Gild Hall, a Thompson Hotel
Manhattan, New York
Timeless, $$ (from $300)
Sometimes it seems as if the oldest streets in New York are the least well known. For more than 300 years, the southern tip of Manhattan has been paved, built, and walked by gamblers, business wonks, dealmakers, and dreamers. Ever since the first tall ships dropped anchor, it has been a place of trade, politics, piracy, requisition, and, of course, profiteering.
The Financial District can be an intimidating place — fast-paced, business-focused, generically named, and weirdly laid out with an amalgam of 17th-century brick buildings, 18th-century landmarks, 19th-century icons, 20th-century behemoths, and brand-spanking new skyscrapers. Luckily, once the business commuters clear out, a quiet calm takes over, making FiDi's charm a little easier to appreciate.
Case in point: On historic (and easy to miss) Gold Street, Gild Hall, a Thompson Hotel is a surprisingly hip little hotel that manages to feel like a local find. Cozy digs with great design and an affordable price point (especially on weekends), it's located close to many a traveler's Manhattan musts — the Brooklyn Bridge, Seaport District, Wall Street, Statue of Liberty, West Side promenade. The hotel itself is handsome, outfitted in low lighting, tufted leather, bergère chairs, and Slim Aarons photographs. You'd think the place would be an absolute mob scene, but the mostly low-key but cool atmosphere is just another element to unearth when you start to dig into downtown.
At a Glance
The Vibe: Elegant coziness with a touch of gentlemanliness.
Standout Detail: Warm ambiance.
This Place Is Perfect For: First-time travelers to NYC who want to be near major tourist attractions but not necessarily feel like tourists when they return to their home base.
Rooms: 130 keys, including expansive guest rooms and suites. All have custom furniture, leather headboards, cozy lighting, mahogany detailing, and toiletries from D.S. & Durga.
On Site: Restaurant, bar, library lounge, business center, 24-hour fitness center, and event spaces.
What to Do Nearby
The impressively rebuilt One World Trade Center is a big draw down here. You can spend a good part of the day at the Observatory, National 9/11 Memorial and Museum, and new architectural marvel-cum-mall known as the Oculus. There's also the historic Seaport's tall ships, Fraunces Tavern's whiskey snug (in the oldest building in the city), the famed Delmonico's restaurant, and the pedestrian entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge — all incredibly touristy things that are worth doing at least once.
As for the smaller gems: Bowne & Co. Stationers is a quaint, 19th-century Seaport shop selling old-fashioned letterpresses & hand-printed souvenirs; Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog is a charming, tiny, sawdust-strewn drinking establishment with a fancier (and award-winning) cocktail program on the second floor; Pearl Diner is a quintessential '60s-era greasy spoon that opens at 7 a.m. for breakfast. Walk the waterside promenade on the West Side to get a sea breeze, a view of Lady Liberty, and quick access to the nearby neighborhoods of Tribeca and Chinatown.