Review: the brand new Virgin Hotels New York City
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This is our review of the new Virgin Hotels New York City hotel.
Well, Richard Branson really does get around. Just over a week after Rob met him in Edinburgh to open the new Virgin Hotels Edinburgh (review here), he was in the US to cut the ribbon at another big opening party – and I was invited.
Virgin Hotels is still a relatively new brand. The first one only opened in Chicago in 2015, followed by San Francisco, Dallas, New Orleans, Nashville. In 2021, the 1,500+ room Hard Rock Las Vegas defected to Virgin Hotels and was rebranded, whilst confusingly also being part of Hilton’s Curio Collection.
The good news is that Virgin Hotels New York City is a new build and should provide an insight into everything Virgin hopes its hotel portfolio can be. This was not the case in Edinburgh, where they had to work around the confines of several existing historic buildings, although according to Rob’s review this was impressively done.
Where is Virgin Hotels New York City?
On the corner of Broadway and 30th, the Virgin Hotels New York City is in the NoMad area. This is quickly developing as a hub for hotels, with The Ritz Carlton recently having opened and the Moxy Chelsea (review here) literally a block away.
Firmly in Midtown, this is a good spot to be in with Central Park and Greenwich Village almost equidistant. It is also just 10 blocks (around 15 minutes’ walk) to Hudson Yards and the start of the High Line, which takes you down to the Meatpacking District, the Whitney Museum of American Art and Thomas Heatherwick’s new Little Island pier.
By far the biggest impact on the location is the Empire State Building, which towers over the area just a few blocks away. Anyone in a room with a northerly aspect should get a good view of it, as I did from the 9th floor.
The closest subway stations are 28th Street and 33rd Street, whilst Grand Central Station is 12 blocks away (15-20 minutes on foot).
Inside Virgin Hotels New York City
This is a 39-storey corner build with 460 rooms (Virgin calls them ‘Chambers’ which to me sounds a bit mediaeval but is probably aimed at Americans!). There are no residences or commercial tenants – the whole building is taken up by Virgin, bar several units on the ground floor which will be leased out for retail and dining.
Despite this, the ground floor entrance is surprisingly small and dare I say it sparse. There is just a single space with minimal lobby seating and three reception desks:
The main social areas are on the third floor, where you can find the Everdene restaurant and bar serving breakfast lunch and dinner. There is a vast amount of outdoor terrace space here which is rare to find in New York City.
On the fourth floor is a small outdoor pool which will open shortly for the summer season:
…. plus a very trendy pool bar:
…. and, coming in due course, another Mediterranean themed restaurant.
On the fifth floor you have the gym:
The top two floors, on the 38th and 39th, are given over to event space and bars, with panoramic views of the skyline and a cosy outdoor terrace. In terms of event space Virgin Hotels is definitely one of the best options I’ve seen in New York, particularly as so much of it is outdoors.
Still to come is a spa, which will open at a later stage.
One thing I will add, and which appears to be a major teething problem at the hotel, are the lifts. There are six of them, which should be plenty, but they are surprisingly slow. They struggled during the opening party, with hundreds of guests moving between the 3rd and 38th floors. The hotel will have to rethink how it manages the lifts during these occasions to ensure that both hotel guests and those attending events can get where they need to go quickly and efficiently.
Rooms (or ‘Chambers’) at Virgin Hotels New York City
It’s easy to settle into the room once you get over the slightly odd nomenclature. There are just two room categories: Chamber Kings and Chamber Doubles, with those on the higher floors adding ‘Sky’ to their name. There are also a range of suites and a penthouse.
I had a Chamber King on the 9th floor, which was relatively low when you consider the number of floors in total.
All the rooms feature what Virgin Hotels is calling its ‘two chamber’ concept. That means you get a slightly larger corridor / atrium to your room. This is sort of a cross between the bathroom, walk-in wardrobe and dressing room, and is similar to what Rob found in Edinburgh:
A sliding door can block off the main bedroom, which is useful if you’re staying with friends or family.
Aware that red isn’t exactly a chill colour, Virgin Hotels has used it sparingly and generally as accents. For example, in the shower fittings:
Or even the red Smeg mini fridge, what appears to be a brand standard for Virgin Hotels:
There is a fully stocked minibar which was chargeable. Mugs were provided for tea and coffee, although I had neither a coffee machine or a kettle. Other people seemed to get Nespresso machines so they may just have missed my room – I’m pretty sure I was the first person to stay in it.
The bed is also the same as the one in the Edinburgh hotel, and features a built in sofa/work space with a marble table:
This was a nice touch, although it did feel like the bed was squeezed on both sides by being close to the window on one side and with a table on the other.
The night stand was a little crowded with a large landline phone, pad and pen, TV remote, alarm clock with funky ceiling projection function and what I believe is a wireless phone charger:
The corner of the bed has this unique back rest which is supposed to enable you to ‘work from bed’ but in reality this was more of a gimmick than anything else.
There are plenty of sockets around, including USB-A and USB-C connectivity, which was good to see.
When it comes to the view, well, you can’t argue with this:
I even enjoyed it sitting in bed:
Those on the South side of the building should be able to see the Freedom Tower.
Overall, I thought the rooms were stylish and clever in their use of space with hardwood flooring and a relatively neutral, warm colour scheme accentuated by the occasional red fitting. They were also relatively spacious – not huge, but bigger than your average hotel room in NYC.
Only two things stuck out to me: the plasticky toilet lid which felt cheap and the clunky blackout blinds which I can imagine breaking relatively quickly.
Breakfast at Virgin Hotels New York City
Don’t expect a big buffet here, because there isn’t one.
Breakfast isn’t included unless you book a breakfast-inclusive rate or are a Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Gold member. It is served in Everdene, the third floor bar-lounge-restaurant space which is nicely bright in the mornings:
In the summer, I’m sure it will be possible to sit outside which would be a novelty in NYC!
I tried the breakfast sandwich which is just what I needed after the opening party:
It isn’t cheap. An orange juice will set you back $12 before tax and tip whilst the food runs from $14 for some porridge to $30 for a bigger cooked breakfast.
A quick word on Virgin Hotels and hotel loyalty programmes
Before I round up, let me remind you about how Virgin Hotels fits – or doesn’t fit – into the existing Virgin Group loyalty schemes.
- you can book all Virgin Hotels via Preferred Hotels, and earn and redeem points in iPrefer, except for Las Vegas
- Virgin Hotels Las Vegas is actually a Hilton hotel (website here) and takes part in Hilton Honors as part of the Curio Collection brand – you can earn and spend Hilton Honors points there if you book via hilton.com
- if you book direct at virginhotels.com, you can earn 2,000 Virgin Points per stay if you join the free The Know membership scheme – except for Edinburgh, which doesn’t earn points
- Virgin Flying Club Gold and Silver members get extra benefits at Virgin Hotels if they book via virginhotels.com – details on the Virgin Atlantic website here
- you cannot redeem Virgin Points for Virgin Hotels (even though you can redeem iPrefer points and, for Las Vegas, Hilton Honors points) except for the current 35,000 points Edinburgh offer which covers limited dates. Virgin Points redemptions for the other hotels are due to launch later this year.
The company really needs to get a grip on this, especially the random blocking of the Edinburgh hotel from earning points and benefits via The Know.
Whilst clearly not a ‘normal’ stay with preparations for the opening party underway, I feel like I got a good sense of what the Virgin Hotel in New York City has to offer – and I liked it.
Comparing it to other brands, I think Virgin Hotels has done a good job in striking a good balance between Marriott’s W Hotels, which can sometimes be over the top and garish, with something more family friendly like a Moxy.
I do have some concerns that the broader market may be confused about what Virgin Hotels offers and who it is aimed at. It is closer to Virgin Atlantic than the ‘adults only’ Virgin Voyages in terms of approach but I do worry that potential guests might expect – or be put off by – a ‘W’ clone, which this really is not.
The rooms are smart and relaxing with a neutral colour palette with little nods to the Virgin Group brand. I was also impressed by how spacious the rooms were, as well as the ‘two chambers’ mini suite set up. The space is thoughtfully laid out, which makes a huge difference.
The only real feedback I have is that the lifts can be a bit of a pain and that the toilet seats feel a bit on the cheap side and don’t match the standard of the rest of the room. Apart from that, I’d be more than happy to return to Virgin Hotels New York City, particularly for its fantastic views and central location.
Rooms start at around $350 per night. You can find out more, and book, on the Virgin Hotels website here.
Hotel offers update – June 2023:
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