It had been a few years since I’d been to Salem, Massachusetts, even though it’s less than an hour’s drive from where I live. So, when I had the opportunity to visit the Witch City for this column, I jumped at the chance. My husband, Rob, and I stayed at The Hotel Salem at the beginning of August, one of two hotels in the city — The Merchant is the other — owned by Amesbury-based Lark Hotels, a company known for its unique, contemporary properties.
Located at 209 Essex St., along the city’s busy pedestrian mall, The Hotel Salem is just a few doors down from the Peabody Essex Museum. It’s also within 15 minutes walking distance of many downtown shops, restaurants, and attractions, including the The House of the Seven Gables, the Salem Witch Museum and the Salem Maritime National Historic Site. A map of the city is available on the hotel’s website.
Once a department store, the 44-room hotel has a funky midcentury vibe. Its light fixtures, furniture and interior details, such as railings and the hardware on the doors, have clean lines reminiscent of 1950s and ’60s industrial design. The look is softened by brightly colored upholstery, pillows, tile and carpet, which give the property a comfortable, yet upscale, feel.
Cars aren’t allowed on the pedestrian walkway, so we parked in the Downtown/Museum Place Garage on New Liberty Street, just a quick stroll away. Parking is also available in a public lot on Federal Street, about five minutes from the hotel. The Hotel Salem does not validate parking, so plan to spend $25 to $30 per night for either option. If you need help getting your baggage to the hotel once you have parked, call the front desk for assistance.
Our third-floor room overlooked Essex Street. It came with a small refrigerator, and its large windows let in a good amount of natural light. Our bathroom was decorated with handmade turquoise tiles and featured a walk-in shower with a rain showerhead — always a good thing.
I also appreciated the hotel’s commitment to reducing plastic waste. Toiletries, such as shampoo, are stored in large refillable dispensers. And, rather than offering water to guests in plastic bottles, a machine just outside our door dispensed filtered cold water (available in sparkling or still) into reusable 32-ounce glass containers — perhaps my favorite amenity of all.
One of The Hotel Salem’s best features is The Roof, a bar and restaurant located on the building’s rooftop. The space is surprisingly cozy. Its comfortable seating, available at tables, in booths and at two bars, offers views of nearly the entire city, including Salem’s bustling harbor. The Roof serves a nice selection of creative craft cocktails, wine, and locally made beer and hard cider alongside a Mexican-themed menu that lists a variety of appetizers, tacos, quesadillas and burritos.
We had the grilled zucchini tacos, which were surprisingly substantial for a vegetarian entree, not to mention healthy and delicious. It was quite warm outside on the evening we visited, so I opted for the frosé, a frozen cocktail made with rosé wine, citrus and orange vodka, blood orange liqueur and strawberry puree. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was impressed by how sophisticated it was. The drink was frosty, fruity and refreshing, with none of the cloying sweetness so common to frozen libations.
The Roof, which is open from April through October, is quite popular with locals and with visitors who aren’t staying at the hotel. If you’re planning to visit on
a weekend evening, it’s a good idea to make a reservation on the hotel’s website or by calling the hotel before you go.
The Hotel Salem serves complimentary coffee each morning, available in the main lobby, but it doesn’t offer breakfast. Luckily, the hotel is practically around the corner from Fountain Place Restaurant. Located at 232 Essex St., the diner-style breakfast and lunch spot is open seven days a week. We were lucky enough to score a window seat, so we could enjoy watching all the people (and dogs!) stroll by while we ate our omelets. Fountain Place offers outdoor seating during the warmer months.
If you’re looking for a quick getaway for the weekend, or just for a night, Salem should be on your radar. The city offers something for everyone, and you won’t have to spend hours in the car.
The Hotel Salem