Aerial view of skyscrapers in Chicago before night time

Where to Stay in Chicago, By a Local (Best Areas & Places)

Wondering where to stay in Chicago? Then you’ve come to the right place! There are plenty of great options for areas and places to stay in Chicago as it’s such a vast and action-packed city.

But where you choose to book your accommodations should depend on what you plan to do and see – with regular events, museums, the new Maxwell Street Market, a rich music scene, and much more, you’ll be busy during your visit. I should know – I’ve lived in Chicago for almost five years!

Whatever you seek in Chicago, this guide details a variety of options for where to stay. And while you’re here, be sure to bookmark this guide to the best day trips from Chicago.

Let’s dive in!

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Best Places to Stay in Chicago

The entrance to the building of The Peninsula in Chicago
The Peninsula Chicago, one of the most luxurious Chicago hotels. (photo: 4kclips / Shutterstock)

Just looking for a quick answer on the best places to stay in Chicago? Here are my top picks: 

Okay, let’s do a deep dive of the best areas and neighborhoods in Chicago!

12 Best Neighborhoods & Places to Stay in Chicago

In total, there are 77 neighborhoods in Chicago – each with its own distinct atmosphere and feel. Situated on the western shore of Lake Michigan, the city is organized by a grid layout with the Chicago River further geographically dividing it into the North Side, South Side, and West Side. Meanwhile, the central downtown area of the city is called “The Loop”.

Let’s take a look at the best places to stay in the third most populated city in the US.

The Chicago Loop

Overlooking view of Downtown Chicago and the Chicago River
Gorgeous downtown Chicago architecture and the Chicago River

👉 Best Area for First Time Visitors | ✨ Best Chicago Loop Hotels: Pendry ChicagoViceroy ChicagoRiver Hotel

Named for the elevated railway loop that circled the city in the late 19th century (it still does), The Loop is the most central downtown neighborhood of Chicago and the most obvious choice for many thinking about where to stay in Chicago.

If you want to soak in tons of culture and vibrant city life, then The Loop will put you in reach of prominent cultural attractions such as the Art Institute of Chicago (one of the world’s largest and oldest art museums) and The Chicago Theatre. Meanwhile, if you’re here for an event in Grant Park, like Lollapalooza or The Taste of Chicago, then you’ll be within walking distance.

Additionally, this area is home to The Bean, officially known as Cloud Gate, located in Millennium Park, and the beautiful Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park. For a different perspective, hop on the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s river cruise – you’ll get a great view of the Chicago River and the iconic Chicago skyline.

Pros of Staying in The Chicago Loop:

  • An endless list of attractions within walking distance, including Millennium Park
  • Many diverse bar and restaurant choices
  • Busy, thriving nightlife
  • Extraordinary views of the city and Chicago River

Cons of Staying in The Chicago Loop:

  • The area can be crowded and loud, especially at night and during special events
  • Parking can be expensive and hard to find.

📚 The Chicago Loop Mini Guide 📚
Best Area for First Time Visitors
Google Map

West Loop

The illuminated sign of Fulton Market District in Chicago and cars passing by
To market, to market! (photo: Antwon McMullen / Shutterstock)

👉 Best Area for Foodies | ✨ Best West Loop Hotels: Nobu Hotel ChicagoHyatt House Chicago West LoopChicago Parthenon Hostel

Located west of The Loop, as the name implies, the West Loop was once the meatpacking and warehouse district of Chicago that’s now a trendy and fun neighborhood. It’s a great choice if you’re wondering where to stay in Chicago and interested in other downtown Chicago neighborhoods.

If you’re a foodie, then this will be a veritable smorgasbord for you. You can experience delicious dishes from all over the world in Restaurant Row, a truly world-class food scene. You’ll also love the French Market, where you can try all sorts of produce and creative pastries from around the world.

If you’re a sports fan, then the West Loop is where to catch a Bulls or Blackhawks game during their respective basketball and hockey seasons. There is also Brooklyn Boulders for rock-climbing enthusiasts, the Arcade Emporium for gamers, and a variety of live music venues and pubs.

Pros of Staying in West Loop:

  • Lots of diverse eateries
  • Many activities for people with different hobbies
  • Great nightlife
  • Considered to be one of the safest areas in Chicago, even at night
  • Easy access to public transportation
  • Close to downtown Chicago

Cons of Staying in West Loop:

  • Lodgings and living can be pricey
  • There is often construction

📚 West Loop Mini Guide 📚
Best Area for Foodies
Google Map

South Loop

The Museum Campus from afar in Chicago
Approaching the Museum Campus with a great view!

👉 Best Area for Museum Enthusiasts | ✨ Best South Loop Hotels: Congress Plaza Hotel ChicagoThe Blackstone, Autograph CollectionHyatt Regency McCormick Place

For museum lovers, the South Loop is a great choice for where to stay in Chicago. Here, you’ll see the lakefront Museum Campus – home to several top Chicago museums, including the Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, and Field Museum. The Shoreline Sightseeing Water Taxi’s Lake Route will take you to these popular things to do in Chicago.

Soldier Field is here as well, so football fans can see a Bears game in the fall or winter, and live music fans can catch a show during the off-season. I also recommend going to various trade shows at McCormick Place Convention Center while you’re in the area.

South Loop’s Motor Row District is also a must-see with many international restaurants, a theater, a brewery, and many other fun attractions. I also recommend heading to Prairie Avenue District and taking a walk along Millionaire’s Row– it’s home to gorgeous mansions that housed elite Chicago society members when the city was still new.

Pros of Staying in South Loop:

  • Easy access to great museums
  • Many restaurant options
  • Bustling, fun nightlife
  • Easy access to public transportation
  • Close to downtown Chicago

Cons of Staying in South Loop:

  • There is a lot of construction in different areas
  • Different areas of Chicago can offer you an even larger variety of restaurants.

📚 South Loop Mini Guide 📚
Best Area for Museum Enthusiasts
Google Map

Magnificent Mile

A woman entering the Banana Republic store in Magnificent Mile
Just another day of shopping in the Magnificent Mile! (photo: Tupungato / Shutterstock)

👉 Best Area For Big Shoppers | ✨ Best Magnificent Mile Hotels: The Peninsula ChicagoHilton Chicago Magnificent Mile SuitesIvy Boutique Hotel

If you like luxury shopping, then the Magnificent Mile, or North Michigan Avenue, is the perfect place to stay in Chicago. There are so many boutiques and high street stores that even longtime locals, like myself, haven’t had time to visit them all. This includes Water Tower Place, home of the American Girl Place, and other stores that you’ll only find in Chicago.

When I first drove up North Michigan Avenue to see the Magnificent Mile, what really struck me was the sheer majesty of the buildings. In particular, the Chicago Water Tower (which amazingly survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871), Wrigley Building skyscraper, Tribune Tower, and John Hancock Center are breathtakingly colossal!

While here, you’ll want to visit an observation deck, like 360 CHICAGO, to see the city from 1,000 feet up.

Pros of Staying in the Magnificent Mile:

  • Amazing views of the tallest skyscrapers in the entire city
  • Lots of options for people who love shopping
  • Many attractions and things to do for people with all types of interests
  • Lots of great Chicago restaurants for foodies
  • Some of the best luxury hotels in Chicago are here

Cons of Staying in the Magnificent Mile:

  • The area can be very congested, especially during peak hours of the day.
  • Hotels and restaurants are going to be very expensive in this area.

📚 Magnificent Mile Mini Guide 📚
Best Area for Big Shoppers
Google Map

River North

View while walking at the River North in Chicago at night
Walking through River North at night

👉 Best Area for Nightlife | ✨ Best River North Hotels: Hyatt Place Chicago River NorthHome2 Suites By Hilton Chicago River NorthHotel Felix

River North is an incredibly vibrant and lively Chicago neighborhood. Just north of The Loop and the Chicago River, this neighborhood is home to many fine restaurants, clubs, and bars. If you want a place to stay in Chicago that remains active into the early morning so you can go dancing and clubbing, then this is it.

Revolutionary architecture, not to mention unique art galleries, are key features of River North. You can have a memorable experience by simply taking a stroll down the Chicago Riverwalk and taking in your surroundings, or by veering off the path to theMART, where you can visit design studios and take fun classes.

River North is home to famous live music venues of many kinds as well. The House of Blues and Redhead Piano Bar are staples, and jazz lovers will enjoy the Tortoise Supper Club. 

Pros of Staying in River North:

  • A cultural hub for lovers of art and music
  • Amazing architecture to admire
  • Many great options in terms of bars and restaurants
  • Spectacularly vibrant nightlife

Cons of Staying in River North:

  • Food and lodgings may be expensive
  • It may be hard to find parking spots

📚 River North Mini Guide 📚
Best Area for Nightlife
Google Map

Near North Side

View of a ferris wheel and skyscrapers at sunset in Chicago
Have fun doing exploring the fun things to do at Navy Pier, even just taking in the view

👉 Best Area for Tourist Attractions | ✨ Best Near North Side Hotels: 21c Museum Hotel ChicagoThe Chicago Hotel Collection River NorthHyatt Place Chicago River North

If you’re interested in a hip and trendy experience during your stay in Chicago, then consider staying on the Near North Side. Even though this area was destroyed by the Great Chicago Fire, it has been revitalized to the extent that visiting all of the cocktail bars, bistros, and boutique shops at Merchandise Mart can take days.

You can spend a day or more at Navy Pier, going to the IMAX cinema, playing miniature golf, riding the Ferris Wheel, visiting the Chicago Children’s Museum, going through Chicago’s funhouse maze, and experiencing a boat tour. Walking up Rush Street from the Chicago River is always a fun idea as well.

If you love music, then you should definitely go to the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. There is also a lot to do at night, with all the clubs in this area and pub-crawling options.

Pros of Staying in Near North Side:

  • Close proximity to many iconic attractions in Chicago, including Navy Pier
  • Many bars and restaurants
  • Vibrant nightlife
  • Close to downtown Chicago

Cons of Staying in Near North Side:

  • Lodgings and food can be expensive
  • Parking spots are hard to find

📚 Near North Side Mini Guide 📚
Best Area for Tourist Attractions
Google Map

Hyde Park

Aerial view of from the Hyde Park in Chicago

👉 Best Area for College Students | ✨ Best Hyde Park Hotels: Sophy Hyde ParkBest Western Plus Hyde Park Chicago HotelChicago Lakeshore Hotel

Home of the University of Chicago campus on the west end, Hyde Park is great whether you’re a young college student wanting to visit independent restaurants and shops, or a history buff looking to take in the sites.

I recommend taking a walk around the University of Chicago campus to see all the stunning Gothic buildings, the Court Theatre, the Smart Museum of Art (which is free to visit), and many more impressive sites.

There are also all sorts of modern amenities set in this rich historic district. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the DuSable Museum (the first institution that devoted itself to African American culture and history) are in this neighborhood.

Also, on the east side, you’ll find the Museum of Science and Industry, which is an epicenter of culture and knowledge for anyone who wants to experience it.

Pros of Staying in Hyde Park:

  • Great area for history buffs or anyone else who wants to soak up some knowledge
  • Many attractions to explore
  • Many affordable and fun restaurants and bars
  • Relatively affordable lodging options

Cons of Staying in Hyde Park:

  • A fair distance from the city center
  • Not always the safest area, especially at night.
  • Limited access to public transportation (just the Green Line)

📚 Hyde Park Mini Guide 📚
Best Area for College Students
Google Map

Logan Square

View of houses from the Logan Square neighborhood
A nice, simple community with a lot of underground culture

👉 Best Area for a Community Experience | 🏠 ApartmentsLogan Square Modern Curated Pet FriendlyHip and Trendy 2BR ApartmentBright and Cozy 1BR Apartment

Logan Square is a rapidly changing area in the northwest part of Chicago, populated by artists and young professionals. Cool new restaurants are taking the place of closed storefronts, and people who live or stay in this area get to enjoy the Logan Square Farmers Market every Sunday.

In this area, you’ll see stately limestone houses, famous street murals, and the Illinois Centennial Monument.

Espousing the local culture is the historic Logan Theatre, home of the Chicago Underground Film Festival, which is the longest-running underground festival of its kind.

There are also many options in the way of food and spirits. Foodies will love the unique fusion restaurants, noodle places, or one of many deep-dish pizza restaurants that locals and tourists alike love. I also recommend Longman & Eagle for any whiskey you could possibly want.

Pros of Staying in Logan Square:

  • Many cool, eclectic food options
  • Lots of opportunities to experience art and culture
  • Easy access to public transportation
  • Close-knit community feel

Cons of Staying in Logan Square:

  • Lodgings and food can be relatively expensive
  • Some areas may not be the safest after dark (read our guide to safety in Chicago)

📚 Logan Square Mini Guide 📚
Best Area for a Community Experience
Google Map

Lincoln Park

Aerial view of the Lincoln Park in Chicago
Perhaps the biggest park you’ll ever see!

👉 Best Area for Outdoorsy Travelers | ✨ Best Lincoln Park Hotels: Hotel Versey Days Inn by Wyndham ChicagoHotel Lincoln, part of JdV by HyattChicago Getaway Hostel

For anyone wondering where to stay in Chicago to enjoy the spring or summer, Lincoln Park may be ideal. Located on the north side of the lake, it’s close to public transit and the lakefront trail.

The area contains a giant park with plenty of greenery (including a historic indoor botanical garden), a pavilion, and a lily pond – a great backdrop for a picnic!

Here, you’ll find the Chicago History Museum, Lincoln Park Conservatory, North Avenue Beach, and Lincoln Park Zoo. Theater buffs can enjoy a performance at the famous Steppenwolf Theater Company or the more quietly acknowledged Theatre on the Lake, and music lovers can hear live Chicago-style blues nightly until 4 am at Kingston Mines.

There are also plenty of great eateries to enjoy in Lincoln Park while visiting Chicago, most notably Alinea – it’s at the top of Michelin-starred restaurants in Chicago and one of the best restaurants in the world.

Pros of Staying in Lincoln Park:

  • An assortment of dining and shopping experiences
  • Many tourist attractions to visit
  • The park-like atmosphere and green spaces, including the Lincoln Park Zoo
  • Great views of Lake Michigan
  • Easy access to public transportation
  • Vibrant nightlife

Cons of Staying in Lincoln Park:

  • Lodging and living can be very expensive
  • Finding parking spots can be a challenge
  • Being right on Lake Michigan, winters can get extremely cold

📚 Lincoln Park Mini Guide 📚
Best Area for Outdoorsy Travelers
Google Map

Lakeview

View of skyscrapers in Chicago from lake Michigan
Just hanging out by Lake Michigan, enjoying the view.

👉 Best Area for Peace and Quiet | ✨ Best Lakeview Hotels: The Willows HotelBEST WESTERN PLUS Hawthorne Terrace HotelCity Suites Hotel

For people who are looking to have a peaceful, relaxing vacation, Lakeview is a fantastic choice for your stay in Chicago. Just north of Lincoln Park, it’s known to be safe, quiet, and relatively peaceful, with a few boutique hotel options.

Being low-key doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of things to do though! There are many casual eateries, street festivals in the summer, and performance art venues.

You can also walk over to Lake Michigan and experience the lakefront trail, boat harbor, tennis courts, and more sites that can be a part of a great day outdoors. See our full guide to the best things to do in Lakeview for more.

If you’re a baseball fan, then Wrigleyville (part of Lakeview) is a great place to stay in Chicago during baseball season, as it’s a legendary sports town that is home to Wrigley Field and the Chicago Cubs.

Pros of Staying in Lakeview:

  • The area is very safe
  • Easy access to public transportation
  • Low-key, relaxing atmosphere
  • Short distance to Lake Michigan and lakefront views
  • Many options for casual dining and shopping lovers
  • Great options for boutique hotel lovers

Cons of Staying in Lakeview:

  • Lodging and living can be more expensive than the average
  • It can be hard to find a parking spot

📚 Lakeview Mini Guide 📚
Best Area for Peace and Quiet
Google Map

Gold Coast

View of old house in the Gold Coast neighborhood
Travel back in time and feel like one of the city’s early elites

👉 Best Area for Luxury Lovers | ✨ Best Gold Coast Hotels: Thompson ChicagoAmbassador Chicago, part of JdV by HyattClaridge House

The Gold Coast is one of the richest and most luxurious neighborhoods in the United States. Here, you can enjoy an overall affluent atmosphere, as well as fine dining restaurants and high-end boutiques that are frequented by the rich and famous.

If you take a stroll along one of the streets of this upscale neighborhood, you’ll likely see stunning architecture in the form of historic mansions and hotels. In particular, the Astor Street District is known for its impressive 19th-century homes. You can also go shopping on Oak Street, the most lavish shopping street in Chicago.

If you want to go to a very unique museum, then head to the International Museum of Surgical Science – there is no other comparable museum in the country. You’ll see all sorts of quirky items in the gift shop and you’ll learn a lot – especially if you’re a future doctor or interested in health science.

Pros of Staying in Gold Coast:

  • Beautiful architecture to look at while walking around
  • Many dining options, including fine dining
  • A variety of unique attractions
  • Prestigious shopping options on Oak Street
  • Easy access to public transportation

Cons of Staying in Gold Coast:

  • This affluent area can be a target for criminals and isn’t always the safest
  • Cost of staying here can be very high

📚 Gold Coast Mini Guide 📚
Best Area for Luxury Lovers
Google Map

Wicker Park

View of people and cars passing through Wicker Park
Unique entertainment for unconventional travelers (photo: Page Light Studios / Shutterstock)

👉 Best Area for Hipsters | ✨ Best Wicker Park Hotels: Hyatt Place Chicago Wicker ParkThe RobeyWicker Park Inn

If you like unique, artsy areas, then you might want to consider a stay in Wicker Park. It’s a great area for people who are on the unconventional, eclectic side, with indie music venues, speakeasies, unique art galleries, and more. To see this entire cool area from above, I recommend using the 606, a repurposed rail line for pedestrians.

Wicker Park is also the place to stay in Chicago for travelers who want to experience indie culture. It’s full of thrift stores and bookstores, and it has a flourishing gallery scene. It’s also the home of the Around the Coyote Fall Arts Festival if you happen to be there in September.

If you’re a foodie, you’ll love this area for the artisan drinks at the Violet Hour, noodle joints, trendy Chicago coffee houses, and other small eateries that are some of the best-kept secrets of the area. See my guide to what to do in Wicker Park for more info.

Pros of Staying in Wicker Park:

  • Eventful, eclectic nightlife
  • Many fun bars, restaurants, and cafés
  • A very distinct and fun culture
  • Easy access to public transportation
  • Lots of parking spots

Cons of Staying in Wicker Park:

  • Lodgings and shopping can be expensive
  • The area can be congested, especially at night
  • Some areas are not the safest places to be walking around at night

📚 Wicker Park Mini Guide 📚
Best Area for Hipsters
Google Map

Tips for Staying in Chicago

Choose the Right Time to Travel

Overlooking view of train tracks and a train on it in Chicago

Timing your visit to Chicago is everything. This is a popular tourist destination, and even more people visit during federal holidays and school breaks. It may be smart for you to try to schedule your visits around these times. See my full guide to the best time to visit Chicago for more info.

Also, unless you love cold weather, avoid Chicago during the winter – Chicago winters are notoriously harsh!

No matter what season you’re visiting, be sure to check out our Chicago essentials packing checklist to prepare for your trip!

Choose the Right Chicago Neighborhood

View of the Chicago River in Downtown during morning

Although many people would recommend that you stay around the Chicago downtown area to be close to the action, it really comes down to what you want. Each neighborhood in Chicago has its own distinct flavor. Choose the Chicago neighborhood that you would enjoy the most.

Be Prepared to Use Multiple Modes of Transportation

In addition to public transportation, try out the Chicago Pedway (overhead bridges and underground tunnels for pedestrians), the bike-share program, a rental with Discover Cars, a water taxi, or even all of the above. Public transportation can be less than efficient if you stray from the city center. 

Be Prepared to Not Get to Everything

Chicago is a massive city – there is no way you can see and do everything in one short trip. It’s better to aim to visit two or three attractions per day, while leaving time to enjoy the city and its food. Remember, you can come back!

Plan Your Chicago Budget

Chicago is famous for being an expensive city, but that doesn’t mean you can’t manage to visit Chicago on a budget. See Nilani’s guide to doing Chicago on the cheap for money saving tips on where to stay, eat, and play on the cheap.

FAQs About Where to Stay in Chicago

Where do people usually stay in Chicago?

It is most common for people to stay in the Chicago downtown area or in surrounding neighborhoods, such as River North, Near North Side, West Loop, and South Loop.

Where should I stay in Chicago as a tourist?

As a first-time visitor to the Windy City, The Loop is a great choice when deciding where to stay in Chicago. The Loop is the center of much of the city’s action, and you’ll have easy access to public transit to go to other parts of the city as well.

What is the safest part of Chicago to stay in?

The safest parts of Chicago to stay in are The Loop, Lincoln Park, Lakeview, and River North (west of The Magnificent Mile). Although it’s always best to be careful no matter where in Chicago you are.

What places should I avoid in Chicago?

Unfortunately, there is a high crime rate in some parts of Chicago, most notably West Garfield Park and East Garfield Park on the West Side, and Washington Park on the South Side. If you want to go to these places, try doing so in broad daylight and with other people.

Is it safe to stay in Downtown Chicago?

Generally speaking, Downtown Chicago/The Loop is a safe place to stay. There are pickpockets, but you should be fine as long as you’re vigilant about your belongings and surroundings. It may also be a good idea to leave valuables in your Chicago hotel room while out and about.

***

Thanks for reading my guide to where to stay in Chicago – I hope it helps you pick the best neighborhood and area for you. And don’t forget to check out our list of the 33 best things to do in Chicago for more great vacation inspiration.

The Windy City is sure to be wonderfully memorable regardless of where you stay – have fun!

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