As East Coast cities go, Baltimore gets short shrift compared to regional giants like Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Boston. But vibrant Charm City has made strong strides in recent years to reinvigorate the downtown core, and with it, the hotel scene.
New hotel The Ivy, which opened in mid-2015, is one of only two Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star properties in the city (Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore being the other) and the Mount Vernon neighborhood’s only luxury hotel. It’s an oasis that appeals equally to local staycationers and out-of-towners.
We recently spent a weekend at the 19th-century manor to bring you a full report. Here are the four things you need to know before booking a stay.
There’s nothing standard about the rooms at The Ivy, a historic mansion-turned-hotel. Each room is uniquely decorated and laid out, and referred to by number rather than by type or size.
Our favorite accommodations: Suite 17, a fourth-floor space with a dramatic bathroom boasting a deep-soaking tub and skylights, plus a private bedroom/sitting area with fireplace and cozy window seat. We also love Suite 18, the property’s only bi-level unit. This feels particularly private, as it’s the only one in the spa tower.
Of the rooms, we were enamored with Room 8, a cozy, queen-bedded wonder with its own terrace, and Room 6, which has the original plaster filigree on the ceiling and was once the mansion’s master bedroom.
Color schemes and décor vary — our room felt eclectic and almost bohemian, while others look more Victorian-meets-modern — but all come with fireplaces, sitting areas, Natura Bissé toiletries and necessities kits packed with everything from shaving cream and earplugs to makeup remover.
The service and perks
Upon arrival at The Ivy, you are greeted with a glass of champagne before being taken on a tour of the hotel’s common spaces and being personally escorted to your room.
With 23 working fireplaces and numerous small nooks, there are countless spots to cozy up with a good book. Check-in isn’t until 4 p.m., but you are welcome to arrive early and relax while you wait for your room with a full high tea, served daily. It includes a chef’s selection of luxury teas (ranging from bourbon-aged and matcha to an unusual Japanese blooming variety) plus housemade sandwiches, scones and sweets.
On our last visit, dishes included a winter squash blend salad on crostini, scones with “birthday cake” cream and decadent truffles.
Once you’re in your room, the delicacies don’t stop. Gratis minibars are stocked with interesting products, like Route 11 potato chips and local Hex Kombucha tea elixir, plus a wine split and craft beer.
Want something a bit stronger? The Baltimore hotel offers a complimentary bar for guests, where the staff is happy to whip you up a martini that hits the spot or let you self-serve from a selection of top-shelf liquors and aperitifs.
Naturally, the well-trained team is happy to also arrange for the house car to take you around town, secure theater tickets to the nearby Meyerhoff Symphony or Hippodrome Theatre, or simply offer suggestions of the best places to explore on foot.
A boutique two-room spa with Natura Bissé treatments is also available.
Located on the ground floor of the hotel, fine-dining restaurant Magdalena is an experience not to be missed. Choose from five distinct dining spaces, such as the seasonal terrace, the casual bar or, our favorite, the intimate Treasury, where the home’s silver and china were once kept.
Inspired equally by the bounty of the season as by chef Mark Levy’s English heritage and classic training, the Four-Star restaurant shines with creative takes on meat and seafood, like tea-brined duck breast with cauliflower and miso pureé, or a seared Hudson Valley foie gras with Yorkshire pudding.
An extensive raw bar is also a highlight. But the real star is the thorough wine list, bearing the name of vino expert and rater Robert Parker. Parker, a Baltimore native, is such a fan of Magdalena that he gave permission for the cellar to bear his name, making it the only restaurant in the world with this unique honor.
Breakfast, complimentary with each stay, is a multi-course affair that can be served in-room or in Magdalena. Start with dishes like a fruit salad topped with grapefruit granita before proceeding to eggs Benedict with truffle hollandaise, or go the sweet route with delicate ricotta pancakes with fruit compote.
Originally conceived by wealthy banker and industrialist John Gilman (who, sadly, died before the mansion could be finished) in the late 1800s, the home went on to be occupied by other notable Baltimore families and, at one point, was used by the city to house visiting dignitaries.
The Ivy today still feels and looks much the same as it did when it was a private residence, although now several other rowhomes have been combined to offer the full array of space needed to house the luxury hotel, spa and restaurant.
The ground-floor rooms at Biddle and North Calvert streets are still designed as quiet sitting spaces, many of which have leaded glass windows, carved wood wainscoting and individual fireplaces with original marble details.