Your Guide to Choosing Where to Stay in Chicago

By Alice Zylberszac on Aug 05, 2021

One of the coolest cities in the US, Chicago is a legendary sports town, home to some iconic architecture in the entire country and a world-class food scene, making it one of the most sought-after travel destinations in North America. However, Chicago’s a massive city, and deciding where to stay can be overwhelming.

Also called the Second City after a fire razed down the original metropolis, Chicago is the third-most populous city in the country and the most populated in Illinois and the entire Midwestern US.

Well-recognized for its futuristic architecture, vibrant city life, house music scene, shopping avenues, prominent cultural attractions, and miles of sandy beaches, Chicago’s stunning skyline floats over the Lake Michigan banks.

So whether you wish to eat some deep dish pizza, dance the night away, see the top sights, or even do a little bit of all these activities, you’re at the right place.
Accommodation is always at the top of concerns for people coming to Chicago for the first time.

In this guide, we'll take a look at:

  • 1. About Chicago
  • 2. Choosing the Best Area to Stay in Chicago
  • 3. Living in Magnificent Mile or the Loop: Which District Is Best
  • 4. Where to Stay in Chicago - Prices
  • 5. Frequently Asked Questions About Chicago

The following will enable you to discover the best places to stay in Chicago and make the most of your visit.

About Chicago

Besides being the third-largest city, Chicago is the second most visited town in the US partly for its central location.

As one of the greatest American cities, Chicago rides on this iconic status to enjoy numerous yearly conferences and conventions, summer festivals, and sporting events, bringing large crowds to the city.

The town is a true melting pot and is highly rich in history. There’s always something for everyone in the Second City, whether you’re an arts or music connoisseur, sports fanatic, foodie, or nature lover.

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Chicago is divided into numerous neighborhoods, and depending on your priorities and preferences, any of them could be the best area to stay in Chicago. However, we recommend that you consider one of the following neighborhoods:

The Loop: In some towns, the downtown or center district isn’t usually the best place to go; however, in Chicago, it’s different. As the heart of the city, The Loop is one of the most famous areas in Chicago. While it’s mostly a business area with few restaurants operating there, it’s close enough to other tourist-oriented neighborhoods.

Magnificent Mile: North of the Loop lies the Magnificent Mile, Chicago’s main shopping street lined with restaurants, high-end luxury shops, and night spots. You’ll see several upmarket boutiques here too, and due to its proximity to the Loop, the Magnificent Mile is very central, one of the best districts for tourists’ entertainment and fun.

River North: Popularly identified as the Party District, River North, west of the Magnificent Mile, is where people come to have fun and be seen. Being close to the Loop and right next to the Magnificent Mile means it’s well placed too.

Gold Coast: Away from downtown Chicago, the Gold Coast, an upmarket residential area, more quiet and relaxed than the previously mentioned districts. You’ll probably need to travel to see most sights since it isn’t located at the center. However, the coastal setting and numerous eateries offer a different feeling from what you can get at other downtown neighborhoods.

Lincoln Park: Located quite far from the Loop, Lincoln Park isn’t just a park but involves the surrounding built-up area. Lincoln Park is the perfect place to stay if you’re with your family, and accommodations are pretty affordable.

Choosing the Best Area to Stay in Chicago

Choosing the best area to stay when visiting Chicago will depend on your reason for the trip and your budget, particularly as a first-time visitor, the answer will depend on your preference.

Here are the eight best districts in Chicago:

The Loop: Perfect for First Time Travelers

As one of the three neighborhoods downtown, the Loop is usually the first stop for travelers coming to Chicago. With Lake Michigan to its east and Chicago River to the North, the Loop is where you’ll see the tallest structures comprising the Second City’s magnificent skyline.

Undoubtedly the most stunning part of Chicago, the Loop is filled with major theatres, different world-class public art, and the Art Institute of Chicago, which is one of the country’s largest and finest museums. You can also see the historic Grant Park and its spectacular centerpiece, Buckingham Fountain in the Loop.

Lincoln Park: Best for Travelers With Families

Previously called Lake Park, Lincoln Park is a quaint mix of freshly graduated lawyers, young families, and college students. The district was a refuge for people who lost their houses to the 1871 Great Chicago Fire.

From a small Polish and German community to a fashionable and vibrant neighborhood, Lincoln Park is filled with stunning attractions like DePaul University, Lincoln Park Zoo, and St. Michael’s Church which survived the Great Fire.

Magnificent Mile: Ideal for Luxury Shoppers and Nightlife

Known as the shopping center of Chicago, Magnificent Mile or Mag Mile for short is the town’s elite commercial district. Located downtown, Mag Mile is the major access between Gold Coast and the Loop.

There are numerous mid and high-end stores, restaurants, hotels, and bars in Mag Mile. Some of the district’s notable attractions include the John Hancock Center, Chicago Water Tower, the Wrigley Building, and one of the tallest buildings in the world.

Suppose you seek the best part of Chicago to stay and enjoy being close to the top things to do in the finest of the Second City, consider staying at Magnificent Mile.

Streeterville: Ideal Place for Travelers on a Budget

Located between Mag Mile and Lake Michigan, the lively district of Streeterville is a good option if you’re traveling on a budget.

The major fun and famous attraction is Navy Pier. Navy Pier is a vibrant and bright entertainment hub consisting of parks, shops, lively games, thrilling rides, and restaurants.

Whether you want to navigate through Chicago’s Funhouse Maze, spin on a carousel, or fly through the air, you’ll never run out of fun things to do at Navy Pier.

River North: Best for Travelers That Enjoy Nightlife

River North Gallery District, simply called River North, is home to the largest art galleries in the US besides Manhattan. This impressive neighborhood has evolved to become the best for nightlife in Chicago, particularly around Hubbard Street.

Besides the numerous art galleries, River North is filled with several lively bars, famous nightclubs, entertainment venues, and fine-dining restaurants. Thus, if you seek the best place to stay in Chicago for nightlife, River North is your best bet.

West Loop: Best for Foodies

Home to several of Chicago’s cultural landmarks, such as the deep-dish pizza, Chicago-style hot dog, the blues, and the Blue Brothers, the West Loop is best for foodies and travelers who want to enjoy the best of Chicago dishes.

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The district is recognized for its culinary streets: Greektown and Little Italy. West Loop is filled with a flourishing gallery scene, several elite restaurants, and a few museums. Ensure you visit the New Maxwell Street Market if you’re there during the weekend.

Gold Coast: Perfect for Luxury Shoppers

As one of the best neighborhoods to stay in Chicago, Gold Coast is a historic district located in the City’s Near North Side community area. Gold Coast’s fame rose after the Great Chicago Fire and is presently one of the most upscale districts in Chicago.

This high-end district is filled with majestic mansions, row houses, skyscrapers, Michelin-starred restaurants, and specialty boutiques. Head over to Rush Street to enjoy the best nightlife or have fun shopping at Oak Street. There’s always enough entertainment to be had at Gold Coast.

Wicker Park: Perfect for Hipsters and Cool Hunters

Seen as the city’s hipster haven, Wicker Park is inarguably the coolest district in Chicago. Besides its upscale taco stands and doughnut shops, innovative restaurants, and local boutiques; Wicker Park is home to famous live music venues such as The Empty Bottle and Double Door.

Wicker Park is full of shoppers interested in alternative fashions and eclectic wares. Fashionistas can always find everything they need, from vintage shops and cutting-edge boutiques to high street stores and national brands.

Living in Magnificent Mile or the Loop: Which District Is Best

Chicago is a fun and exciting city with extravagant shopping, incredible architecture, live music, fantastic restaurants, and electric clubs. Undoubtedly, Chicago is a town that’s worth your money and time.

If you’re seriously considering staying downtown and asking where to stay in Chicago downtown, then you need to choose between the Loop and Mag Mile. While the decision to pick either of these two is personal, some factors can influence your decision to settle in one of the districts, such as:

Preferred Lifestyle

If you enjoy quiet and don’t crave nightlife, then the Loop is for you. However, if you prefer the noise, shopping, nightlife, and major tourist attractions, you might want to consider staying at Magnificent Mile.

Commuting Needs

Thanks to Chicago’s robust transit system, navigating the vast city is easy. There’s an expansive network of trains and buses that are relatively inexpensive, safe, and efficient.
So whether you’re in the Loop or Magnificent Mile, you don’t need to worry about commuting as you’d be using either the subway, taxi, or bus.

Living Costs

Both districts have moderately high living costs. However, due to the high-scale restaurants, shopping centers, and boutiques in Magnificent Mile, you might be tempted to go out and spend more than those living in the quiet and business-dominated areas of the Loop.

Where to Stay in Chicago – Prices

Depending on the Chicago district you’re visiting, the accommodation type you prefer, and your budget, you might probably spend $150 or more per night on hotels. Nevertheless, consider booking well in advance to get a great room within your budget.

Suppose you’re visiting Chicago for the first time, consider staying at the Downtown Loop, which is at the town’s center, to access other parts of the city easily.

Wicker Park is best for hipsters and cool hunters, Gold Coast is perfect for luxury shoppers, West Loop is ideal for foodies, while River North is best for nightlife.

If you’re on a budget, Lincoln Park or Streeterville is your best bet. And if you desire to see the best of Chicago, consider staying at Mag Mile.

It’d be best if you check for several hotels in downtown Chicago if you wish to stay in that part of town. But if you need a place that feels more like home and gives off a community appeal, consider staying at Selina Hotel Downtown Chicago.

Located minutes away from Magnificent Mile, Selina offers a second-floor cafe library for events at night and a unique bar/restaurant with charming booths. There’s a flexible work option from the restaurant’s meeting rooms and phone booths.

And the best part is, the hotel is filled with several amenities such as a fully equipped gym, a shared kitchen, cinema room, and rentable event spaces, bicycles, and scooters.

Frequently Asked Questions About Chicago

  • Where is the best location to stay in Chicago?

    The best location to stay in Chicago, especially for first-time visitors, is the Loop, popularly referred to as Chicago Downtown or Chicago Loop. Located at the center of town, the Loop is where everything happens, and you can easily navigate your way to other parts of the city from there.

  • What is the safest area to stay in Chicago?

    There are several safe places to stay in Chicago, especially since all the districts downtown are very safe. However, the safest area in Chicago is Edison Park, with a 77 percent lower crime rate than Chicago’s average. The reason might probably be because many Chicago police officers live in the district.

  • Where should I avoid in Chicago?

    Chicago’s reputation has been greatly affected due to conflict and violence. Thus people tend to perceive it as a dangerous town.

    However, the dangerous spots are the poorest and are off the tourist path. Once you stick to the best neighborhoods mentioned beforehand, you’re less likely to be robbed. Ensure you avoid the following districts:

    • West and East Garfield Park
    • Fuller Park
    • Englewood
    • Riverdale
    • Washington
  • How many days do I need in Chicago?

    The number of days you spend in Chicago is entirely dependent on the reason for your trip. However, you’ll need to spend at least three days to thoroughly enjoy the best of Chicago. If you have more days to spare, consider exploring each of the eight best neighborhoods.

  • Is Chicago an expensive city?

    According to Expatistan’s Cost of Living calculator, Chicago is the 13th most expensive city in the US. So yes, it’s relatively costly. However, the town is somewhat affordable compared to similarly populated cities like New York. Monthly living expenses are $2,495 and can be less in some areas like Streeterville.

  • Is Chicago Downtown safe at night?

    Yes, downtown Chicago is safe at night because it’s often packed with pedestrians enjoying the dining experiences and nightlife scene. There are several attractions in Downtown Chicago areas like Magnificent Mile, filled with bars and restaurants, so it’s always buzzing with people even at night. Thus, your chances of getting mugged here are pretty low.

  • Should I stay in the Loop or Magnificent Mile?

    If you enjoy shopping, nightlife, and dining, you’ll prefer staying at the Mag Mile. That way, you get to experience the vibrancy and people of Chicago. Contrastingly, if you don’t fancy shopping, dining, or nightlife and prefer a quiet life, you’ll enjoy the Loop. So the decision of where to stay between the two districts will depend on your preference.

  • Selina Chicago

    Enjoy beautiful accommodation, coworking spaces, and the ultimate community experience at Selina Chicago!

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