New York is full of great places that are hidden in plain sight. You can walk past them and never know they're there.
Here are a few travel treasures for your next trip.
CITY CLUB HOTEL There’s nothing else like the suites of the City Club Hotel, anywhere in New York. Carved out of a former ballroom, the hotel’s three duplexes have their own libraries, but the ornate, double-height ceilings and Palladian windows are the real reason most design lovers check in here. That and the fab location near Bryant Park. 55 West 44th Street. www.cityclubhotel.com
HIGH LINE HOTEL This little-known hotel is a serene retreat in the Meatpacking District created from the cloistered shell of a seminary by the clever boys who did the super-hip Ace Hotel. The design has a Ralph Lauren look, only more austere and surprisingly pleasing. 180 10th Avenue. www.thehighlinehotel.com
HENDERSON PLACE Henderson Place is a pretty, well-preserved enclave of Victorian-era New York presented in a teeny cul-de-sac. It's particularly great for architecture lovers. I have architect friends in New York who love off-the-beaten-track treasures and even they don't know of its existence. (Until now.) Off 86th Street, near East End Avenue. There's also another architectural secret in the Upper West Side called Pomander Walk. This enclave of English-style homes so different from the rest of New York that it looks like it’s been lifted from a movie-set of a cute hamlet in the Cotswolds —leading some locals to dub it ‘the Downton [Abbey] of uptown’. Near West 95th Street.
ANTIQUES GARAGE If you love searching for treasures among the trash, West 25th Street is the place to go. There are several flea and antique places in this area, and this is one of the most popular. It features two floors full of stalls selling eclectic antiques and vintage pieces, including fashion and decorative arts. Some of the stalls to watch out for include Bryce Thomas Antiques (Limoges and more), George’s Collectibles (steamer trunks and other antiques), Kristine (antique, mid-century and modern design), Marlow’s Treasure Chest (vintage signs), and Noel’s Art and Antiques (paper ephemera such as photos, maps, documents and so on). Open only on the weekend (but check!). 112 West 25th Street. www.hellskitchenfleamarket.com
THE TOP-FLOOR VINTAGE DEPARTMENT OF THE STRAND BOOKSTORE The iconic Strand bookstore is where you’re liable to find all kinds of literary treasures— including great fashion and design books. The ground and first floors are dazzling departments; the kinds of places where you promise yourself you won’t buy anything but then find yourself, two hours later, wondering if you need to get a taxi home. However, it’s when you reach the top floor that real desire sets in. There are thousands of vintage books here, including highly covetable fashion tomes that sell for a fortune on Amazon. There are $1 stalls outside too—book-buying bliss. 828 Broadway. www.strandbooks.com
ARGOSY BOOK STORE Argosy offers some of the best vintage books in the city, stocked in a dignified old bookstore that looks like a rich uncle’s library, complete with Kelly green walls and a charming mezzanine. 116 East 59th Street. www.argosybooks.com
ANYA HINDMARCH The British handbag designer has just opened her new New York store, and it’s as stylish as her designs, with smart mahogany chests and armoires full of leather loveliness. There’s also a bespoke tailor in-store, to help you design your perfect weekender. 795 Madison Avenue. www.anyahindmarch.com
GRAMERCY PARK I discovered the Gramercy Park neighbourhood late in my New York education. I stumbled upon it when I checked into the legendary Gramercy Park Hotel, which was offering a special on their rooms (I could not have afforded it otherwise). What a fortuitous move. This neighbourhood is alive with history and the spirits of New York legends. The Astors, Morgans, Rockefellers and Roosevelts all lived here, and their strikingly elegant townhouses are still part of the neighbourhood’s unique appeal. The Gramercy Park neighbourhood was actually one of the country’s earliest examples of city planning. Created in the 1830s as a display of stately townhouses centred around a spectacular garden (Gramercy Park), it attracted a roll call of stellar residents, from Oscar Wilde to John Barrymore, James Cagney, John Steinbeck, Thomas Edison and the aforementioned dynasties. In recent times, it has lured Uma Thurman, Winona Ryder, Jimmy Fallon, Rufus Wainwright, Karl Lagerfeld and Jennifer Aniston. For a while, Katie Holmes lived around the corner.
While you can’t enter Gramercy Park unless you’re a resident of the apartments around it or a guest of the Gramercy Park Hotel, you can wander the streets of this dignified, distinguished area, which offers some of New York’s most impressive architecture. Don’t miss Stanford White’s The Player’s Club (16 Gramercy Park South, www.theplayersnyc.org), the National Arts Club—the former home of Governor Samuel Tilden (15 Gramercy Park South, www.nationalartsclub.org), and 36 Gramercy Park East, a neo-Gothic fantasy of terracotta where gargoyles stand guard high over the greenery.
If you do stay at the Gramercy Park Hotel, ask the doorman or concierge for the key to the park. The serene, tree-lined oasis is the perfect place to find peace and quiet, read the paper or reflect on the neighbourhood’s rich history. Between East 20th and East 21st, and Irving Place and Lexington Avenue.