What a surprise it is to walk off 44th Street into the Great Gatsby-esque splendor of the Chatwal! Built as a theater in 1905 by architect Stanford White (a movie about his life plays on continuous loop in the elevators), it was converted to a church in the 1960s and most recently into a hotel. That last transformation took a full nine years as the owner wanted to get every lux detail right, from the burnished, Art Deco wooden fittings of the lobby to the round caps and white gloves of the bellmen. The rooms, though small for this price point, are swanky, with all-leather desks, superior beds, and suede walls (it takes an hour to clean each room between guests as every inch of the walls must be brushed down to remove handprints). Bathrooms contain TVs hidden behind mirrors and Japanese toilets (like bidets but much more, er, interactive). Butler service is part of the inclusions, as are a top-notch spa and gym.
- Pauline Frommer