My most recent trip to New York was my first long-haul international jaunt post-COVID restrictions.
To make the most of the city, I decided on a twin-center visit, splitting my time between Manhattan and Brooklyn — something I’d recommend everyone do when visiting the Big Apple.
After spending my first 3 nights at the Moxy NYC East Village in Manhattan, I headed a few stops on the L from Union Square to Bedford Avenue and checked myself into The Williamsburg Hotel — a hotel I’ve wanted to stay at for years since I visited the rooftop pool back in 2015.
As a non-chain, boutique-style hotel, it was set to be a very different experience than my first stay.
Here’s what I thought of my 2-night stay at The Williamsburg Hotel.
I don’t know Brooklyn and Williamsburg all that well, but from what research I did beforehand, I figured The Williamsburg Hotel would be a good base to get to know the other side of the East River, and I can confirm that it was.
With a suitcase in tow, I walked the icy, snow-lined few blocks from Bedford Avenue station to the hotel. I wasn’t walking fast by any means, so the journey took around 15 to 20 minutes — others could probably do it quicker.
It completely goes against the photo flow, but I felt this picture was necessary to show off the building’s super tall and skinny design.
And here’s another shot of the outside of the hotel by night.
As I do in 99% of cases, I booked my stay directly with the hotel.
My reason for this is that booking directly makes sure that my hotel elite status will be honored during my stay.
As The Williamsburg Hotel doesn’t belong to any of the chain hotels, I could have easily looked for a deal through one of the big online booking portals that may have earned me points through its own reward program.
However, I prefer that the money I spend on a hotel stay goes directly to the hotel, especially when they’re a standalone, boutique-style hotel such as The Williamsburg Hotel.
Several booking options were available to me, including the cheapest “Book Early & Save” rate for $175.20 — an absolute bargain, I’m sure you’ll agree.
As my stay was for a review, I went for the “Breakfast Included” rate so that I’d be able to evaluate whether it’s worth paying for breakfast or whether you’d be best with a room-only rate.
You’ll have to read on to see if the extra $43.80 per night was worth it.
The U.K. doesn’t have a credit card that rewards specifically for general travel bookings. With that, I booked using The Platinum Card® from American Express U.K. to benefit from the comprehensive travel insurance that comes with the card. I also earned the standard 1 point per £1 spent that comes with the card.
As a U.S. citizen, there are a ton of credit cards you could use to earn to book a stay at this hotel and earn points — here are some of our favorites.
This is the view that I was greeted with from the top of the spiral staircase leading down to the reception desk. It was pretty good as far as first impressions go.
The reception area itself was a small cave-like space tucked away in a corner. With zero natural light, it can’t be the nicest place to work, but I guess the priority was to reserve the natural light for guests who’d be using the adjacent super high-ceilinged bar and lobby.
Not pictured are the 3 smiley-faced staff members who greeted me on arrival at the desk.
Armando took care of my check-in and said they’d let housekeeping know that I had arrived, as my room wasn’t guaranteed until 4 p.m. I knew that, of course, but arrived ahead of check-in time after checking out from my previous stay in Manhattan.
His manager then proceeded to hand me a voucher for 2 free cocktails by way of a cute welcome gift.
I was also politely asked to sign a Smoking Policy Acknowledgement Form, which I’d never been asked to do in any other hotel I’ve stayed in previously. I thought it was odd, but I respect it. There’s nothing worse than checking into a room that smells of stale cigarette smoke, and this should hopefully deter any would-be rule flouters.
By the end of checking in, I had no less than 3 different coupons, as well as my room key: 1 for complimentary cocktails, 1 for the complimentary breakfast that was included with my rate, and the third, and most definitely my favorite of the 3, gave me access to Grind House Gym in Brooklyn. This was because at the time of my stay, the hotel had no gym or fitness facilities.
I’ll start by saying that this is, without a doubt, the best gym that I’ve had access to when staying at a hotel.
The pass I was given at check-in could be used at Grind House gym in Brooklyn, which is around 8 blocks from the hotel.
It’s a huge space with all of the gym equipment you could wish for to do any kind of workout.
I was very impressed, to say the least.
Guests currently still have access to Grind House, even though the hotel has since introduced complimentary gym classes on the hotel’s roof.
Rooftop Pool & Bar
As it was winter, the rooftop pool and bar area was closed during my stay. I did ask if I could be escorted up by a member of staff to get a picture for the review, but it wasn’t allowed.
Fortunately, I took some snaps back in 2018 when I visited the hotel’s rooftop pool for the day. The very same day I added The Williamsburg Hotel to my list of must-stay hotels.
During pool season, guests can reserve private poolside cabanas and daybeds, though pool access is not available on the day of departure.
The Room — A Queen Terrace
I was assigned room 519 on the fifth floor.
My room was about mid-way down the corridor.
My immediate thought was how bright and airy the room was thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows.
It felt far more like a bedroom in a residential property rather than a hotel room. This is something I personally love.
Half of the room was taken up by the bathroom facilities and a small minibar station. There was also a small wardrobe tucked away by the door.
And the rest of the space was occupied by the queen bed, 2 nightstands, and a small table and stool.
On one side of the bed were a luggage rack, lamp, box of tissues, and a spaceship-shaped gadget.
On closer inspection, I realized the gadget was a Snooz white noise machine. This was a very nice and thoughtful touch that would be especially appreciated by the many people who seem to be suffering from sleep issues these days.
Here’s a close-up of the stunning brown leather headboard. Just gorgeous.
And to the right side of the bed was a cordless phone, notepad and pen, and the TV remote.
The huge flat-screen TV was hung at the end of the bed. Note that they called me Ross rather than Daniel — it’s an easy mistake to make, to be honest.
The minibar was stocked with a selection of soft drinks, alcoholic drinks, and snacks that you’d expect from a decent minibar.
The safe was also located in the same cupboard as the minibar fridge.
Drinks varied from sparkling water to sodas and beer.
On closer inspection, I noticed some fun additional items such as a hangover kit, couples kit, and a charger kit — great for people like me who are prone to losing things!
I took a picture of the minibar menu should you be interested in the prices. I find it kind of crazy that they would charge you $35 if you wanted to take the umbrella as a souvenir.
The quality of guest sleep is clearly a high priority for The Williamsburg Hotel. In addition to the white noise machine, I found this sleep package in the nightstand that comprised of an eye mask and ear plugs. As far as I can remember, this is the first time I’ve received an eye mask that wasn’t on a plane.
Other thoughtful in-room amenities included an umbrella and a tote bag, which were hanging on the wall by the door.
You’ve already seen the breathtaking view from the rooftop, so I bet you’re wondering whether the view from the rooms was just as good.
I had a north-facing room, so this was the view from inside the room. However, out on the balcony …
… it’s a totally different story.
The area immediately around the hotel isn’t all-too-pretty and there are a lot of industrial-looking buildings and construction. But all things considered, the view across the East River of the Manhattan skyline is really quite something.
It was even more spectacular at night.
Hot Tip: When planning a stay at The Williamsburg Hotel, make sure to email the hotel in advance and ask for a room on the right side (north-facing side) of the hotel so you, too, can enjoy these views during your stay.
The shower and sink area of the bathroom could be seen from pretty much anywhere in the bedroom. This is not the room for people who are just friends or when going away with a parent — that’s for sure.
The only private part of the bathroom was the toilet closet, which was separated by 2 sliding barn doors.
Personally, I love the design, especially how they managed to make an industrial-looking gold showerhead and grey faux brick walls feel cozy and inviting.
Just look at that showerhead.
Bathroom amenities included Apotheke lotion and C.O. Bigelow hand soap.
Apotheke shower amenities, as well as more C.O. Bigelow soap, could also be found in the shower.
Food and Beverage
The main dining establishments of the hotel were on the lower ground floor.
The lobby bar took center stage of the space.
I liked the addition of the piano. I never heard anyone playing it — probably as it was hidden away under the spiral staircase.
Around the bar were a variety of seating areas, including cozy booths for dining.
There was also a sofa and a couple of armchairs more suited to having a drink.
On a Thursday afternoon after checking in, I pitched up in one of the booths near the bar and ordered myself some lunch while I was waiting for my room to be readied.
I went for the vegan burger, which came with a side salad rather than fries, which I liked.
It set me back $18 dollars.
It was nice to see that my Coke Zero was served with a straw made from plants rather than plastic — nice work, The Williamsburg Hotel.
I did notice various shades of mysterious stains on the sofa next to where I was eating and working, which were a little off-putting.
Surely the cleaning and maintenance of guest areas in a hotel of this standard would be of high enough priority to get stains like this professionally cleaned.
Before heading out for drinks late on Friday, I tucked into a chicken penne pasta from the evening menu while I was finishing up some writing at the bar.
I’d been fancying pasta for a couple of days, but most dishes I’d come across were made with a cream-based sauce, which I don’t digest well.
So when I saw this non-cream-based chicken pasta dish, I ordered it straight away.
I’m happy to report that it was delicious. It was like Italy-meets-the-Far-East — the perfect carb-loaded hit of flavor that I needed after a long week.
Not only was it tasty, but I don’t find $25 for a pasta dish in a New York hotel to be a bad price at all.
It was also time for a drink.
The drinks menu stated that the cocktail “Love Kiss” had Champagne in it. After my last experience at a Champagne happy hour which tried to palm me off with Prosecco, I thought I’d double-check.
It was as I’d feared. Apparently, the bar doesn’t serve Champagne by the glass, not even for cocktails. However, given that I used 1 of my 2 free drinks, I didn’t feel so robbed.
For the second time in just a few days in New York, I’d been swindled by false advertisements of Champagne.
Take note restaurateurs of New York: Champagne is the name only for sparkling wine that was made in the Champagne region of France. If the sparkling wine you’re serving isn’t from there, then it’s not Champagne.
The Williamsburg Restaurant
- Daily: 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
- Breakfast Daily: 7:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Breakfast each morning is served in The Williamsburg Restaurant — a delightfully-designed space with super high ceilings and exposed brick walls.
And yes, breakfast is until 12 p.m.!
Each morning, I was presented with a menu and asked if I’d like a coffee.
When I asked for an espresso and was told there was only drip, my entire caffeinated world fell down around me.
No day in my life can start correctly (if at all) without coffee. To be honest, when I saw this vat of self-service drip coffee at the bar I should have known from that point that I’d have a day of brain fog ahead.
Despite it all, I powered on through knowing that I’d be able to find a decent espresso somewhere close by.
One morning I had The Williamsburg Breakfast. Not sure in which world 2 poached eggs, 2 tiny pieces of thick-cut smoked pork belly (which really weren’t nice), 2 tiny pieces of sourdough bread, and salad (!!) is worth $23.
On my second morning, I decided to go for the Eggs Norwegian — The Williamsburg Restaurant’s take on the classic eggs royale dish.
This would usually be less substantial than a full breakfast, but thanks to the addition of home fries, it was really rather filling, and at $19, this was certainly the value for money option over the Williamsburg Breakfast.
And as I had breakfast for 2 each morning, I brought Chelsea, my travel partner-in-crime, with me on the second morning. She went for the blueberry pancakes, which were outstanding.
As we’re talking about breakfast, one morning while I was waiting for my food to arrive, I saw that a noticeable layer of dust had built up on the top of the padded bench seating. This, in addition to the stained booth seating I mentioned earlier, would suggest there are some cleaning issues here.
The Watertower Bar
- Monday: Closed
- Tuesday and Wednesday: 7 p.m. to 12 a.m.
- Thursday: 7 p.m. to 1 a.m.
- Friday and Saturday: 6 p.m. to 4 a.m.
The Watertower Bar had the most incredible views of the Manhattan skyline.
On a clear night with the twinkly lights, it was like an adult’s Disney World.
As a guest of the hotel, it’s best to wait for an elevator attendant who’ll whisk you up in the first elevator.
You then step out of the first lift and into a second.
Next stop, Watertower.
Once you get to the top, you’re treated to this beautiful view over the city. The space is really small, so get there early or make a reservation if you can.
The Patio is outside of the front of the hotel and would make for a nice spot to eat, drink, or just hang out and watch the world go by.
The menu is pretty much identical to what you can order inside.
Bottom Line: When all’s said and done, I thought the food and beverage offering at The Williamsburg Restaurant was average. The food was expensive and nothing special. Not only that, there was no chance of getting a decent coffee, which is a real shame. This meant I had to leave the hotel to get my caffeine fix. It usually wouldn’t be so much of a problem as so many hotels have in-room coffee machines. The Williamsburg Hotel doesn’t have those either.
Service seemed a little disjointed on a morning around breakfast and in the lobby area. The staff felt thin on the ground and there was a slight sense of disorder.
You can’t order drinks (even soft drinks) in the lobby at the bar until 11 a.m., which means you have to bother the busy staff members in the restaurant area who are in the middle of breakfast service.
That said, every staff member I encountered was courteous and polite — something I’ve come to expect as standard in the U.S.
I’m lucky to have been to New York several times now that I know Manhattan well-enough to start exploring the Brooklyn side of the river more.
With that, I would definitely consider staying at The Williamsburg Hotel again — preferably in summer. I’ll just be sure to book a room-only rate and eat in the neighborhood instead. I didn’t find a lot of value in paying $43 to have breakfast included.
The hotel is ideally located for exploring Williamsburg and super close to the East River for Sunday morning strolls and Manhattan skyline views.
It has to be said, though, that I wouldn’t rush back for the food. Thankfully, the city that never sleeps is one of the best places in the world for dining out, so a hotel with great food and beverage options isn’t a must-have when I visit New York.
The information regarding The Platinum Card® from American Express U.K. was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.