Four Stylish Chicago Hotels

Find swank rooms, delicious dining and decadent spas—plus decidedly unique perspectives on the city

The Elysian

Vibe: Posh modern

Context: With only ten guest rooms per floor, the Elysian feels more like a luxe residence than a hotel. The first property of the Elysian brand, it opened in 2009 in the city’s Gold Coast neighborhood.

Room: Most of the hotel’s accommodations are suites—expansive apartment-like spaces complete with fireplaces and terraces. The style is classic-contemporary, with black and white décor and marble bathrooms with deep soaking tubs.

Flavors: A casual, cozy bistro, Balsan, serves all meals, including popular Sunday suppers. Highlighting modern French cuisine, seafood and seasonal ingredients, RIA is an experience. Take advantage of the sommelier and waitstaff’s expertise: Order anything they recommend! After dinner, duck into a velvet banquette with a classic cocktail at Barnard’s Bar.

Perks: If you enjoy a hot stone massage, don’t miss the spa’s lava shell massage; ninety minutes of the treatment is bliss. Take a dip in the long indoor pool—or simply lounge beside it on a comfy chaise. For a workout, visit the gym or take a Gyrotonics class.

• 11 E. Walton St.,


dana hotel and spa

Vibe: Urban cool

Context: This 216-room boutique hotel, which opened in 2008 in the River North neighborhood, melds a modern aesthetic with great service. It’s no surprise, then, that the name “dana” translates from the Sanskrit expression meaning “the pleasure of giving.”

Room: Guest rooms feature wood floors, cement ceilings and streamlined bathrooms outfitted with rain showerheads. But the highlight is the floor-to-ceiling windows; you’ll swear there’s nothing separating you from the Chicago skyline. Ask for a corner room for positively jaw-dropping views of the city.

Flavors: An urban café specializing in seasonal Asian cuisine, Aja offers sushi and dishes meant for sharing. From 5 p.m. till the wee hours of the morning, the twenty-sixth-floor Vertigo Sky Lounge is the place to see and be seen. Find great views of the city, DJs spinning nightly, plus clean-lined furniture for perching with trendy drinks and appetizers.

Perks: The Spa at dana offers highly personalized massages, facials, wraps and scrubs, as well as a steam room and gym.

• 660 N. State St.,


The James Chicago

Vibe: Minimally hip

Context: The first of a small hotel chain—with a second in New York City and a third opening soon in Miami—The James is devotedly minimalist. It’s also hip and a bit retro. The hotel opened in 2006 and this fall began an update to its two penthouses, 191 guest rooms, and 104 studios, lofts and apartments. 

Room: The lofts have a lounge area with a sofa and shag rug, a mod table and chairs and original artwork. The bed is tucked in a nook cordoned off with a silver beaded curtain. A separate media room includes a video projector; guests can rent movies at the front desk for cozy in-room screenings.

Flavors: David Burke’s Primehouse offers hearty dinners and brunches in a masculine space with leather tablecloths. Enjoy a nightcap at the intimate J Bar or the hotel’s low-key but popular lobby bar.

Perks: The Spa by Asha has a Zen feel that carries through to its services, each of which includes an aromatherapy footbath. Exercise alone in
the full gym or with a personal trainer.

• 55 E. Ontario St.,



Vibe: Quirky fun

Context: With a boutique-hotel vibe, theWit is part of the Doubletree by Hilton family. It rises twenty-seven stories, with a yellow lightning bolt zig-zagging up the exterior, next to the historic Chicago Theatre.

Room: The 298 guest rooms and suites overlook the city’s L-train tracks and feature bright furniture and witty artwork. Sounds of chirping birds and crickets create ambience in the hallways.  

Flavors: Outfitted with cork floors, leather walls and den-like décor, State and Lake serves artisanal American cuisine. For drinks, relax at the Phoenix Lounge or head up to ROOF, the happening indoor-outdoor lounge boasting low seating, fireplaces, DJs and a menu of small plates.

Perks: Decorated with hot pink lights, Spa@theWit is anything but typical; stop in for a happy hour facial or mimosa body polish. Upstairs in the fitness room, exercise to views of the city. SCREEN, the hotel’s private movie theater, can host forty guests with comfy seats, snacks and a favorite movie, TV show or video game on the big screen.

• 201 N. State St.,


Katie Vaughn is associate editor of Madison Magazine.

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