A Jazz Age gem on Michigan Avenue
300 Rooms / 34 Suites
There’s a wonderful sense of place and history at The Gwen, A Luxury Collection Hotel, housed in a 1929 building that fronts Chicago’s iconic Michigan Avenue. The Gwen aims to incorporate the artistry and history of its location with period-specific details that lend the contemporary interiors a decidedly Jazz Age edge. Named after Gwen Lux, an influential artist of the time, the hotel was recently added to Starwood’s Luxury Collection group of character-filled hotels. (With that introduction will come renovated public spaces in March 2016 and refreshed guest rooms in early 2017. This hotel was formerly the Conrad Hilton.) Expect to hear jazz music as you enter the fifth-floor lobby, a traveling cocktail cart named the Prohibition Porter and plenty of Art Deco design touches, like the lobby’s four original sculpted panels created by Lux decades ago.
While there is a focus on the heritage of the building, the guest offerings are thoroughly modern and include an American restaurant, an intimate see-and-be-seen bar, a large outdoor terrace bar plus a fitness center and up-to-date guest rooms.
Contemporary, natural-light-filled guest rooms are bathed in elegant neutrals — rich bronzes and tans offset blond wood furnishings and black accents. Bathrooms are also neutral and filled with tasteful beiges; they are clad in marble and have separate soaking tubs and toilets. Technology has not been forgotten, either. Bose surround sound is in every room, as well as a 42-inch TV and the ability to connect your iPhone to it. Rooms have large picture windows and many of them come with those iconic Magnificent Mile and Lake Michigan views.
If you’re looking to really soak in Chicago’s splendid architecture, book one of the six suites that have a large outdoor terrace (a rarity in this city). Perched from here, you’ll see the intricate work of the building’s original façade, plus a slew of other Windy City landmark buildings.
The Dining and Drinks
Off the main lobby sits The Terrace Restaurant, which serves up contemporary American fare (with an occasional Asian-influenced twist) for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Also off the lobby is the Terrace Rooftop, a lovely outdoor space to grab a bespoke cocktail and relax on chic-but-comfortable seating. Yes, this place is popular for alfresco drinks, but also for its Sunday night movies when the weather is warm here, generally May through September.
It’s all in the details at The Gwen — special little touches make this place stand out in a crowded Chicago hotel market. The lobby itself has a signature scent, “aromatic rain,” that greets you as you exit the entry elevator. The aforementioned Prohibition Porter will visit your room upon request and a mixologist will whip up a cocktail or two (try the Urban Buzz, another Gwen signature made of bourbon, freshly squeezed lemon juice and honey syrup). The fitness center is an intimate space with chilled towels, fruit, water and a special purifier so those working out can breathe in clean, fresh air.
And shoppers will adore the Gwen’s proximity to The Shops at North Bridge, a luxury shopping center (Nordstrom, Kiehl’s, Stuart Weitzman) connected to the boutique hotel — a huge plus in Chicago’s inclement winters. When the weather is pleasant, head outside and enjoy being in the heart of the city with shops, restaurants, museums and more within easy walking distance.