Top 7 Best Areas to Stay in Chicago

With its incredible architecture, jazzy nightlife, and even a supply of golden beaches, Chicago ranks highly as one of the top bucket list destinations in the US.

But before you can start exploring the attractions, the first question to tackle is where is the best area to stay in Chicago? You need to plan with care so that you are within close proximity to the main tourist sites and the best places to grab one of those iconic deep-dish pizzas.

Chicago isn’t exactly the cheapest destination so you also need to consider your budget requirements and in such a huge city there are lots of options to trawl through. 

This is where my guide to the best areas to stay in Chicago is going to save you so much time and stress!

I have curated the following post to help you figure out where the best place to book your accommodation is. I’ve even suggested some specific hotels to make the process as easy as possible. Let’s get into it!

*Disclosure: This post contains a few affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through my link.*

Overview of Where to Stay in Chicago

Before we tackle the best parts of Chicago to stay in, let’s run over the layout and landscape of the city.

Covering 235 square miles (607 square kilometers), the city comprises 77 community areas that are often grouped into 9 districts within which you will find additional neighborhoods.

The areas I selected for this guide sit within the more central districts.

Before you tackle my full guide, here is an overview of the best areas to stay in Chicago with hotel recommendations for each neighborhood.

Chicago Loop (first-time visitors, sightseeing)Chicago Athletic Association
Streeterville (luxury accommodation, entertainment )The Ritz-Carlton Chicago
West Loop (food, upscale nightlife, luxury stays)The Hoxton Chicago
River North (nightlife, shopping, art galleries)Moxy Chicago Downtown
South Loop (family-friendly, museum)Le Meridien Essex Chicago
Gold Coast (couples, luxury stays,beaches)Claridge House
Wicker Park (local vibes, offbeat)The Robey

Best Areas to Stay in Chicago 

That’s a quick overview of the best parts of Chicago to stay but now it’s time to go through each neighborhood with a fine-tooth comb.

I have extensively researched and selected the best neighborhoods categorized by things to do, budget, family-friendly places to stay, food and nightlife potential, and more to ensure you can make an informed decision about where to stay in Chicago.

Scroll down to find out which is the best neighborhood to stay in Chicago for your next trip.

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1. Chicago Loop – Best area to stay in Chicago for first-time visitors

Cloud Gate, aka the Chicago Bean in Downtown Chicago

Chicago Loop is the most central part of the city, also known as the downtown area. This is where you will find the vast majority of the iconic skyscrapers, the lush Millennium Park which houses the Buckingham Fountain, museums, the Theater District, and the Chicago Riverwalk.

If this is your first time visiting the Windy City then you might find that The Loop is the best location to stay in Chicago.

As the central hub for both tourism and commerce, The Loop is blessed with excellent amenities, restaurants, and transport connections. That means you can easily navigate your way around the major tourist landmarks on foot or using public transport.

If it is your first time then you probably won’t even stray too far from the central area. Alongside Streeterville, the Chicago Loop is one of the best areas to stay in Chicago for photographers eager to capture the iconic skyline.

Pros and cons of staying in Chicago Loop


  • Puts you in the heart of the city close to all the major tourist spots.
  • Excellent public transport when needed but the immediate vicinity is walkable for the most part.


  • Limited choice in terms of independent guest houses: most of the hotels are major international chains. 
  • As the tourist center of the city, you will find that restaurants and hotels are more expensive. 

Best places to stay in Chicago Loop

2. Streeterville – Best area to stay in Chicago for photographers and content creators

Skyline view from Milton Lee Olive Park in Chicago

Streeterville is a high-energy and happening neighborhood situated to the east of the Magnificent Mile with access to the lakeside of Lake Michigan.

This is the best location to stay in Chicago for proximity to the entertainment and leisure facilities of Navy Pier, including the Centennial Wheel, Ohio Street Beach, and Chicago Children’s Museum besides several theaters, restaurants, and walking routes.

It’s also well placed for getting around the most Instagrammable places in Chicago, making it my top recommendation for photographers, bloggers, and content creators.

Accommodation in Streeterville is similar to The Loop but there are more luxury hotels which make this one of the best areas to stay in Chicago for a luxurious vacation.

It’s also a good shout for families with children due to the family-friendly attractions and green spaces being within walking distance although you may have to hunt around for a deal.

Pros and cons of staying in Streeterville


  • Solid selection of stylish hotels, some of which offer pools and spas. 
  • Excellent setting for getting around the main tourist attractions, amenities, and Instagram spots making this one of the best locations to stay in Chicago for bloggers and first-time visitors.


  • Hotels are fewer and far between so you will need to book ahead to score a deal or hunt for a last-minute bargain to save some cash. 
  • The close proximity to The Loop and Route 41 which passes the east means that traffic congestion and noise is more noticeable in Streeterville. 

Best places to stay in Streeterville

3. West Loop – Best area to stay in Chicago for food

Situated to the west of The Loop on the site of a former industrial and meatpacking district, the West Loop area is now a hotspot for artistic cafes, high-end restaurants, and classy bars, making this one of the best parts of Chicago to stay for foodies.

Look no further than Randolph Street (aka Restaurant Row) to start your foodie discovery, which is lined with a variety of cuisine from all over the world.

Head to the southwest block to sample the delights of Greektown where you can find authentic Greek tavernas and bakeries or make a dinner reservation in Little Italy if you’ve got a craving for wholesome pasta. 

What with the boom in the food scene, West Loop has developed into a trendy spot beloved by local residents and tourists.

It is the setting of Chicago’s Soho House and it’s even attracted the attention of major brands that now have headquarters in the area, such as Google and McDonald’s.

Pros and cons of staying in West Loop


  • Excellent variety of restaurants, bars, pubs, and food markets. 
  • Convenient public transport including easy access to Chicago Union Station in case you are planning day trips by train.


  • Prices are significantly higher across the board, for accommodation, dining, and nightlife. 
  • Subway coverage is limited in the center of the West Loop district. 

Best places to stay in West Loop

4. River North – Best area to stay in Chicago for nightlife

River North Chicago

River North is located to the immediate west of Streeterville and north of The Loop, just off the Magnificent Mile (Michigan Avenue).

The area is known for its vibrant nightlife with options to satisfy happy hour goers and those seeking a full night out as well as its impressive supply of art galleries, clustered in the northwest corner of the neighborhood.

You’ll also find a decent choice of restaurants and places to shop if you’re planning on engaging with some retail therapy while in the city. 

If you’re looking for some recommendations to kickstart your stay in the best part of Chicago to stay in for nightlife, check out Celeste for a swanky meal, Howl at the Moon for late nights and live music, or Gilt Bar for sophisticated cocktails in an elegant setting with a literary theme.

Pros and cons of staying in River North


  • Excellent public transport connections. 
  • Wonderful nightlife opportunities and a huge array of art galleries. 


  • If your hotel is close to the bars and pubs and you fancy an early night, you might have to contend with loud noises from the streets of one of the best areas to stay in Chicago for nightlife. 
  • Limited green spaces. 

Best places to stay in River North

5. South Loop – Best area to stay in Chicago for budget-friendly

Shedd Aquarium Chicago

You have probably worked out for yourself that the South Loop sits just south of The Loop. This is a huge district that is further broken down into smaller neighborhoods, but the best section to choose as your base runs parallel to the Museum Campus.

Within this area, you’ll find the aquarium, planetarium, and Field Museum along with huge concert venues, beaches, and green spaces. If you were wondering where is the best area to stay in Chicago for family-friendly accommodation and attractions, this is it!

The other benefit of choosing the South Loop is that it’s one of the best areas to stay in Chicago on a budget. Hotels, restaurants, and amenities are all noticeably lower and you will find yourself less tempted to spend on nightlife as bars are limited in this area. 

Pros and cons of staying in South Loop


  • Convenient for exploring the family-friendly Museum Campus.
  • Accommodation is a fraction more affordable than the other districts around The Loop.


  • Limited dining and nightlife opportunities in the immediate area. 
  • Transiting to The Loop and Magnificent Mile neighborhoods from the South Loop is time consuming.

Best places to stay in South Loop

6. Gold Coast – Best area to stay in Chicago for couples 

North Avenue Beach Chicago

The Gold Coast neighborhood is located northeast of the Near North Side and runs alongside the banks of Lake Michigan.

If you want to be further afield from the hubbub of downtown and have nature destinations on your doorstep, then the Gold Coast might be the best part of Chicago to stay for you.

Choosing a hotel here puts you within walking distance of the sprawling Lincoln Park, North Avenue Beach, and Oak Street Beach, which are all a must-visit on every Chicago itinerary.

Burgeoning over recent years as one of the more upscale parts of the city, you will also find a generous supply of high-end restaurants and nightlife destinations.

If you’re wondering where to stay in Chicago for a romantic getaway, honeymoon, or luxury stay, then the Gold Coast offers an enticing mix of plush hotels and boutique apartment rentals.

As it is set a little further out, it’s also one of the quieter regions of the city and you can pop down to the beaches for dreamy sunset views across the lake.

Pros and cons of staying in Gold Coast


  • Quick access to North Avenue Beach which is a hub for watersports, running, and other outdoor activities. 
  • Wonderful boutiques alongside elegant dining and nightlife options within a community environment. 


  • Hotels and restaurants are more expensive and prices soar during summer to catch the beachgoers. 
  • Additional travel is required if you want to explore The Loop.

Best places to stay in Gold Coast

7. Wicker Park – Best area to stay in Chicago for local atmosphere

Wicker Park, Chicago

Situated around 4.5 miles (7.2 km) northwest of The Loop, Wicker Park is somewhat further out and thus has more of a local vibe which makes Wicker Park one of the best parts of Chicago to stay in if you want to get a taste of living in the city as a resident. 

Though largely residential, the streets of Wicker Park pull together the very best of city-dwelling: you’ve got trendy boutiques and stores, laid-back cafes, great restaurants, and tonnes of grocery shops if you want to book a place with a kitchen.

North Milwaukee Avenue slices through the heart of the neighborhood and provides the lifeforce of the area.

If this is not your first time visiting the city then Wicker Park might be the best neighborhood to stay in Chicago to kick back and soak up local life rather than hitting up the downtown tourist spots. 

Pros and cons of staying in Wicker Park


  • A magnet for young professionals working in the city, Wicker Park has a youthful, energetic vibe.
  • It’s the perfect option if you want to kick back and enjoy friendly eateries and mingling with locals.


  • You will need to factor in additional travel time and expenditure to visit the downtown attractions.
  • If you’re coming to the city to sightsee then you might feel underwhelmed as Wicker Park is a different atmosphere from downtown Chicago.

Best places to stay in Wicker Park

Planning a trip to Chicago?

Then you might want to take a look at all our other travel guides about Chicago. I promise, they are just as awesome as this article was!

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