In a recent interview with A.J. Williams, General Manager of the new Renaissance Philadelphia Downtown, we discussed the inspiration behind the property, the hotel’s atmosphere, design and décor, two top-tier restaurants and bars onsite, and much more.
Tell me a little bit about the history and inspiration behind the Renaissance Philadelphia Downtown.
History is all around the Renaissance Philadelphia Downtown Hotel, situated in Philadelphia’s Old City. With this rich history as our backdrop, the hotel brings fresh air to the historic neighborhood. From playful portraits of Benjamin Franklin’s five mistresses, created with pixelated $100 bills, to pop-art portraits of famous Philadelphians, the hotel takes a cheeky approach to honoring the city’s cultural history.
How would you describe the atmosphere and design of the hotel?
From the moment guests arrive to the Renaissance Philadelphia Downtown Hotel, they are met by thoughtful design that brings together the old and new of Philadelphia. For instance, upon entering the hotel, you are guided through The Alley, inspired by the city’s famed Elfreth’s Alley, the nation’s oldest continuously inhabited residential street and the backbone of colonial Philadelphia. The Alley is anchored by a blackened steel staircase and a 100-foot long graffiti wall by local artist Dan Murphy. Right there, we’ve set the stage for unexpected design elements which is carried throughout the guestrooms, which feature Ben Franklin portraits topped with a lipstick kiss mark.
What kind of dining options do you have on-site, and what are your favorite dishes and drinks?
We have two amazing options on property, Chez Ben and M. Brown’s.
Chez Ben is a contemporary, upmarket French Brasserie known. Complete with a cafe counter with quality coffees from Philadelphia’s own La Colombe, fresh juices and buttery pastries, the restaurant offers a delicious and convenient experience. For lunch and dinner, guests and locals can enjoy everything from French onion soup and chicken liver pate to steak frites and duck breast.
Brown’s is a retro-contemporary cocktail bar, specializing in long-aged brown liquors and supported with a well-rounded cocktail menu. The moody bar’s drink and small plates menu (boasting such dishes as Scotch-cured salmon tartine and sliders made with merguez sausage) embodies the idea that “everything gets better with age.”
In terms of location, what are some activities you might recommend first-time guests to the city?
Philadelphia has so much to offer first-time or returning visitors. From the vibrant and eclectic dining and arts scene to its history and public spaces, there is no shortage of things to experience here. Much of our nation’s history is centralized in the Old City neighborhood, where the Renaissance Philadelphia Downtown is located. The neighborhood is home to the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Franklin Square and Elfreth’s Alley.
Our Philly cheesesteaks are beloved all over the world. Sonny’s Famous Steaks is right down the street and a great option that locals love too.
Reading Terminal Market is another must for first time visitors. It’s the nation’s oldest continuously operating farmers’ market and there’s so much local food to choose from, you could spend an entire day there.
Other quintessential Philadelphia landmarks that make for great photo memories include the Rocky Statue, the Liberty Bell and the Love sculpture.