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
- 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
The location can not be paralleled - it’s right next to the Marriott, short 3 min walk to Michigan Avenue and a 10 min walk to the river for architectural river tours (in the summer). The place has a cafe and a pub in the lobby area with terrific vibes. The rooms are quite comfortable with relatively new furniture. The only issue with the room is that it was freezing cold - windows were apparently not double glazed. We reported the issue but apparently the report was lost somehow so the heater never actually heated - so if you come here, bring an extra set of sleeping wear!
The location of the Freehand is one of the main reasons you should have in mind to book it, but if you hesitate, the human quality of its staff is beyond description. They make me feel welcomed since day one and on a difficult day, when a couple of noisy drunk guys ruined my sleep (and my night), they solved my problem with kindness, moving me from the room I had the bad luck to share with those guys. Loved every minute of my stay and I have no doubts that when I go back to Chicago, it will be straight to the Freehand.
We stayed at this place, fooled by the beautiful photos and the proximity of many attractions. We paid about $300 nightly fee for two nights and got a tiny, really tiny even for European standard. We could have gotten 4 times more space for the same price somewhere closely. Overall, the stay was positive because we enjoyed the city and the festival. doubt if I'd ever go back.
This is my first American hostel that I've stayed in and I'm really impressed and satisfied! The front desk was really friendly and hospitable upon check in.
The shared rooms are considerably small (at least mine was) as you have 4 bunk beds, and a sofa in the room. So, all 4 people would not be able to get ready together or lounge around at the same time comfortably. At least there are lockers in the foyer of the room to store luggage to get it out of the common area.
I will say that I'm really happy that this hotel includes pump hand soap in the bathroom! Even 3-5 star hotels don't do this as they'll provide a bar soap, but not a soap dish. No body soap was provided, but I didn't mind as I always bring my own. Face towels and large drying towels are also provided for free which is something that I've never received at other hostels. I’m also really happy with the lighting in the rooms. There’s a bright bathroom light, foyer light, and another light in the main bedroom area. Additionally, when someone is in the bathroom, and they turn the light on, a red light will illuminate in the foyer so you won’t have to leave your bed guessing if someone is in the bathroom. Unfortunately even in the Chicago winter the only bedding provided besides the pillow was a sheet, and 2 throw blankets. A large comforter is needed especially in the winter as I was cold throughout the night.
All in all I'd recommend the Freehand for a night or 2 while in Chicago! It is easily accessible by train or bus downtown, within walking distance of the major stores, restaurants, and a Target! The hotel has a photo booth on the first floor, free breakfast included, a bar, kitchen, gym, and coffee shop, and a few organized events throughout the week to get guests engaged.
First the good. Location, Great bar, good music, drinks, atmosphere. Good cafe. Price.
Then there's the not so good. Room, crap, lousy bed, very cramped, no where to put anything. Service, underwhelming, lots of younger people with little or no experience or training.