Downtown is now boomtown in New York City.
Four Seasons Hotel, New York, Downtown
New Yorkers will tell you that Downtown – home to Wall Street – used to be dead as a doornail come 6pm. Not any more. In the new New York, Downtown, with its historic waterfront, ferries to the Statue of Liberty and Staten Island and Brooklyn Bridge on its doorstep, is pumping. Bars, galleries and restaurants are full, and apartment towers are springing up everywhere.
Suddenly the attractions of one of the oldest parts of Manhattan have dawned. The architecture is stunning and the iconic City Hall and Woolworth buildings are matched by the newbies: the crazy "Jenga" tower apartment on Leonard Street which was completed this year, and the spacey Oculus transport hub, which also houses a Westfield. This confident reinvigoration is no surprise in this city of constant change, but it's a renewal tinged with poignancy, this area also being home to the World Trade Centre towers. The National September 11 Memorial & Museum and the breathtaking Freedom Tower which dwarfs the rest of the city's skyscrapers are a short walk from the hotel. And directly across the street is little St Peter's church with its now famous crooked cross. It was bent by flying debris on that September day and a priest, who was also a firefighter, was officially listed as the first victim of the attack. His body was taken to the church by fellow firefighters as the disaster unfolded.
Four Seasons Downtown, the tallest residential building in this part of the city, was only completed in 2016 but its classic architectural profile hints at 1930s glamour. The hotel takes up 24 of the 84 floors, the rest being private apartments. The classic exterior and muted interiors by acclaimed design firm Yabu Pushelberg feature a mix of dark panels, soft jewel tones and Italian wave marble and are enhanced by playful asymmetry and artistic flourishes such as a showstopper metallic staircase and an upside-down skyscraper artwork. The spa and super-sized gym are standouts, as is the 23-metre indoor pool – a rarity in the city. (It comes with a resident lifeguard and can't help but look decadent offset by that wave marble.)
In another nod to classical New York, a Christmas-themed train set is running on a table in the foyer, alongside an urn of free hot chocolate. A nice touch during our winter stay.
It is large and luxurious as expected with a view of the "Jenga" tower. While we are more than happy with the smart TV, king-size bed, Bose stereo system, packed fridge and coffee maker and, in the bathroom, a seriously deep bathtub facing a TV built into the vanity mirror – there are two added welcome surprises: a roomy wardrobe and an electric kettle (few and far between in NYC hotels.)
The ground floor area next to the lobby at the Four Seasons, Downtown, is home to a stylish bar and Cut, celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck's first foray into Manhattan. The restaurant showcases steak, particularly of the Japanese wagyu melt-in-your-mouth variety. We try a tasting plate of various cuts and excellent wines.
There are many other nearby options including Nobu at 195 Broadway or choose between traditional Irish pub food at one of the oldest pubs in the USA, the historic Fraunces Tavern at 54 Pearl Street, or modern Irish bar food and cocktails at the Dead Rabbit (34 Water Street) which bills itself quite modestly as the best bar in the world.
Where to start? The Freedom Tower, the September 11 Memorial & Museum, the ferries to the Statue of Liberty and Staten Island and the Brooklyn Bridge walk are the must-dos on this doorstep, but there are many, many others. For more history, visit the previously mentioned St Peter's Church built in 1836 on Barclay Street as well as St Paul's Chapel on Amsterdam Avenue. Or head back to Fraunces Tavern which played host to George Washington during the revolution and now also houses a museum. For shopping, head to the Oculus and Westfield or grab a bargain at nearby Century 21.
For the more artistically minded, watch a painting in progress at the Tribeca art factory, 55 Murray Street. Great shopping and food also await you at nearby West Village, Soho and Tribeca.
For those with limited time in Manhattan, this hotel offers a slice of the best of the Big Apple from a classic cocoon.
The old-world glamour, the location. And that pool.
So much to do, so little time.
Four Seasons Hotel, New York, Downtown, 27 Barclay Street, New York. Close to subway. Phone +1 646 880 1999. Free Wi-Fi. Rates vary depending on the season but rooms start from $US495 a night.
Jane Richards was a guest of Four Seasons and travelled at her own expense.