Hotel Monaco Philadelphia 433 Chestnut St., Philadelphia; monaco-philadelphia.com; 268 rooms starting at $199 (U.S.)
Set in the nation's most historical square mile, The Hotel Monaco Philadelphia has seamlessly balanced a nod to the founding fathers together with one toward the future.
About $89-million (U.S.) went into Kimpton Hotel's renovation of the landmark Lafayette building in Old Town. Originally built in 1906, the 11-storey Empire and Greek revival building maintains its original ambience on the exterior, then immediately wows with whimsy in the lobby; bright colours and contemporary design is found throughout the lobby-cum-living room. Such bold strokes are counterbalanced with furnishings that are inspired with French sartorial details.
Don't expect a cookie cutter staff behind the counter, either. Greeting you are the city's hippest; a mad mix of Betty Page lookalikes, runway-worthy beauties and soulful locals that could give Beyoncé a run for her money.
As the only hotel set in Independence Mall, it offers unrivalled views of Independence Mall, Independence Park and Liberty Bell. You are within walking distance of Betsy Ross's house, the African American Museum, Walnut Street Theatre, Muse Gallery and the best boutiques in the city. Historical buffs can saunter in to nearby Society Hill to ogle over the stunning architecture of the old homes.
Known for designing outside the box, Todd-Avery Lenahan of Tal Studio nails the old meets new with a juxtaposition of the historic architecture and many modern twists and turns. The two defining design moments are the bold blood red walls in the hallway; a vibrant gallery for vintage black and white prints of the Mummers Parade, a Philadelphia institution. And look inside your room's closet for classic quotes about getting dressed from Coco Chanel, Marilyn Monroe and Oscar Wilde.
The best amenity on site is the Philadelphia-specific fitness program. On Thursdays, there's TKO with T, a local boxer-turned-doorman. He will carry your bags up in the afternoon then carry you through a killer kickboxing routine the next morning. If you want to run like Rocky, grab your in-room Rocky-like robe (available for purchase) and head to the Art Museum stairs, Champ!
There are also vintage kites available for flying in Independence Park and bikes free to borrow for cruising around the city. Yogis can opt for their roll-out service complete with yoga mats, water and on-demand yoga and Pilates in your room.
EAT IN OR EAT OUT?
Executive chef Guillermo Tellez mixes market fresh with his innovative spin and spice at the hotel's upscale deli and butcher shop, Red Owl Tavern. The sausage of the day made in-house at their butcher shop is a must. It's a great start set on white beans, arugula and spicy pickled fennel marmalade. You can expect succulent burgers, short ribs on the bone and New York strip paired with handcrafted cocktails.
IF I COULD CHANGE ONE THING
While I enjoyed the casual ambience of the Red Owl Tavern, the hotel should have a more sleek and chic dining outpost. The rooftop lounge bar Stratus (one of the city's only chic aeries) only offers Sunday brunch and small bites at night. The restaurant should be slightly more sophisticated and more in line with the design.
ROOM WITH A VIEW
Corner suites and king spa rooms offer views of Independence Park, Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. If you are a lazy traveller, you can kick back in your French-inspired design and simply take in the sights in style.
The writer was a guest of the hotel.