Let me be blunt (I’m a native Philadelphian, after all): Hotel Monaco, the newest (it opened last October) and most buzzed-about jewel in Philly’s tourism-industry crown, couldn’t be more ideally located if it were plopped on top of the Liberty Bell. And, for all intents and purposes, it might as well be: From the windows of its 330-plus-square-foot Parkview rooms,
you have a one-of-a-kind, unobstructed view of Independence Hall, the birthplace of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and Independence National Historic Park, which also houses the Liberty Bell, right across the street. Can’t get much more historically significant than that, but the four-star boutique hotel’s fabulous location in the heart of Old City (and adjacent to the ritzier Society Hill) is just one small part of what it has to offer. And, if you think “historic” equals “stuffy,” think again.
Situated in the grand 1907 Lafayette Building, Hotel Monaco seamlessly melds chic and classic, modern and traditional, quaint and bohemian into one architecturally and aesthetically eclectic package. There is color, art, and whimsy at every turn—and there are a lot of turns in this delightfully quirky hotel, where you get the feeling that every detail, from the exquisite lighting to the custom furnishings, has been designed specifically for your personal pleasure.
But aside from the decadently comfy beds outfitted with Frette linens and upholstered, button-tufted headboards; the style-spanning décor and furnishings (custom screen-printed wallpapers, colorful rugs and patterned draperies, huge mirrored end-tables, artfully placed lamps and accents); and the sumptuous bathrooms (featuring resin soaking tubs in King Spa rooms and suites), Hotel Monaco is home to one of the City of Brotherly Love’s few rooftop lounges, the always-bustling Stratus, which is so popular that it’s offering “Gold Status at Stratus” cards for VIP access. Hotel guests, of course, get top priority, so, despite the wrap-around lines, getting in won’t be a problem.
Not your scene? Not to worry—there’s plenty to see and do. Monaco is not only blueblood-, hipster-, and family-friendly—it’s pet-friendly, too. Your pets (there’s no limit) are welcome to share your room at no extra charge; pet beds and bowls are delivered for use during your stay.
Frankly, your biggest dilemma will be deciding whether to leave the luxurious comfort of your room, or to head out for dining, shopping, antiquing, and sightseeing. You’re in Center City, where options abound, and where most everything is just a walk, short drive, or bus, trolley, or subway ride away.
Dine: Monaco’s own Red Owl Tavern (redowltavern.com) offers casual/upscale tavern fare, like baby back ribs, lobster pot pie, and steaks and chops. But Philadelphia is a food-lover’s city, so you may want to venture a few blocks in any direction for great restaurants that aren’t tourist traps. The choices are seemingly endless, with everything from cheap eats, like real Philly cheesesteaks (finely chopped, with two spatulas, and served on Amoroso rolls) from Jim’s Steaks (jimssteaks.com/SouthStreet.html) on South Street, “the hippest street in town”; to ultra-luxe fine French cuisine at the world-class (and rather pricey) Fountain Restaurant (fourseasons.com/philadelphia/dining/restaurants/fountain_restaurant) at the Four Seasons; to the ultra-popular Vetri (vetriristorante.com), which Mario Batali called “possibly the best Italian restaurant on the East Coast,” about 10 blocks away in swanky Rittenhouse Square. In South Philly, you’ll find Stateside (statesidephilly.com), the city’s first “post-gastropub” American restaurant—and Philadelphia Magazine’s pick as the city’s best. There are tons of old-school neighborhood restaurants, too, as well as a fabulous Chinatown. Be sure to visit the Reading Terminal Market (readingterminalmarket.org), where locals and tourists alike flock for fresh meats, produce, pastries, and more, and, whatever you do, you must not leave Philly without tasting: a water ice (Philly peeps don’t say “Italian ice”) from Pop’s (popsice.com), a soft pretzel, and a Tastykake.
Explore: There is so much to do in this “small big city,” and everything is very accessible. You can literally throw a baseball through the window of Independence Hall from the hotel (though we recommend you don’t), and most historic points of interest are within a few short blocks. The Philadelphia Museum of Art (where, aside from viewing some of the world’s greatest works of art you can get all touristy and run up the steps like Rocky); The Franklin Institute (where you can walk through a giant beating heart); and the Academy of Natural Sciences (where every Philly kid sees a T-Rex for the first time) are just 15 minutes away. There’s great antiquing on Pine Street (aka Antique Row), four blocks south of Monaco, and scores of eclectic shops on South Street, two blocks further south.
Insider tip: Philadelphia is an old city and, since it’s based on a north-south/east-west grid, it’s incredibly easy to navigate. It’s also a city of neighborhoods, so, if you have the time, you’ll want to visit some of them, including Bella Vista in South Philly, home of the Italian Market (“9th Street” to locals), the country’s oldest outdoor market.
433 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA
Distance from White Plains: 2 hours
Details: Rates range from $189 for a King Deluxe Room during off-season to $449 for a 655-square-foot Corner One Bedroom Suite during peak season, which, here, is April through August. The hotel offers a variety of special packages, including the Perfect Picnic package ($229), a gourmet picnic lunch for two assembled by Monaco’s Chef Guillermo Tellez.
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