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We thought our hostel-crashing days were long over, until we laid eyes on Chicago’s newest accommodation, the 217-room Freehand Chicago, opened earlier this month in River North’s former Tokyo Hotel building at 18 East Ohio Street. Billing itself as a hotel and hostel, the Freehand isn’t just a place to lay your head on the cheap; it’s also a place to find a great scene and a handful of hotel-like perks.

The Freehand is also uniquely Chicago. In sync with the city’s latest game-changing hotels (hello CAA and Virgin Hotels Chicago), Freehand probably isn’t like anything you’ve ever seen before.

Here’s why it should be next on your Chicago hotel bucket list.

You Have Interesting Options

Freehand Chicago offers a mix of private and shared rooms, with 80 shared quad rooms, each with four cushy bunk beds and privacy curtains; 135 private rooms with king or queen beds, and two penthouses with two bedrooms each and a living area. The majority of rooms are private, so it’s easy to play it safe with your own room and bathroom. Quad rooms can be great for groups looking to crash after a game or bachelorette party. Those looking for a real hostel experience can get that, too, in those shared quads with secure locker space and a bathroom with an occupancy light.

The Scene is Both Laid-back and High Style

A mash-up of simple, chic, and art-school cool, Freehand Chicago follows the communal, high style of the brand’s first hostel-hotel combo, the Freehand Miami, which is housed in a South Beach art deco building with a tropical pool and bar. Both were designed by Manhattan-based Roman and Williams, the same fashionable duo behind the Chicago Athletic Association. That design spills out of the Freehand’s 217 rooms and into unexpected public spaces across the first floor, such as Café Integral coffee and breakfast bar, the Moroccan-style lounge, and the cozy Broken Shaker Bar, the latest outpost for the James-Beard nominated Miami bar.

Broken Shaker Bar is Great

Jeans and tee-shirt will do at this unpretentious, dimly lit bar, which you find way at the back of the hotel, almost as if by chance. It’s all kitsch—tropical touches from the Miami outpost merge with the Midwest and more specifically with Chicago. We love the pine-cone-and-octopus wallpaper, the cocktail menu of Miami and Chicago inspired drinks like the banana rum Manhattan and Chicago Politics (spiced coconut crème, citrus, and Szechuan peppercorn), and small plates of pulpa (seared octopus with charred ramps, salsa verde, and hickory) and pan-roasted quail.

The Price is Right

Stays here are a steal. Whether you spend $159 a night for a private room or $35 a night for a shared room (one twin bunk in a quad dorm room), you also get complimentary Wifi, daily housekeeping, daily continental breakfast, and a River North location. Guests can also sign up for a short list of activities that include a free running club and Instagram workshops taught by Lost Girls Vintage ($50).

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