Drumbar on the Raffaello rooftop

Best lobby art: Gerhard Richter’s Piazza del Duomo Milan in the Park Hyatt

Most stylish lounge: Drumbar on the Raffaello rooftop

Most decadent bath products: Public’s Mediterranean-inspired house brand

Most memorable souvenir: The mix tapes ($15) at the Inn at Longman & Eagle

Best tour: The Palmer House Hilton’s guided events led by resident historian Ken Price

Most unique wake-up call: The Wit’s ambient rooster sounds

Favorite hotel bar cocktail: The War of the Roses ($13) at Sable in the Hotel Palomar

Most accommodating staffer: Jon Winke, chief concierge at the Ritz-Carlton

* * *

Chicago is gaining momentum as a test market for new hotels. Insiders credit a tourism surge—2011 saw an 11 percent increase in visitors over the previous year—and lower costs to develop existing real estate than in other major cities. The hoteliers have followed: Ian Schrager debuted his brand Public in the Gold Coast in October 2011, and there are a slew of properties on the horizon, including the 2013 world premiere of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Hotel in the Old Dearborn Bank space in the Loop. Predictably, room rates are also on the rise. The average Chicago stay now costs $179 a night, up 5 percent from 2011, according to the tourism agency Choose Chicago.


RELATED: Best Hotels for the 2012 Holidays »