New York City is one of the most diverse and dynamic places in the world, fueled by its ever-thrumming heartbeat of rich history, raw creative talent, and artistic passion. It also happens to be one of the most visited, meaning its array of hotels is expansive, to say the least. Rather than spending a fortune on one of the many overpriced, standard-issue hotel chains in Times Square, why not ensure your visit to the Big Apple is every bit as unique as the city itself? From home-y artists’ havens to decadent retro oases, here are five of the most unconventional accommodations New York City has to offer.
The Library Hotel
For bibliophiles visiting the Big Apple, a stay at The Library Hotel is a must. Conveniently located blocks away from Grand Central Station, Times Square, and the Theatre District, this book-themed boutique hotel offers an erudite retreat from the hustle and bustle of Midtown Manhattan. Billed as a “thought-provoking hotel experience,” it certainly lives up to its tagline. The Library Hotel hosts a collection of over 6,000 books, and each of the ten guest floors honors one of the Dewey Decimal System’s categories.
By day, guests can sit fireside in the Writer’s Den or peruse a book in the rooftop Poetry Garden; by night, the space transforms into the Bookmarks lounge, a local hot spot serving literary-inspired cocktails. The homey, wood-paneled Reading Room offers refreshments and snacks 24 hours a day, and the hotel’s in-house restaurant, Madison & Vine, is a casually elegant and whimsically decorated American bistro. With room rates starting around $250, this charming Midtown mainstay offers plenty of bang for the book-lover’s buck.
If you’ve ever wanted to spend the night in a museum, Carlton Arms is about as close as you can get. Located at the corner of 25th Street and 3rd Avenue on the East Side, this Manhattan gem is blocks away from Madison Square Park, Union Square, and the Subway. Walking into Carlton Arms is like stepping into a painting: from its playful, Prohibition-inspired lobby to each of its vibrantly decorated guest rooms, the walls explode with color and life thanks to murals by international artists. In 1983, the hotel’s more artistic employees began treating the hotel as a life-sized canvas, inspiring creatives from all over the world to aid in the effort to transform the once run-down hole in the wall into a unique Manhattan fixture.
Strolling through the hotel’s Artbreakhotel Gallery, visitors can enjoy a tribute to the hotel’s original vision while taking in its collection of contemporary paintings, sculptures, and photographs. With rates starting around $120 per night and discounts on longer stays, Carlton Arms is a dreamscape for the thrifty art lover.
Connected to the JFK International Airport in Queens, the ultra-buzzy TWA Hotel is worlds apart from your standard airport accommodations. Since its unveiling in 2019, it has become a destination in and of itself for history buffs and mid-century modern afficionados alike. Converted from the very same TWA Flight Center that once famously hosted a performance by the Beatles, the hotel’s design stayed true to many of the defunct terminal’s original details. Custom ceramic floor tiles, brass lighting, walnut-accented furnishings, and rotary phones ensure that guests will feel like they just entered a time warp and ended up in the 1960s.
The rooms come equipped with modern amenities like blackout curtains and multi-pane soundproof windows, so you’ll conveniently forget you’re technically sleeping in an airport. The TWA Hotel also has a host of off-the-wall features: From the Twister Room that houses a floor-to-ceiling version of the game to the cocktail lounge installed inside a preserved Lockheed L-1649 Starliner bush plane, there’s no shortage of eclectic entertainment to be had. For around $200 a night, you can stay in this Jet Age architectural giant that will have you questioning whether you need to leave the airport at all.
If historical significance and retro flair is your main criteria when searching for accommodations, look no further than the iconic West Village jewel that is The Jane. Located at the edge of the bustling Meatpacking District and offering unparalleled river views, this vintage-style boutique hotel was once a refuge for survivors of the Titanic. Guests will want to set aside some time to explore all the eccentricities the hotel has to offer, from stuffed monkeys and carved moose heads to maids and bellhops dressed in old-school uniforms to guest rooms inspired by luxury old-fashioned ship and train cabins.
Visitors can lounge in the opulent Victorian-style lobby bar or head up to the swanky rooftop terrace for a nightcap. The Jane also houses an outpost of Nolita’s popular, celebrity-endorsed Café Gitane, where guests can enjoy Moroccan-French inspired fare in casual, shabby-chic style. Room rates start around $150, placing The Jane squarely on the more affordable side of nostalgic luxury.
Few hotels can claim to live up to the fabled artistic community of the landmark Chelsea Hotel, but the Freehand Hotel offers a modern-day equivalent. Located in Manhattan’s Flatiron District, the Freehand Hotel is adorned with art created by local students. Its 1970’s style décor is emulated by its live-colored ceramic tiles, wood paneling, a forest of potted plants, and Tintin figurines.
The Freehand comes equipped with a built-in social scene thanks to the numerous on-site bars, restaurants, and activities. Guests can enjoy upscale Italian-fusion fare at the trendy dining hotspot Simon & The Whale or grab a quick bite at The Studio. Those looking for a little local nightlife can simply head upstairs to playful rooftop bar The Broken Shaker, or to the moodier GW Bar. With a range of room options housing up to six people and rates starting at around $130 per night, the Freehand Hotel is an affordable microcosm of all the artistry and effervescent energy New York has to offer.