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Grand Central’s Hidden Bar: How To Visit The Campbell in NYC

April 11, 2024
The Campbell Bar in NYC

Speakeasies are quietly (pun intended) becoming one of the top attractions for visitors coming to New York City. They’ve been around since Prohibition, and now that they are legal, many bars love to pay homage to that time period.

One of the most iconic, but not so secretive, hidden bars in New York is located inside Grand Central, called The Campbell.

Swanky. Classy. Ritzy. These are all great words to describe Grand Central Terminal’s “secret” bar that looks like it came from 1920s Prohibition New York. A time when the jazz was hot and the champagne flowed freely… inside underground speakeasies, that is. 

A speakeasy is exactly what The Campbell, located in Midtown Manhattan, reminds you of with its vaulted ceilings, wood-paneled walls, and art deco-style bar. Not to mention the live jazz that plays on weekends. You might not need a password to get into this iconic cocktail bar, but not many people who pass through Grand Central know it’s there, which makes it feel like an exclusive club for those who do. 

Although it’s popular with locals, The Campbell is one of the hidden gems most visitors don’t know about when they visit Grand Central Terminal. 

So how can you find The Campbell? And what can you eat, drink, do, and see there? You’ll have to keep reading to find out. 

The history of Grand Central’s hidden bar

The Campbell in NYC
Credit: Ɱ / CC BY-SA 4.0

Like many of New York’s beautiful buildings, the history of The Campbell involves a wealthy tycoon. 

Formerly known as the Campbell Apartment, the space was once the office of American financier John W. Campbell. It was first leased to him in 1923 by a member of another prominent New York family — ever heard of the Vanderbilts?

Fun fact: In 1871, the initial structure of Grand Central Station was built by railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt. The goal was to build a central station for the three railroads running through Midtown Manhattan, though it wasn’t called Grand Central then — that name came later in 1900.

Campbell invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to turn this room into a luxurious office. While it was never his residence, he did use it as a musical recital hall to entertain 50-60 guests in the evening.

John W. Campbell office

Tip: Think Grand Central is just for catching a train? Check out our guide to visiting Grand Central for everything to see and do in this iconic train station.

After John Campbell died in 1957, the Campbell Apartment stayed an office for a while before becoming an MTA signalman’s office, a gun storage closet for the transit police, and even a jail. Sadly the space fell into disrepair, but was renovated and reopened as a bar by Mark Grossich of Hospitality Holdings, Inc. in 1999.

The Campbell in NYC
Credit: Ɱ / CC BY-SA 4.0

Over $1.5 million was invested to restore the Campbell Apartment to its former glory. It temporarily closed in 2016 when Grossich lost the lease to the Gerber Group and reopened in 2017 as simply The Campbell.

Travel tip: If you want to learn more about Grand Central, it’s one of the stops on our New York City in a Day Walking Tour. Not only will you see some of the biggest highlights of Manhattan, but you’ll get the chance to see many of the best things Grand Central has to offer with a licensed tour guide.

How to find this hidden bar in NYC

So, how do you find this hidden bar? It’s not as hard as you might think. 

The actual location is 15 Vanderbilt Avenue (off 43rd Street). There are two ways to access the entrance. One is from street level on the corner of Vanderbilt and 43rd Street under the portico where there is a canopy that reads “The Campbell Apartment.”

The other is in the main concourse of Grand Central, where you’ll walk up a marble staircase toward Vanderbilt Avenue, exit through the doors, and grab a seat at The Campbell Terrace on the left. 

How to experience The Campbell

The Campell has three different experiences that maintain the original architecture while introducing new contemporary elements to make the bar fit the bustling environment of Grand Central Terminal. 

The Campbell Terrace

The Campbell Terrace is an outdoor covered veranda that, of course, has a full bar and is the place to stay on a warm NYC evening. Picture this: The sun is just starting to set, you grab a table outside with some friends after work, and you laugh away the evening with your shaken-not-stirred martinis — the perfect summer night in the city. 

The Campbell Palm Court

But maybe you prefer to feel transported to a tropical oasis and surrounded by towering palm trees while you drink classic cocktails. If that’s the case, then grab a table inside The Campbell Palm Court, where you’ll have a view of people rushing to catch their trains in the main terminal. It’s a nice way to highlight that you’re on vacation and have no particular place to go. 

The Campbell Bar

The crème de la crème is The Campbell Bar that still has the character of John Campbell’s office with the addition of a long marble bar. You can get a glimpse of it in the video below. (Jump ahead to the three-minute mark to see the interior.)

ou’ll be amazed by the space’s 13th-century Florentine-inspired design, 25-foot hand-painted ceilings, the grand stone fireplace, Campbell’s own personal steel safe, and the century-old leaded glass window with original millwork.   

When you visit, look for the curio gun cabinet, once used for storing guns. It’s still on display in the bar, and sometimes it’s decorated to fit the ambience of the space.  

No matter which Campbell experience you choose, you’ll have access to their full bar menu that includes beer, wine, and classic cocktails that go for about $20 a piece. 

Tips for visiting this NYC speakeasy 

The Campbell in NYC

There’s no need to dress up in Great Gatsby-style glamor to visit The Campbell, but note that shorts are only permitted until 7 p.m. Baseball caps, however, are never permitted, so leave them home. Think classy when you’re getting ready for a night at The Campbell. 

Reservations are recommended, especially for evenings and weekends when there’s live jazz. They sometimes have special events and entertainers, from napkin artists to a flapper-themed ball, so check their schedule before you go.

They’re open Monday-Friday from 1 p.m. to 2 a.m., and on weekends they open at 12 p.m. It’s a great place for a varied menu of small bites that includes caviar, pretzel bites, and warm chocolate chip cookies. 

When you visit Grand Central Terminal on your trip to New York, remember to keep your eyes open for The Campbell. Stop in for a classic cocktail, stay for the 1920s vibe. 

Feature photo credit: A.has / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED