The floors may be warped in places, many rooms have no views, there are no hairdryers or extra towels, and some complain the place is downright creepy, but no hotel in New York City can claim the bohemian artistic heritage of the Hotel Chelsea. Long-term residents included Leonard Cohen, Janis Joplin, Dylan Thomas, Arthur Miller, and Arthur C. Clarke (who wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey here); the place was a favorite haunt of Patti Smith, Stanley Kubrick, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Jean-Paul Sartre. Andy Warhol shot Chelsea Girls here in 1966, documenting the lives of Factory alumni living here, such as Edie Sedgwick, and the 1986 film Sid and Nancy depicts the murder of Nancy Spungen by Sid Vicious in their room on the ground floor in 1978. The general public isn’t allowed past the lobby, so taking an inexpensive room is the best way to explore the place – the grand staircase stretches up 12 flights, its walls are lined with art by guests and visitors, and the dark corridors with spots of peeling paint feel as though they belong in a state mental institution. Not for everyone, but a treat for the culturally inclined.
Old New York also lives next door to the Hotel Chelsea at the Spanish restaurant El Quijote, serving plates piled high with lobster and seafood paella along with pitchers of first-rate sangria in a traditional decor that feels like Madrid circa 1955. Don’t expect first-rate service here, but instead enjoy a glimpse of old-school New York in one of the few traditional Spanish restaurants left in the city.