CREATIVE HUBS: CHICAGO

5 -min. read

Back in 2015, Chicago ranked as the “fifth largest and eleventh fastest growing tech market in the country”, trailing just behind New York – and it shows no sign of abating, with its creative industries notably picking up force. Billed as America’s ‘third coast’, Chicago has always been ahead of its time. After a large fire broke out in 1871, the city was rebuilt and reworked through careful urban planning and some of the world’s first skyscrapers. Since then, it’s only been on the up, and is constantly reinventing itself, fast gaining rank as one of the hottest new travel destinations on the global stage.

Chicago’s buildings span the genres, with some of the most prestigious architects behind the projects: Frank Lloyd Wright worked on the sculptural The Rookery; Daniel Burnham Jr. and Hubert Burnham are behind the ornate Carbide and Carbon Building; and, of course, there’s Zaha Hadid’s iconic The Bean sculpture in Millennium Park.

With so much on Chicago’s doorstep – and a ton of trendy new neighbourhoods from the Kinzie Corridor (west of Fulton Market) to Wicker Park and the West Loop – it’s no wonder hotels, bars and restaurants are popping up there in their droves. Here’s where to head in Chicago in 2018…


WHERE TO STAY

Viceroy Chicago

Penthouse Master Bedroom at Viceroy Chicago – via Viceroy Chicago
Penthouse Master Bedroom at Viceroy Chicago – via Viceroy Chicago

The Viceroy is the latest large hotel brand to jump on the Chicago bandwagon, joining the likes of the Langham, The Peninsula, Soho House, The Freehand, Virgin Hotel, the Ace and Nobu. Located in the increasingly trendy Gold Coast neighbourhood. Standing 18 storeys high, it’s got cracking views of Chicago’s skyline and the Great Lake – thankfully, windows in the bedrooms are floor-to-ceiling. For the best views in the house, there’s a seasonal rooftop pool to dip into…

St Jane

Bedroom at St Jane – via St Jane
Bedroom at St Jane – via St Jane

Opening its doors in Spring 2018, the St Jane is certainly one to watch. Taking the place of the former Hard Rock Hotel within the Carbide and Carbon Building, it’s a 1929 masterpiece that’s said to be shaped like a “green vintage champagne bottle” inspired by the prohibition. The art-deco spirit is certainly mirrored in the design of the hotel’s decadent 363 bedrooms. When it opens, make a beeline for the twenty-fourth-floor lounge, with its restaurant, market café and cocktail bar.

The Robey Chicago

The Robey – by Nicolas James
The Robey – by Nicolas James

Another art-deco labour-of-love to add to your hotel bucket list is The Robey. Sitting on the cusp of Wicker Park and Bucktown, it’s housed within another stalwart, 1929-built Chicago building, once known as the North Tower on North Avenue. There’s 69 Tower Rooms and 20 Annex Lofts, with polished concrete floors and 10-foot ceilings. Kevin McAllister is the chef behind the relaxed Café Robey, dishing up modern American plates.


WHAT TO SEE

The Museum of Contemporary Art

The Museum of Contemporary Art – via <a href="https://thinkvisual.wordpress.com/tag/museum-of-contemporary-art-chicago/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Think Visual's blog</a>
The Museum of Contemporary Art – via Think Visual’s blog

Once you’re on the ground in Chicago, head for the famous Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA). Josef Paul Kleihues is the man behind the architecture and the impressive feature staircase. It’s got a huge range of works in its collection, plus a regularly changing roster of exhibitions. Don’t miss its brand-new restaurant Marisol, which has interiors designed by Chris Ofili and a seasonal menu put together by Jason Hammel.

Chicago Architecture Experience Tours

Chicago's architectural wonders – via the Chicago Architecture Foundation
Chicago’s architectural wonders – via the Chicago Architecture Foundation

To experience the best of Chicago’s architecture, book the ‘Must-See Chicago tour’ with the Chicago Architecture Foundation, a 90-minute whistle stop walk that’ll introduce you to all the best sights. Using the L trains, you’ll see the Art Institute of Chicago, the Wrigley Building, the John Hancock Center, Chicago Theatre and the Sears Tower.

Ikram

For in-the-know shopping in Chicago, Ikram is your place – they seriously know their stuff. The high-end women’s boutique has an incredible collection of clothes, shoes and jewellery, and its owner Ikram Goldman handpicks a perfectly curated selection of vintage pieces. That’s not all that’s on offer: there’s also a cute café with produce from local farmer’s markets and an art gallery with works selected by Ikram and her husband – their trademark is an impeccable eye for style.


WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK

Bellemore

Bellemore in Chicago – via Bellemore
Bellemore in Chicago – via Bellemore

Chicago has plenty of new restaurants flocking to the city – and the Bellemore is one of them. In partnership with the Boka Restaurant Group, Jimmy Papadopoulos is both partner and chef, and brings his ‘bright, bold and beautiful’ cooking to the venture. Up on the menu, there’s the rather extravagant oyster pie served with a glass of Moët and Chandon 2009 Grand Vintage.

Beatnik

Looking more like a little slice of Morocco, than your usual swanky Chicago bar, Beatnik brings a breath of fresh air to the Windy City. The newly opened bar run by the Bonhomme Hospitality Group was inspired by 1950s American bohemian lifestyles and spins reggae, with Brazilian soul and Middle Eastern classic rock on its decks.

S.K.Y.

S.K.Y. (named after Chef Gillander’s wife, Seon Kyung Yuk), has just popped up in an old office space in the super-trendy Pilsen neighbourhood. Taking influence from the local lively art scene, the space has been transformed. As well as cool interiors, there’s a regularly changing menu of enticing dishes like Maine lobster dumplings and black truffle croquettes.

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Sara D'Souza
Sara d'Souza is a travel content strategist on the MSN specials team, contributing editor to the Travel Edit and travel writer for ELLE, ELLEuk.com, Red Online, Sunday Times Travel, MSN Travel and Upward Curve inflight magazine, Visit London, Jetsetter and Virgin.

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