Once a dodgy part of town, Manhattan’s Bowery neighbourhood has cleaned up its act, but has still kept its edge. The Bowery Hotel illustrates this transformation to the hip and elegant. Bright rooms with big windows (some offering spectacular view of the Empire State Building) and moodily lit corridors, it captures the style of a classic New York apartment building. And the dark wood-panelled, art-deco-inspired Lobby Bar is a fashionable favourite of both visiting and local tastemakers and hipsters.
Noon; later-check out is subject to availability. Check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from $345.00, excluding tax at 14.75 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of $3.50 per room per night on check-out.
Breakfast is chosen from an à la carte menu.
No smoking (apart from on the fifth floor). Your shoes can be shined and your back can be rubbed – just ask.
At the hotel
Gym, DVD library, valet parking, laundry, free WiFi. In rooms: HD plasma TV, DVD/CD player, iPod dock and stereo system, CO Bigelow toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
The north-facing rooms offer glimpses of the Empire State Building from the comfort of your bed. Number 705, a One-Bedroom Terrace Suite, has a marble-tubbed bathroom that opens directly onto a surprisingly spacious private terrace. Wherever you end up bedding down, you can expect classic NYC-style, with hardwood floors lined with intricate Oushak rugs, marble bath tubs, and oversized factory windows.
A CBGB T-shirt in honour of the Bowery’s punk-rock glory days.
As a concession to the Chihuahua-toting crowd, lightweight pets (30lbs or less) are warmly welcomed. There's no charge – as long as everything stays clean and tidy. Just let the hotel know when booking. See more pet-friendly hotels in New York.
Welcome: high chairs and baby cots are available, and extra beds can be added to larger rooms for $60 a night. The Bowery works with a nanny service to provide babysitting, from $25 an hour.
Gemma only takes reservations for hotel guests, so sweet-talk your way to a window table for people-watching, or to one of the leather-banquette booths – it’s possible to lose hours in them.
Edwardian dandy, backstage with the Ramones.
With thatch-covered wine bottles swinging from beamed ceiling, distressed wood tables and a copper-topped bar, Gemma is a picture of Tuscan rusticity. The food, however, is more polished than peasanty, and the Nutella calzone is a particular treat.
Since its opening, the Lobby Bar has shot to the top of the New York hot list, becoming a favourite destination for A-listers in search of a glam-drenched venue.
Gemma’s pizza oven is switched off at midnight (1am weekends). The bar’s open until 2am (4am weekends).
A full menu based on Gemma’s à la carte offerings is available 24 hours a day.
All of the city's main airports are within 30 minutes of the hotel – the nearest, La Guardia, is a 15-minute drive. Allow much longer at peak times, though.
Grand Central Station and Penn Station are both under 10 minutes away from the hotel. You'll be able to board Amtrak (www.amtrak.com) services to other destinations all over the USA. Penn Station will also get you out to the Hamptons on the Long Island Rail Road (www.lirr.org).
From JFK, take the Van Wyck Expressway then the Long Island Expressway, before heading over to SoHo from the Queens Midtown Expressway.
Worth getting out of bed for
The Bowery is a few blocks from the landmark Nuyorican Poets Cafe in Alphabet City, the birthplace of the Nuyorican (a blend of New York and Puerta Rican) poetic movement and a great place to catch energetic slam poetry, theatre and alternative film nights.
I’ve lived in New York long enough not to be surprised by the clip at which its neighbourhoods are reinvented. But the transformation of the Bowery – named for the eponymous Manhattan artery stretching from the southern edge of Chinatown up to the East Village – is nothing short of shocking. America’s original skid row, for more than two centuries it was a slum of last resort for no-hopers of all stripes; a fetid collection of flophouses for the chronically unlucky and inebriated. Even as neighboring NoLita and the East Village sprouted blocks of fashion boutiques and trendy bars, the Bowery remained a degenerate no man’s land, seemingly immune to gentrification. And then the Bowery Hotel opened.
Anyone unfamiliar with its brief history might readily assume it had been here forever – a handsome relic from an age when buildings were made of brick and marble, instead of steel and particleboard. The lobby, sectioned off with vintage leather screens and oversized exotic palm trees, is lined with dark, carved wood panels of the type you’d find in an elegantly decrepit English country pile. Opulent Edwardian and art deco antiques in varying states of tasteful decay are arranged throughout atop fabulously tatty oriental carpets. Spanish-style iron lamps that could have doubled as mediaeval torture devices keep the room just shy of total darkness. A massive, hand-painted mural of the Bowery circa 1860 provides additional period cues.
In reality, it was built from scratch – the palm trees are silk, and the panelling was salvaged from old buildings in Philadelphia. But you only know that because I told you.
We find our room as tastefully appointed as the lobby promises. The furnishings are new, but in keeping with the theme; antique-looking Persian carpets, deep green velvet chairs, a white-marble-topped table. The room, a corner King, isn’t particularly large, maybe 300 sq ft, but it’s Manhattan after all. Like every other space in the hotel, the proportions are what an architect might call ‘human’.
The most pleasant surprise is the windows, which are floor-to-ceiling on two sides of the bedroom, and have a direct view of the Empire State Building uptown. For now, at least, the hotel is the highest building in the neighbourhood, affording unfettered views of the action down below. After a night spent in various states of undress, it only occurs to Mrs Smith and I after check-out that the view from the street is equally superb.
Even better than the view is the bathroom. The tub, in particular. With patinated bronze Waterworks fixtures, it is more like a small pool. The woman at the front desk tells us we are among the lucky few to have one, and to make sure we take full advantage…
The hotel’s owners, Sean MacPherson and Eric Goode, are celebrated New York nightlife vets responsible for a string of phenomenally successful restaurants and bars throughout the city. Like all world-class hoteliers, they have a unifying aesthetic vision for each of their properties (the Bowery is their second hotel, after the nautical-themed Maritime in Chelsea) and carry it out to the fullest extent possible.
Although a table at the Waverly Inn, MacPherson and Goode’s celeb-packed playpen du jour in the West Village, might be out of the question unless you ‘know someone’, there’s Gemma downstairs if you’re in the mood for a casual Hollywood star sighting (one was in the banquette next to ours). The food is classic Northern Italian with little fuss or fanfare, served in a beautiful room designed by Taavo Somer, the brains behind acclaimed taxidermy-and-comfort-food hotspot Freeman’s, which is just down the block.
The bar inside the lobby is the most ‘done’ of all the hotel’s public spaces, and is reserved solely for guests. With its zinc bar and high-end boho, World of Interiors-ready decor – roe deer heads on carved wooden plaques, high-backed club chairs, a stuffed pit bull – it’s the kind of room you’ll want to linger in for several rounds. We, however, are in the mood for ?a movie, and open the guestbook to peruse the DVD directory. We’re impressed to find the selection as tightly curated as we suspected it might be. We choose Sid and Nancy – listed under ‘New York’ – and ring the front desk. It’s in our hands in four minutes flat. (I timed it.)
In a city as hectic as New York, the need to escape the madding crowd after a long day of pavement pounding is a vital factor in any getaway plan. As it settles into its indisputably chic self, I can only imagine the homey Bowery Hotel is destined for jet-set immortality.
Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel or villa, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in The Bowery’s Guestbook below.
We loved the location; the vibe of the Lower East Side is great. So many breakfast places, coffee and bars. We arrived in the evening and after a horrific taxi cab ride from JFK, the hotel kindly upgraded us to a Garden Room with our own patio! Made the stay perfect. I have stayed here once before but my husband had not and did not know anything about it. We often stay Midtown, but he definitely wants to return to The Bowery. Gemma, the hotel's restaurant is great! Hotel bar excellent. Dark and moody and awesome.
Regular room is average size; well appointed but small bathroom, but can be tight for two. Only one sink.
Stayed on 16 Feb 2019
Design and mood, staff very nice.
Quiet, had to change rooms twice – too loud on Bowery for me.
Stayed on 10 Nov 2018
Room service – great pizza in lovely Gemma boxes provided with steel cutlery and napkins. Power shower – wonderful pressure with easy temperature control. Big comfy bed with quality bed linen. LSE view – edgy, grimy, gritty – just the way we expected. Lots of great little cafes and bars playing good music. Check out old CBGB club now a high end fashion store. 315 Bowery. Emilios meatball restaurant, Nolita. And the bar next door. A bit further west, if you like Blues check out Michael Powers at Terra Blues – Fridays/Mondays. The guy is a legend.
Freebies from the minibar – water and cookies delivered daily, early evening. Mr & Mrs Smith wine received also. Clear windows – clean but permanent inaccessible staining between the glazing. Made the room seem tattier than it was – the decoration itself was immaculate but the windows and tatty furniture made the room less appealing. However at least we did not have to pay a temporary incidentals levy like we had just paid at the Shez-Nez UES of 1250 dollars albeit returned after 1 week. A bath or corner room.
Stayed on 25 May 2018
The old-world wood-paneled lobby and bar. Our tenth-floor corner room had floor-to-ceiling windows, great views of New York and a bath big enough for two. Upper floors are quiet – we could hear birdsong! Charming, helpful front desk. Good room service with creative and delicious breakfast options. Walking distance for all the charms of the East Village, Soho, Lower East Side: lots of shopping, great food and music, and a chilled-out feel. Saxon Parole for innovative cocktails and excellent seasonal, modern food; Franks on 2nd Avenue for old-school, beautifully executed Italian in a cozy (cramped, its Manhattan!) setting; they also run Lil Frankies and Supper in the same mode, nearby; Rockwood Music Hall on Allen and Houston; drop into studio 1 to hear young bands play live; theres a different band every hour, no cover; Kati Roll Company on 2nd and St Marks for Indian wrap sandwiches – love them as a late night snack.
To have space for yoga in the rooms... this is still Manhattan!
Stayed on 19 May 2018
Love the suites at this hotel, especially on a high floor. The rooms are so comfy and spacious for NY. Great place to relax, work, have a cocktail, watch a movie, etc. Bathrooms are small, beds are very comfortable. Staff is friendly. They love dogs and will bring them bowls of Evian water up to the room. I have to confess, I drank the Evian and gave the pup New York's finest tap water. Breakfast at Gemma is good, but there are so many amazing breakfast and coffee spots within a short walk. Black Seed for bagels, Prune, Post, Southern Cross for coffee.