Stay Here Next: Hotel Chelsea in New York City

After a decade of closure, the revived NYC landmark is welcoming a new generation of travelers and local creatives into its legend-filled spaces.

The living room in a deluxe king suite at the Hotel Chelsea in New York: A purple sofa faces ornate fireplace, tiger print chairs around a dining table, and chairs by a balcony with window doors

Some of the guest rooms at the Hotel Chelsea still feature original stained-glass windows and fireplaces.

Photo by Annie Schlechter/Hotel Chelsea


The vibe: Cool, creative, and woven into the fabric of the city

Location: 222 W. 23rd St. New York, NY | View on Google Maps

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The AFAR take

The Hotel Chelsea has always been more than a place to sleep. Before it shuttered in 2011, it had spent more than a century playing host to some of New York City’s most colorful guests and residents—many of them cultural icons. Within these storied walls, Jack Kerouac wrote On the Road, Dylan Thomas penned poetry, and Andy Warhol filmed Chelsea Girls. Now, hoteliers Sean MacPherson, Ira Drukier, and Richard Born have launched a new chapter for this NYC institution.

Happily, the building’s landmarked 1884 red-brick facade and its famous neon sign remain intact, as do many interior treats: the winding roof-to-lobby wrought-iron staircase, the Ladies Tea Room, even some spatters of blue paint on a suite balcony left by who knows what artist. On the ground floor, a bar, restaurant, and small event space are all open to the public, drawing a festive nightlife crowd of locals and visitors.

Who’s it for?

Urban explorers who love art, history, and buzz—and the chance to be at the intersection of all three.

The location

As the name suggests, the hotel is in the Chelsea neighborhood, in the mid-lower west section of Manhattan. The area has seen a lot of history, and anyone walking through the streets can still see it. Stroll by a park named for Clement Clarke Moore, who in 1823 penned “Twas the Night Before Christmas” a few blocks from the hotel. (His grandfather is the one who bought a swath of land here and dubbed it Chelsea.) You can also walk the High Line park, a reclaimed elevated 1930s train track that used to deliver goods to riverside meatpacking factories and markets; pay respects to LGBTQ+ advocates and activists at notable sites like the original locations of Gay Men’s Health Crisis and the Women’s Liberation Center; or sample the lively restaurants, bars, and nightlife vibe forged by the gay club scene that took root here in the 1970s and ’80s.

Within a few blocks, you’ve also got ample art to check out: Tenth Avenue’s enclave of fine-art galleries, the Joyce Theater for dance, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Rubin Museum and its collection of Himalayan art, and the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. You’re also well placed to walk 10 minutes south to Greenwich Village, or hop a variety of subways to anywhere else in the city.

From the time it opened in the 1880s, the Hotel Chelsea was a bohemian artists’ colony, and its walls have seen more legends than the plaques on the building’s front door can name.

The rooms

The Chelsea has 155 guest rooms, ranging from studios to two-bedroom suites with full kitchens. Some have wrought-iron balconies overlooking 23rd Street, some have fireplaces, and some have stained-glass window details—but no two have the same floor plan. Still, they all share some cool unifying details, like an inlaid “CH” monogram in the wooden floors and Bluetooth speakers that look like a Marshall guitar amp.

Those aren’t the only nods to the building’s history. Other 21st-century details tie the past to the present with a cheeky elegance: Digital keys hang from old-fashioned red-tassel fobs, automated curtains are speckled with punk-rock holes, and tiger-print chairs pop next to regally fringed sofas. In the central hallway, a winding roof-to-lobby wrought-iron staircase—the site of many art happenings and photo shoots over the years—is lined with artwork that former tenants bartered for rent. (You also might get one of the hotel’s decades-long residents as your neighbor; their apartment doors stand out from the rest with their bright paint or stickers.)

The food and drink

The Lobby Bar is a luxurious throwback to the city’s Gilded Age (though you might see a modern New York celebrity among the eclectic and festive crowd; I did). The cocktail menu re-creates famed elixirs from hotels around the world, like the Singapore Sling, Dukes Martini, and St. Regis Bloody Mary. Across the hall, signature red booths still line the Spanish restaurant El Quijote, a nearly 100-year-old neighborhood stalwart that’s been revived in a smaller, more intimate capacity. A French American restaurant will join the lineup later this year.

Staff and service

A hip-looking cadre keeps the place running and looking fabulous. But don’t be intimidated by their cool—they’ll help with neighborhood recommendations or a stuck key at any hour. And at least a couple of the staff I met were budding artists themselves—ask and you may get stories of punk bands or writing projects.


The hotel has a ramp entrance, and the two elevators that run through the whole of the building work much better than the one that Leonard Cohen got stuck in with Janis Joplin in 1968. Several ADA-compliant rooms are also available and additional requirements can be made upon request.

Looking to the past

From the time it opened in the 1880s, the Hotel Chelsea was basically a bohemian artists’ colony, and its walls have seen more legends than the plaques on the building’s front door can name. Here Mark Twain and W.E.B. Dubois booked rooms, Patti Smith lived with Robert Mapplethorpe and made El Quijote her local bar, Thomas Wolfe wrote You Can’t Go Home Again, and Madonna shot her photography book Sex. And yes, there’s that one time Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious allegedly stabbed his girlfriend Nancy Spungen to death. Beyond those famous names, though, the Chelsea served as home and incubator to dozens of lesser-known creatives who shaped the city’s art scene across the decades. Ask for stories when you visit, and keep an eye out for the ghosts said to still roam the halls.

Billie Cohen is executive editor of Afar. She covers all areas of travel, and has soft spots for nerd travel, maps, intel, history, architecture, art, design, people, dessert, street art, and Oreo flavors around the world. Follow her @billietravels.
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