Philly’s Stylish New “Scholarly” Retreat
By Barbara Peck
When you think of Philadelphia, you probably think history. Or maybe Eagles, Rocky or cheese steaks. Does chic new boutique hotel ever leap to mind?
But Philly has that now! Opened in January 2017, the Study at University City is tucked between the UPenn and Drexel campuses, with 212 guest rooms and academic-themed décor (more on that later).
While history is indeed everywhere in Philly, a chunk of the city is about to be upgraded to a tech hub. A recent New York Times article outlined plans for an innovative 20-year, $3.5 billion development program next to the 30th Street train station. It promises to bring in big investors, and The Study is perfectly positioned to offer them beds, just blocks away.
The location also makes it a good spot for parents to stay when touring colleges with their high schoolers, or visiting a student at school here. The hotel is contemporary without feeling sleek or corporate—there’s a warm, comfortable feel, and the staff is pleasant and obliging. Sophisticated, minimalist interiors were beautifully crafted by local woodworkers, metalworkers and other artisans. Guest rooms have luxurious beds covered in gray linen, compact well-designed bathrooms, windows that open, and preppy seersucker robes. Paintings by contemporary artist Carlo Trevisan are in every room.
The new 10-storey building was recognized in October 2017, when the American Institute of Architects gave an Architectural Excellence Design Honor Award to DIGSAU, the local firm that designed the hotel. Before opening this property, New York’s Hospitality3 launched The Study at Yale in 2008; more Study hotels are in the works, the next at University of Chicago. Their goal: “becoming an integral part of the communities they serve.”
About that scholarly décor: The Study’s logo, a pair of reading glasses, is announced by a big metal sculpture outside. The lobby is dominated by an eye-catching painting of a manual typewriter, display cases holding rare artifacts from three city museums, and multiple shelves stocked with design and art books. Study suites have their own bookshelves and leather club chairs. Reading is definitely encouraged here.
A spacious restaurant with soothing décor, the CO-OP, serves up creative Asian-influenced dishes from an open kitchen. The third-floor fitness center is open 24 hours.
In the morning, guests enjoy complimentary coffee in the lobby while they leaf through the newspapers (which the hotel provides) and maybe write a few postcards (also provided, along with free postage).
And there’s plenty to see within walking distance. During a recent stay, my friend and I asked at the front desk and were given free tickets for the two museums we most wanted to visit: the nearby Penn Museum [https://www.penn.museum/], for its archeological and anthropological exhibits, and the Barnes Foundation.
But even without free tickets, don’t leave Philly without seeing the astounding collection at the Barnes Foundation —some 3,000 Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and early modern paintings by the likes of Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir, Matisse, Rousseau, and more. It’s an education in itself.
The Study at University City:
3260 South St.; 215-898-4000; open Tues.–Sun. 10–5 (closed Monday); adults $15; https://www.penn.museum
2025 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy.; 215-278-7000; open Wed.–Mon. 11–5 (closed Tuesday); adults $30; https://collection.barnesfoundation.org
Barbara Peck is a longtime travel editor who worked at Travel + Leisure and as the editor-in-chief of Endless Vacation. She was born in Vancouver and lived in Ottawa and Montreal before moving to New York City, where she defies urban expectations by tending a backyard garden and rowing on the Harlem River. She’s a regular contributor to Gardenista and Remodelista and edits for Princeton and Cambridge University Press. Time off is spent reading and watching the tides at a family home on lovely Deer Island, New Brunswick.