- The Plaza in New York is one of the most famous and luxurious hotels in the world.
- We stayed at The Plaza Hotel recently to see if it still lives up to the hype.
- While the regal charm and luxury of the hotel is undeniable, it could use some tweaks for the modern age, including free wireless internet and better in-room entertainment.
Since, it has played host to New York’s ultra wealthy, from the scions of the Vanderbilt and Kennedy families to American artists and socialites F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Ambassadors, princesses, and actors and actresses have all called The Plaza home at one point or another.
It first became etched in the American cultural imagination in Fitzgerald’s seminal novel “The Great Gatsby” and since has been featured in countless films, television shows, and literature. More recently, it was featured in “Home Alone 2: Lost In New York” and “American Hustle.”
President Donald Trump once owned the hotel for a time, purchasing it in 1988 for $US390 million -around $US807 million in 2017 dollars.
In an open letter to New York Magazine, he famously declared, “I haven’t purchased a building, I have purchased a masterpiece – the Mona Lisa. For the first time in my life, I have knowingly made a deal that was not economic – for I can never justify the price I paid, no matter how successful the Plaza becomes.”
The hotel has passed through many owners throughout its 100+ year history. We stayed at the hotel recently to see if it still retains the regal charm for which it has always we been known.
The Plaza Hotel is located in midtown Manhattan at the southeast end of Central Park, near Grand Army Plaza. The location is unbeatable for that classic ritzy uptown feel.
The Plaza Hotel was built by financier Bernhard Beinecke, hotelier Fred Sterry, and Harry S. Black and opened in 1907. It actually replaced a 15-year-old hotel of the same name on the site, which was open from 1890 to around 1905.
The entrance is wrought in golds, blacks, and whites. This is not the original entrance of the building — that is on Fifth Avenue. In 2008, the hotel reopened after a $US400 million renovation that split the building into a 282-room hotel and 152 condominiums.
Despite the renovations, most of the hotel, like this entrance way, has been preserved or restored to its original look. The building has been a New York City landmark since 1969 and a National Historic Landmark since 1986.
The new lobby of the hotel is as swanky as you might expect. The hotel took two years to build and cost $US12 million when it was first developed in the early 1900s. It was an unprecedented sum at the time.
The Champagne Bar in the lobby doubles as a champagne and wine bar at night and a café during the day. It was once the hotel’s Champagne Porch, which stood in the same location and was the most exclusive of The Plaza’s dining venues. Legendary figures who have eaten there include the Prince of Wales and Diamond Jim Brady.
When I checked in, I was told I had been upgraded from a Plaza Room to a corner suite. Since they knew I was there on behalf of Business Insider, I’m sure it was entirely random. Service was personable and snappy. I had my key in less than a minute and was told I’d have a copy of the New York Times outside my door in the morning.
The crown jewel of The Plaza may be Palm Court, which serves breakfast, tea, bar bites, and evening cocktails. It has been featured in many popular novels and films, including The Great Gatsby.
This beautiful ceiling was covered over in the 1950s. It was not until the 1980s, when Trump owned the hotel, that it was uncovered. In the early 2000s, developers restored the ceiling, using shards of glass embedded in the walls to figure out what shades of green and rose glass to use.
Source: The New York Times
Though it had previously made appearances in movies, the hotel’s film debut was in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 classic “North by Northwest.” According to the hotel’s history archives, this was the first time a crew, director, and cast assembled on-site at The Plaza to make a movie instead of filming it at a Hollywood soundstage off-site.
Because the Plaza is a landmark, it is more or less kept exactly as it was originally designed by Henry Janeway Hardenbergh. The carpets, which mimic the tiling underneath, are one of the few additions.
This is the Oak Roam. In the hotel’s initial decades, it was a men-only dining room. In 1969, the National Organisation for Women protested New York’s men-only policies there. A few months after the protest, The Plaza opened it to women. It is now primarily an event space.
Source: Town & Country Magazine
The stunning Grand Ballroom has set the scene for some of entertainment’s most famous events and wildest parties. It was where Truman Capote hosted his legendary Black and White Ball in 1966.
The hallways are simply, but elegantly decorated. Every common space in the hotel smells like it has been perfumed with orchids.
I was given a corner Carnegie Park Suite, which I was told has partial views of Central Park. It runs for around $US2,500 a night, though it fluctuates depending on the season and availability.
It’s 1,000 square feet in size (i.e. nearly twice the size of my apartment), and one of nine suites like it in the hotel. The sofa actually turns into a full-size bed.
When you arrive, you’ll be greeted by an assortment of fruit and sparkling water.
I found a handwritten letter from VIP guest services and a complimentary notebook and pen. It’s a bit of a step up from the usual notepad common in most hotel rooms.
The view of Central Park was nice. But I bet it looks more inviting in the summertime.
The king bed was (spoiler alert) very comfortable. It was firmer than my usual bed, but I found the next morning that I woke up feeling very alert.
This hallway is more spacious than many New York apartments.
The hall closet has plenty of room for you to unload your entire suitcase.
The bathroom thoughtfully has separate rooms for the toilet and shower.
The gold mosaic tiling on the bathtub was my favourite part of the room. It’d be hard not to feel like royalty taking a bath in this room. The Plaza is the only hotel in the world to offer 24-karat gold-plated sinks and fixtures by Sherle Wagner.
The bath products are all sourced from famous French perfume and skincare house Guerlain, which also runs the hotel’s spa.
The master bedroom is quite spacious. Enough room for two night tables and an armchair to read in. Behind those curtains is a little balcony.
The suite has a nice wet bar for mixing up drinks and dipping into the minibar.
But the minibar, like all hotel minibars, will cost you for the convenience. Would anyone like a $US12 bag of M&M’s?
If you forget something, or want to order room service, there is an iPad where you can order. I forgot my toothbrush and toothpaste, so I requested it on the concierge app.
The Plaza has a wide selection of gourmet options for 24-hour room service, like a Lobster Cobb Salad ($US48), The Plaza private reserve American ossetra caviar ($US295/oz), and a dry-aged 18-ounce bone-in ribeye steak ($US72).
Instead, I headed downstairs to The Rose Club, one of The Plaza’s three dining establishments. In its 1950s and 1960s heyday, it was known as the Persian Club and played host to legendary performers like Miles Davis and Duke Ellington.
I stayed at the hotel on Wednesday night, which just so happened to be the bar’s weekly jazz night. Singer Kat Gang and her quartet played a mix of swing and cool jazz. It brought the old New York vibe of The Plaza to life.
The Rose Club has an extensive menu of cocktails, food, and desserts, but it isn’t cheap. This cocktail (a mix of bourbon, ginger beer, and a few other additions) was $US24. The chocolate fudge cake with blood orange cinnamon sorbet was $US18. The decadent dessert was worth it — so rich I couldn’t finish it. The cocktail was not.
The stairway from the Rose Club to the main lobby is very elegant.
When I returned to the room, I was delighted to find I’d been given turn-down service with a pair of slippers placed next to the bed and the aforementioned toothbrush and toothpaste waiting for me. A nice touch.
But I was soon annoyed when I tried to get online. It strikes me as nickel-and-diming that a high-end hotel is charging guests $US15 or $US25 a day for internet. It should be complimentary in this day and age.
The Plaza cable service is pretty lacklustre. While it offers premium channels like HBO, the interface is hard to navigate and I found tons of channels that inexplicably didn’t work. And there should be an AppleTV or Chromecast hookup so guests can watch Netflix or Hulu.
I awoke the next morning to find the New York Times waiting outside my door. I usually stick to Twitter and my phone to read the news, but this was a nice way to spend the morning.
I am a fan of extremely hot showers with heavily pressurised showerheads. The Plaza shower did not disappoint.
I decided to start my morning like I always do (just kidding) with a workout. The gym is located in the spa, which is run by Guerlain.
Source: Guerlain Spa
The space certainly lives up to Guerlain’s reputation for elegance. There are testers of expensive perfume everywhere and if you’d like a glass of wine while you wait for your massage or skin treatment, I won’t judge.
The gym, while not huge, has everything you need: free weights, ellipticals, treadmills, exercise bikes, and various exercise machines. Unfortunately, the steam room was out of service.
After my workout, I took a short tour of the hotel. My first stop was one of the more standard 475-square-foot Plaza Rooms ($US550 and up). It’s a little tighter, but still has a king bed and the Plaza’s classic decorations.
The bathroom is essentially a smaller version of the one in the suite I stayed in. But it retains the gold mosaic tiling.
My next stop was the king of all the rooms in the hotel — the Royal Plaza Suite. The three-bedroom suite, which features 4,490 square feet of space, starts at a whopping $US30,000 and goes up to $US50,000. It’s fit for a king.
The entrance way alone is elegant. The decorative style of the suite is inspired by the royal court of Louis XV. It certainly evokes Versailles on the inside.
The vestibule reminded me of a maze, with rooms and hallways extending out in each direction. To the right, the entrance to the suite. Straight ahead, the library. To the left, the living room and master bedroom. Behind, the gym and kitchen.
The study and library seemed like an ideal place to relax. The Plaza touts that the books were chosen by Prosper Assouline, the founder of luxury book publisher Assouline.
There’s a gym in the suite stuffed with an exercise bike, a rowing machine, a bench, and a multipurpose machine. It looked a little tight in there, but I’m sure it does the trick.
The kitchen features all high-end Viking appliances, but let’s be honest: If you’re spending $US30,000 a night on a room, you’re probably going out to a restaurant to eat.
The living room alone is several times the size of my apartment. That’s a grand piano by the window. Plenty of room for entertaining.
And a ten-seat dining table. If this doesn’t look like a place where rich Russian oligarchs’ children are told they will take over the family business, I don’t know what does.
The suite has a rather long hallway that leads to the master bedroom. It creates a nice sense of distance between the living and sleeping spaces.
The windows of the master bedroom look out onto Fifth Avenue and Central Park.
The master bedroom suite has its own dressing room with these dueling floor-to-ceiling closets. When I stay here, I won’t be packing lightly.
The bathroom, like all the bathrooms at the Plaza, is exquisite. (Seriously, I think the bathrooms are my favourite part of the property).
A claw foot, sloping bathtub with gold fixtures. You will enjoy this picture more if you imagine it filled with bubbles and a rubber ducky or two.
The suite’s other two bedrooms are actually separate suites reached by a door in the vestibule. They are spacious, but not much different than the other Plaza rooms.
There are a couple of unique suites of note, like the Fitzgerald Suite, constructed in 2013 and available at $US2,295 per night. The suite was unveiled after the release of “The Great Gatsby” film and was inspired by F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda who used the hotel often.
There is also the Betsy Johnson-designed Eloise Suite, based on the book series featuring the eponymous girl who spends her days at the plaza. Kay Thompson, the author of the series, once lived in The Plaza.
The Plaza lives up to the hype, though the hotel is starting to show its age in other ways. Its regal charms are undeniable, even now that sleek minimalism is the norm.
- Impeccable service
- Gorgeous bedrooms and bathrooms
- Unbeatable location for uptown New York City visit
- No free Wi-Fi
- Weak in-room entertainment options
- High pricing for dining and cocktails