In the heart of New York, there’s a place that towers over the beaming billboard lights and spectacle of Times Square — an oasis of calm in the centre of the city. This place is The Knickerbocker Hotel. Once known as the 42nd Street Country Club, here is where the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, John D. Rockefeller and tenor Enrico Caruso were once hosted, along with actresses, sports figures, political bigwigs and more.
But past the doors of the hotel, and putting aside the glitz and glamour of the property’s historical and cultural significance, The Knickerbocker is a haven for travellers from all around the world. With 330 guest rooms, a rooftop bar, two restaurants and a state-of-the art fitness centre, the luxury establishment is one of the best in the city.
One weekend this past June, I had the pleasure of staying at the hotel for a night. What struck me most when I arrived at the Beaux-Arts designed building in the sea of Midtown’s business district properties was the quiet and calm that greeted me. The silence reverberated everywhere I went, and most significantly, to my Premier City View Room.
Of all the guest rooms — 162 of which feature my room type — the Premier rooms are the mid-tier accommodation between the standard ones and the suites. Upon entry, I first stopped at the expansive white marble bathroom that preceded the sleeping space, noting the long vanity table that took up one side of the area, and a walk-in rainshower and toilet that took up the other. With a large back-lit mirror, floor-to-ceiling frosted glass doors and a dominant white colour scheme, it felt like one of those bathrooms that one could potter around and luxuriate in for hours on end.
“What struck me most when I arrived at the Beaux-Arts designed building in the sea of Midtown’s business district properties was the quiet and calm that greeted me.”
The bedroom felt the same, featuring a king-sized white-sheeted bed topped with a teal woven-cotton blanket — a signature touch of The Knickerbocker beds — bespoke wooden furnishings, a flat-screen TV and even automated black-out drapes. Again, however faint, the space was free of noise. Coupled with soothing aesthetics and a muted vibe, it felt like I wasn’t in central Manhattan, but as if I’d been transported to another place altogether.
At night, by recommendation, I found myself at the hotel’s iconic St. Cloud Social, a 7,800-square-foot rooftop bar with a cigar lounge and living walls of greenery — that I was told stayed as lush as it did when I saw it, no matter the season. Rumoured to be where the martini was first blended in 1912, the bar rises high above the bustling streets below.
One novel feature I liked about St. Cloud was that the only piece of art to be found in the entire hotel was found at the bar reception: a black and white illustration of famous hotel guests that once called The Knickerbocker home. In accordance with the property owners’ desire to keep the décor simple and calming, it was a deliberate choice not to clutter the walls and spaces with art. Instead, parts of the illustration had found its way onto drink coasters, key cards and napkins.
“Coupled with soothing aesthetics and a muted vibe, it felt like I wasn’t in central Manhattan, but as if I’d been transported to another place altogether.”
Another feature I liked about the bar was the view of the roof of One Times Square, where the Times Square Ball hovered in my line of sight as I lounged on one of the couches that evening. In all my visits to New York, even during the one year I’d lived in the city for school, I’d never seen the ball, much less its drop at midnight during New Year’s Eve celebrations.
But looking at it lit up, waiting for its next turn to rise and fall, I couldn’t help but feel excited, anticipating my next trip back to the city, and back to The Knickerbocker.
Where: The Knickerbocker Hotel (Member of The Leading Hotels of the World)
6 Times Square, New York, NY 10036, USA
Phone: +1 212-204-4980
Note – The critic was invited by The Knickerbocker Hotel, New York. But all the opinions expressed herewith are her own.