Waldorf Astoria took over the swank Elysian Hotel in 2012, closing one of its restaurants but preserving the sumptuous room decor, the 14,000-square-foot spa, and the Greek Classicism–meets–French 1920s aesthetic. Located on the first 22 floors of a 60-story luxury condominium high-rise amid Chicago’s toniest shopping district, the Waldorf Astoria Chicago feels surprisingly calm and intimate thanks to French-born architect Louis Lagrange’s creation of a motor court entryway and a lobby reminiscent of an 18th-century Paris mansion (although the heated driveway means winter guests never step out of their Bentleys or taxis into snow). Guestrooms are some of the largest in Chicago, with amenities like TV screens embedded in mirrors that face deep soaking tubs, and the occasional in-room black marble fireplace. Apart from street noise filtering up to rooms on the lower floors, the atmosphere is serene, and the service courteous and ultra-efficient even with a no-tipping policy.
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For guests unprepared for a polar vortex during their stay, high-end winter gear boutiques Icebreaker (44 E. Walton St.) and Moncler (33 E. Oak St.) are a few minutes' walk away. Before becoming First Lady, Michelle Obama shopped for American designer duds at Ikram (15 E. Huron St.), which also stocks fashion-forward Japanese and European clothing and has an art-filled café. Travel 001 (1133 N. State St.) stocks quirky and useful travel accessories. The duck breast salad at the Oak Tree Café in the Bloomingdale’s building is a lunch staple among fashion insiders. The foodie central scene on West Fulton Street (Fat Rice, Publican Quality Meats, Little Goat Café) is a 10-minute taxi south.
Need to Know
Rooms: 188 all nonsmoking rooms, from $315. Check-in: 3 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options:Balsan, a contemporary, market-driven bistro, is a dining destination in its own right. Bernard’s, the second-floor bar, serves a large assortment of craft beers, artisanal modern cocktails, and a Thursday–Saturday evening food menu. Spa and gym details: Greek-inspired mosaics and columns flank hot tubs and an indoor, two-lane, 25-meter lap pool at the Elysian Spa. The fitness center specializes in Pilates and Gyrotonics strength conditioning.
Who’s it for: First-time Chicago visitors and couples on romantic weekends. Our favorite rooms: Northeast corner suites maximize the panorama of skyline and, between the towers, glimpses of Lake Michigan. The 950-square-meter Waldorf King Suites have balconies. Request a higher floor to minimize street noise. Special perks: It’s worth joining the Hilton Honors program just to take advantage of this property’s suite upgrades.