Last Updated on August 27, 2020 by Jeremy
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I was eagerly anticipating my visit to the Omni William Penn Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh as this historic hotel is perhaps the most iconic of any in the city. One step in the lobby and you feel transported to a different time.
But sadly, this does not translate over into the room nearly as much, and I have to say- I was fairly let down from my stay here.
A Fine Line Between Dated and Historic at the William Penn Hotel
My main concern with the William Penn Hotel is that the elegance of the lobby does not translate directly into the rooms, even if there is a visible attempt to do so.
You'll notice this as soon as you step out of the (carpeted) elevator at your floor. The historical decor is there, this is true, but the quality of it all feels a bit dated. It is a fine line between elegant vintage and shabby, and I have to say I lean a bit towards the latter based on the decor in my room.
That being said, I have to admit that I found the bed quite comfortable after removing some of the decorative throw pillows and settling in. If there is one thing that this kind of hotel does right, it is almost always the bed.
Unfortunately, my comfort was interrupted somewhat regularly from the street noise below. Despite being on the seventh floor, I felt like I could hear a great deal of activity from street level including honks, beeps, and other activities going on outside. So while my standard recommendation of request a higher floor is most certainly true here, I do have to wonder how much noise insulation the 100-plus-year-old hotel has as the street noise was far more noticeable than in other properties.
While I was not terribly impressed with my room, the hotel does have numerous on-site amenities (namely bars) that you will also want to check out when staying here!
Note: It is worth highlighting that we heard from many readers that they had great rooms at this hotel. As such, it is worth noting that the above observations may not hold true in other floors/rooms. If we ever get a chance to see other rooms at this hotel, we will update accordingly. We are only making this note due to the large assortment of positive comments we received in our first share.
On-Site Bars and Amenities Worth Checking Out
Unlike many hotels in Pittsburgh, which may have one bar and one restaurant, the Omni William Penn has several. This includes a higher-end fine dining restaurant, a historic pub, a speakeasy in the basement (aptly named The Speakeasy), a tasting room for Wigle Whiskey, and more.
For those who are not from Pittsburgh, a trip to the Wigle tasting room should be your first order of business. This bar offers an elegant tasting experience with a focus around build-your-own Old Fashioned (and a great happy hour Tuesday to Friday from 5 to 7 pm). Likewise, the basement speakeasy offers a higher-end drinking vibe that harkens back to the 1920s although is a bit higher priced than we'd prefer for its creations.
It is worth noting that both of these bars are closed on Mondays (plus Sunday for the Speakeasy), so your plans may change depending on when you stay.
Another unique feature of the property is the offering of afternoon tea in the Palm Court. The menu at this one offers three kinds of tea experiences (one non-alcoholic, one with a libation, and one designed for kids) with tea, finger sandwiches, pastries, and scones. But, much like the cocktail bars above, it is worth noting that this one is only available Wednesday to Saturday and with advanced reservations.
A Few Notable Details to Keep in Mind
As alluded to above, some of the more interesting restaurant/bar amenities at the William Penn are only offered on select days of the week, which we can fully understand but is worth noting for those who may want to plan their visit around it. During my Monday stay only the taproom and fine dining restaurant were open, and to be honest, did not sound nearly as exciting as the above options (which I thankfully have experienced on previous visits on their own).
The wifi situation at the hotel is also unusual, as it is only open and free in the lobby, making for a number of open screens visible in the otherwise opulent setting. For access in your room, you either will need to pay an additional fee or sign up for the Omni rewards program for access (we recommend doing this prior to checking in). A bit of a quirk compared to current hotel practices but is one worth noting all the same.
Finally, the hotel offers valet parking for $38 per night including in and out privileges, which is among the most expensive we've seen in the city. The Mellon Square garage is across the street from the hotel and offers $20 day rates on weekdays and $6 night and weekend rates but does not allow in-and-out privileges. So, depending on your visit and plans of seeing the city, odds are good you'll save a fair bit of money simply parking in the garage one block over and being strategic with your car use.
These small details add up a fair bit and are things you need to know before staying at the hotel. A few could quite literally make the otherwise reasonably priced room become cost-prohibitive fast but can be accounted for with a bit of planning.
Overall, the Omni William Penn Hotel lives up to its historical reputation and offers one of the finest ambiances for hotels in the city. While this is mostly seen in the lobby and on-site restaurants over the rooms (in my experience at least), you cannot help but feel like you are transported back in time a fair bit when staying here.
If this vibe is what you seek, the William Penn Hotel may be for you!
The Omni William Penn is located at 530 William Penn Place in downtown Pittsburgh. To book your stay, click the previous link.