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
First off. I must say this hotel for someone under 30 is ideal. It's a hostel style cool hip spot. If you are not a hostel style person and want a chic room with amenities and space this is not the place. I booked a deluxe king room that was private. I assumed it would be met with some luxuries but I was wrong. The hotel has no valet you have to self park in a bed bath beyond parking lot across the street for 45 a night and schlep your luggage over to the hotel. No one cares to help you at any point in this hotel. When I got to my room I asked for a cup for water as they provide no amenities in their room no cups no fridge no mini bar. They have a basement kitchen which looks like a horrible college dorm kitchen where they told me to go get my own cup and water as they wouldn't bring it to my room. So that was also a miss. After that I went to this basement the next morning for the breakfast they provided where there was cereal and sadness on offer for breakfast. It was absolutely sad to see how cheap it was. But alas if youre in a hostel this would probably be acceptable. It was however not for me. The bathroom was tiny and there was barely any room to place my luggage. This hotel is not for a business traveler it is for the kids who are hip. Just a note to everyone looking for a good place like the ace it is not that. It is a good cheap version with not much identity and staff who seem to not want to be there.
The location of the hotel is excellent, caffe and bar in the lobby very good, the rooms are small but comfortable except you get one with the neighbouring garage/parking/bldg view ! Horrible noise from the garage ventilation day and night ! We booked thru Booking.com and that was probably a bad option since direct booking is presumably a better option for getting a better room ? Otherwise no complains. We found it as "alternative" hotel very different from the shiny Hiltons, Marriots, etc. which we found without any charme ( though comfortable ) ! We enjoyed the shabby chic of the oldfashioned hotel. Come again !
I was on a course in Chicago - and as i’d stayed at Freehand in NYC and had a good experience, I thought it would be great to give Freehand Chicago a go. The location is great! Still a 15 min walk in to CBD/Millenium Park etc, though it’s next to the magnificent mile/shops - not far from the River Walk and lots of great places around to eat. The downstairs area, integral cafe and the broken shaker bar are super cool. It does have MUCH more of a “hostel” vibe than NYC though. Only have a small selection of basic dinner/snack foods for dine in, basic but o.k with a yummy vegan option.
Overall, kind of funky, good location, good service and great location. Also not a bad price.
1/ Strange man at door: I had an experience with a guy trying to push on my locked door (4am and 7pm on different days) and the second time i saw him through the perp hole doing the same thing to the opposite room’s door. I called reception and explained the situation and they told me based on my description of the man, he would be a maintenance team member. Which is plausible - but as far as I’m aware there waa no maintenance required in my room. This scared me as I was a lone female traveller.
2/ The lifts are THE worst I’ve experienced. They are extremely slow. Give yourself an extra 15 minutes because of the lifts - I’m not even joking.
3/ Bathroom smelt like cats pee. It was animal pee for sure.
4/ there was mould on the roof above the shower.
5/ there was a bit of mould on inside of shower curtain.
6/ on the last day - my bedding was changed and not done properly. No duvet cover was out in - just two sheets either side.
Rooms are also on the smaller side.
Great for younger travellers, young families, solo and easy going travellers who want good accomo at a cheaper price.