9 Best Hotels in Chicago
With a flurry of recent hotel openings and a white-hot culinary scene, Chicago is on a roll. We hit the pavement to find the city’s 9 best hotels, from a renovated grand dame to a cool indie outpost to the global hotel debut of a hospitality kingpin. The Windy City never looked so smooth.
Emily Saladino is a journalist and recipe developer in New York City. She has covered food, drinks, travel, and culture for Bloomberg, BBC, Travel + Leisure, and others. A former professional cook, she graduated from the International Culinary Center. She is currently the Editor in Chief of VinePair.
The penultimate luxury urban oasis, Langham brings sophisticated, grey-and-beige serenity to a Ludwig Mies van der Rohe-designed skyscraper on the banks of the Chicago River. Many of the hotel’s 316 guestrooms offer views of the river and Lake Michigan, and all feature uncommonly comfortable Blissful beds, and luxe baths with Botticino Fiorito marble and Chuan Spa products (there is an outpost of Langham’s proprietary spa onsite). The 67-foot swimming pool provides an opportunity to work off indulgences acquired at Travelle, a David Rockwell-designed restaurant proffering lobster Benedict by day, and mussels in ‘nduja brodo for dinner.
Located smack-dab on Magnificent Mile, this historic high-rise completed a $37 million overhaul in 2016. There’s now a chic Chinese restaurant, Shanghai Terrace; a bi-level, proprietary spa with half-Olympic sized swimming pool; and rooms kitted out with commissioned artwork, custom Bernardaud china, and handy details like tablet-controlled fixtures and bedside smartphone docking stations. The knockout lobby offers Sunday brunch and daily afternoon tea surrounded by golden ceiling frescoes, marble floors and a stained-glass wall.
Form and function combine at this Gold Coast property, where all 247 rooms feature Frette linens and Ren toiletries, as well as individual IP addresses for notably fast internet. The lobby bar, Salone Nico, pours cocktails for a nattily dressed crowd who gather on velvet jewel-toned couches under flattering lighting, while Osteria Nico offers seafood and housemade pastas, both in the glittering dining room and via room service.
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This clubby, 221-key River North property features a vaguely Cubist facade and stunning marble lobby, but the main attraction is IO Urban Roofscape, a 15,000-square-foot lounge with a velvet-rope door, thumping tunes, party-ready small plates, and views of the city skyline. Night owls will appreciate bottles of vodka and Redbull in the airy guestrooms’ wet bars (FYI: those seeking a quieter respite should request a room on a lower floor.) All accommodations offer a neutral aesthetic punctuated by the occasional purple chair or loveseat, plus white-tiled bathrooms stocked with L’Occitane products.
With a penchant for 300-thread-count linens and cheeky wall art, ACME provides an alternative to downtown’s glass-and-steel aesthetic. Two cocktail bars, Bodega and the Berkshire Room, keep guests and locals well lubricated, as does Bunny Slope, a faux apres-ski joint with a hot tub (it’s open to hotel guests and available to all via private booking). West Town Bakery provides locally roasted Passion House coffee as well as Knock & Drop, a thermos-based room service. Guestrooms have funky design elements like lipstick-printed bathroom mirrors, as well as ergonomic desk chairs and Lather bath products.
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Chicago Athletic Association
Set in a Henry Ives Cobb-designed Venetian Gothic tower, this Downtown Loop hotel originally opened in 1893 as a private club founded by athletic luminaries Marshall Field and A.G. Spalding. A 2015 redesign by Manhattan’s Roman and Williams, the Manhattan firm behind Ace Hotels in New York and New Orleans, has fitted the space with 241 rooms and suites, Carrera marble fixtures, vaguely pommel horse-esque benches, and grand, 19th-century wooden fireplaces. Cindy’s, the rooftop restaurant, has curved skylights and overlooks Millennium Park and Lake Michigan.
The Virgin Hotel
Sir Richard Branson’s signature red-and-white palette runs throughout this downtown hotel, the first of Virgin’s ascendant fleet. (Next up is a San Francisco property, set to debut this year.) Smart guestroom details include London Underground-inspired throw rugs, cherry-colored Smeg mini-fridges stocked with snacks at street prices, and ergonomic hybrid beds. Other highlights: club lounge access for all guests, mod diner fare at Miss Ricky’s, and the speakeasy-style bar, Upstairs, which serves killer cocktails.
A hybrid hotel and private member’s club, Soho House showcases more than 200 original artworks in a stunning 1907 West Loop warehouse. Rustic-industrial interiors include exposed brick walls, sparkling Parisian chandeliers, and, in the club bar, a reclaimed tile ceiling. The mezzanine-level restaurants and the house’s Cowshed Spa are open to the public, but guests in the 39 hotel rooms can access additional members-only facilities, such as a screening room for late night movies, a gym with a professional boxing ring, and a rooftop lap pool with daybeds and fire pits.
Heavy hitters Ian Schrager and Jean-Georges Vongrichten launched this Gold Coast hideaway in a landmark 1926 building in 2011. Schrager left last year, but his influence remains throughout the minimalist interior, fusing modern, white-on-white furnishings with ornate original moldings in the lobby, plus Frette linens and custom Corian fixtures in 285 rooms and suites. Vongrichten created the menu of seasonal small plates at the Pump Room, a glamorous reimagining of the 1930s hot spot favored by Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart.
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