What We Love
- Jetsetter 2015 Best of the Best Finalist: Best Style Steal
- Occupies the old Tokyo Hotel, a 1920s landmark close to the area’s best shops and restaurants
- Hostel friendliness with big-hotel perks, including free WiFi, 24-hour front desk staff, a restaurant and bar, guest lounge and more
- Playful design courtesy of the team at Roman and Williams (they've worked with Ace Hotel NY, Viceroy New York and more)
- Cocktails and street-food fare at hotspot Broken Shaker, plus coffee and Mesoamerican comfort food at Café Integral
What To Know
- Expect a young crowd and social atmosphere
- Around 40 percent of the rooms are for shared occupancy, but don't worry, your Jetsetter room will be a private one
- The hotel is located in Chicago’s hip River North neighborhood
- Free WiFi
- Handicap Accessible
- Parking On Site
The second property from the trailblazing Freehand brand, this 217-room design hotel opened in a revamped 1920s landmark in Chicago’s increasingly hip River North neighborhood. Part hotel, part hostel, the Freehand all about honest but playful design. Like its Miami sibling, around 40 percent of its guest rooms are for shared occupancy (but don’t worry, your Jetsetter digs will be private). Expect a young crowd and social atmosphere whether it’s over breakfast in Cafe Integral, cocktails in it-bar Broken Shaker, or a midnight feast in the communal kitchen. Private rooms are on the small side but outfitted with all the modern comforts (WiFi, TVs, en-suite bathrooms stocked with posh Argan products, and more) in a high-style mix of wood, leather and vintage accents. The design team at Roman and Williams (Ace Hotel NY, Viceroy New York, the High Line Hotel and more) lean on the Windy City’s rich architectural history and Frank Lloyd Wright connections to craft a highly tactile, heritage look from the dark wood wainscoting and vintage textiles to the bespoke furniture and statement light fixtures.
In the Area
Rent a Divvy bike and roll through the lakefront, past the Chicago River, across the Navy Pier and around some of the city’s famed neighborhoods. Now that Chicago has its very own Michelin guide, eat at some of the city’s starred restaurants. Within walking distance are Rick Bayless’s Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, and Carrie Nahabedian’s Naha. Don’t miss the laughs at the world famous Second City, where such luminaries as Dan Aykroyd, Steve Carell and Tina Fey have performed. The downtown Art Institute houses famous works including American Gothic by Grant Wood and Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks. And don’t miss the Freehand’s own insider guides for the best places to get cultured, where to shop and where to eat in the Windy City.
How to Get There
I booked this for under $100/night on Hotwire. We could not have beaten the location for the price. It is central to a majority of things in Chicago. We could stand outside the hotel and see the Magnificent Mile. Rooms were clean and small-no views. But we weren’t really in the room beyond sleeping/getting ready for a the day out. Sarah at the front desk was super friendly and excellent about answering any questions we had. She got out a city map and wrote several suggestions for us to do while we were there. The bartender at the Broken Shaker was also really nice and helpful in making late night dining suggestions. Would return.
The type of hotel is different, small, with a groovy atmosphere. The staff is friendly, some are hypocrites, and sarcastic.
Wednesday afternoon I let front desk know my room was not full done, forgot to do the beds. They politely apologized, I understood, everybody has a mistake. Thursday morning, I went to front desk personally and kindly requested to please make my beds, they said yes sir, no worries. We return at 8PM and the beds were not done again. I called back, asked to speak with the manager Jasmine (who is an expert in sarcasm ) offered making my beds immediately, but I was about to go to sleep. Anyway, there is basically no space in this hotel to wait for housekeeping to make your beds at night. Cafeteria is closed, the lounge is converted into a bar, and the only waiting place is outside. So I told Jasmine, "should i take my popcorn and wait in the street while I they make my bed?", and with a beautiful sarcasm she said i should. Freehand took my money in advance, I was not expecting a red carpet 5 star service. Maybe I was expecting some type of initiative which is not pastries or amenities (which i do not know what they are). Again, I understand mistakes, but when a manager throws her Room Service under the bus, I cannot expect reasonable efforts to comply with what they promise.
Unfortunately, our 2-room reservation was booked through booking.com. I accidentally clicked on the wrong option (no 2nd warning, like “are you sure?”) and found myself with 2 rooms for 2 nights, nonrefundable for a total of $863.72. I contacted booking.com to assist getting a refund. Freehand refused stating 'it is nonrefundable'. I contacted Freehand and received the same response. I then contacted American Express to dispute the charge. They, too, were unsuccessful as Freehand stuck to their rigid nonrefundable policy.
The River North location is ideal for getting around the city. The bed was adequate; however, the dusty rooms and showers are very small with no space for luggage. I weigh 125 lbs. and found it difficult to maneuver around the room. We asked for rooms with views. One room had a view of the next building’s roof. The other room had a view of the next building’s exterior wall.
The Freehand Chicago description states they are a boutique hotel. Although the common areas are whimsical and bohemian, this facility is nothing more than a hostel. Nothing wrong with hostels, as I have stayed in many hostels around the world, but I think $863.72 is horribly excessive for 2 hostel rooms for 2 nights. I feel as I have been robbed.
The coffee bar does not open until 7:00 am, but Starbucks is across the street for early risers.
We were charged $20.72 for 2 bottles of mini bar water, which we did not take. The charge appeared on my AmEx on 6/20/2019. I contacted the front desk that day and was rudely told in a condescending manner that the charge is not in my ‘folio’ and will not appear on my AmEx. Six days later the charge still appears, so I have contact AmEx again to dispute.
If you are accustomed to 3, 4 or 5 star hotels, do not stay at this facility. Extremely disappointed.