The Best Hotels to Book in Iowa City

Pull up a seat by the firepit at the Element hotel to relax and socialize with other guests
Pull up a seat by the firepit at the Element hotel to relax and socialize with other guests | Courtesy of Element Iowa City / Expedia
Photo of Michelle Juergen
18 November 2021

See the Hawkeye State from its historic center of Iowa City – the original capital of Iowa and home to the University of Iowa, the oldest higher education institution in the state. The college town is known for having a vibrant arts and culture scene, hosting annual events such as the Jazz Festival and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop – the oldest creative writing graduate program in the US. Here are the best Iowa City hotels – all bookable on Culture Trip.

The Highlander Hotel, for local history

Boutique Hotel
Overlooked by bedrooms, the indoor pool at the Highlander Hotel features comfy seating and a psychedelic decorative wall
Courtesy of The Highlander Hotel / Expedia
The spirit of the Seventies is alive and well at the Highlander Hotel, the favored haunt of notables such as Joan Baez, Mickey Mantle and Arnold Palmer back when it was known as the Highlander Inn and Supper Club. Channel that counter-culture energy at this retro-revival property, where chic meets shag in rooms decorated with velvet chairs and portable turntables. Amenities including an indoor pool and a courtyard with a firepit and games galore make things even funkier.

Graduate Iowa City, for signature cocktails

A guestroom at the Graduate Iowa City with two beds, a bedside lamp and silhouette portraits of famous Iowans
Courtesy of Graduate Iowa City / Expedia
This 1970s throwback hotel greets you with a library-style lobby, inviting you to cozy up for a nostalgic stay. Snag a barstool at indoor-outdoor bar Gene’s – named after comedian and Iowa alumnus Gene Wilder – and sip a signature Sidecar while admiring the stained-glass lamps, colorful ceiling, knotty pine paneling, and macramé and beaded curtains. Designed to feel like a home away from home, each room features eclectic nods to Iowa icons and the acclaimed Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

hotelVetro Iowa City, Tapestry Collection by Hilton, for sightseeing opportunities

The guestrooms of the hotelVetro by Hilton overlook the pedestrian mall
Courtesy of hotelVetro Iowa City, Tapestry Collection by Hilton / Expedia
This hotel, with a simple, sleek design throughout, offers city views from atop its perch on the pedestrian mall in downtown Iowa City. If you’re traveling with tons of luggage, there’s plenty of room to spread out in the spacious guestrooms, most featuring kitchenettes. The location is ideal for sightseeing: the Old Capitol Museum is just three blocks away. Plus, you can choose between Indian, Korean, sushi and more if dining out, and there are plenty of bars for a nightcap within a few minutes’ walk from the hotel. Visiting for the University of Iowa? You’re in luck: it’s less than 10 minutes’ drive.

Hilton Garden Inn Iowa City Downtown University, for downtown dining

A guestroom at the Hilton Garden Inn Iowa City Downtown University with a double bed, blue sofa, TV and workstation
Courtesy of Hilton Garden Inn Iowa City Downtown University / Expedia
Copper light fixtures and exposed brick walls add style to the restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch, while the top-floor restaurant with sky-high ceilings and enormous windows serves fabulous cuisine and classic cocktails – not forgetting a side of lofty downtown views from a vantage point 12 floors up. Bold splashes of color in crimson armchairs and contemporary art prints liven up the otherwise monochrome rooms. A super-central downtown location means you’re spoilt for choice when deciding where to go for dinner, and Kinnick Stadium is a mere five-minute drive away.

Hyatt Place Iowa City Downtown, for contemporary convenience

With floor-to-ceiling glass windows, the Hyatt Place Iowa City Downtown stands tall on the corner of East Court Street
Courtesy of Hyatt Place Iowa City Downtown / Expedia
Thoroughly contemporary rooms at Hyatt Place Iowa City Downtown invite you to relax after a day exploring the arts, culture, entertainment and dining in the city. Walk to the University of Iowa or the pedestrian mall, catch a Hawkeyes football game at Kinnick Stadium or retreat to the hotel pool and gym (open around the clock) for a break from the bustle. A continental breakfast spread starts the day (the convenience store also offers grab-and-go items) and the hotel bar satiates your thirst for classic cocktails and craft beers.

Element Iowa City, for an eco stay

A bedroom at the Element Iowa City hotel with two double beds, a small workstation, and a sofa with a side table
Courtesy of Element Iowa City / Expedia
Add a little green to your stay at this Marriott property, which leans towards sustainability with three electric car charging spaces and eco products. Element Iowa City – within walking distance of the University of Iowa campus – features particularly spacious rooms decked in soothing creams and blues, with polished wooden floors and fully equipped kitchens, while signature Heavenly Beds ensure a good night’s rest. Hang out with fellow travelers by the firepit on the outdoor terrace, work up a sweat in the gym or do laps of the indoor saline pool.

Courtyard by Marriott Iowa City University Heights, for Hawkeyes action

A bedroom at the Courtyard by Marriott Iowa City University Heights with a coffee maker, desk, and dark-gray sofa with a footrest
Courtesy of Courtyard by Marriott Iowa City University Heights / Expedia
Get close to the Hawkeyes action at this conveniently located hotel, just across the street from Kinnick Stadium, and less than 10 minutes’ drive from the bright lights and bars of downtown. The slate-gray-and-cream rooms exude a minimalist ambience, and the bistro offers pizza, craft beer, Starbucks beverages and more. Dust off your golf clubs at the Finkbine Golf Course right down the street, or head downtown for a greater choice of dining options and a stroll along the Iowa River Trail.

Hampton Inn Iowa City/University Area, for river views

An American flag flutters outside the front of Hampton Inn Iowa City/University Area hotel
Courtesy of Hampton Inn Iowa City/University Area / Expedia
Unimpeded views of the Iowa River from the picturesque setting on the riverbank, and proximity both to the Kinnick Stadium and the sights and restaurants of downtown, are just two bonuses at this refreshingly modern hotel in Iowa City. Lime-green statement walls perk up the plush, carpeted rooms, while the bar stools in primary colors liven up the breakfast area. Enjoy the complimentary hot breakfast – eggs, pancakes, coffee – or if you’re looking for something more substantial, there are fast-food outlets as well as Mexican and Asian restaurants within a five-minute stroll of the hotel. A good gym, indoor hot tub and relatively large pool round off the impressive amenities list.

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