An Art-Focused Hotel—With an Incredible Rooftop—Opens in Brooklyn

A new Williamsburg hotel brings an art-forward focus to the neighborhood.

View of the Williamsburg and Manhattan skylines and seating outdoors from the rooftop bar ElNico in Brooklyn

With views of the Williamsburg and Manhattan skylines, Penny Williamsburg’s rooftop bar ElNico has one of the best new outdoor spaces in the city.

Photo by Alice Gao


The vibe: An art-forward bolthole in Brooklyn’s hipster hub

Location: 288 N. Eighth St., Brooklyn, NY | View on Google Maps

Book now: Website



The AFAR take

In spring 2023, the Sydell Group (known for hotel brands NoMad, Line, and Freehand) opened Penny Williamsburg, a hybrid hotel and housing for graduate students at nearby Bard College. The apartment-style accommodations were designed by New York City–based Stonehill Taylor, an architecture and design firm that has also worked on the TWA Hotel, Ace Hotel Brooklyn, and other structures. Rooms throughout Penny Williamsburg are stylish and comfortable, with exposed concrete ceilings, hardwood floors, farmhouse sinks, plush settees and armchairs. Greenery—designed by Brooklyn landscape studio Verdant—features heavily throughout the property. Named after Sydell CEO and founder Andrew Zobler’s pet chihuahua, Penny, the hotel is fittingly small but full of spirit.

Who’s it for?

Urban explorers looking to be in the middle of the Brooklyn buzz—but not overwhelmed by it.

The location

Penny Williamsburg is a five-minute walk from both the L and G trains at Lorimer Street or the L at Bedford Avenue, with trains that will bring you into Manhattan in mere minutes (10 minutes to 14th Street, say). Bikes are also available for guest use.

Williamsburg may be one of the busiest and most popular neighborhoods for tourists in New York City’s most populous borough, but Penny Williamsburg manages to feel at once part of—and removed from—the action. Set down a quiet side street, the hotel is a short walk to several excellent bars and restaurants that have helped make Williamsburg a can’t-miss dining destination: The Four Horsemen (for natural wine and small bites), Llama Inn (Peruvian), Fette Sau (dry-rub Texas barbecue), and Bonnie’s (Cantonese American).

‘Plant-filled loft of a cool Brooklyn friend’ might be the best short description for the space, which also brings to mind Frida Kahlo’s garden at the Casa Azul in Mexico City.
Interior of guest suite at Penny Williamsburg with colorful rug and furniture

The Majesty Suite at the hotel is 700 square feet and can be connected with another adjacent room for more space.

Photo by Alice Gao

The rooms

Penny Williamsburg has 118 guest rooms ranging from the 200-square-foot Queen to a 700-square-foot loft-style Majesty suite with living and dining areas, a soaking tub, private terrace, and kitchen. Queen is the smallest room category, but for extra space, ask for a Niche Queen (220 square feet), Sleeper Queen (240 square feet, with a lounge chair that folds out into a bed), or a Supreme Queen (250 square feet, with a lounge area). No matter what their size, all the guest rooms feel open and airy thanks to a clever design that uses high ceilings, large windows, and mirrors.

There are consistencies across the offerings: Queen beds have Bellino linens, which are hypoallergenic and stitched in southern Italy, books curated by esteemed New York bookstore the Strand, glass-enclosed walk-in showers, plants, and kitchenettes with a sink, mini fridge, and a pour-over kettle with Devoción coffee (specialty beans from Colombia, but roasted in Brooklyn) and tea options.

Notably, there is also one-of-a-kind art from local nonprofits, LAND Gallery and Pure Vision. Both provide resources, studio space, and representation to artists with developmental disabilities. (For each hotel reservation, $1 is donated to the organizations.)

Interior of hotel's restaurant ElNico with lit candles on six small round or square tables

The interior of ElNico, the hotel restaurant that serves inventive takes on Mexican classics

Photo by Alice Gao

The food and drink

Despite there being no shortage of top-notch, diverse dining a stone’s throw from the restaurant’s front door, the hotel’s in-house rooftop bar and restaurant, ElNico, is worth a stop. On the June evening I visited, the space was at around 90 percent occupancy, and a majority of the guests were locals—no small pull at 6 p.m. Outside, there are panoramic views of the Williamsburg and Manhattan skylines, low-slung couches, and high-top tables. Inside, the view is nearly as good—thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows, colorful shag rugs, dark wood furniture, and greenery galore. (“Plant-filled loft of a cool Brooklyn friend” might be the best short description for the space, which also brings to mind Frida Kahlo’s garden at the Casa Azul in Mexico City.)

The menu, from chef Fernanda Serrano, is an imaginative twist on Mexican dishes. Serrano, a native of Mexico City who has previously worked in the celebrated kitchens of Pujol (Mexico City) and Cosme (New York), here leverages her experiences for small and large plates that are at once inventive, Instagrammable, and fun: Think vegan pink mole with beet, tahini, fennel, kumquat, and pine nut; a tlayuda with tzatziki, pomegranate, sumac, and vegetables; and fried oyster tacos with cucumber mignonette. For shareable mains, the pulpo pibil—fried octopus, garlic sauce, salsa, potato chips, and homemade tortillas—is hard to beat.

The bar program is equally impressive. Run by Leo Robitschek (previously of NoMad and Eleven Madison Park), the cocktail menu tilts heavily toward agave-based spirits while focusing on seasonality and highlighting ingredients from Latin America. Helpfully, the menu is divided into four sections: classics (where imbibers might find a rhubarb margarita), fresh (with an emphasis on seasonal ingredients), preserved (spotlighting pickling, jamming, infusions, and shrubs), and nonalcoholic (including a wonderfully cool agua fresca).

Check-in desk in white lobby with shelves of small artworks behind it

The lobby at the Penny Williamsburg features art from local nonprofits.

Photo by Alice Gao

Staff and service

Friendly, funny, and ready to offer advice on what to do nearby—as well as hear what they can do better to make the stay more enjoyable.


Rooms and bathrooms are wheelchair accessible, and the elevators at the center of the building are spacious and run smoothly and regularly. The check-in area is less of a lobby and more of a hallway—so things can easily get crowded—but staff are prompt, attentive, and adept at organizing guests. ADA rooms are available across all room categories, and the suite is accessible.

Going above and beyond

Pets are not just welcome at Penny Williamsburg—they’re cherished. Pets stay free of charge, and dog bowls and beds are available upon request. (Note: There is a limit of two pets under 75 pounds.) There are even Bac’n Nutty Treats available for dogs on Penny Mart, the hotel’s all-hours digital minibar.

Katherine LaGrave is a deputy editor at AFAR focused on features and essays.
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