Center City Philadelphia has experienced a hotel boom of late, but when business requires a base west of the Schuylkill River—University City and West Philly—your pickings are slim. Set across from the University of Pennsylvania, the Inn at Penn holds its own against the new Center City crop and is one of the most technologically advanced hotels in Hilton’s portfolio. Built in 1999, the hotel was renovated top-to-bottom in 2011, solidifying a stuffy-enough Ivy League air. Above an efficient wood-paneled check-in, a double-fireplace library lined with classic tomes creates a sophisticated lobby-cum-cocktail lounge. A Frank Lloyd Wright–inspired aesthetic is pervasive with geometric lamps, wood-paneled walls, Craftsman wood furnishings, and the hotel’s riff on the architect’s iconic font on all signage. The Inn is teched out with free, fast Wi-Fi; TeleAdapt media hubs connecting phones, tablets, or computers directly to high-def TVs; and iPads accessing hotel services and information in multiple languages. The Inn’s environmental stance is also impressive: fabrics, wall coverings, and bathroom tile are made from recycled materials; energy-efficient lighting, heating, and cooling is state-of-the-art, and WaterSense showerheads ensure no water is wasted. Even the employee uniforms are made from recycled bottles.
The 243 guestrooms and suites are classy, efficient, and relatively spacious, though it’s worth upgrading to a suite for a separate sitting area. Gold, leather, and wood hues are complimented by pops of red and orange with large work desks. Thanks to the 2001 renovation, the bathrooms are big, have glass-encased showers, and are stocked with Peter Thomas Roth amenities.
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The University City district west of the Schuylkill River is sometimes referred to as the “smart side” of Philly, and this hotel puts you within walking distance of the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, biotech centers, and several hospitals comprising one of the most advanced medical campuses in the country. It’s also atop a SEPTA trolley stop for hopping a ride to Center City (eight minutes) or venturing into West Philly. Go west on the 34 for a quick ride to Clark Park, a lovely green space almost always in use. A large playground fills with local families seven days a week, and a game is almost always happening on the concrete basketball courts. On Saturday mornings, a year-round farmers' market features produce by community and Amish farmers, and once a month the park hosts a popular flea market run by a local African nonprofit where you can find everything from antiques to original oil paintings to VHS movies. A few blocks farther afield, Baltimore Avenue is a hotbed of authentic North African cuisine; stroll to Aksum for Mediterranean dishes like Moroccan braised lamb shank, Gojjo for an Ethiopian take on the cheesesteak, or Dahlak for Eritrean and Ethiopian delicacies such as lamb stew with onions, tomatoes, and spices from Northeast Africa.
Need to Know
Rooms: 243 guestrooms and suites. From $179. Check-in: 3 p.m.; check-out: 11 a.m. Dining options: Ground-level Penne Restaurant & Wine Bar focuses on larger parties with an extensive wine list and handmade pasta. Guests also have access to a decadent breakfast at the University Club, otherwise exclusive to Penn types. Spa and gym details: There is a small 24-hour fitness room. In-room spa services can be arranged and feature Farmaesthetics Skincare products.
Who's it for: Business travelers, Penn and Drexel parents, guest lecturers, and intrepid visitors jumping off into West Philly. Our favorite rooms: The Corner King Suite is 700-plus square feet and set on a circular corner overlooking bustling Walnut Street and the leafy Penn campus. Good to know: North-facing rooms receive significantly less light, but are also quieter as they face less-busy Sansom Street and the Inn’s porte cochere.