Staying in a hostel no longer means putting up with rickety bunk beds and grimy bathrooms. From bespoke cocktail bars to free pizza nights, the perks that come with these low-budget, sociable accommodations are more diverse than ever – and Chicago has a collection that will convert even the most hostel-sceptic traveler.
For location, few hostels come better situated than HI Chicago, just a few blocks from Grant Park, Lake Michigan and the Art Institute. With single-sex and mixed dorms, as well as private rooms for two, it’s a great option for solo travelers, thanks in part to its active social program, including complimentary breakfast, access to the kitchen and common areas, welcome receptions and free daily activities to explore the city with fellow travelers.
A stylish boutique hostel-hotel hybrid in River North – close to the Loop, the Magnificent Mile and the trendy Fulton Market district, Found is a more refined option than your average hostel. With a mix of private rooms and dorm-style ones for up to three people and female-only options, each room is kitted out to hotel standard but at hostel rates. It offers a communal kitchen and lounge along with daily events and a great concierge service to help you settle into your stay. And, if the mood takes you, its Blind Dragon speakeasy-style bar has its own karaoke suites so you can sip on classic cocktails and belt out your favorite tunes.
Sleek and modern in its design, this is another hostel that feels more like a hotel. You can choose from a number of options from private rooms to 12-bed dorms, meaning all budgets and privacy needs are catered for. There is ample opportunity for socializing with other guests – the hostel is home to a foosball table, enormous terrace and guitars you can take on loan. Jam session anyone?
Another hotel-hostel hybrid, Freehand Chicago offers up quad rooms that let you dabble in the boutique hotel life at hostel prices if you’re traveling with a gang. A youthful vibe rings throughout the hotel, attracting as many cool young locals as it does in-the-know travelers. Start your stay right with a trip to Broken Shaker bar – a nostalgic cocktail lounge that’s sure to put you in holiday mode.
Settled in with a pint at the Ambassador Public House, it’s hard to believe you’re sitting in a hostel. Having such an atmospheric drinking and dining spot onsite is a rare and welcome perk, and reason enough to stay at Parthenon Hostel. It doesn’t stop there – you’ll get a free continental breakfast every morning, and you can take advantage of the large library (and its TV) on quieter evenings. Getting out and about is easy thanks to the West Loop location, which puts you close to the Willis Tower and many of the city’s biggest sights.
Holiday Jones may be a hostel, but it has the vibe of a cool boutique hotel. Artsy in some of the best ways, with collaged poster art lining a wall in each room and ultra-chic tartan bed covers, it feels like what would emerge if Ace Hotels and The Hoxton had a hostel baby. The onsite coffee shop and lounge offers the perfect place to settle in with a beer and get to know your fellow travelers.
One of the cheapest hostels in Chicago, Urban Holiday Lofts more than makes up for in price what it lacks being farther from downtown. Guests can explore the hip neighborhood of Bucktown with its lively restaurants, bars, galleries and nightlife. The converted warehouse offers an industrial-style decor, partitioned into lofts available as private rooms or shared for up to eight guests, as well as unisex options. With a communal guest kitchen, on-site laundry and a lounge with a billiards table, Urban Holiday Lofts is a great crash pad that won’t break the bank. And, if it’s a downtown jaunt you’re after, it’s only a short train ride away from the Loop.
You’re in for a treat with the nightly pizza dinners at Wrigley Hostel, and you won’t want to miss the breakfast which is a free spread of pancakes, waffles, toast, fruit and strong tea and coffee to kick start your morning. Relaxing common areas include an enormous terrace complete with a barbecue, a rumpus room with ping pong, pool and foosball and a computer room if you need to catch up on some work.