It's a bit out of the way, being down by Grant's Park but the Blackstone is a lovely boutique hotel - it steps you back in time (founded in 1910) but has a really modern interior. Bright stripy carpets and massive chandeliers. Our room had a great view over the lake and the gym was a welcome air-con relief from jogging in the overpowering humidity.
Downstairs there was a gorgeous tapas restaurant which served an amazing fig and prosciutto salad - perfect after all those deep pan Chicago pizzas.
If you need a morning swim to pep you up, then you should book into the Intercontinental, which has one of the largest swimming pools you’ll find in a hotel – it’s junior Olympic size and heated (a leftover from when this used to be an athletics club).
If you’ve got a substantial budget, this is where you should be staying. The service is impeccable and they have a team of administrative assistants in the business centre that will take dictation, research things for you, organise your diary – in fact, anything you might need while in the city can be sorted out from this hotel. You also get to use their amazing spa facilities, which cover the top two floors of the building.
The closest Chicago comes to boutique chic is the W Lakeshore hotel and The James. The acceptable face of the Sheraton Group, the uber-hip W chain has a strong following among businessmen looking for something a little wacky after a hard day’s work with fellow suits. As you enter this particular W outpost, you’ll be greeted by blaring house music, hot staff and a not-so-subtle barrage of fluorescent lighting. It might sound a touch ghastly but it’s actually a magnificent hotel centrepiece and, cleverly, the owners have complemented the insolent noise downstairs with splendid silence upstairs.
The rooms are quiet, rich in minimalist, understated luxury with fabulous views of Chicago’s ultimate attraction – Lake Michigan. The Extreme Wow Suite, all 1,100 square feet of it, is a great way of blowing your budget.
If you’re after old-world charm, I can strongly recommend The Peninsula or the Four Seasons. The Peninsula is located in the middle of Chicago’s magnificent mile of department stores and designer boutiques, has a fabulously grand lobby and is home to Shanghai Terrace – arguably Chicago’s finest Chinese restaurant. The lobby lounge is lit by twenty-foot-high windows, and the bar, in contrast, is intimate and low-lit, with a roaring fireplace and a surprisingly hip crowd. Despite its excessively grand décor, I’ve always found it very difficult to leave the Four Seasons – the CEO hotel of choice. The service is friendly, super-competent and never intrusive; the views spectacular – of the Michigans (Avenue and Lake); and the pampering genuinely top-notch.
The New American food at Seasons is delicious and you can easily lose a week at the extraordinary spa and pool. Every bit as impressive as its New York sibling, the Chicago Seasons happens to be cheaper, too.
The Peninsula Chicago 108 East Superior Street (at North Michigan Avenue), Chicago, Illinois 60611, USA Tel: (1-312) 337 2888Fax: (1-312) 751 2888 chicago.peninsula.com
Four Seasons120 East Delaware Place, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. 60611-1428 Tel: 1 (312) 280-8800 Fax: 1 (312) 280-1748
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