Yes, Chicago’s an expensive city—but that doesn’t mean that traveling in it has to be. Whether the aim is to save money in general or to put those dollars toward Cubs tickets and other great Chicago attractions, there are plenty of options for lodging on a budget. Luckily, in a city like this one, you don’t even have to sacrifice all the amenities when you opt to book on the cheap. Whether you’re touring the city or simply looking for a Chicago staycation, check out (and into) these wallet-friendly properties that we’ve dubbed the best cheap hotels in Chicago.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best hotels in Chicago
Best cheap hotels in Chicago
Even in a city with an architectural history as rich as Chicago’s, the Congress stands out. First called the Auditorium Annex, it opened in 1893 to host visitors to the World's Columbian Exposition, later became the home of a Benny Goodman radio show, and served as a headquarters for U.S. Army officers during World War II. To think of the Congress as a relic of the past would be a mistake, however: its storied history blends with modern amenities, including free WiFi, a 24-hour fitness center, a barbershop and more. Add in views of Buckingham Fountain, Lake Michigan, and all that gorgeous architecture and you’ve got a landmark that’s much more than that.
Attention trendseekers: if you’re going to stay in one of the city’s hippest neighborhoods, you may as well find lodgings to match. Holiday Jones, an upscale boutique hostel, is long on style and personality without being hard on one’s bank account. There’s a sense of community that only starts with the shared rooms—a chef’s kitchen, the Catacomb Lounge, a foosball table, an in-house empanada restaurant and staff members ready to suggest outings all contribute to the welcoming vibe. Likewise, the low price tag is only one way in which the savings add up. Be sure to take advantage of free luggage storage and WiFi, complimentary breakfast, free in-room lockers, free linens, and more.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a view’s worth even more. Inn of Chicago has a great one: the 22nd floor plays home to the Skyline Terrace, an open-air lounge that offers fresh air and a stunning view of the city skyline. It’s not the hotel’s only elegant touch. Guests can choose between traditional and contemporary decor—a touch more interesting than picking between two Queens and a King—or opt to spend most of their time in the elegant cocktail lounge. That said, it’s a mere half-block from Michigan Avenue, so outside of sleeping, showering, and charging one’s phone, time spent in the hotel is strictly optional.
Look out the windows of this bargain hotel and some of the world’s finest museums will beckon. Located a few blocks from Museum Campus, the Best Western Grant Park puts guests practically on the doorstep of the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium and oh, yeah, the home of the Chicago Bears. Whether the destination is Soldier Field, the Art Institute of Chicago—less than a mile away—or one of the other world-class attractions, their South Loop lodgings help minimize travel-time and maximize minutes spent saying hello to Sue the T. Rex. Other perks: a seasonal outdoor pool, on-site restaurant, fitness center, and one of the city’s best brunch places (Bongo Room) right around the corner.
Forget all the fuss about modern amenities—it’s the Heart O’ Chicago’s retro vibe that makes it so charming. Built in 1959, this Edgewater motel retains its cusp-of-the-’60s aesthetic, right down to the iconic neon sign (complete with a heart where the O should be). There’s plenty of appeal outside the comfortable rooms, however: Hop on the Clark bus for a quick ride down to Wrigley Field, or take a quick stroll to the bustle of Andersonville’s nightlife scene or the peace of Hollywood Beach. Staying in? No problem. Expect clean rooms, free Wi-Fi, a complimentary continental breakfast and the lure of the White Castle next door.
It may be magnificent, but when it comes to lodging, the Mag Mile isn’t always particularly wallet-friendly. Not so when it comes to the Red Roof Inn, tucked just a block off the city’s most famous street. Minutes from Lookingglass Theatre, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Water Tower Place and shopping aplenty, the Inn packs a considerable amount of bang per traveler’s buck. Being steps away from some of the city’s most popular destinations certainly simplifies travel for human tourists, but the Red Roof makes things easy for four-legged travelers too: the pet-friendly hotel allows each room one fuzzy companion without any additional charge.
Sure, there’s free HBO, but who needs it Grant Park is moments away? For nearly a century—it opened in 1928 as the Harrison Hotel—Travelodge Hotel Downtown Chicago has welcomed visitors flushed from a day spent in Chicago’s front yard. While a few minutes’ walk can bring you to museums, theatres, shopping and more, Travelodge may make one want to add a lazy morning or early night to the itinerary. Two on-site restaurants, Chicago Kitchen and Thai Spoon, mean sustenance is always close at hand, and the free WiFi and aforementioned HBO make staying in for a bit a totally valid option.
The single best thing the Chinatown Hotel has to offer is what sits outside its front door. Located in the heart of Chinatown, this budget-friendly find places guests steps away from some of the city’s best dim sum. The tiny neighborhood offers a riot of color, both literally and metaphorically, with plenty of explore, experience and—of course—eat. While the hotel’s furnishings may be sparse, make sure to connect to the complimentary WiFi, use the communal microwave to heat up those leftovers and say hello to the bilingual staff. Travelling for business? It’s still worth a look—McCormick Place is a mere 10 minutes away by bus, jumping in a cab will put you in the Loop in a flash.
The Skylark Motel would be a welcome respite for weary travelers based on location alone—it’s a mere hop, skip and five-minute drive from Midway Airport—but there’s more to recommend it than mere proximity. Low price tag, check; free Wi-Fi, check; 24-hour reception, complimentary parking and televisions in each room—check, check and check. Not much in the way of bells and whistles, but after a long flight (or before an early one) what matters is a short trip, a comfortable pillow and the hair-dryer you can get on request. No frills, except for the ones that matter—namely all the extra sleep you’ll get.