If you’re looking for lodging in Chicago, the task might seem intimidating. After all, it’s a huge city with seemingly limitless options. So how can you choose? Finding the perfect accommodations for you comes down to what you hope to do in Chicago. For example, if museums are your main priority, staying in the South Loop is ideal, because it’s close to the museum campus (home to the Adler Planetarium, The Field Museum, and the Shedd Aquarium). If you want a more laid-back trip, opt for a quieter neighborhood, like Gold Coast or West Town.
From the brownstone-lined streets of Lincoln Park to the skyscrapers of the Loop, there’s something for every kind of traveler in Chicago. This city is bound to enthrall you, leaving you wishing to come back for months thereafter, whether it’s to get your hands on another slice of Pequod’s deep-dish pizza or to spend more time at the Art Institute.
Lincoln Park was the first neighborhood I lived in Chicago. It’s one of the most charming places in town, with tons of green space and quaint streets lined with brownstones. It stretches from the Armitage Brown Line stop to the Diversey Brown Line stop. (In Chicago, the train system is called the L and uses different colored lines. We often refer to a neighborhood’s parameters by using the L stops as a guide.) This neighborhood also goes all the way to the lakeshore, with the Lincoln Park Zoo, North Avenue Beach, and Lincoln Park itself right on the lake.
Lincoln Park is very walkable, making it a stellar place to stay. Exploring on foot is an adventure in itself, as this charming neighborhood is sure to captivate you at every turn. From the Shakespeare statue at the entrance of Lincoln Park to the bustling DePaul University campus, there are neat landmarks and points of interest throughout.
Here’s where I recommend staying in Lincoln Park:
The Gold Coast gets its name because it’s one of the ritziest parts of the city. While the Loop gets all its glitz and glamour from the sparkling high-rises and immaculate streets, the Gold Coast has more of an “old money” feel, with hundred-year-old buildings, ivy-covered brick walls, and streets lined with old oak trees.
This neighborhood is home to some of the best restaurants in Chicago, like the famous Nico Osteria and Mario’s Table. There is also a great selection of boutiques and brand-name stores along Rush Street, in case you’re down to shop ’til you drop.
The Gold Coast is just south of Lincoln Park and north of River North, most easily accessible via the Clark & Division Red Line stop. It’s a smaller neighborhood and great for exploring on foot. Accommodations here are more pricey than Lincoln Park, but slightly more affordable than the Loop, with many luxury options.
After Lincoln Park, Lakeview is my second favorite district. Though a bit grittier than the posh Gold Coast and quaint Lincoln Park, Lakeview is a hub for nightlife, shopping, and events. The neighborhood starts at the Wellington Brown Line stop and stretches as far north as the Addison Red Line stop (where Wrigley Field is). There are a couple distinct parts of Lakeview: Wrigleyville, which is mostly bars and restaurants surrounding Wrigley Field, where the Cubs play; and East Lakeview, which is the entire section of the neighborhood along the lake; and Boystown, the city’s most prominent LGBTQ+ haven.
Boystown is a blast. I love spending time there, because there’s always something happening, from impromptu drag shows in the street to concerts and festivals in the summertime. Here you’ll see rainbow flags proudly waving in the wind, and a fabulously eclectic demographic that calls this neighborhood home.
Lakeview is ideal not only for LBGTQ+ travelers but anyone who wants to stay somewhere lively and exciting without being too touristy. It’s also a cheaper neighborhood to stay in, so it’s a great pick for budget travelers.
The Loop is the place to stay for movers and shakers, or travelers who can’t get enough of the urban environment of Chicago. From iconic Millennium Park and the Bean to massive museums like the Art Institute of Chicago, the Loop is home to some of the city’s most famous landmarks. (We use “the Loop” and “downtown” interchangeably, as the neighborhood gets its name from the loop that the aboveground train makes.)
Staying in the Loop isn’t for everybody, as it can be overwhelming to step outside and instantly be bombarded with all the sights, sounds, and smells of a bustling city. Staying in the Loop means staying in the beating heart of Chicago.
These are my top picks for accommodations here:
The Magnificent Mile is Chicago’s most noteworthy shopping district and home to the famous Watertower Place, a multilevel shopping center housed in an old water facility. This neighborhood is the epitome of Chicago tourism, as you really can’t miss out on a stroll down the Mag Mile when you visit.
In terms of where to stay, this area is ideal for travelers who want a central location close to the best shopping in town and the Chicago Red Line stop.
Another reason to stay here is the area’s fantastic luxury hotels and fine-dining options. Similar to the Gold Coast, this is one of the most glamorous parts of the city.
These are my picks for where to stay in Chicago’s Magnificent Mile area:
As one of Chicago’s most underrated neighborhoods, this is the place to stay if you want to experience the city from the lens of a local. West Town a multicultural haven, with influences from Ukraine, Poland, and Mexico. In fact, many businesses have English, Spanish, and Ukrainian signage.
One drawback of staying in West Town as a tourist is the lack of access to the L train. To get around here, you have to take the CTA bus or rely on taxis or Ubers. It’s worth it, though, if this is the kind of experience you’re hoping for when you visit Chicago.
Besides having cultural richness, which is evident in the neighborhood’s restaurants, West Town has a cool vintage feel that many accommodations capture perfectly. Plus, the 606 elevated bike path runs right through the district, which gives you the opportunity to rent a bike and explore the city.
These are my top places to stay in West Town:
Wicker Park is one of my favorite areas in Chicago. It’s on the West Side, north of West Town, with easy access to the Damen and Division Blue Line stops. This eclectic and kooky neighborhood is home to countless vintage clothing stores, cute cafés, and mom-and-pop stores.
All of those things are great, but the real reason why Wicker Park is one of my favorite places in Chicago has to be the abundance of incredible restaurants. From Ina Mae’s Southern-style comfort food to Big Star’s mouthwatering tacos, choosing where to eat here is a difficult decision for a hungry traveler. If this paradox of choice is no biggie for you and you’re excited to try as much as you can, stay in Wicker Park when you come to Chicago.
As for where to stay:
If you are all about Chicago’s skyscrapers and floor-to-ceiling windows that sparkle in the sun, consider staying in the swanky South Loop neighborhood. Though not as bustling as the Loop, there’s plenty to do here, with Chicago’s museum campus just a short walk away, where you’ll find the Adler Planetarium, The Field Museum, and the Shedd Aquarium all within a few minutes’ walk from one another.
The South Loop is just south of downtown and easily accessible via the Roosevelt or Harrison Red Line stops. Besides being a stone’s throw from some of Chicago’s best museums, you’ll also be close to Soldier Field, McCormick Center, Grant Park, and Northerly Island Park. South Loop is the place to be for an action-packed visit to Chicago.
Here’s where to stay in the South Loop:
Whether you’re on a tight budget or wanting to ball out on a nice hotel, I hope this list gives you a better idea of the amazing accommodations that are available in Chicago.
(I hope budget doesn’t keep anyone from visiting the Windy City, so I also put together a list of free things to do in Chicago as well as a guide on when to visit, which can also help you save money.)
One of the best things about Chicago is the outstanding diversity of its neighborhoods, which make it such an interesting place to visit. Which neighborhood will you choose?