Ye Olde Carlton Arms Hotel
160 E. 25th St. (between Lexington and Third Avenues), New York, United States
Doubles from: $90
Note: This hotel does not offer online booking through our reservation partners. To see all available hotels in New York, please search below.
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Reviewed by EuroCheapo.com Editors
Its name conjures “Merry Olde England,” and although its décor is anything but medieval, the Ye Olde Carlton Arms Hotel (also known as the Artbreak Hotel) evokes the playfulness of the Middle Ages.
Set in a historic building just a few blocks north of the genteel Gramercy neighborhood, this one-star spot looks pretty inauspicious from the outside. Inside, it’s finely tuned backpacker chic all the way, replete with unique, edgy murals throughout.
Pros: Fun artsy aesthetic. Great value. Truly unique experience.
Cons: Very basic. No elevator. Can seem dingy to some.
The Ye Olde Carlton Arms offers 54 guest rooms, each uniquely decorated by a different artist (many of whom have stayed at the hotel). The themes vary wildly—one room we saw was a primate playground, with all array of chimps, monkeys and baboons playing on the walls. Other rooms may be painted with quirky caricatures or criss-crossing construction tape. Wherever you end up, the results are striking.
The artwork is the focal point here. Furnishings are of the mix-and-match variety, some looking as though they’ve been passed around for a while and others like they were recently assembled from Ikea. Certain aspects show the building’s age, but that also means cute, unique aspects that come with older buildings (a nook here, and built-in shelf there...).
Rooms are simple, tidy and sans the usual hotel amenities. They have air conditioning and free Wi-Fi, but no television or phone. We liked the tiny old-fashioned corner sinks and other inventive contributions courtesy of artist decorators (we’re lookin’ at you, cactus lamp).
Note: Guests are not able to request a specific room in advance, but generally get to choose between a couple of options when checking in. The friendly manager also told us that many guests will change rooms mid-stay in order to experience another theme. Rooms that look out on the street are bright (but may pick up noise), while inside rooms will likely be quieter, but a bit darker.
Twenty rooms at the Carlton Arms have private facilities, and the others share bathrooms. Like the rooms, most of the bathrooms are done up in style‐the private bathroom in the primate room had ink drawings that looked like a caveman’s depiction of gorillas.
Most of the bathrooms are dated, but all are quite clean and many of the shared facilities are decorated as well. One bathroom is extraordinary, with colorful tiled floors and almost psychedelic walls of mosaic, including shards of mirror.
Small soaps, towels and plastic cups are the only bathroom amenities provided.
A worn awning and bright red door announce the oddly named guesthouse. On our visit, we walked right by without seeing any evidence of the place at first, and once we entered we excitedly felt as though we’d just fallen through Alice’s rabbit hole. A Buddha statue and psychedelic mural greet guests, and the funky reception—done up with an old-school water fountain, antique television and all manner of tchotchkes—is one flight up.
The building that houses the Ye Olde Carlton Arms is more than a century old and has almost always been a hotel (of one sort or another). It provided lodging for traveling farmers and businessmen before moving on to stints as Prohibition-era speakeasy, high-end hotel and then single-room occupancy (SRO) for neighborhood miscreants.
By the early ‘80s, when Ed Ryan took over, the place had fallen into grave disrepair, but as the welfare recipients moved out the staff began sprucing the place up, welcoming young budget travelers with low rates and a fresh coat of paint. The Carlton Arms quickly became a haven for starving artists, who began to help “decorate” the place.
Today, almost every surface has an artist’s touch, with motifs ranging from ancient Egypt to a space odyssey. Even the notorious British street artist Banksy has left his mark. The hotel is vibrant, to say the least. It’s also youthful, fun and a thrillingly irreverent. Clientele, as a result, tends toward the youthful and bohemian, mostly of the backpacker persuasion.
There is a phone in the lobby where guests can make local calls or receive messages. In addition to free Wi-Fi throughout, the Carlton Arms offers a free Internet station. The hotel also offers a 10 percent discount for weekly rates, making longer stays an especially good deal. Note: There is no elevator.
The Ye Olde Carlton Arms is located right next to Baruch College, which adds some youth to this otherwise somewhat nondescript area. Thanks to the college, there are also several cheap, quick (if rather charmless) eateries in the vicinity, and Third Avenue is home to a stable of pubs and dive bars.
Madison Square Park is located a few short blocks from the hotel. The popular hub is surrounded by stately architecture, including the iconic the Flatiron Building, and home to the original Shake Shack, a wildly popular burger stand. The Empire State Building punctuates the sky just to the north, and across the street from the park Mario Batali’s Italian food emporium, Eataly, is always bustling.
Gramercy Park (private and quiet) and Union Square (public and lively) are both within easy walking distance to the south of the hotel. Busy Herald Square and Korea Town, with its yummy cheap eats and quirky karaoke lounges, are a short jaunt to the northeast.
Reserving at the Ye Olde Carlton Arms
As we point out above, the Ye Olde Carlton Armsdoes not offer online reservations. You will need to call the hotel directly to reserve a room (click the “more information” link below for the phone number).
If you'd prefer to book online, the simple yet sweet Hotel 17, located just off Union Square, is a solid nearby option, as is the Gershwin Hotel, which boasts a similar artistic flair and a swell location just a block north of Madison Square Park.
Subways: The 23rd and 28th Street stations, serviced by the local 6 line, are the both about four to five blocks from the property. The N/R local trains are a few blocks farther, at the southwest corner of Madison Square Park (23rd Street and Fifth Avenue).
JFK: Take the Air Train to Sutphin Boulevard-Archer Avenue Station and transfer to a Manhattan-bound E train to Lexington Avenue-53rd Street Station. Transfer to a downtown 6 train to 23rd Street.
LaGuardia: From LaGuardia, catch an airport bus service to Grand Central Station and then pick up the downtown 6 train to 23rd Street.
Newark: Take the Air Train to the NJ Transit station, and then any NJ Transit train into New York Penn Station. From here a cab directly to the hotel is most convenient because the subway requires two transfers.
Read more about airport transportation in New York.
Reviewed by: Suzanne Russo, EuroCheapo Staff Writer
Note: This hotel was visited by a EuroCheapo editor and is recommended based on cleanliness, location, price and overall quality. EuroCheapo did not charge this hotel to be listed.
- No Elevator
- Reception: 24-Hour
- Wi-Fi: Free
- Air conditioning
- Bathroom: Private
- Bathroom: Shared
- Bathtubs Available
160 E. 25th St. (between Lexington and Third Avenues)
Union Square-Gramercy, New York, United States
About the Ye Olde Carlton Arms Hotel neighborhood
Once the provenance of political rallies and drug pushers, Union Square underwent a complete overhaul in the '80s and is now lined by trendy restaurants and giant chain stores, and hosts its own farmers' market four days a week. Gramercy is an upscale area lined with elegant Victorian-style townhouses, and is home to the serene Gramercy Park, built in 1831. From here, it's an easy walk to the East Village, Greenwich Village, and the Garment District.