In Review

Freehand New York review: a Manhattan hotel that’s both stylish and affordable

This Flatiron gem is the perfect place to give guests a bunk up to explore the Big Apple

For a place that’s nicknamed the city that never sleeps, there really are a lot of hotel rooms to choose from in New York.

From five-star suites to cheap and cheerful hostels, New York, and in particular the borough of Manhattan, has the full spectrum of properties to suit any budget or group size.

And here lies the problem. Travelling to the Big Apple as part of a group of four (not-so-young) guys, we required somewhere comfortable where we could crash after a full day of sightseeing - but without breaking the bank. 

We also wanted to be located in a vibrant area, have plenty of bars and restaurants within walking distance and be able to hop on to a nearby subway for when we wanted to explore a bit further afield.   

Finding the right mix of “affordable but not dingy” and also “cool but not stag-do like” was always going to be a challenge. Add in the right price, room choice and availability the search was on to find our perfect place to stop over. 

Our search checklist was extensive, but we managed to somehow find a property that, on paper, ticked all the boxes: the Freehand New York at 23 Lexington Avenue between 23rd and 24th streets.

Freehand New York hotel Penthouse _ credit Adrian Gaut
Artsy and affordable

Located in the trendy Flatiron district of Manhattan, the Freehand New York is housed on the site of the historic former George Washington Hotel. 

The hotel’s website describes the building as “once home to many storied writers, musicians and creatives”. So it’s no surprise that the Freehand has an artsy vibe that attracts an eclectic clientele of all ages. 

From the lobby and rooms to the bars and communal areas the Freehand features artworks throughout and its design is perfect for the neighbourhood. 

Described by The Daily Telegraph as a “hostel-hotel hybrid”, the property offers a wide variety of rooms - including kings, queens, suites and even bunks. 

For our group of four we decided to book a bunk room, which was great on the purse strings, included all the amenities we needed for a four-night stay and also had the central location for which to explore this great city.

Freehand New York hotel review / George Washington bar / picture by Adrian Gaut
Freewheelin’ in Flatiron 

Our travelling group may have expanding waistlines and a few grey hairs, but that does not mean we are ready to put on our slippers just yet.

With so many bars nearby it was easy to dismiss the Freehand as a place to spend our evenings. But it quickly dawned on us - as we arrived in the taxi on the first night - that this is a place to be seen.

With stand-up comedy shows, DJs and live music packing the schedule the Freehand has plenty on offer for its in-house guests and visitors. 

On the mezzanine floor in the hotel’s former library you’ll find the George Washington Bar which is open from 5.30pm to 2am Wednesday to Saturday and 5.30pm to midnight Sunday to Tuesday. Offering cocktails, wines, beers and bites this is a classy place to start or end the night.

The Freehand’s main attraction though is its rooftop bar, Broken Shaker, which is open until 3am on Friday and Saturdays, and 2am on Sundays to Thursdays. There’s also a daily reverse happy hour from 11pm to 1am. 

This is a buzzing nightlife hot-spot where you can grab a late drink and take in 360-degree views of the city.

Broken Shaker bar at Freehand New York (image by Adrian Gaut)
For the guys and dolls 

Our New York guys trip was themed around sport - the city’s teams, bars, venues and attractions. After spending our days seeing the sporting and tourist sights, our evenings were spent in sports bars watching the night’s live action. 

Once the games were finished we headed back to the Flatiron district to sample the nightlife on the bustling Third Avenue. Between 20th and 30th streets on Third there’s countless great bars and restaurants which easily have a 9.5 rating out of ten.  

It’s not just fans of sport and nightlife who should book their next NYC stay at the Freehand - it’s perfect for single travellers, couples, groups and families who want to get a taste of the city’s food, shopping, theatre and tourist attractions. 

Even if you’re not staying at the Freehand, I recommend that you head to the hotel and check out what’s on at Broken Shaker. Order a cocktail, enjoy the tunes and take in the wonderful rooftop views.

Not many hotels or hostels can offer that on its menu…

Broken Shaker bar at the Freehand New York hotel
About the hotel

Room rates at the Freehand New York start from $199 (£153). For more information see freehandhotels.com or call +1 212-475-1920. 

All images: Freehand New York/Adrian Gaut

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