Posted: 7/21/22 | July 21st, 2022
Chicago is one of my favorite cities in the United States, especially during summer when the weather and vibe of the city can’t be beat. The city just comes alive when the weather is nice as people, shaking off the bitterly cold winters, release all their pent up energy!
Chicago is famous for many things: the historic architecture, the dining scene is top-notch, Millennium Park, art museums, and, of course, the Cubs. You’ll be able to fill as much time as you have hear with a variety of activities.
But, while the city has tons of things to see and do (and plenty of cool hostels), one of the biggest questions you’ll have as you plan your trip is what area to stay in?
To help you answer that question, here is my breakdown of neighborhoods as well as suggested places to stay in each one.
But, before I get to that, here are some frequent questions I get asked about staying Chicago:
What’s the best neighborhood in Chicago for families?
Lincoln Park is a calm oasis and is also home to the free Lincoln Park Zoo, a small handful of museums, and beachfront territory.
What’s the best neighborhood in Chicago for history buffs?
The neighborhood Hyde Park, located on the Southside, is home to the University of Chicago and a lot of historic homes (including one designed by Frank Lloyd Wright).
What’s the best neighborhood in Chicago for art lovers?
The only place in the United States with more art galleries than River North is Manhattan. You could spend days and days here going on a gallery crawl.
What’s the best neighborhood in Chicago overall?
The Loop is the center of it all. You won’t get a very strong Chicago vibe, but if you’re here to see the major sights of the city, this is the best place to spend time in. Plus, it’s very walkable.
With those questions now answered, here is a more specific breakdown of each neighborhood — with suggested accommodation for each so you’ll know where to stay in Chicago.
Chicago Neighborhood Overview
Where to Stay in Chicago for First-Time Visitors: The Loop
The Loop is the center of the Chicago universe. Yes, it can be touristy but that’s because it’s also home to many of the city’s best attractions, including Millennium Park and the Chicago Institute of Art. The high-rise buildings give the area a very urban feel, and you can walk everywhere in the Loop too.
Best Places to Stay in the Loop
- BUDGET: HI Chicago Hostel — Located in the southern part of the Loop, this hostel has a handful of different rooms, depending on your budget and level of privacy that you want: six-bed dorms, three-person private rooms, and private king-bed rooms with en suite bathrooms.
- MIDRANGE: Staypineapple — This fun, quirky, and friendly hotel has rooms with extra-fluffy duvets, oversized pillows, soft robes, and huge towels—everything you want in a hotel for a cozy stay. Rooms also have coffee, tea, and unlimited bottled water.
- LUXURY: W Chicago — Housed in a charming Beaux Arts building, the W is a sleek place to rest your head while in Chicago. The spacious rooms feature king and queen-sized beds, USB ports, huge TVs, plush robes, and complimentary bottled water.
Where to Stay for Art and Architecture Lovers: River North
For those who dig gawking at art, River North is the place to be. The neighborhood has the highest concentration of galleries outside of Manhattan. Don’t miss the House of Blues if you’re a design and architecture fan. The interior was modeled after the Estates Theater in Prague — where Mozart conducted the premiere showing of his opera “Don Giovanni.” Other noteworthy stops include the Museum of Broadcast Communications, the Chicago Children’s Museum, and the Addington Gallery.
Best Places to Stay in River North
- BUDGET: Found Hotel — There are not a lot of budget-friendly accommodation options in North River but The Found Hotel is one of the most affordable. Rooms have the usual amenities (such as free Wi-Fi and a flat-screen TV) but there is also a desk and a wardrobe. Ask for a room with a city view.
- MIDRANGE: 21c Museum Hotel — If you’re in River North to look at art, 21c is the ideal hotel. This hip property is crammed with art. The 297 rooms are stylish, sleek, and comfortable. The in-house eatery, Lure Fishbar, has one of the best burgers around.
- LUXURY: Westin Chicago River North — Upscale and cozy at the same time, the Westin is set right along the Chicago River. Some rooms have river and/or skyline views. There are even rooms that feature Peloton workout machines.
Where to Stay in Chicago for Families: Lincoln Park
Boasting a plethora of parks, this northern family-friendly neighborhood is one of the city’s more affluent areas. It’s home to the Chicago History Museum and the Lincoln Park Zoo, North Avenue Beach, and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. The lush and landscaped Lincoln Park itself is also worth exploring, perfect for strolls and picnics alike.
Best Places to Stay in Lincoln Park
- BUDGET: Getaway Hostel — This modern, friendly hostel offers four- and twelve-bed dorm rooms, as well as a range of private two- and four-person private rooms, some with en suite bathrooms and some with shared bathrooms.
- MIDRANGE: Hotel Versey — Located in Lakeview, just across the border from Lincoln Park, Hotel Versey has free Wi-Fi, large flat-screen TVs, phone docking stations, and friendly staff.
- LUXURY: Hotel Lincoln — Set a few steps from the lakefront and the shoreline park, this boutique charmer boasts rooms with ultra-comfy beds, homey furnishings, and walls that feature the work of local artists. There’s also a really great rooftop bar.
Where to Stay to Feel Like a Local: Lakeview
Lakeview is a large, sprawling district that is north of downtown, quite far from the center of Chicago. On the plus side, you’re in an extremely local neighborhood, one bursting with great restaurants, chill bars, and vintage shops. The sub-neighborhood Wrigleyville is also located here. This is where Wrigley Field is, home to the Chicago Cubs, and one of the best baseball stadiums on the planet in terms of ambiance.
Best Places to Stay in Lakeview
- BUDGET: Wrigley Hostel — Located a few steps away from Wrigley Park, this hostel is a great place for those planning to go to a baseball game. The property offers everything from 10-bed dorm rooms to private two-person rooms and everything in between. There is a convivial barbecue deck and breakfast is always complimentary.
- MIDRANGE: City Suites — The 45 colorful and cheery rooms at this Lakeview property are bedecked with tasteful Art Deco stylings. There is also a desk, in case you’re a road warrior, a ceiling fan, and a fully stocked minibar.
- LUXURY: Majestic Hotel — Hugging up against the lakeshore and park, the Majestic is a comfy place to lay your travel-weary head while in Chicago. Built in the 1920s, the sizeable rooms have all the usual perks and amenities plus a fully stocked minibar. Complimentary tea and coffee are available all day as well.
Where to Stay for History Buffs: Hyde Park
Home to the University of Chicago, leafy Hyde Park hugs up against the lake south of downtown. This pricey neighborhood is rich in history. Here you can gawk at a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house (Wright designed the Guggenheim in NYC), spend some time outdoors at the Midway Plaisance which was designed by Fredrick Law Olmstead (who gave us Central Park in New York), and see the homes of Louis Armstrong, Mohammed Ali, and Ida B. Wells.
Best Places to Stay in Hyde Park
- BUDGET: Chicago Lakeshore Hotel — Just off the northern border of Hyde Park, the Lakeshore is the most affordable hotel in the area. The property is clean and modern and totally comfortable, especially for the price.
- MIDRANGE: Hyatt Place – Boasting an indoor pool, fitness center, and a cafe on-site, this three-star hotel includes a complimentary continental breakfast and each room is fitted with a pull-out sofa bed and large flatscreen TV.
- LUXURY: Sophy Hyde Park — Smart, art-filled Sophy offers large, modern, and colorful rooms that have hardwood floors, love seats, ottomans, charging stations, blackout drapes, and 55-inch flatscreen TVs.
Where to Stay for Foodies: Pilsen and Chinatown
Part of Chicago’s Lower West Side, Pilsen got its name from Czech immigrants who named it after the famous beer-brewing Bohemian town of Plzen. Today, this vibrant neighborhood is largely a Hispanic enclave with a large artistic bent. Sitting next to incredible Mexican restaurants are art galleries and funky boutiques (though accommodation is surprisingly limited).
Meanwhile, the adjacent Chinatown has an entirely different vibe, boasting amazing Asian eateries. Spend a few days in Pilsen and Chinatown and you’ll have a huge portion of the planet’s food cultures to indulge in.
Best Places to Stay in Pilsen and Chinatown
- BUDGET: Chinatown Hotel — Basic and affordable (but not generic), Chinatown Hotel is smack in the middle of Chinatown and offers clean and comfortable accommodation without breaking the bank.
- MIDRANGE: Chicago South Loop Hotel — For a midrange property, you need to hop just outside Chinatown. It’s an upscale three-star hotel, however, with a fitness center and spa as well as free parking and spacious rooms with extra comfortable queen-sized beds.
- LUXURY: Springhill Suites Chinatown — This all-suites Marriott hotel in Chinatown is the most comfortable option around. In-room coffee and tea plus a fitness center and a complimentary breakfast are nice perks at this property.
Chicago is a spread-out city so spending some time to figure out where to base yourself is important. I personally love to stay near the Loop or River North. I like the vibes of both. But, whatever you choose, thanks to great public transportation, you won’t be far from anywhere.
Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner. It’s my favorite search engine because it searches websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is being left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as it consistently returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- SafetyWing (best for everyone)
- Insure My Trip (for those 70 and over)
- Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)
Want to travel for free?
Travel credit cards allow you to earn points that can be redeemed for free flights and accommodation. They are what keep me traveling so much for so little. Check out my guide to picking the right card and my current favorites to get started and see the latest best deals.
Ready to Book Your Trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.