The Waldorf Astoria in New York City is one of the few hotels which is well-known to people who haven’t even been to New York. The others would probably include the Plaza, the Ritz-Carlton, and… that’s about it.
The Waldorf Astoria technically houses two hotels, the flagship name and also Waldorf Towers, a 5-star boutique hotel which occupies the 27th to 42nd floors. Both of these iconic hotels – which are housed together in the same building – take up a whole block of central Manhattan, between Park Avenue and Lexington Avenue.
A New York icon
Three quarters of the people who visit the Waldorf Astoria do so just to gawp. It’s such an impressive sight that we can understand why. Legend has it that shortly after the hotel’s completion in 1931, the great hotelier Conrad Hilton pronounced the Waldorf Astoria to be the “greatest of them all,” before finally acquiring it in 1949, the jewel in his already impressive crown of luxury hotels.
All 1,416 guest rooms and suites are individually decorated, which means no two rooms or suites are the same. Every room is designed according to a strict Art Deco template, which permeates the whole of the hotel, inside and outside. Marilyn Monroe lived in the hotel for a few months in 1955, and it is still the choice of high flyers in the worlds of business, politics and entertainment.
Entering the Waldorf Astoria beneath its famous yellow awnings, you could be forgiven for never wanting to leave. But go out the front door and you’re back on Park Avenue, one of Manhattan’s most high-powered streets, and one block away from Madison Avenue.
Go out the back and you’re on Lexington Avenue, which runs from Harlem in the north, past your hotel, and down to the classy Irving Plaza, then the recently gentrified Bowery area in lower Manhattan. In short, you couldn’t be better located to take advantage of what Manhattan has to offer than you are with this grand old dame.
Staff at the Waldorf Astoria are exceedingly polite. Perhaps too polite for their own good. Barely a day goes by without somebody coming up to them and asking, “Hey buddy, so is this where the Waldorf salad comes from?”
If they weren’t so nice, the staff could say that technically it wasn’t invented here at all. The Waldorf salad first appeared on the menu of the Waldorf Hotel at the end of the nineteenth century (around 1893), when was located where the Empire State Building now stands. The hotel does of course serve its famous dish, which remains the most popular item on the menu.
Since 2006 the Park Avenue site became the flagship hotel in its own Waldorf Astoria brand, with more than 25 luxury hotels opening with the same standards all over the world. But it’s hard to deny that the New York City version, with its original features and superb location, is still the best.