,000+ per night.

The Beekman’s highest-end suite, a “turret”-penthouse is a lofted one-bedroom that feels like a rustic cabin in the middle of New York City. It runs for around $US5,000-$US6,500 per night.

WINNER: The Beekman, which was pushed over the edge by free internet, Chromecast, and a dynamite hotel bar. But it wouldn’t take much updating from The Plaza to retake the crown, particularly because it has much nicer rooms.

Total Score:

The Plaza: 7

The Beekman: 8

Location: The Plaza

Decor/Style: The Beekman

Communal spaces: The Beekman

Architecture: The Beekman

Check-in process: Tie

Bedrooms: The Plaza

Bathrooms: The Plaza

Shower: Tie

Bed: The Plaza

Hotel Bar: The Beekman

Dining Options: The Beekman

Gym + amenities: The Plaza

Internet: The Beekman

In-room entertainment: The Beekman

Attention to detail: The Plaza

MY RECOMMENDATION: Stay at The Plaza on vacation. Stay at The Beekman on a business trip. Or better yet, stay at The Plaza and visit The Beekman for a meal and a cocktail.

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