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- The Pontchartrain Hotel in New Orleans dates back to 1927 and once operated as luxury apartments.
- My entry-level Clio King room was $129 per night, an exceptional value given its generous proportions and 11th-floor allocation.
- I was equally impressed with the hotel's new COVID-19 protocols, as well as its prime Lower Garden District location.
- Read more: Is it safe to stay in a hotel right now? An infectious disease doctor, a cleaning expert, and hotel reps all share what you should know before you check-in.
The building which is now home to the Pontchartrain Hotel first opened as luxury apartments in 1927. In the 90 years it operated as such until its 2016 relaunch as a stylish boutique hotel, it welcomed such luminaries as Frank Sinatra, Cole Porter, Rita Hayworth, Gerald Ford, and George HW Bush.
It's probably no surprise, then, that its relatively recent reincarnation is a testament to almost a century of glamour. Each of its 106 rooms is thoughtfully decked out with nods to both classic European and colorful Caribbean styles. The Caribbean look is a legacy from the 1940s and 50s, when post-war interior design looked to evoke the tropical climes that many servicemen had become accustomed to during World War II. Brimming with historical nods, the unusual decadence of the decor and space (there are no cramped rooms, even at entry-level) were built-in features of the $10 million renovation.
It's a stand-out property in New Orleans, and especially in the Lower Garden District, a neighborhood equidistant between the attractions of Uptown and the downtown historic French Quarter. Its geographic peers are mostly smaller upscale bed and breakfast type properties or nondescript three-star chains, making a medium-sized boutique hotel, especially of this caliber, really stand out.
The streetcar line runs right outside on the famous, tree-framed St Charles avenue, so exploring the city is phenomenally easy. However, the hotel also has plenty of amenities to keep you on site, including one of the best hotel restaurants in town, Jack Rose, and a rooftop bar that's consistently busy thanks to its unequalled city views.
If this hotel was in the French Quarter, there's no doubt its rooms would be significantly pricier, but its way of tempting visitors away from the touristy hub is a range of affordable rates. The pandemic has lowered them even more, and when I saw their entry-level Clio King room available at $129 per night plus taxes and fees, I knew I'd found a real bargain. I had taken advantage of their incredibly good value suites to host a Mardi Gras party some years ago (many of the parades pass right outside), but I was curious to see how an entry-level room stacked up.
On booking, I was assured that all of the hotel's amenities were operational, albeit with some limitations and new COVID-19 protocols in place, which piqued my interest to see how such a historic property would implement new policies. As it turned out, I was incredibly impressed with my stay from start to finish. I found the hotel to have one of the best-implemented sets of COVID protocols in the city, and my entry-level room managed to maintain the luxe feel of the suites.
In fact, my stay firmly cemented this property as one of my go-to hotel recommendations for visitors to the city.
- First Impression
- On-site amenities
- What's nearby
- What others say
- What you need to know
- COVID-19 policies
- The bottom line
- Book a room at the Pontchartrain Hotel starting at $129 per night
Keep reading to see why I was so impressed by the Pontchartrain hotel.
The Pontchartrain Hotel exemplifies a loving attention to detail, and the refurbishment honors the design legacy of the original building in ways that were immediately noticeable.
Rich red and gold tones permeated the lobby, reflecting a glamorous 1940s aesthetic. The public spaces were framed by vintage watercolor paintings and accented by detailed gold leaf embellishments on the original elevator doors. The check-in desk reflected this old school charm immaculately with rows of real metal door keys. The area had been modified for COVID-era protocols with plastic screens at the desk, hand sanitizer stations, and social distancing signage on the floors. The desk also had small bottles of Gilchrist and Soames sanitizer for guests to take with them.
The staff uniforms continued the retro theme and the two front desk attendants and the lobby assistants were all masked. I was able to check in an hour early without any delays at all since I was the only guest in reception at that time. I was pleased to find my room was on the 11th floor (out of 14). The staff were incredibly friendly and even acknowledged that I'd stayed there before, which was a lovely personal touch.
The receptionist let me know about the various food and beverage outlets and the new COVID restrictions and protocols in place for each.
Key in hand, I took the charmingly analog elevator up to my room.
The Pontchartrain Hotel markets its rooms as "oversized," and I was pleased to find that this was a fair and accurate description. While my Clio King was expectedly much smaller than the junior suite I'd stayed in at the hotel previously, for an entry-level room, its 424-square-foot floor space was more than generous.
The building is somewhat idiosyncratic and rooms vary slightly even within type, but the luxurious aesthetic of the lobby carries through to all. Stepping into my room I was immediately transported back to the era of post-war decadence. The room felt classic, with mint, peony pinks, and ivy greens paying homage to old-fashioned glamour.
The King bed was complemented by a work desk, a large velvet footstool, and rattan furniture, the fabrics mixing muted and bold colors. There was also a hint of tiki with the island life motifs in the artwork and the kitschiness of some of the ornaments, but it worked.
A notepad and water bottles were the only real in-room amenities (though during regular times, there's a lovely, curated minibar that allows for guests to make their own cocktails in room).
The fluffy bathrobes were extra cozy, and just might have solified their spot as my favorite of any hotel robes in the city. The monogrammed hotel name and fetching bright pink shade further set them apart.
The linens and bedding all felt crisp, hygienic, and well-laundered. The hotel did not provide any in-room, COVID-specific utilities such as masks, though I did have the hand sanitizer from the front desk. Housekeeping was available on request only for stays longer than one night.
The King bed was thoroughly comfortable, and while there was a good amount of natural daylight during the day, thick curtains and the high floor made for a tranquil ambiance later on and I had an excellent night's sleep. The large windows also boasted lovely views across St Charles Avenue, and I could watch the streetcar amble by.
Those stand-out robes were complemented by high-end Le Labo amenities. The bathroom itself had classic black and white tiling and a huge walk-in shower unit with a rain shower and great water pressure. A quiryl feature of all the bathrooms in the hotel is a (locked) vintage medicine cabinet with old-time medications inside, a thoughtful detail that maintains the experience.
There wasn't a huge selection of tech amenities, but the wifi was fast and reliable, and to be honest, additions such as ipod docks and the like would detract from the ambience. It's a welcome opportunity to relax into a more timeless hotel room.
The Pontchartrain Hotel has 106 rooms, with four guest room variations and four types of suite. The Melpomene two-bedroom suite is the largest and best-appointed and even features its own in-room piano. With rates often below $400 per night, it's one of the best deals in town for those looking for a truly opulent stay, or for families looking for extra space. The Thalia family suite also has two bedrooms and can be found for under $200, again a great deal.
The next tier up from my entry-level room would be a Euterpe Queen Deluxe. It features 510 square feet of space, but costs an extra $80 to $100 more per night, so the Clio King felt like a better deal.
My room offered more than enough space for a solo guest or a couple. In fact, dollar for dollar, the space afforded is some of the best value in town, especially when backed up with an aesthetic as stylish and memorable as it was. I would opt for my entry-level room again, unless I was looking to splurge, in which case the suites are your best bet.
The beauty of the Pontchartrain Hotel is that its food and beverage outlets back up and maintain the allure of the accommodations. The full-service Jack Rose restaurant is a firm city favorite, Hot Tin has been a hopping rooftop bar since the day it opened and even the less high profile Bayou Bar and Silver Whistle Cafe are solid choices.
I was able to experience all of these places during my stay and was impressed that they were operational, well-maintained, clean, and following through with new regulations.
It was required that guests book a table at both Jack Rose and Hot Tin, so I made reservations for both dinner and a post-dinner drink. In the evening, the hotel installed a further check-in desk at the front of the lobby, where a host took guests' temperatures with a digital thermometer before letting them in to eat or drink, which felt reassuring.
My temperature taken and hands sanitized, I made my way to the rustic Bayou Bar for a pre-dinner cocktail, and then to Jack Rose, stopping only to enjoy their pre-dining room lounge. It's an endlessly colorful space adorned with huge portraits of celebrities and landscapes and it's one of the most Instagrammed spots in town.
The restaurant has three large dining rooms that allow for distancing. The hosts and servers were all masked and it was a relaxing experience, the contemporary menu mixing the best of Creole and Italian cuisines. There was a casual opulence to the place, with brocade decor, chandeliers, and fine art.
Post dinner, I made my way to Hot Tin. Sadly I was not able to book a seat on the balcony for the incredible city views its known for, but it was still lovely to sit back amid the vintage decor. The next morning, I grabbed a pastry and coffee from Silver Whistle Cafe, which also buys into the 1940s and 50s look.
All in all, the protocols for guests and hygienic practices of the staff were very impressive, and I felt safe and looked after, even with the indoor nature of the drinking and dining experiences.
The Pontchartrain Hotel occupies a corner of a city block on St Charles Avenue in the Lower Garden District, about equidistant from Uptown and the French Quarter.
It's a relatively quiet spot, with lots of eating and drinking options available close by if the hotel's restaurants and bars are booked. The city's Tourism Bureau is right across the street, which is handy for out of town guests, and the world-class National World War II Museum is less than a mile away.
The streetcar stops right outside the hotel, and so it's very easy to ride it in either direction, to the French Quarter for downtown attractions, or uptown past the beautiful mansions of St Charles Avenue.
The Pontchartrain Hotel receives a rating of 4.5 out of 5 on Trip Advisor and is ranked 3 out of 187 hotels in New Orleans with almost 1,000 reviews. Guests praise the memorable decor, the intimate customer service and the location.
Comments on the distinct way in which the rooms are appointed are common, such as this typical reaction: "The rooms are all different, cozy and comfortable and you don't feel like you are staying in a hotel."
Some guests are less comfortable than others with the vintage feel and relatively analog nature of some of the hotel amenities, and travelers looking for state-of-the-art technology or digital controls would be best served looking elsewhere.
Who stays here: Fans of a vintage aesthetic who are comfortable staying in a location away from the French Quarter.
We like: The Jack Rose restaurant, which had big shoes to fill as a new incarnation of the Caribbean Room, but which handles the pressure with aplomb.
We love (don't miss this feature!): The rooftop bar, Hot Tin, continues to be one of the most alluring spots in town and has my favorite views of the city.
We think you should know: The hotel has its original elevators, and they can be a little slow at peak times.
We'd do this differently next time: Book a table on the balcony of the rooftop bar early to best take in those city views.
- In order to comply with local ordinances, all guests are required to wear face masks while in the common areas of the hotel unless seated for eating and drinking.
- Hand sanitizer dispensers, touchless whenever possible, will be placed throughout the hotel for everyone's use.
- Common areas will be clearly marked with posted signage and floor decals to encourage appropriate physical distancing among guests who are not traveling together.
- Restaurants and bars will operate at seating capacities that allow for physical distancing between guests based on CDC and state or local guidelines.
I felt that the hotel was doing an excellent job of implementing social distancing and hygienic protocols across all of its operational amenities. I was impressed that all of its on-site offerings were open, and I felt safe at all times.
With rates currently starting at just $129 for a spacious and luxe-feeling room, the Pontchartrain Hotel is a serious deal, especially when compared to similar hotels of its caliber in the city. Being given an 11th-floor room with the added bonus of the views added to the value, and I suggest asking for a high-room floor rather than bothering to spend extra on a mid-tier room.
However, for those looking for even more space and a good place to splurge, the hotel's suites offer equally great value, with opulent two-bedroom options coming in under $400.
The hotel's food and beverage amenities were all open, and the new COVID protocols were implemented flawlessly, making me feel safe from start to finish. Masks and sanitizer were out in abundance, as well as floor markings and the reassuring practice of taking the temperature of anyone entering the hotel to eat or drink. Plus, all staff and guests were masked throughout my stay, and surfaces looked spotless.
The hotel's levels of customer service were some of the best I've recently experienced. The hotel's rich history and maintained original details make it one of the more memorable properties in the city. I consider the hotel one of the best-value options in New Orleans, though the caveat is that you have to be okay staying a short distance from the French Quarter. That said, The Pontchartrain Hotel has cemented itself as one of my top recommendations.