We always recommend the Loop as the best place to stay in Chicago. Why? Because it’s close to nearly every CTA El line, it’s just a quick walk to the best Chicago museums, the Willis Tower is right there, the river is close so you can easily jump on a boat tour, and gorgeous Chicago parks like Millennium Park and Grant Park are closeby. There are plenty of Chicago restaurants in the area, but for the trendiest of the city’s eateries, head to River North or the West Loop. Luckily, those neighborhoods are just a couple of El stops or a short bus ride away. Here are the best downtown Chicago hotels to take advantage of the best of the city.
RECOMMENDED: Our complete guide to the Chicago Loop
Downtown Chicago hotels: Loop
To say the Chicago Athletic Association is beautiful is to put it mildly. The gorgeously restored and revamped hotel, opened in 2015, boasts 241 luxury boutique rooms—throwbacks to the club rooms of athletic associations long gone. But it also sports plenty of features to make it a favorite of Chicago residents, from the unparalleled view of Millennium Park and Lake Michigan at Cindy’s rooftop restaurant to more great food and drink at Cherry Circle Room (with its private alley entry) and even a Shake Shack. You’ll also love the Game Room, with bocce, shuffleboard and billiards to supplement its terrific cocktails; for a spendy special occasion, book in advance for the eight-seat Milk Room bar stocked with ultra-rare spirits.
So much is historic about this hotel. Less than two weeks after its 1871 opening, the Palmer House burned to the ground in the Chicago Fire. Just two years later, it was up and running again, making it the longest continuously operating hotel in America. The opulent Beaux Arts lobby showcases museum-worthy frescoes and displays a mural by 19th-century artist Louis Pierre Rigal. Even the brownies are inspired by history, made with a recipe invented by the hotel chef in 1893.
The new Virgin Hotel is a dream hotel for people into design and technology, with an app to control the room temperature, a pour-over coffee setup in each room and a Tesla to give free rides to guests. The rooms themselves are sleek, with Smeg refrigerators, swiveling desks and a bedroom/lounge, a bathroom/dressing room, and, if you have a suite, an extra room with a couch and a second TV. The bed is pretty comfortable and has a padded backrest at one corner of the foot of the bed. (The press release about the hotel said the bed “functions as a playpen and traditional bed,” so interpret that as you’d like.) The rooftop lounge, Cerise, features spectacular views and sometimes books intimate concerts or DJ sets.
This gorgeous hotel, first opened in 1910, has had an intriguing run so far. Many U.S. Presidents have stayed there (including Teddy Roosevelt), it was a favorite hangout of Al Capone and his cronies, and Maharishi Yogi, the Beatles’ personal guru, once owned the building. Now part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection boutique imprint, it’s simply one of the most beautiful hotels in the Loop and a favorite for bands playing at the nearby Lollapalooza music festival in August. Don’t miss the attached Spanish small-plates restaurant, Mercat a la Planxa.
This Loop hotel in the Reliance Building, on the National Register of Historic Places and built in 1895, was known as the Hotel Burnham from 1999 to 2016, when it was bought by a small West Coast boutique chain called Pineapple Hospitality and renamed the Alise (pronounced “uh-lease”), matching another property the company owns in San Francisco. Designed by famed architect Daniel Burnham, along with Charles Atwood and John Root, the building still features the original ornate grillwork on the elevators. The ground-floor restaurant, formerly the Atwood Café, is now simply called Atwood following a spiffy remodel. Perfect for visiting architecture buffs.
With Beatles in the bathrooms and Madonna in the corridors, there’s little doubt about this hotel’s theme. But the Hard Rock brand, which has occupied the beautiful 40-story Carbide & Carbon Building (an art deco superstar built in 1929 by sons of famed architect Daniel Burnham) since 2004, is vacating the space as of December 1, 2017; a new independent hotel concept is expected to re-open in the spring of 2018. (Chicago’s Hard Rock Café, located at the base of the Marina City towers on the other side of the Chicago River, isn’t going anywhere.)
There was quite a hubbub when LondonHouse finally opened in 2016. Sitting on Michigan Avenue and the Chicago River, the historic landmark building is now part beautiful hotel and part high-end restaurant. Plus, LondonHouse features Chicago’s only tri-level rooftop bar. Guest rooms are spacious and include free WiFi, large work stations and, of course, large flat-screen TVs. Many rooms also have unbeatable views of the city skyline.
Much of the appeal of this upscale chain hotel comes from its location: occupying 18 of the 82 floors of Jeanne Gang’s stunning Aqua skyscraper, perhaps the most impactful new entrant in Chicago’s Loop skyline of the young century so far. One of the hotel’s most attractive features is an 80,000-square-foot, third-floor green roof that boasts a running track, fire pits and a junior Olympic-sized pool; some rooms come with private access to Gang’s unique, undulating concrete balconies.
Kimpton’s newest entry onto the Chicago hotel scene is also its most elegant. Situated in the landmark 1894 New York Life Insurance Building, the property seamlessly melds historical design elements, such as a grand lobby clad in opulent gray marble and a richly-paneled bar presided over by vintage encyclopedias unearthed during renovations, with amenities for the new millennium, like lifestyle coaching and a 15th floor restaurant (the South American-leaning Boleo) topped with a retractable glass roof. In a nod to the surrounding neighborhood’s legacy as a major national financial engine, rooms take a cue from men’s tailoring, a conceit realized in details like wallpaper that resembles gray suiting.
This 27-story hotel, which completed at $32 million renovation in 2016, features 553 rooms, including 40 sprawling suites that are bigger than many condos. The location is perfect for the Loop, the Magnificent Mile and the restaurants of River North, but those who prefer to eat in are well served by the contemporary American fare in the Great Street eatery; Raised, the third-floor indoor-outdoor terrace lounge, is one of our favorite rooftop bars in the city.
Chicago-based Hyatt opened the city’s first Centric, a new boutique imprint aimed at millennial travelers, in this converted 1927 office building in 2015. The 257-room hotel incorporates some of the building’s original Art Deco design touches, and features French brasserie Cochon Volant at street level as well as a rooftop bar, AIRE, atop the 22-story structure.
The Blake is housed in the recently renovated former 19th-century headquarters of the Morton Salt Company. Located in the heart of Printers Row, the hotel's historic exterior belies the chic, contemporary digs that lie within its walls. A 24-hour complimentary business center and fitness room are just a few of the attractions.
This stunning Beaux Arts building, which started out as a private men’s club in 1929, has been transformed into one of Starwood’s sleek W Hotels. The 369 rooms come with pillow-top mattresses and the option of an in-room shiatsu massage. You can request just about anything (legal) you desire from W’s signature Whatever/Whenever service, which once reportedly hired a helicopter to fetch a guest’s wedding cake.
Right in the heart of the Theater District, this fun, hip hotel offers rooms with scenic views of the Loop. The hotel features the ground-floor restaurant State & Lake; an enormous rooftop bar, ROOF at theWit, with one of the best views in town; a top-notch spa; and a fitness center. Rooms feature luxurious bedding and bold pops of color.
This 144-room boutique hotel on Jewelers Row keeps a lower profile than others, but it’s an architectural gem. The late 19th-century Arts and Crafts style is evident outside and in, with wrought-iron pieces adding accents to the comfortable (if slightly dated) decorations in each room. Guests can get their sweet fix during the complimentary dessert hour.
A feeling of refined romance pervades in these cushy digs: oversized bathroom, separate dressing rooms, fluffy robes and a full-service spa. From standards to suites, all 687 rooms offer ample space and an organic, modern feel, but if you sign up for the Gold floor, you’ll also gain access to a private lobby. At the end of the evening, settle down in the lobby’s wine, cocktail and small-plates lounge, “The Bar,” for a nightcap.