Hotel Review: YOWIE curates an impeccable boutique experience on Philadelphia’s South Street

Opening on Philadelphia’s South Street last year, YOWIE describes itself as a “hotel and shop focused on curating small collections from friends, independent artists, and designers”, with their very own cafe WIM offering coffee and light meals. The “invisible service” boutique hotel offers 13 unique rooms, that sit above the coffee shop and store, and is an easy walk from so many of South Street’s best stores and attractions. Earlier this year, I had a chance to stay at the hotel and enjoyed the unique and comfortable offering. Read on for the full review!

The “Invisible” Check In Process

YOWIE offers a check-in more akin to a B&B than a hotel, with an “invisible” process. Guests are messaged (via text and e-mail) with a code to get into the hotel and their room, and they are provided with a direct text line to a hotel representative in the process. None of this seemed to be automated, with my contact Molly replying to any queries via text. We had no problems getting into our room, and I appreciated the ease of the process – especially given how late we ended up arriving.

On check out, we were able to leave our bags in the rooms and they were taken down to the shop for us to collect later that day. Again, they made the process exceptionally easy and were dutifully contactable via text message.

The Room

The code for entry gave us access to the front door, elevator and our room – which was essentially a one bedroom apartment, looking over South Street. The space was vibrant and comfortable, with a kitchenette, living room, bedroom and bathroom.

Though we never formally met anyone from the hotel, a handwritten note from the hotel welcomed us into the space alongside some local guides on the table by the window (pictured below), which gave you some great ideas of where to go and what to eat in the area. A few (permanent) notes were also scattered around the kitchen to let you know how to use the stove, and locate the things you might need. It was a clever set up, and left little need to contact the hotel with any other questions.

Personal touches aside, YOWIE have designed these rooms to feel like home. They have filled the space beautifully, with impressive artwork and lighting fixtures, real plants (including a money tree in the bedroom), and a curated selection of books in both the living area and the bedroom. Many of these books are also available for purchase in the YOWIE store downstairs. Also look out for some cute handles on the kitchen cupboards and drawers.

It is an old building, but the sounds from the street actually weren’t too bad – especially with the ear plugs that were left next to the bed with a note, “busy city, old building”. So they don’t pretend to be anything they’re not, and accommodate accordingly.

In the bedroom, our massive king bed was very comfortable, with two thick, lengthy pillows for each side of the bed. Luxurious Monarch Cypress robes were also left in the space, ensuring that this taste of home wasn’t without the luxuries that you hope for when on the road.

Large flat screen Roku Smart TVs were hung on the wall of both the bedroom and the living area. Hulu, Netflix and more are logged in and ready to go in the systems, or you can connect with your own accounts.

In the bathroom, upmarket toiletries from Malin + Gotez kept the quality high, with cilantro conditioner, peppermint shampoo and rum hand + body wash. Plenty of comfortable towels were left out, and even the tissues and toilet paper were of exceptional quality. A hair dryer was also available for your convenience.

One of the elements of this being an old building meant that the shower takes its time to deliver hot water. Be prepared to put it to 100% heat, and know you’ll need to be patient for it to kick in, but once it does it’s a great shower.

In the living room, the sofa was comfortable, and there were tables and chairs by the window. The string blinds – which were a lovely design – proved a bit of a challenge to bring down, in both the bedroom and living room, which is so often the nature of string blinds. So as with the shower, be prepared to be patient there.

Plenty of power outlets were around the suite – you never had to extend your cords too far. Next to the bed USB and USB-C plugs accompanied the AC plugs – the sort of modern touch that should be expected in all hotels these days, but still seems to allude even some of the upmarket chains. So it proved particularly impressive in this older building. The air conditioning also worked wonders, and even with the suite’s high ceilings didn’t take long to bring up to a desired temperature.

The Amenities & Dining at WIM

Not every room in the hotel has a kitchenette, but most do. And just about everything you need to cook is sitting there waiting for you, either on the beautiful stone counters, or in the drawers and cabinets below.

Salt, pepper and oil are all supplied – I was able to heat up some food in a pan pretty successfully. And the plates, bowls and cutlery are as well curated as the rest of the space – beautiful upmarket quality from top to bottom. It’s hard to leave this hotel and not want to take some home with you (thankfully, much is available in the store downstairs).

If you are using the kitchenette to cook, keep in mind the bar fridge may not be suitable for everything you’d normally need for storage. The cupboard you see to the right in the photo above isn’t where the fridge is located – rather this is a spot to hang clothes, and where they have a small iron and board.

Instead, the small fridge sits below the sink and is filled with a number of drinks for sale. But those drinks are affordable – starting at just $2.

They really do go above and beyond in terms of what they supply you in the space. There’s a coffee machine as well as a kettle on the stove – with coffee and tea options in a jar. There’s even a first aid kit in one of the drawers. And if there’s anything else you forgot, a drawer in the hallway, by the elevator/stairs, had just about everything you could need, from hair ties and condoms, to toothbrushes and Tylenol – as well as extra tea options.

And if you need to protect yourself from the rain (I’m sad to say that it’s not actually always sunny in Philadelphia), large umbrellas are available to borrow downstairs by the front door. And like everything else in the property, it’s of the highest quality.

Also downstairs is their café WIM, with pastry and hot breakfast options, including a sandwiches and bagels with cream cheese.  I really loved their breakfast sandwich – definitely fit it in on one of the mornings you’re in town.

Next door and connected to WIM, you’ll find the YOWIE store, selling a carefully curated selection of books, clothing, and many of the items you’ll find in the room.

The Area – South Street, Philadelphia

Whether you’re staying on South Street or not, this is a part of Philly that is a must visit on every trip to the city. There’s just so much to eat, see and do within a short walk from the hotel.

The lists I photographed at the top of this article give you some ideas, and then here’s a few more.  Jim’s South Street – one of the city’s most loved cheesesteak spots, is just 3 minutes walk from the hotel, and just reopened after a fire shut its doors for almost two years. There is always a queue here, but they’re open from 11am to 1am (3am on Fridays and Saturdays) so you have ample opportunity to line up and enjoy the Philadelphian delicacy.

Not on South Street, but within 20 minutes walk of the hotel, you’ll find another great spot for coffee and breakfast, Café Tolia (26 N 3rd St). I also had an excellent breakfast sandwich here.

The Franklin Fountain is an amazing ice cream shop at 116 Market St, and for some incredible Cajun food, including a perfect Mac and Cheese (a claim I do not make lightly), check out Khyber Pass Pub at 56 S 2nd St.

You’ll find a mix of city funded and private funded murals in the area. To learn more about the art in the area, consider taking the South Philly Art Tour, where you’ll meet Isaiah Zagar, whose mosaic art is found all over the city, but particularly on South Street. Here you’ll find his store, Eyes Gallery. Local art is also supported at the South Street Art Mart, which is around the corner (530 S 4th St), and is incredibly inclusive, queer and hyper local. And  great place to get some affordable art! The tour ends at Zagar’s Magic Gardens – an incredible art environment that evokes comparisons to the works of Antoni Gaudi in Barcelona.

Final Verdict

YOWIE have curated a luxurious, comfortable boutique hotel in the heart of Philadelphia’s historic South Street.

A short walk from so much great food, art and culture, the hotel does an impeccable job at embracing the spirit of the area. Everything provided is of the highest quality, and they go out of their way to make you feel right at home. Even if you never meet anyone from the hotel!

I highly recommend this hotel. With only 13 rooms, each with their own design flair from Shannon Maldonado, founder and creative director of Yowie hotel, booking far in advance of your visit to the city would be wise.


YOWIE is located at 226 South St, Philadelphia, PA 19147. To book your stay, and for more details about the hotel and store, head to their official website.

The author stayed as a guest of YOWIE courtesy of the hotel, with the support of Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau. All photos by the author. 

Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.