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.
Heart O’ Chicago is all about the retro vibes. Think salmon pink and lemon yellow bathrooms, wood-panelled walls and iconic atomic signage. If the thought of stepping back into the ’50s (it was built in 1959) makes you feel a little queasy, then step away. But if you're fond of a touch of old school comfort, then check-in to this roadside motel. Particular perks are that a continental breakfast and free wifi are both included, plus Heart O’ Chicago is a only a few miles from Wrigley Field, Andersonville’s nightlife scene and Hollywood Beach.
The Magnificent Mile isn't always easy on the old bank balance, but it can be if you book into the Red Roof Inn's St Clair Hotel. This well-presented four-star establishment comes in at surprisingly affordable price if you book well enough in advance. They're pet-friendly too and your furry friend can stay with you at no extra cost (one pet per room). The St Clair is located conveniently close to Mag Mile (one block away), Lookingglass Theatre, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Water Tower Place and shopping aplenty.
In 1928 the Harrison Hotel opened at 65 E Harrison St and has remained a hotel to this day. Ok, so it's run by Travelodge now, but the budget-friendly chain offers lots of conveniences and amenities. For starters: free HBO. But seriously, there's also free wifi, AC and coffeemakers. Plus, in the suites you get the added bonus of a microwave, fridge and minibar. For food, there's a Thai restaurant onsite, whilst nearby – within walking distance – you'll find numerous other eateries, museums, theatres, shopping and more.
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.