Flemish House on the Gold Coast
Staying at the city’s large downtown hotels may leave the curious traveler impressed but still curious. Given that Chicago blankets 225 square miles, we sought out accommodations around the city for visitors seeking a different slice of Chicago—one more closely resembling everyday life here. We came up with five good places to stay—two small-scale hotels and three charming bed-and-breakfasts—all located in residential neighborhoods within striking distance of downtown and close to public transportation.
FLEMISH HOUSE OF CHICAGO
68 E. Cedar St.; 312-664-9981, innchicago.com
Seven studio and one-bedroom apartments. Rates from $200 to $250 in high season. No street parking; nearby garage is $25 per day, no in-and-out privileges.
Located on a quiet street in the city’s wealthiest neighborhood, Flemish House is a gorgeously restored 1890s graystone just a few minutes’ walk from Oak Street Beach, Rush Street restaurants and bars, and Michigan Avenue. A relative bargain considering the proximity to downtown, the apartments are roomy and beautifully furnished, with new kitchenettes that include a gas range. The emphasis here is on the charm of a B & B without the social aspects that some people find intrusive: Mingling in the common areas—including a pleasant backyard patio—is strictly optional. In the evenings, the owners stock each room’s refrigerator with baked goods, cereal, yogurt, juice, and milk for a self-service continental breakfast the next morning.
ALLERGY ALERT Be aware that a housecat roams the hallways and may have been welcomed into apartments by previous guests.
Photography: (Image 1) Mike Schwartz; (Image 2) Courtesy of Flemish House
CITY SUITES HOTEL
933 W. Belmont Ave.; 800-248-9108, cityinns.com
Forty-five rooms, from standard queen to executive suite. Weekday rates from $249 to $319; weekend rates from $309 to $409. Nearby garage parking, $22 per day with in-and-out privileges.
Just a couple of doors from a stop on the main north-south el train line, City Suites provides a good home base for Cubs fans or travelers with a taste for real urban living. The hotel faces Belmont Avenue, one of the busier streets in Boystown, which has gentrified into a funky retail area that’s still gritty but no longer seedy. Wrigley Field and its attendant slew of sports bars are one train stop—or a five-block walk—away, while downtown is a 20-minute ride in the other direction. The rooms at City Suites are small and basic; suites have separate sleeping areas, though not actual doors.
UPSIDE, DOWNSIDE To minimize noise from the elevated train station, request a room on the east side of the hotel. On the plus side, your walk to 24-hour public transportation is less than half a block. And taxis and buses are so plentiful you may not need a car.
2300 N. Lincoln Park West; 773-281-2900, beldenstratfordhotel.com
Approximately 55 studios and one-bedroom suites, plus 245 apartments. Rates from $99 to $309. Extremely limited street parking. Valet parking, $35 a day with in-and-out privileges.
Staying at the grand old Belden-Stratford in Lincoln Park—the neighborhood that shares its name with the 1,200-acre park running along the city’s north lakefront—is a good choice for families because the hotel offers big rooms with full kitchens (most of the building is used for residential apartments). The suites are basically one-bedroom apartments with large living rooms (some also have separate dining areas), but even the one-room studios are spacious and include a complete kitchenette. The hotel, completed in 1924 and on the National Register of Historic Places, borders one of the loveliest areas of the park, just across from the conservatory and the Lincoln Park Zoo, which is free and open year-round. During the warm months, neighborhood diversions such as the tony Armitage Avenue retail strip, the Chicago History Museum, restaurants of every type, and Old Town are within enjoyable walking distance. Buses downtown are less than a block away.
INSIDE TIP Request an east- or south- facing room on an upper floor for a breathtaking view of the lake, the park, and, in the distance, Navy Pier.
HARVEY HOUSE BED & BREAKFAST
107 S. Scoville Ave.; 708-848-6810, harveyhousebb.com
Five rooms with en suite bathrooms; two have a microwave, fridge, and dishwasher. Rates from $210 to $325. Garage and unsheltered parking on premises.
Harvey House, situated on a tranquil treelined street in Oak Park, is the kind of place that makes B & B aficionados gush. The ample rooms in the renovated 6,200-square-foot Victorian have been lavishly but tastefully outfitted with antique furnishings and, in some cases, a Jacuzzi tub. The common area features a heated slate floor, a grand piano, a fireplace, and a fridge stocked with bottled water and wine. And Harvey House’s location in Oak Park makes it an ideal landing spot for architecture buffs interested in touring the suburb’s trove of Frank Lloyd Wright originals. The owner, Beth Harvey, serves sit-down gourmet breakfasts and always has a plateful of homemade goodies out for snacking. She’s also been known to lend her own jacket to a guest who didn’t pack right for the weather. Hop on the Green Line el train, just three blocks away, for a 20-minute ride to the Loop.
LOVELY PERK If you have friends or family in the area, you can invite them to come over for breakfast—at no extra cost.
Photography: Alan Klehr
THE WICKER PARK INN
1329 N. Wicker Park Ave.; 773-486-2743, wickerparkinn.com
Five rooms, all but one with en suite bathrooms; two apartments. Rooms from $129; apartments from $169. Ample street parking.
The Wicker Park Inn sits on a quiet street a few blocks from the action in this trendy neighborhood known for boutique shopping and hipster bars. The Blue Line el train runs directly behind the inn, with a stop three blocks away; you can get downtown in about 20 minutes. Unlike operators of many bed-and-breakfasts, the owners welcome families with young children and offer a portable crib. Rooms are a decent size and nicely furnished, but one does face the 24-hour train track (the owners say they’ve only rarely received complaints about vibration). The two apartments, across the street, feature full kitchens and could be an ideal option for a group of friends who want to bunk together and cook their own meals. Breakfast is self-serve continental. Keep in mind that if you book the Provence room, its bathroom is right next to the breakfast area.
NICE EXTRA A small side yard with a sitting area and lights makes a pleasant spot to unwind in the evening.
Photography: (Image 1) Mike Schwartz; (Image 2) Dan Martin