Hip and History at The Arco Hotel, Philadelphia

The Sonder Arco Hotel Philadelphia

Editor’s note: Formerly known as The Independent Hotel Philadelphia, this property changed ownership and management. It is now one of 13 Sonder hotels in Philly. This chain is known for high design and “mobile-first” service, which is a euphanism for “do it yourself”–reviews frequently mention the lack of staffers on site. See reviews at the linked online booking agencies to get a sense of how this archived review compares to the current reality. 

In the Midtown Village section of downtown Philadelphia, The Arco Hotel is within walking distance to many of the City of Brotherly Love’s must-sees. This 24 guest room boutique-style hotel, in a renovated Georgian Revival building, is a pleasing mix of class, comfort, and art in the district known for its hip, progressive vibe.

Arco hotel paintingI chose what was The Independent Hotel (when I stayed) from the downtown Philadelphia options listed at Hotel.com because it looked like it fit into the landscape of Philadelphia’s red-brick architecture, was within walking distance of Philadelphia’s historic, iconic cites, had free cancellation, the price included a continental breakfast, and the pay parking was less expensive than other hotels on my possibility list. The hotel lived up to its guest reviews and my expectations.

The Arco Hotel’s entrance from Locust Street is just a foyer with an elevator to the reception desk on the 2nd floor. The foyer’s black and white soft focus floor-to-ceiling photos and the small glass chandelier with electric candles evoke images of old Philadelphia. When the elevator door opens, modern kicks in.  An impressionistic painting of City Hall stretches upwards from the 2nd to the top of the 3rd floor is a cheerful, impressive greeting to guests at the check-in desk.

Along with the pleasant welcome of the receptionist, the complimentary Bigelow teas and Green Mountain coffee, and USA Today newspaper in the lobby are lovely touches I noticed right away. Here’s where you’ll also find the large screen desktop computer and printer that make up the business center. In colder months, cozy up on a couch or a modern chair by the fireplace that I imagine would add a warm ambiance in contrast to blustery weather.

Through the lobby windows, there’s a view of the marvelous mural “Philadelphia Muses,” part of Philadelphia’s Mural Mile project. This mural is an ode to the creative arts permeating Philadelphia. The Independent Hotel is also part of this art scene. Like the Westin Hotel in downtown Cleveland, The Independent Hotel has a partnership with an arts organization.

Art students from Tyler School of Art at Temple University are responsible for the artwork throughout the hotel. The art is for sale and changes with different exhibits. The current work is on display when I visited was to be in place until the fall, when new work would take its place until next spring.

mural philly

This blend of old with new is a design theme throughout the hotel. My friend’s and my queen bed room with its vaulted ceilings and tall, narrow windows had the feel of yesterday, but the polished hardwood floors and the bathroom are purely modern. The furniture blends classic design with modern use. The desk, for example, is perfect for a laptop,  and the room’s built in alcove with its Keurig machine, microwave and refrigerator offer all one needs for a perfect stay.

guest room at Sonder ArcoOne of the most unusual aspects of The Independent Hotel stay is how breakfast is served. Instead of heading to a dining room to jockey for a table and waiting in line for the toaster, breakfast is delivered to each room. After my friend and I settled in, we checked off what we wanted and at what time it was to arrive. Our two croissants, two juices–one orange and one cranberry and our banana and apple came with a knock on the door and a friendly good morning by a hotel staff person. We made tea and coffee in the room. The fridge had Half-and Half for a more upscale experience. Breakfast can be taken to the lobby as well.

All guest rooms also have an ironing board, a 32-inch flat-screen TV and free WiFi. One perk we didn’t use was the use 12th Street Gym. Hotel guests get a complimentary pass.

* This review was published before the current change in management, so amenities included in the rates may have changed. Click the links below to check. 

The Arco room rate on Hotels.com at the moment starts at $95 with taxes and fees, going up only $5 or $10 per night for a deluxe king. You can also book through the Sonder website or through a room through Expedia. For our car, we paid $23 for 24-hour parking in a lot with in and out privileges. The lot is one block from the hotel.

Because of the Arco Hotel’s location, we walked everywhere and didn’t move our car once. When we checked out, we left our luggage with the hotel staff who kept it for us until much later in the day so we didn’t have to take it to our car.

Post and photos by Jamie Rhein

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