If you can choose only one place to rest your head during your stay in Richmond, the Jefferson should be your pick. After 120 years, the city’s only five-star hotel is still unmatched for luxury and service, and there's no better place to make your home base if you’re looking to immerse yourself in the city’s history. The Jefferson has been a central fixture of downtown Richmond since its debut on Halloween of 1895, when it opened to great acclaim, fitted with then-luxurious conveniences like electric lights, electric elevators, and hot and cold water in the rooms. It was quickly declared “The Belle of the 90s,” and since then has had a parade of distinguished guests: Thirteen presidents have stayed here, along with the Vanderbilts, Frank Sinatra, Sir Edmund Hillary, and Gertrude Stein, among others. Stepping inside feels like entering another era: The life-sized statue of Jefferson that greets you in the lobby dates back to the hotel’s beginnings; stone and metal alligators stationed throughout are a nod to the real gators that used to populate the pools at Palm Court until the late forties (the last one, Old Pompey, died in 1948).
After falling into disrepair in the middle of the century, the hotel underwent a 34 million-dollar renovation in the early eighties, meaning that these days, the rooms are a pleasing mix of historical ambience and modern convenience. The heavy fabrics, dark wood, and marble surfaces give the surroundings an air of 19th-century Richmond, but you can watch House of Cards while you’re in the bath, thanks to modern luxuries like flat-screen TVs housed in the bathroom mirrors. The beds are the only way hotel beds should ever be: lush, pillowy, and wide enough that you can sleep across them sideways.
In fact, the only reason to leave your room is to head downstairs for brunch or tea in the opulent lobby—the hotel does a popular tea service on Sundays—or for a cocktail at the hotel’s restaurant, Lemaire. Sit at the mahogany bar, sip a Manhattan, and watch the guests come and go. Rooms, from $305; 101 W. Franklin St.; 804-649-4750; jeffersonhotel.com.
Relative newcomer Quirk hotel is perhaps the antithesis to the Jefferson’s plush, curtained rooms and ornate décor. If the Jefferson is a Manhattan—dark, lush, dignified—Quirk is more of a Moscow Mule, light, bright, and modern. That doesn’t mean, however, that the boutique hotel is lacking at all in Richmond character. Built in a historic building dating to 1916, the hotel renovated the space with an eye to updating it while still preserving its most striking architectural details: an ornamental ironwork staircase greets you in the lobby, along with segmental arches and soaring ceilings. Most of the original floors were kept (giving rise to the restaurant’s name, Maple & Pine), and wood beams that were taken out of the original structure were repurposed for the custom-made beds from Poesis Design. Rooms, lobby, and meeting rooms all showcase original works from local and regional artists, an extension of the adjacent Quirk Gallery, which inspired the hotel and has been a beloved fixture of the Richmond art scene for ten years.
Don't miss a meal at Maple & Pine, which is turning out some of the most interesting plates in the city—a favorite on a recent visit was a fresh and tart diver scallop crudo which came dressed with lime juice and lime zest and topped with cilantro and a frozen Thai green curry. In the morning, do the environment and yourself a favor and skip the Keurig in the room and get a cappuccino from the coffee bar downstairs, then wander over to the courtyard or peruse the small, well-curated gift shop inside the gallery. The hotel's rooftop bar is a real gem, as well; make sure to visit it for a cocktail and a lovely view of the lights down Broad Street. Rooms, from $270; 201 W. Broad St.; 844-757-8475; destinationhotels.com.
Image Credit: Courtesy Jefferson Hotel