Chicago is the best. The Illinois capital is one of the most exciting cities in the United States. It has a skyline that would turn most cities green with envy and has vibrant city life and culture. Chicago is also situated on the shores of Lake Michigan and even has waterfront and watersport activities on offer.
Of course, as the third most populated city in the United States, it is no wonder that the windy city is full of things to do and places to eat. The massive city has lots of different neighborhoods with different qualities. This guide will cover where to stay in Chicago and which areas you should choose.
We’ll introduce you to each of Chicago’s best areas. From the city’s trendiest neighborhoods to its most convenient, let’s delve into where to stay in Chicago.
If you’re in a rush
Researching for last-minute accommodation? You won’t want to delay. If you are in a rush, these are the best Chicago hotels.
The best areas in Chicago
When researching where to stay in Chicago, the area you pick should be your priority. The city is so huge that each neighborhood varies massively in its atmosphere, attractions, and characteristics. For example, if you head to Wicker Park for nightlife, you will be sorely disappointed. Or, if you stay in Streeterville to avoid the crowds, you will be kicking yourself on Saturday morning when the shoppers appear.
Align your expectations and choose a specific area before deciding where to stay in Chicago. You’ll have an experience that is more tailored to you and have a much better trip.
We’ve broken down the main neighborhoods in Chicago below so you can see their primary qualities.
- Best area for first-time visitors: Downtown Chicago
- Best area for shopping: Streeterville
- Best area for luxury: Gold Coast
- Best area for nightlife: River North
- Best area for live music: Wicker Park
- Best area for a cool atmosphere: West Loop
Now that you’ve got a basic idea of the best areas in Chicago let’s take a look at each area in depth.
1. Downtown Chicago aka South Loop
Once you stay in downtown Chicago, you’ll quickly understand the hype. Downtown Chicago (aka South Loop) is where to stay in Chicago if this is your first visit to Chicago, as it has an electric urban atmosphere and the majority of Chicago’s skyscrapers.
Downtown Chicago is entertaining and fast-paced. It is ironic, though, as while everything and everyone is moving a million miles around you, you’ll be stopping and starting to ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at attractions and scenic cityscape views at every corner.
Best Hotels in Downtown Chicago
Luxury: Pendry Hotel
Pendry Hotel is inner city class. The hotel is set in an industrial-looking high rise, right at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Place. It is one of the best hotels to stay in Chicago if you want luxury facilities. Pendry Hotel has a fitness suite, business center, restaurant, and terrace. See rates, reviews and availability on TripAdvisor / Booking.com
Mid-range: Hotel Blake
Hotel Blake is a boutique hotel situated between Grant and Millennium Park. Like Pendry Hotel, Hotel Blake has an old-money class. But the prices are slightly lower than those at Pendry Hotel, so perfect if you have a mid-range budget in mind.
It has a fantastic location and is just a ten-minute walk from the Chicago Art Institute. Hotel Blake has a fitness center, restaurant, 24-hour business center, and free wifi. Compare rates and availability on TripAdvisor / Booking
Budget: HI Chicago Hostel
Finding a budget place to stay in Chicago can be challenging, especially downtown. HI Chicago Hostel is an excellent option if you can get a space – this hostel is always in demand. HI Chicago Hostel has a games room, lounge, and 24-hour reception. You can choose a private or dorm room, too. Compare Rates and Availability on TripAdvisor / Booking
VRBO: Stylish two-bedroom apartment
This rental apartment is a dreamy picture of what it’s like to stay in Chicago. The property has spectacular city views and is located in a central downtown high-rise. Visitors can access the building’s pool, gym, movie theater, and rooftop terrace. Check it out on VRBO
Things to do when you stay in Downtown Chicago
If you want a quiet space in the Chicago Downtown neighborhood, Grant Park is never too far away. The 319-acre park separates the busy streets from Lake Michigan, and you can relax and wander the park to admire views of the water and cityscape skyline. For taking pictures, Millennium Park has the best skyline view of Chicago Downtown.
On a warm day, the park’s 12th Street Beach is the best place to sunbathe. And, on a rainy day, Grant Park has the lakefront Museum Campus. The Museum Campus is a 57-acre area containing the Field Museum, Adler Planetarium, and Shedd Aquarium, which will keep you well-occupied indoors.
The main attractions in the urban side of Downtown Chicago are Skydeck Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art. There is also McCormick Place Convention Center which has lots of events. However, South Loop is also one of the best areas to stay in Chicago just to explore the streets and soak up the atmosphere.
Everything is within walking distance and easy access. If you are only visiting for a few days or if you are visiting for the first time, Downtown is where to stay in Chicago.
2. River North
If you love art and nightlife, skip staying in South Loop and head across the Chicago River to the aptly named neighborhood of River North. Why you say? Because River North has some of the best clubs and bars in the whole of Chicago – which is impressive considering the size of the city. It also houses many art galleries, including Chicago’s second Museum of Contemporary Art and the City Gallery in the Historic Water Tower.
Now, River North is a trendy place to be in Chicago. The converted warehouses, lofts, and red brick buildings are an ode to the neighborhood’s creative and hardworking flair – which now bubble under a more indulgent surface.
Best Hotels in Chicago – River North
Luxury: The Peninsula Chicago
Peninsula Chicago is easily one of the most luxurious places to stay in Chicago. Peninsula is also excellently located to explore River North and is just across the road from Chicago Water Tower.
The hotel has a half Olympic-size pool, a scenic rooftop terrace, and an Asian-inspired spa. Honestly, Peninsula Chicago feels more like a tailored palace than a hotel. You can attend afternoon tea or a relaxing yoga session in your downtime. See rates and availability on TripAdvisor / Booking.com
Mid-range: Eurostars Magnificent Mile
Eurostars Magnificent Mile is a sleek mid-range hotel option in River North. You can expect newly renovated, modern rooms with fantastic floor-to-ceiling city views. The hotel facilities are equally impressive, and guests receive access to a fitness suite and business center.
Budget: Found Hotel River North
Found Hotel might seem more luxurious than budget from its design. But the property is one of the most budget-friendly accommodation options in River North. Guests can book dormitory rooms to save some extra cash or treat themselves to a night in a private room. The hostel offers free wifi and a business center, and the interior design is warmly trendy. Compare rates and read reviews on TripAdvisor / Booking.com
VRBO: Studio with balcony and city views
This studio has all the benefits of a luxury hotel suite. Guests can enjoy private city views from their balcony and cook up a storm in their modern kitchen. And in just a short walk, you can be relaxing in Millennium Park or in the elevator at the John Hancock Center on your way to the 875 Observation Deck. This rental property is one of the best in Chicago. See it on VRBO
Things to see in River North
River North covers the distance from the Chicago River to Chicago Avenue and the Magnificent Mile. It is near the city center and downtown neighborhoods but also has a strong sense of its own identity. River North was once an industrial area and has been slowly gentrified over the past century.
When you aren’t browsing River North’s art galleries or sipping cocktails, it is worth walking the Magnificent Mile. The Magnificent Mile is actually called North Michigan Avenue. But the street coined its name due to the many prominent cultural attractions and venues lining its sidewalks. You can window shop, drop into fun attractions like The Dr. Seuss Experience or The Office Experience, or book a table at one of the fine dining restaurants. Walking the Magnificent Mile is an excellent way to spend an afternoon if you want to be spontaneous but be guaranteed a lot of entertainment and hospitality options.
Overall, River North is a fun, stylish place to stay in Chicago. If you are wondering where to stay in Chicago for a socialite experience, River North is your best choice. The neighborhood ticks the boxes for food, drink, and culture. Plus, you can still find waterfront views thanks to its positioning along the Chicago River.
Streeterville is where to stay in Chicago for shopping. Streeterville shares the Magnificent Mile with River North, and the major shopping street is the boundary between the two neighborhoods. Streeterville is walking distance from Magnificent Mile and has everything to fit your retail needs – from high street stores to luxury shopping centers and boutique shops.
If you are wondering where to stay in Chicago with easy access to shopping, Streeterville is where to choose. Magnificent Mile is one of the most famous shopping areas in Chicago, so you are in luck having it on your prospective doorstep.
Best Hotels in Chicago Streeterville
Luxury: Four Seasons Chicago
The Four Seasons hotels are consistently ranked amongst the best hostels, and the Four Seasons Chicago is not one to break this pattern. Each room features marble bathrooms, a guest spa with a fifty-meter indoor pool, and an award-winning restaurant on-site. You can choose from a range of suite and room options, all of which will put luxury into your stay in Chicago. Book it on TripAdvisor / Booking.com
Mid-range Loews Chicago Hotel
Loews Chicago Hotel is chic. The hotel’s newly renovated interior features an indoor pool, 24-hour fitness center, and business meeting rooms. Loews Chicago Hotel is also excellently located for city and lake views. It is only a short walk from Navy Pier and Ohio Street Beach. Compare on TripAdvisor / Booking.com
Budget: St. Clair Hotel / Freehand Hotel
Budget-friendly accommodation just isn’t in Streeterville’s vocabulary. The cheapest option is St. Clair Hotel, where the rooms start at around $300 per night. The European-style hotel is brilliantly located right next to Magnificent Mile and has beautiful, spacious rooms. Compare on TripAdvisor / Booking.com
However, you may wish to look at accommodation in River North or in Downtown Chicago along the Chicago River instead. These areas have more budget options and are within walking distance of Streeterville. See it on TripAdvisor / Booking.com
VRBO: Two-bedroom apartment
This two-bedroom apartment is the perfect stylish holiday accommodation to enjoy with friends. You have lake and city views from the apartment and then access to a rooftop terrace with 360-degree views over Chicago. The interior is well-furnished and provides a comfortable but chic place to stay in Chicago. See reviews on VRBO
Things to do in Streeterville
Apart from Magnificent Mile, another massive draw of Streeterville is its waterfront. The entire east side of the neighborhood is on the shores of Lake Michigan. Streeterville has Ohio Street Beach in the south, which is connected to Oak Street Beach in the north by a pretty lakeside footpath. There is plenty of quiet green space to sunbathe, jog, and picnic.
Navy Pier is also located along Streeterville’s Lake Michigan shores. Once a navy training center, the pier is now a permanent fairground with rides and Chicago’s funhouse maze. There is also the Chicago Children’s Museum and even Chicago Shakespeare Theater, an ideal venue for some entertainment.
If you are undecided between River North and Streeterville, whether you would prefer to be just within walking distance from the shores of Lake Michigan is the best decider. Both River North and Streeterville have great bars, shops, and culture, so Lake Michigan is the only significant difference.
4. Wicker Park
Wicker Park is one of the furthest out of all these neighborhoods from the city center. So why stay here when visiting Chicago?
In short, Wicker Park has famous live music venues that are always packed with concerts and performances. The suburb is hipster and fun – perfect if you are traveling to Chicago on a budget or to see a specific live music concert. The most popular live music venues are Empty Bottle, Chop Shop, and Subterranean. However, upcoming musicians can also dip their toes in at one of the multiple recording studios around the neighborhood.
Best Hotels in Wicker Park Chicago
Luxury: The Robey
The Robey is classy and historic, yet hip at the same time. The hotel has undergone a careful refurbishment. It has a modern feel but has kept an authentic sense of character and original features. Guests receive access to a pool, terrace, and fitness center.
Chicago is a legendary sports town and sports fans will love the hotel location, as you can hop in a quick fifteen-minute taxi and arrive at the United Center – the home of the Chicago Bulls. See it on TripAdvisor / Booking.com
Mid-range: Hyatt Place Wicker Park
Hyatt Place Wicker Park is as luxurious as mid-range hotels can get. It is easily one of the best hotels in Chicago, and its facilities set it aside from others in Wicker Park. You can dine at the hotel’s restaurant, work out in the gym, sip cocktails at the bar, or use the shared lounge. We recommend choosing a balcony room but, if you don’t, there is a shared terrace as well. Compare prices and read reviews on TripAdvisor / Booking.com
Budget: Ray’s Bucktown Bed and Breakfast
Wicker Park is primarily residential, so there aren’t many hotel options in the neighborhood. Because of this, the nearest budget-friendly option is Ray’s Bucktown Bed and Breakfast – a twenty-minute walk from Wicker Park center.
Ray’s is homely and friendly. Guests can access nice extras like a sauna, wifi, and complimentary toiletries. If you want a residential experience during your stay in Chicago, Ray’s is one of the best hotels in the city. Book it on TripAdvisor / Booking.com
VRBO: Urban condo
This condo is also located just outside of Wicker Park, but honestly, it is so worth the extra travel. The property is a beautifully converted loft space and one of the trendiest vacation rentals you can choose from in the area.
Guests receive access to a gym and garage – perfect for free off-road parking. Pets are also welcome, so you can bring your dog or cat along to get involved in the fun. See rates and availability on VRBO
Things to do in Wicker Park
Thanks to its recording spaces and the constant flurry of live music, Wicker Park is a popular neighborhood amongst musicians, artists, and creatives. If you fall into any of these categories, you’ll likely fall head over heels for Wicker Park as well, and if not, we can promise you that you’ll be in good company.
Foodies can rejoice as well, and Wicker Park is fabulous for street food and Michelin-starred restaurants alike. Claudia and Le Bouchon are two of the best Michelin restaurants in Chicago. But, for street food, head to Division Street. Here you’ll find venues like Firenze Italian Street Food, which is worth visiting for delicious pizza and sandwiches. You don’t have to stay in the city center to experience Chicago’s world-class food scene.
Overall, Wicker Park is where to stay in Chicago if you want to escape the CBD crowds. Sure, you are a short drive or bus ride from most attractions. But this Chicago neighborhood has a community, residential feel that West Loop, South Loop, and even River North lack. Wicker Park is lived in and unpretentious. Make sure you don’t grow roots too after staying in Chicago for a few days.
5. Gold Coast
Any neighborhood with the word ‘gold’ in it instantly seems upscale. Chicago’s Gold Coast is no different.
The Gold Coast has a well-manicured finger in most pots. Rush Street is the place to go for cocktail bars and clubs, Oak Street is the place for designer shopping, and Concrete Beach is where you can sunbathe and take a dip in Lake Michigan.
Luxury: Ambassador Chicago
Ambassador Chicago is a luxury hotel next to the beach – a phrase that should entice you immediately. The hotel features a movie theater in its ‘Screening Room’ and a 24-hour gym. Guests can enjoy fancy details and facilities throughout the property. See it on TripAdvisor / Booking.com
Mid-range: Claridge House
Claridge House is one of Chicago’s best hotels and a stunning place to stay on the Gold Coast. The location is superb, and you can be on the beach in less than a ten-minute walk. The hotel itself has thoughtful details throughout, like rainfall showers in each room. And guests receive access to a gym and spa. See it on TripAdvisor / Booking.com
Budget: Freehand Hotel
Unfortunately, the Gold Coast doesn’t offer budget-friendly accommodation. Until the gap in the market is filled, you can stay at Claridge House or outside of the Gold Coast at the Freehand Hotel.
Freehand has dormitory rooms if you want to save money and has a rating of over 9.0 on Booking.com. You are still within easy reach of the Gold Coast but will save a few dollars. It is a great budget place to stay in Chicago if you don’t mind staying outside the Gold Coast. See it on TripAdvisor / Booking.com
VRBO: Luxury apartment with rooftop pool
This apartment is typical of Gold Coast luxury. The apartment building features a gym, study space, and an outdoor pool surrounded by skyscrapers. The apartment interior is minimalistic but arty – picture a sleek bachelor pad. See more of this and other apartments on VRBO
Things to do in the Gold Coast
The Gold Coast also has many museums and art galleries. The most popular museums are the Chicago History Museum, the International Museum of Surgical Science, and the Charnley-Persky House Museum.
For a slightly less mainstream experience, you can also walk past the Original Playboy Mansion. There are no tours running, so you’ll be limited to snapping pictures from outside its four walls. However, the mansion is a symbol of the Gold Coast’s hedonistic, glamorous indulgence and easy addition to your itinerary when you are staying nearby.
The Gold Coast isn’t all lighthearted indulgence, though, and the story behind the neighborhood’s exponential growth is sad. The suburb grew after the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, when the fire consumed and destroyed most of central Chicago. The city then suffered further damage in a period of looting and lawlessness. The Gold Coast was one of the first new neighborhoods to be formed. After a few of Chicago’s wealthiest residents moved and rebuilt, it quickly became the exclusive place to be.
Nowadays, the Gold Coast has a more laidback sort of luxury. You’ll find class everywhere and fun when you go looking for it. Of course, this Chicago neighborhood has some of the best luxury hotels. But there are some budget-friendly options, too, if you look hard enough. Check out our top recommendations below.
6. Lincoln Park
Lincoln Park is a beautiful place to stay in Chicago. Is it on the Chicago Loop? No, Lincoln Park is far from central, and you’ll need to drive or catch public transport into the city center. But the qualities of this suburb definitely justify the extra travel time.
Lincoln Park has some of the best Chicago hotels, and if you want to stay in Chicago on a budget, the number of mid-range and budget hotels is excellent news. Here are our top recommendations.
Best Hotels in Lincoln Park
Luxury: Villa D’Citta
Villa D’ Citta has transported Europe to Chicago. Everything is classic, traditional, and Italian-influenced. From wooden four-poster beds to a sun deck and hot tub, Villa D’Citta is the epitome of luxury. This property is one of the best hotels in Chicago, let alone Lincoln Park. See it on TripAdvisor / Booking.com
Mid-range: The Neighborhood Hotel
The Neighborhood Hotel is a great mid-range option in Lincoln Park. The rooms are freshly decorated, with colorful feature walls and comfortable furnishings. While still new to Chicago’s hotel scene, the hotel has excellent reviews so far. Neighborhood is a good chance to try something up and coming. See more reviews on TripAdvisor
Budget: Chicago Getaway Hostel
Budget travelers, thank you for your patience. This time, you are in luck, as Chicago Getaway Hostel is one of the best budget-friendly options in Chicago. With a 24-hour kitchen, lockers, and pool tables, Chicago Getaway Hostel is a happy-go-lucky hostel to pick when staying in Chicago. See it on TripAdvisor / Booking.com
VRBO: Loft apartment
You don’t get much more natural light than from a converted storefront. This Lincoln Park apartment is a shop-turned residence with floor-to-ceiling windows for maximized natural lighting. Forget the best hotels; this vacation rental is a fun place to stay in Chicago. Check it out on VRBO
Things to do in Lincoln Park
The best part about the neighborhood is its 1,200-acre park, also called Lincoln Park. The park has everything – from Lincoln Park Zoo to its own lifeguard-patrolled beach, North Avenue Beach. Lincoln Park Zoo is an excellent spot for a family day out, and North Avenue Beach is the best place for a swim or game of volleyball. On a rainy day, Lincoln Park Conservatory is a godsend, and you can easily spend an hour or two exploring indoors.
The streets themselves in Lincoln Park are safe and friendly. Yet Lincoln Park is also well-suited to budget travel. You won’t find the hoity-toity attitudes and sky-high prices that sometimes curse neighborhoods like Gold Coast and the Chicago Loop. If you are deciding where to stay in Chicago as a family or budget traveler, we recommend considering Lincoln Park.
7. West Loop
Like so many other downtown neighborhoods, West Loop was an industrial zone first and a beloved cultural suburb later. While the enormous industrial buildings are now fashionably converted to eateries, bars, independent shops, and residential homes, West Loop still has character. The suburb is trendy in a niche, vintage way – perfect for those wanting a cool experience of Chicago.
West Loop has so much going on all the time. This Chicago neighborhood is already well-established and massively popular. However, it is still growing and developing like it has something to prove. One of the main benefits of staying in West Loop is being so close to Chicago city center and all the downtown attractions.
Best Hotels in the West Loop
Luxury: Nobu Hotel, Chicago
Nobu Hotel is a dreamy level of luxury. The dark color scheme adds a relaxed, mysterious atmosphere to the property. And what could be more relaxing than dining with city views on the rooftop after a swim in a dimly lit indoor pool? See it on TripAdvisor / Booking.com
Mid-range: The Publishing House Bed and Breakfast
The Publishing House is already a favorite, and you’ll need to book ahead to secure a spot for your stay in Chicago. The hotel building is a traditional, industrial red brick. Each room retains some original features for the character yet has been beautifully renovated for ultimate comfort. The cherry on top is the buffet breakfast, available for most room options every morning. Compare prices and availability on TripAdvisor / Booking.com
Budget: Hotel Chicago West Loop
Hotel Chicago West Loop is a straightforward accommodation option at one of the lowest prices in the area. Each room features a microwave and coffee machine, which is great for saving money on eating out. There is also a 24-hour gym and reception. Book it now on TripAdvisor / Booking.com
VRBO: West Loop One-Bedroom Apartment
This property is everything you want in a vacation rental. The apartment comes with stunning city views, ample living space, comfortable furnishings, and the use of a gym and pool. Couples or solo travelers will love this accommodation choice, especially considering its fantastic location. Search for this and more apartment rentals on VRBO
Things to do in the West Loop
Most people agree that the best way to explore a new place is with your taste buds. Restaurant Row is a hospitality haven with enough restaurants to pause even the most decisive of diners in their tracks. If you can, try to eat out most nights to try all the different foods. There are plenty of street food and low-cost options for those on a budget. Don’t miss out on the deep-dish pizza at Bonci Pizzeria.
Once you’ve explored the attractions, it is well worth venturing down to New Maxwell Street Market, which borders West Loop and South Loop. The market whirs into full action every Sunday, with food, secondhand goods, and live music performances. The market is known for its tacos, so don’t leave without sampling some.
Whether biting into a deep-dish pizza or dancing along to music at House of Vans, West Loop is a fantastic place to stay in Chicago. We recommend West Loop for any visitors to Chicago wanting a cool and exciting city experience.
Going to stay in Chicago is always an adventure. Whether you stay on the Chicago Loop, in North River, or in Wicker Park, you’ll have a fantastic time. Chicago has some of the best restaurants, nightlife, and cultural attractions in the United States. Combine these qualities with a few beach and park days, and you’ll quickly fall in love with the city.
Of course, staying in one of the best hotels certainly helps. We hope that you’ve found your perfect hotel match. Enjoy experiencing Chicago’s legendary hospitality firsthand.