The vibe: Swinging London meets hip New York
Location: 1227 Broadway, New York City | View on Google Maps
Loyalty program: The Know
Book now: Website
The AFAR take
Richard Branson’s quirky-cool take on urban hotels arrived in New York City in February 2023, adding another hotel to the NoMad neighborhood that’s already packed with options (the Ned, Ritz-Carlton, and the original Ace Hotel are all around the corner).
But what sets the Virgin Hotels New York apart is what has always set the Virgin brand apart, ever since its origin as an upstart record label in the 1970s: attitude. Playful and edgy from top to bottom, the hotel is all bright red accents, big windows, and a spacious bar-restaurant with a sprawling outdoor patio and DJs or live music nearly every night. You’ll see signs of Branson’s cheekiness throughout, including a whimsical “Where’s Richard?” mural (à la Where’s Waldo) in the hotel lobby, a sculpture made of discarded soda cans, and bathroom signs that say “unisexy” with line-drawn caricatures of people crossing their legs in anticipation of their turn.
Who’s it for?
Solo travelers and couples who enjoy a lot of style with their stay. The Virgin Hotels New York is also ideal for visitors who want easy access to Manhattan’s major sites and neighborhoods without having to bed down in overcrowded tourist districts or who want a hotel that comes with a fashionable spot for socializing.
The Virgin’s shiny 39-story building on 29th Street in Manhattan’s NoMad neighborhood (so called because it’s on the north side of Madison Square Park) is close to everything, but it doesn’t feel like a morass of tourists the way Times Square does. That said, the theater district is only a few minutes’ walk away, as are the shops of Herald Square and the restaurants and nightlife of Chelsea and the Union Square area. At night, this stretch of NoMad isn’t exactly hopping; it’s mostly hotels and businesses, so if you’re looking for things to do outside of the Virgin’s bar-restaurant, expect to venture to another nabe. The good news is that pretty much everything is easy to get to from here, thanks to several nearby subway stations.
The Virgin Hotels New York is ideal for visitors who want a hotel that comes with a fashionable spot for socializing.
The hotel’s 460 “chambers” (as the rooms are called here) are cleverly efficient, ranging from 277 to 770 square feet. For example, in a compact standard chamber, a rolling barn-style door separates the sleeping section from the entryway, which itself doubles as the vanity-and-sink area, while the bed’s headboard extends a couple feet beyond the mattress, curving into a couch. The one-bedroom suites let you spread out a bit with an extra living-room space. And the two top-of-the-line digs, the Sunset Penthouse Suite and Sir Richard’s Flat, are both two-floor, two-bedroom penthouses with private elevators; Sir Richard’s Flat features a pool table and floor-to-ceiling windows. However, light is everywhere in this hotel—most rooms have big windows and great views of the city or even the Empire State Building.
The food and drink
The bar-restaurant Everdene is the centerpiece here, set up to be a destination not only for hotel guests but also for locals in search of a cool night out soundtracked by smooth DJs and a monthly concert series. The crimson-covered venue stretches across the entire third floor and acts as breakfast spot, after-work drinks hangout, clubby nightlife hub, and dinner spot. The menu centers on elevated bistro cuisine (think seared scallops, kale-and-cabbage salad, and a $25 burger), but one of the best features of Everdene is the large outdoor space, filled with couches perfect for sipping cocktails like Rosé Punch (Sainte Marguerite rosé, Bacardi Superior rum, hibiscus) or Holy Rickey (Bombay Premier Cru gin, Chartreuse Végétal, lime, seltzer) and watching the city go by.
Staff and service
The staff is fun and chatty, which fits in with the night-on-the-town vibe here, but they may still be working out the kinks in terms of efficiency. For example, check-in and checkout in the lobby, which happens at small podiums, was on the slower side. Happily, there’s a solution for this: Virgin Hotels’ mobile app, Lucy, allows contactless check-in and checkout. The app can also serve as your room key, although you can opt for a physical one if you choose (mine was a key card printed with an image of a retro iPod-type music player with a cracked screen). Guests can also use the app to order room service or items from housekeeping.
The hotel lobby is on the street level with no steps to the entrance, and there are ADA-compliant rooms upon request.
Aiming to be more than just a place to sleep, the Virgin Hotels New York has crafted lively social hubs throughout the property. Guests can lounge at the Pool Club, an outdoor swim spot on the fourth floor with the Empire State Building as a backdrop. It’s adjacent to a snazzy cocktail bar, of course.
One floor down, Everdene delivers three vibes in one: a see-and-be-seen lounge with music and events, a dinner destination, and a spacious outdoor bar ideal for decompressing after work or after touring the city. For a quieter moment or a private event, guests can escape to the Shag Room, a red-velvet, ’70s-style lounge that’s a staple of all the Virgin Hotels.
Additional spaces, like the Sky Lounge (which has its own private observation deck on the 38th floor), are available for parties too. But no matter which spot you choose to hang out at, you’ll notice an art collection of more than 100 works peppered throughout the building, curated by local art consultancy nAscent. (Look for two colorful pieces by New York collage artist Katy Hirschfield.) A spa is expected in December 2023, and a second restaurant is in the works too.