Ten best: Big Apple Bargains
A spring break in New York means sun, shopping and cut-price stays. Adriaane Pielou selects 10 of the best-value hotels to be found in the city.
The Pod Hotel
Until three years ago this was the old Pickwick Arms, for decades one of the cheapest hotels in the city. It's still that, but has become oriented to a younger clientele following a makeover, its target guests signalled by brash murals and a café in the lobby that opens out into a garden.
Of the 347 rooms, 195 have private bathrooms, but the least expensive are so minute you sleep with your head about four feet from the loo in the unbelievably minuscule bathroom. But the building is light, kept very clean and in a quiet neighbourhood.
Details: 230 E51st St, off Third Ave (001 212 355 0300; thepodhotel.com); from $129pn (€94).
The owners live in a little cottage in the small back garden, having left their lived-in old house to be rented out to guests. There are seven suites, each with every surface fustily piled with books and odds and ends.
Minimalists would cringe. Beds are majestically high, bathrooms small, kitchenettes elderly-looking and the cheapest, Mission Room, is very dark. But it's close to Bloomingdale's. And fans of the great New York time-travel book Time and Again by Jack Finney would love its authentic 19th-century feel.
Details: 130 E62nd St, off Lexington Ave (001 212 756 8823; 1871house.com); from $185pn (€135).
This claims to be the oldest hotel in the city, opened in 1845, and is similar to the Ramada in that it's cheap, utterly plain, spotlessly clean, and not a place for hanging out. You're either in bed, asleep, watching TV, or out. But it's close to a subway station serving the 1, 2 and 3 lines, and next door to the former ladies' lounge, now an atmospheric old café -- good for a chilly day when you're fortifying yourself for battle in nearby Century 21 (discounted designer everything and always packed).
Details: 95 West Broadway at Chambers St (001 212 566 1900; cosmohotel.com); $129pn (€94).
Thompson Lower East Side
A 141-room newbuild, this stands tall in a neighbourhood once home to turn-of-the-century Jewish immigrants, now full of edgy clubs, bars and boutiques. The second-floor Above Allen bar and restaurant is a big local scene at weekends, and Fellini films are shown in the elevators.
It all feels very cool and sophisticated: rooms have a light-box in the headboard, Bigelow amenities (it's a famous NY pharmacy) in the slate-floored bathrooms, Kiki de Montparnasse Intimacy Kit in the mini-bar (for $195/€142) and a "global Chinese" restaurant. The dark furniture was already slightly chipped in my room, surprising for a new hotel, and there was a sense that there weren't really enough grown-ups around. The staff were fabulously good looking -- and all looked 19. Still, the sweet doorman put me onto the website HopStop (www.hopstop.com), which tells you the nearest subway station for wherever you want to go.
Details: 190 Allen St, at Houston St (001 212 460 5300; thompson hotels.com); doubles from $309pn (€225).
The first east-coast hotel from the small Seattle-based Ace hotel group is located in a large old building in a Midtown neighbourhood so unsmart it doesn't even have a name.
But Fifth Avenue and Broadway are minutes away, and there is such an invitingly cool atmosphere in the large lobby lounge -- a kind of communal living room, with big sofas and a little Stumptown Coffee Roasters Café -- that you find yourself tempted to get a cappuccino and just stay put. The 260 rooms have a cosy, vintage feel, decorated in a combination of white and dark paint, with wooden floors.
Details: 20 W29th St, at Broadway (001 212 679 2222; acehotel.com/newyork); doubles from $229pn (€167).
This is a plain hotel in a quiet neighbourhood, but much more appealing than the similarly priced but depressing old Murray Hill Inn, Stanford and La Quinta hotels nearby (all of which are regularly recommended in guidebooks).
Spruce and efficient, with free Wi-Fi, free calls within the US, and 101 small but well-equipped, renovated rooms -- with an iron, coffee-making stuff and safe -- it is also immaculate. "Of course. We have standards. We random-check 10 to 15 rooms a day, and if they're not done correctly the cleaner gets fired," frowned a dapper man at the front desk. In the same marketing group, the nearby Red Roof Inn is similarly clean and good value.
Details: 161 Lexington Ave at E30th St (001 212 545 1800; applecorehotels.com); from $135pn (€98).
If you're prepared to share a bathroom, you could check out this, the sister hotel to the chic Maritime hotel. In a landmark waterfront 1907 building also designed as a seamen's building, where survivors of The Titanic were billeted in 1912, it became a YMCA in the 40s. The Jane's 200 rooms (some have bathrooms) are mostly cramped, but cutely designed to resemble ship or train cabins.
It feels younger and more fun than two other shared-bathroom reliables, the old Larchmont in Greenwich Village (001 212 989 9333; larchmonthotel.com) and Hotel 17 in the East Village (001 212 475 2845; hotel17ny.com), which Woody Allen used as a location for his Manhattan Murder Mystery.
Details: 113 Jane Street, at the Hudson riverfront (001 212 924 6700; thejanenyc.com); from $69pn (€50).
On the waterfront, looking out over the Hudson River, this was originally built as a hostel for seamen. The nautical, masculine feel has been retained. Compact, highly polished rooms feel like cosy cabins, with porthole windows. Beds have 500-thread-count sheets, and the TVs are flatscreen. The location can be bleak and windy, but you don't need to go out every night -- there's a lively bar and Japanese and Italian restaurants downstairs.
Details: 363 W16th St, at Ninth Avenue (001 212 242 4300; themaritimehotel.com); doubles from $245pn (€178).
Room Mate Grace
This is another of the new breed of inventively chic, low-cost hotels to have opened in Manhattan in the past year or two, this time from the Spanish chain Room Mate. Way more stylish than some of the dingy old cheap hotels, but without the sniffy attitude and incompetent service of some of the new hotels (the Hudson comes to mind), this offers the small rooms typical of the breed -- and the area, off Times Square. Some are very noisy because of the location, and some so minute they've had to be fitted out with bunks, as at The Jane, Ace and Pod.
But they come with a flat-screen TV and DVD player, good-quality sheets, and are kept immaculate. At night, the atmosphere turns partyish, with a DJ cranking up the music in the lobby and guests and locals piling into the pool and swim-up bar. There's also a sauna and steam room.
If it's full when you want to go, the nearby Night Hotel, at 132 W 45th, has a similarly young, different feel to it and low prices.
Details: 125 W45th at Times Square (001 212 354 2323; room-matehotels.com); from $219pn (€159).
Hotel Thirty Thirty
Formerly the Martha Washington women's hostel, and still with a sense of spirited, friendly independence, this hotel in a building dating from 1902 has a large, well-lit, block-wide lobby where economising guests munch bagels and check their email on the coin-in-the-slot computers.
Unusually for New York, women are at the front desk.
Wall-mounted TVs and a basin in the room hit a slightly depressing note in the more cramped rooms, but the locally popular Crooked Knife bar and restaurant, directly opposite, will cheer you up. Much better value than the grim Gershwin or Carlton Arms, nearby.
Details: 30 E30th St, between Madison and Park Ave South (001 212 689 1900; thirtythirty-nyc.com); from $159pn (€116).