New York is one of the world’s greatest hubs of culture. To experience even a sliver of its ever-changing arts scene, set aside a few hours for at least one of the city’s many standout museums. Fancy yourself a photo buff? Zoom in on the Whitney, which sometimes hosts fantastic photography exhibitions, or plan a visit around its world-renowned Biennial. If modern and contemporary art is your thing, wander through the bold corridors of the Museum of Modern Art. And when you just want to see the classics, head up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Whatever your inclination, these hotels put great art within your reach.
On a quiet street, the 134 suites at the AKA Central Park are styled more like private apartments than rooms and many have extra bedrooms, kitchens and in-room spa services. But don’t get too cozy – the Museum of Arts and Design at Columbus Circle is only two and a half blocks to the east and is a trove of jewelry, textiles and more. A leisurely lunch at Robert, the modern restaurant on the ninth floor, is best followed by a visit to the museum’s excellent shop, which stocks all things glittery and gauzy.
Less than a 10-minute walk from the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Four Seasons is arguably a work of art in its own right, with I.M. Pei–designed interior spaces. But the vibe here is more classic than modern, and you’d be remiss not to get a dose of the latter at MoMA, which is home to the art of Pablo Picasso, Cindy Sherman, Salvador Dalí and many others. The MoMA Store is one of the city’s largest museum shops and a great place to pick up a unique gift for the folks back home.
The 1962 Beaux-Arts-style Surrey Hotel, steps from Central Park, is steeped in history – it once housed the likes of John F. Kennedy and Bette Davis during its stint as a residence hotel. Today, it showcases works by art-world luminaries such as Chuck Close and Jenny Holzer. If you’re feeling inspired, walk one block north to the Whitney Museum of American Art where your 20th-century cultural education continues with works by Georgia O’Keefe, Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol, among others.
Park 79 Hotel
Natural history buffs will feel at home at Park 79, which practically fronts the American Museum of Natural History and is only a block from Central Park. After wandering through the great halls of the iconic museum, whose dinosaur collection and Hayden planetarium have made it a family favorite for decades, retreat to your simple, bright room, just steps away.
The comfortable and clean rooms at this Comfort Inn outpost make it a great base for exploring the hip Lower East Side, which is lined with bars, music venues and the New Museum of Contemporary Art, just a short walk to the west. The museum is as much revered for its metal-chain-link stacked-box exterior – designed by the Pritzker Prize–winning Japanese architecture firm SANAA – as it is for the experimental artwork it houses.
Built in 1930, this 35-story Art Deco structure has interiors by acclaimed designer Dorothy Draper and a prime location a few blocks south of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met draws travelers from all over the globe for its more than 2 million objects spanning the ancient world to the modern one; the Egyptian and European Painting collections are especially popular. In the summer, sip a chilled drink on the rooftop garden, which has excellent views of Central Park.
The Franklin is a quaint respite from the city’s bustle, thanks to details like antique beds, chandeliers and Bulgari bath products. It’s a convenient place to stay if you’re in town to view the collections of popular and lesser-known modernists showcased within the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, located a little more than three avenues east. The Guggenheim building itself is a masterpiece of architecture – designed by Frank Lloyd Wright much like a nautilus shell, with six downward-sloping ramps. It’s also easy to get to other museums along Museum Mile, notably the Museum of the City of New York, two stops uptown on the 6 train.
On the Upper West Side, the Excelsior overlooks Central Park on the east and is only a few blocks from the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library, which was founded in 1804 to memorialize both the history of the city and the lives of its inhabitants. Part museum, part research institution, the museum has a fabulous library, and works on view include Hudson River School paintings, notably an extensive collection of John J. Audubon’s Birds of America.