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The Hilton Chicago is undoubtedly an iconic hotel. It’s one of Chicago’s finest and best located, buildings, while it has also hosted a succession of illustrious celebrities and played a part in various global events since its inception in the early 20th century.
Situated in the heart of the downtown Chicago “Loop”, and overlooking Millennium Park, this is a brilliantly located hotel for the main downtown sights and shopping options.
I have no objections to hotels that are fading in their grandeur somewhat, particularly when they are on the scale of the Hilton Chicago. The problem with my room was that the grandeur had faded completely – there was none left.
Unsurprisingly given my upgrade to a junior suite, the room was spacious. Beyond that, and the comfortable bed, there is very little positive I can say about it.
At best you could say my room was reminiscent of a moderate scale old people’s home, at worst it was frankly falling apart. I am unable to say exactly how long it had been since the room had been refurbished, but I do not think that “decades” would be an exaggeration.
The somewhat dark living area contained a couple of ageing couches next to a TV propped up on a chest of drawers.
Frustratingly, the wifi in the lounge area was also very patchy – I had to move to the bedroom to get reliable connectivity, which was very frustrating given that I did need to work from my room.
There was a sink in the living area with a coffee machine. A nice touch in theory, but the cupboard beneath the sink was shoddily built and falling apart, and ultimately had the net effect of lowering the quality of the room rather than giving it a positive additional feature.
The gym was great – spacious, well equipped and bright. There was even a running track around it. A touch gimmicky perhaps, given it’s distance, but I used it, as did others.
Sadly, the swimming pool was closed for refurbishment. This was a disappointment. While you were permitted use of the neighbouring hotel’s pool (the Essex Inn), Chicago in February involves spending as much time indoors as you possibly can, so I only made one trip there.
Here it is when functioning:
One area well worth a mention, and where the Hilton Chicago really, really excels, is the common parts. This is a grand old hotel, on a massive scale, and the open areas play that part very well.
There are grand lobby areas by the lifts:
And some genuinely impressive open spaces and conference areas:
Breakfast involved a somewhat rude awakening to the way Hilton in the US treats its elite members. In Europe and Asia, you can generally rest assured that your Gold/Diamond “free breakfast” will be an open invite to the main breakfast (indeed at the Hilton Metropole London, for example, they even reserve a dedicated area for elites).
Unfortunately, at the Hilton Chicago it was a simple case of permitting you access to the somewhat meagre assortment offered by the less-than-impressive executive lounge (see further below).
I have been to some lukewarm executive lounges in my time, but few underwhelm quite like the lounge at the Hilton Chicago. For a start, it’s tiny (that’s perhaps an unfair criticism given that the lobby area outside is huge, but this isn’t technically part of the lounge) and so while it was very empty when I visited, there was still a limited choice of seats.
The breakfast was acceptable but hardly diverse, and I imagine that the choice at the ordinary buffet breakfast (to which I did not have access) was substantially wider.
When I went in the evening for canapes, I left soon after having been confronted with some nuts, a few non-descript snacks and – the sucker punch – alcohol that needed paying for. Come on America, you can do better than that.
Quality of service
I have no complaints here. Check in and out was friendly and efficient, the package I had delivered to the hotel was efficiently passed on and staff were generally welcoming.
Rate Paid: $89 per night in the Hilton sale
Room Number: 2263
Room Type: Executive Junior Suite
Summary of stay
All told, the Hilton Chicago was, for me, another clear indication of Hilton’s increasing move away from the “high end” market, largely based on a failure to update many of their properties.
This was, even by the most objective standards (and believe me, I am a Hilton fan), a poor quality room with very little “exclusive” or “luxury” feel to it.
The positive points for the Hilton Chicago were the fantastic location, and the truly amazing building: both inside and outside, this hotel is spectacular. With a thorough overhaul of the rooms and some attention paid to the executive lounge, this has the potential to be a world-class hotel. At present, it underwhelms.