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Living the High Life: A Dalliance With the Top Hotel Penthouses

Two double beds and internet access may be good enough for us peasants, but for the truly refined guest standard amenities just won't do. So the hotel gods blessed their chosen ones (read: the filthy rich) with the penthouse. It's exclusive. It's lavish. It's often downright offensive. Here in Chicago, these super suites top many of the city's finest staying quarters, offering everything from panoramic lakefront views to personalized in-room steakhouse dining complete with your own private sommelier and waitstaff. (No wonder Richard Gere's character in Pretty Woman was willing to overlook his paralyzing fear of heights for this stuff.) On the off chance that you've yet to spent an evening in one of these opulent spaces, we've rounded up a few of the most audacious local examples. Champagne wishes and caviar dreams are just the beginning:

Palmer House Hilton Penthouse: It cost more than $1.3 million to build, and with a spot on Elite Traveler magazine's list of 101 best hotel suites in the world under its belt, the 3,700 square foot, 11-room penthouse at this Chicago institution is an impressive spread, to say the least. A spa-like marble bathroom (one of the suite's five), rare historic photographs, and your own conference room decked out in white leather are among its other attributes. This one will reportedly set you back about $1,600 a night.

Hard Rock Hotel Angels & Kings Suite: Cee Loo Green and R. Kelly are just a couple of the big names who've spent a night in the Hard Rock's 1,300 square-foot "crown jewel." Designed by Chicago architect Mary Cook, the two bedroom, two and a half bath space is inspired by the Art Deco hotel's bar – a concept of rocker Pete Wentz – and features a tricked-out sound system, downtown views, a custom bar of salvaged wood, and pieces from Wentz's personal art collection. Rates start at $1,500 a night.

The Penthouse Lofts at The James: In addition to living and dining rooms and epic views, a stay in one of The James' 1,400 square foot Lofts (apparently a favorite of singer John Legend's when he's in town) comes with swanky extras like a complimentary personal training session and spa treatments for two; a fully stocked bar; your own personal assistant for up to eight hours a day; a driver and use of an Audi Q7 TDI to be shuttled about town; and customized in-room dining with your own menu, servers, and sommelier courtesy of David Burke's Primehouse. And it could all be yours for just $2,500 a night.

Jake and Elwood Suites at the Hotel Sax: The fifteenth-floor digs named for, of course, The Blues Brothers, includes an entertainment area with a wet bar, a dressing area with multiple flat screen TVs, and dining room seating for eight in its 1,720 square feet.

Presidential, Royal, and Author Suites at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago: Penthouse connoisseurs have their pick of three signature 46th floor suites here. The Pierre-Yves Rochon-designed Presidential Suite offers a complimentary spa service, a personal fitness room, and roundtrip airport transport via limo. Bookworms will gravitate toward the $3,000 a night Author Suite with luxe English-style furnishings and collection of signed books from former guests like Margaret Thatcher and Oliver Stone.

Presidential Suite at The Fairmont: President Obama was the inspiration behind the 1,850 square foot penthouse on the top floor of The Fairmont (POTUS and FLOTUS may have even watched the election results from the perch overlooking Grant Park in November). Stocked with memorabilia from the president's political rise, presidential books in the library, a Kauai grand piano, and a pantry filled with Obama family favorites, the place goes for somewhere around $3,900 a night, but, as far as we know, includes no Oval Office.

The Peninsula Suite at The Peninsula Hotel: Overlooking Michigan and Chicago avenues, this one boasts an outdoor whirlpool tub on its 2,000 square foot wraparound terrace, a customized private exercise room with skyline views, a study, a media room, and a baby grand piano. Price tag? $8,000 a night.

Presidential Suite at the Ritz-Carlton Chicago: $6,500 a night gets you two stories, daily 90-minute in-room massages, floor to ceiling lake views, and a 24-hour assistant. The 25th and 26th floor space is 2,900 square feet of awesomeness.

Lake Suite Bottega Veneta at Park Hyatt Chicago: Designed by Tomas Maier of Italy's Bottega Veneta, this fashionable 1,400-square-foot one-bedroom starts at $4,500 and has Bottega furniture, lakefront views, artwork selected by Maier, and a direct line to the brand's downstairs boutique.
·Hotels Week 2013 [Curbed Chicago]

—Gwendolyn Purdom