The Williamsburg Hotel has impressive pedigree: it was designed by Michaelis Boyd, the London-based starchitects behind Babington House, the Groucho Club and Soho House Berlin. Thisview-toting, Brooklyn-doting triumph has industrial-fleek interiors that riff on the area’s gritty history; pops of colour, bespoke furnishings designed with help from the Bill Amberg Studio and handsome restaurant add generous measures of comfort to cool. Up on their ravishing rooftop oasis, you'll find the best views in town from the water-tower bar and a seasonal rooftop pool dotted with daybeds. When you're ready to explore the 'hood, hop on the hotel’s handy tuk tuk and tick off Brooklyn’s bounty of bars, boutiques, galleries, brunch spots and restaurants.
Double rooms from £258.14 ($360), including tax at 14.75 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional government tax of $3.50 per room per night on check-out.
Rates usually include WiFi but exclude breakfast.
Gad about the ’hood in the hotel’s on-loan tuk tuk: first up, Brooklyn Bowl (it’s on your doorstep, after all). Book ahead for the daily rooftop yoga session, held every morning from 7am to 8am; it’s free for hotel guests, but limited to five people at a time.
At the hotel
Pretty little terrace (decorated with art by local artists); rooftop pool; grand ballroom; free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV, iPod dock, minibar, Apotheke bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Opt for a room on the East River side of the building, so you can eyeball Manhattan’s looming skyline from your windows. The Skyline Suites offer the best views in the house; they also come with a separate bath tub and shower.
Rejoice, water-babies: you can splash in the rooftop pool while soaking up the city views. Smiths of all ages will be able to splash around in it till 6pm; after that, it’s adults only. There's a $50 minimum spend on food and drinks to reserve a daybed – for a cabana, which seats four to six people, the minimum spend is $250. The pool is closed during the chilly winter months.
The rooftop pool is flanked by black-and-white striped sunloungers and has sweeping views of the city skyline. The roof terrace is home to an alfresco café and bar, so you can order refreshing drinks and nibbles to your mod poolside seat in between dips.
Bring your appetite for Seven Seeds; your thirst for the bars; itty-bitty swimwear for that rooftop pool.
Four of the bedrooms are suited to wheelchair-users.
There are no duds in this bunch – opt for a sociable banquette if you’re dining with the gang, or cosy up at a table for two.
Channel a born-in-Brooklyn look: casual, cool, creative are your bywords.
At Seven Seeds, you'll find soaring ceilings, dramatic brick archways and chef Melissa O'Connell in the open theatre kitchen. Her menu draws inspiration from the Eastern Mediterranean, touching on Greek, Israeli, Lebanese and Egyptian cuisine. Start with the smoked eggplant babaghanoush or miso-fermented hummus, then move on to hot and cold mezzes and mains like mussels in Arak, smoked eggplant fatteh, cumin roasted branzino and dukkah-crusted rack of lamb. Save room at the weekends for their decadent weekend brunches and high teas.
Kick back and relax in the lobby bar, which is decorated with a striking, rainbow-hued art installation featuring thousands of threads by local street artist Eric Reiger. Exposed brick, a hardwood parquet floor, mood lighting, turquoise barber-style leather bar stools and dashes of colour and velvet add to the industrial-chic feel. Plenty of light streams in through the windows, so you won’t have to guess what you’re drinking.
Breakfast is a pleasingly long affair, available from 7am until 4pm.
Order treats to your room between 7am and 3pm, and 6pm until 11pm. You can also raid your minibar between meals; it’s stocked with booze, beer-suited snacks, chocolates and more.
The Williamsburg is sitting pretty in – yup – Williamsburg in Brooklyn, with a bounty of cooler-than-thou shops, bars, galleries and restaurants on its doorstep.
LaGuardia Airport is a 15-minute drive away. Alternatively, fly into John F Kennedy International Airport, a 45-minute drive from the hotel. Give Smith24 a call and they’ll sort your travel plans and transfers.
Penn Station, New York City’s main intercity railroad station, is just a half-hour drive away, if you fancy letting the train take the strain.
It will take you five minutes to drive here from Manhattan (in obliging NY traffic conditions). You definitely don’t need wheels, mind…
Worth getting out of bed for
Come summer, there’s only one place to be: that sceney, scenic rooftop pool. While away some hours at the lofty water-tower bar (A+ Insta pics guaranteed), which pays tribute to the wealth of water towers once scattered across Williamsburg. Having ticked off the hotel’s on-site specials, head out in its tuk tuk to acquaint yourself with Brooklyn’s boutiques, galleries, bars and restaurants. Go bowling at Brooklyn Bowl (+1 718 963 3369) or Gutter Bar (+1 718 387 3585). Sip some local brews – craft of course – at Brooklyn Brewery (+1 718 486 7422). Hunt for local treasure at Brooklyn’s boutiques and markets, making the most of the plethora of indie superstars on your doorstep. Nip to Manhattan by water-taxi or stroll over the bridge
Eat the best pasta you’ve ever had – outside of Italy, perhaps – at Lilia (+1 718 576 3095) on Union Avenue. Enjoy moreish Moroccan cuisine at Cafe Mogador (+1 718 486 9222) on Wythe Avenue. Burger-fans will want to tick off a meat-feast at Diner (+1 718 486 3077), housed in a former railcar at 85 Broadway.
Team tacos with cocktails at hip spot Donna(+1 646 568 6622), at 27 Broadway.
My eyes were primed. What I knew of the Williamsburg Hotel was that it shared a design team with Soho House Berlin. And what I knew of Soho House Berlin was that during a pre-launch knees-up, Damien Hirst spray-painted a giant shark on some construction plasterboards – casually knocking up one of the most iconic works in Soho House’s entire art collection.
So while the Williamsburg Hotel might not have great whites beyond the vinous kind, I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be a damp squib.
After eyeing up the obligatory street art outside – in this creative part of Brooklyn even the images on advertising billboards are hand-painted rather than printed – I can confirm that no Jaws soundtrack was needed inside. In fact, I suddenly regretted all the exercise I’d given my own jaw in warning Mr Smith that New York hotels could be dark and poky.
Untrue to form, giant windows invade the lobby walls like pockets of frogspawn, while the ceilings – laden with pipes and all that industrial jazz – require a yoga back-bend to stare up at. Even essential items are built with a light addict’s eye: frosted glass walls with portholes, a sweeping spiral staircase and, central to the communal/cocktail space, a 360-degree bar with a lampshade made of thousands of colour-pop threads. But it’s not just the space that catches you off-guard. For all its converted-factory aesthetic, the Williamsburg pulls one of the greatest hotel hoaxes – it’s actually a new build.
I plan to be right about something as we head to our room, warning Mr Smith again that New York bedrooms really can underwhelm. As the lift soars, I insist he sends his expectations the other way – regaling how I once slept with my suitcase because the floor space held little more than a pair of socks. Of course, on entering our Studio Terrace, an extremely photogenic (and spacious) form of sod’s law undermines everything I’ve just said.
Picking the terrace option is key. While every room’s floor-to-ceiling windows hint at the infinite skyline surrounding you, it’s out on your terrace – your private pocket of NYC – that the view’s colours, smells and lively sounds come alive. Sunset is the time to have a moment: golden light burns across the East River and drapes the towers of Manhattan in a pastel haze that makes the Big Apple appear sweet and intoxicating. Pair it with a mezcal negroni, snuck up from the bar downstairs, for the full tingle of awe.
There’s a lot to make eyes at inside the room, too. Can a wooden floor be sexy? I’d argue yes – and have 21 pictures of the beautifully constructed chevron-patterned boards to prove it. Furnishings are plush and tactile: a jewel-toned velvet sofa for afternoon slouches in the sun, a tan leather headboard so beautiful that it’s almost wasted not being a handbag, plus a body-nestling bed – complete with five pillow varieties and a white-noise machine.
Then there’s the wet room. With its voluminous freestanding tub, golden fixtures and buzzy blue metro tiles (somewhere fabulous on the turquoise-to-teal colour spectrum), it has everything you never quite have the balls to do in your own bathroom. Privacy behind the sliding glass door to the bedroom nestles just on the seductive side of catching a glimpse. That said: probably don’t share a room with your mother.
While the hotel doesn’t offer room service, there’s no shortage of eating potential – on-site and off it. No one comes to Williamsburg to go home thin. For all the signs advertising vegan-this and activated charcoal-that, Brooklyn’s food is at its best when it’s sticky and soul enriching. Take breakfast at the hotel’s Harvey restaurant. While the avocado toast is a healthy signature hit – loaded with fresh chilli and herbs and hemp seeds – it’s the slab of caramelised smoked bacon in its Williamsburg Breakfast (a US-take on a full English) that delights. Elsewhere in town, Sweet Chick pairs syrupy waffles with the best fried chicken we’ve ever had (sorry, Colonel). While the Meatball Shop serves heart-warming bowls of no-frills-but-all-thrills stodge. It’s no wonder then that until the hotel’s gym is finished, it’s offering discounts and free passes to nearby fitness studios, such as SoulCycle.
As with the gym, it’s definitely worth noting that some key parts of the Williamsburg Hotel are still under construction. Delayed by a work-haltingly cold winter, the hotel’s aerial centrepiece – a rooftop bar shaped like a water tower – has been delayed from spring to (latest estimate) September 2018. Progress on its slick skyline sidekick, a rooftop pool, is also moving at the speed of someone in a post-meatball slump. But if the roof’s design ends up being anything like the rooms’, when it does open, mark this as the new hotspot for even the sceney-est of NYC-ers.
It might not have a shark. But when it comes to rooftop pools, that’s probably a good thing.