Welcome to the second, condensed edition of Curbed's Hotel map, newly streamlined to a pocked-sized 18 picks. User reviews, profiles, and reader feedback were tapped to answer that burning question, "Where do I lay my head in the Big Windy?" The range is broad—in price, amenities, location, and style—but all of these hotels have been around long enough to make an impression and work themselves into the fabric of neighborhoods. Our changeable buffet of hotels, each with a short profile, will turn over again in a few months. Already well-fastened to an apartment or other permanent housing? Use the list as a resource for a staycation, when you just need to loose yourself on the town. Or, pass it to a visiting friend. For those of you readying the pitchforks because your favorite isn't included (or has been subtracted), wouldn't it just be more productive to tip us for next time? One more thing: be sure to check out Racked Chicago's Travel Week, dovetailing rather nicely with the Hotel 18.Read More
Resetting the Hotel 18, Our Guide to Essential Chicago Hotels
1. The Langham, Chicago
This five-star hotel conversion of the lower 14 floors of Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe's IMB Building is the talk of the town. Opening in July, the design, by Mies' grandson Dirk Lohan, has already won AIA accolades. Its full-throttle "Chinese elemental" spa hopes to rival that of neighboring Trump as well as the storied Peninsula spa. Prices will also-- a night at The Langham can easily set you back $475 (the normal, non-discounted room rate).
2. ACME Hotel Company
A respite from the Mag Mile [aka the so-called “prestigious” 13-block section of North Mighigan Ave] and its usual corporate luxury, this quirky boutique does street art-chic right. Décor highlights include graffiti, record covers lining the elevators, and a chain-link fence fitness room wall. Of course, compact rooms are the other side of today's artsy hotel. How compact? Standard King & Queen rooms are 200 square feet, suites are 400.
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3. Hard Rock Hotel
Never mind this boutique hotel's polarizing theme and allegiance to the nightmarish chain restaurant. The accommodations occupy their own dimension, a fusion of Art Deco and rock & roll worship. The landmark Carbide & Carbon building plays host, designed by city-builder Daniel Burnham. This stretch of Michigan is undergoing a rapid facelift with restaurants replacing souvenir shops and grab-and-go joints.
4. Hilton Chicago
Besting even the Congress Hotel, this Michigan Ave stalwart, established in 1927, is ridiculously huge at 1,544 rooms and 234,000 square feet of event space. Lake views, immense gym, spa, and good service round out the case for this classic mid- to upper-scale tourist fave, where you’ll find an Irish pub, restaurant, and snack shop in the lobby.
5. The James Chicago
This 297-room Mag Mile boutique hotel is a popular brand, well known for the New York City location. Details Magazine gives the gym a nod for being among the "world's sexiest", and Hotel Chatter calls it one of the "top 5 Chicago hotels for foodies" primarily for housing David Burke's Primehouse-- one the country's best steakhouses. It has luxe accommodations, and many seem to prefer it to more staid and classical places like The Waldorf and Four Seasons.
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6. The Peninsula Hotel
A five-star, five-diamond Mag Mile hotel with the expected amenities, the Peninsula's standout feature is the "Far East" theme that permeates the hospitality, spa, and cuisine. Key elements were modeled after the flagship Hong Kong Peninsula Hotel. Consistently ranked among the nation's top hotels, this place will break the bank and you'll still write rave online reviews.
7. Hotel Lincoln
Transformed in 2012 from a mundane Days Inn to Roaring Twenties playground, the Hotel Lincoln remains very trendy. On the park and removed from the thicket of overrated downtown hotels, it includes a great indie coffee shop (Elaine's Coffee Call), one of the best farm-to-table restaurants (Perennial Virant), and an in-demand rooftop lounge and bar.
8. Palmer House Hilton
Founded by 19th Century real estate baron Potter Palmer before the Great Fire of 1871, this monster Loop hotel is on its third building for this site. A regular stop on architectural tours, it's now operated by Hilton. The magisterial luxury hotel has one of the city's most opulent lobbies, a stellar Loop location, and a busy atmosphere of lounges, restaurants, and business meetings. Not for everyone, but a historical anchor for Chicago hotels.
9. Park Hyatt Chicago
This, along with the Waldorf-Astoria, has the absolute ritziest crash pads. It's another of the city's hotel-condo hybrids, like Trump but without the glitterati. The penthouse condos sell for near-eight figures and you can nab a room with five-star amenities for around $400/night. The real fun comes from lording over the throngs of tourists and workers on a crash course through Michigan & Chicago aves from an airy vantage point.
10. PUBLIC Chicago
The Public is the much-lauded project of hotelier Ian Schrager, known for its casually hip, historic, and remodeled Pump Room restaurant, and a lobby with white marble and 25-foot ceilings. Rooms are small by intent, but the decor and hipness make this a Gold Coast scenester hangout for locals and visitors alike.
11. Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel
Occupying the lower floors of architect Jeannie Gang's soulful contribution to modern Chicago architecture, this is a new upper tier brand of Radisson bordering the New East Side (a new neighborhood of high-rises sprouted in the last decade) and the Loop. A stay lets you frolic in two pools, and elaborate gym and spa facilities. Rooms have balconies, spartan decor, and pricey rates.
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TheWit is a flashy option for a center-Loop stay, at the iconic intersection of State & Lake overlooking the "L" traffic. It might be lacking a pool, but the rooftop bar with incredible views and retractable glass roof is tops in the city. One of the trendier hotels anywhere, The Wit hosts a lot of nightlife and a decidedly un-stuffy atmosphere.
13. The Drake Hotel
Whether teatime at Palm Court, seafood at Cape Cod, or cocktails at Coq d'Or, running steady since the repeal of Prohibition, The Drake has calling cards. And there's always the regal building itself and its lakefront setting. The intimidating hotel actually has a wide range of nightly rates, and if you really, really like it, go on an buy one of the legendary penthouses.
14. Dana Hotel & Spa
The Dana Hotel & Spa's prevalence of natural, sustainable woods, "balanced with state-of-the-art technologies" puts the River North hotel squarely in the 'boutique' sector. Two readers nominated Dana, which also separates from the pack with its top-rated rooftop party pad. If you're lucky and/or a good planner, rooms can be had for $200 or less though they creep much higher.
15. Hotel Palomar
River North's Hotel Palomar boasts a 4.5-star Yelp rating and not-too-burdensome nightly rates. Off-peak bookings start at around $170/night. According to the official website, the lobby is marble with golds and reds and guestrooms are adorned with art riffing off Chicago's World's Fair. Sable Kitchen & Bar is attached, a "modern speakeasy" and one of the city's best spots for cocktails. Oh, and Palomar is a stone's throw from the river and Loop.
16. Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago
Whatever your thoughts on Trump the man, his hotel and condo tower arrived as instant icon when it bullied its way into the skyline several years ago. The five-star hotel has a Michelin-starred restaurant to match, a noteworthy spa complex with 53 special "spa guest rooms", salon, neo-Japanese restaurant, and a fleet of Cadillac cars available to rent for day tripping. Don't let it get to your head.
17. Waldorf Astoria
Named 2012's top large city hotel by Travel & Leisure, the Waldorf (formerly Elysian) has been raking in top honors no matter the banner flown. Everything is nicer than it should be -- designer-name toiletries, tub-side TV -- and definitely costs an arm and a leg. But you're in the five-star club, so it's about what money can buy not how much green you'll lose.
18. JW Marriott Chicago
Known for its incredible lobby and ballroom, the Loop's JW Marriott Hotel is a big presence in the heart of the financial district. Rates are a bit lower than the tippy-top of downtown accommodations. US News & World Report places it 4th among all Marriott Hotels and 8th overall in Chicago. Historic building, all-encompassing services, and considerable love for the generously proportioned bathrooms.