Attached to The Shops at North Bridge (which includes Nordstrom and other luxury retailers), this boutique hotel debuted in 2015, formerly the Conrad Chicago, which is now up the street. Named for the late Gwen Lux, who was a sculptor, the 1930s design throughout includes a rooftop bar, restaurant and 300 rooms with a monochromatic, glam palette and tons of natural light.
Seven room categories provide lots of flexibility, whether you're a leisure traveler or road warrior trying to pad your SPG account. Working from a palette of black, gray and white, each room features wallpaper, a writing desk, artwork in honor of the namesake sculptor Gwen Lux, an iPod docking station, Frette bed linens and an armchair that's more like a comfy chaise. A wall of windows invites in lots of natural light. In the suites are Keurig coffee makers and a wet bar.
Opting for the Parking Package or Flexible Rate + Breakfast might make these amenities practically free, depending on your travel dates.
With marble countertops, walk-in spacious showers and Molton Brown toiletries, each bath--no matter the category--is a spa-like sanctuary.
Each morning fresh coffee is brewed and served in the fifth-floor lobby. The lobby is filled with striking design, like the plush midnight-blue armchairs, ornate chandelier, polished-gold finishes and avocado-green walls. A Millennium-pink sofa is surrounded by a gold cage-like structure. Off to one side is Circa, one of the hotel's two bar/restaurant concepts.
Each guest gets access to complimentary bicycles--plus road maps--to further your footprint while in downtown Chicago.
In the 2,000-square-foot fitness center--on the 11th floor--are stationary bicycles, treadmills and other state-of-the-art equipment (including Life Fitness, with personal TV screens to view while you work out, or Sudoko and Solitaire games to keep your brain busy).
Complimentary yoga classes are offered to guests.
Circa, just off the fifth-floor lobby, serves daily breakfast and weekend brunch. Fare is hearty and indulgent, such as chilaquiles and a breakfast sandwich on brioche bread, or eggs and meat plates. Upstairs at the Gwen is a rooftop space boasting a fire pit, lunch and dinner service and drinks (beer, wine and cocktails). Food at lunch skews lighter, from a lamb-sausage flatbread to baby-kale salad, and dinner is a mix of small plates, salads, meat/cheese boards and entrees such as roasted chicken or the signature Gwen burger.
Upstairs at the Gwen successfully appeals to all drinking palettes, whether it's an ice-cold Chicago craft beer or a cocktail (arranged into categories such as "Minimalist & Contemporary" and "Classic & Renaissance"). Twenty-two wines are available by the glass, too.
The hotel's location is in a great spot if you want to walk to the West Loop (where all the hot restaurants and bars are) or to museums and attractions downtown or in River North. Shopping is literally connected to the mall, perfect for wintry weather. Uber and Lyft drivers are never far away. To travel north or south, simply take the 22 bus from Dearborn and Grand (heading north), or the 146 bus south from Michigan and Ohio. Grand is the closest L stop.
A hip spot to enjoy raw-bar items (plus lobster rolls and clam chowder) in a stylish atmosphere is GT Fish & Oyster (10-minute walk), open for lunch and dinner (dinner only on Monday). Like upscale Mexican? Mercadito in the West Loop (currently a trending neighborhood for food) is a quick 9-minute walk away.
Beer lovers can easily quench their thirst at Rock Bottom Brewery (4-minute walk), brewery chain with a hearty food menu and 10 beers on tap. If wine is your vice, head to The Boarding House (15-minute walk), owned by a master sommelier.