Is this Paris in the 1920s – or Chicago's most sophisticated Gold Coast hotel?
From the Waldorf Astoria Chicago's mansard roof and cobblestone courtyard to its Deco-ish furnishings, acres of grey-veined marble, and draperies inspired by Christian Dior's LBD, the overall impression is one of Continental chic.
Fortunately, what keeps the serene and stylish Waldorf Astoria Chicago from being cold or pretentious is the warm and congenial staff.
We were greeted at the entrance by dapper Ernest, who collected our luggage, escorted us inside to the front desk, registered us, provided maps and answers to our transportation questions, led us to our room, acquainted us with its features – and then refused a tip at this no-gratuity hotel.
Guest Rooms Our 750-square foot, deluxe king room resembled an elegant business aerie until we looked closer. Alerted in advance that we were romantic travelers, the hotel decorated our king-sized with a heart-shaped welcome composed of fresh white rose petals. Matching spa robes and embroidered slippers (in both men's and women's sizes) greeted us as well.
Moments later, room service arrived with chocolate-enrobed strawberries and champagne from another professional staffer who politely refused a tip.
There were many things to love in the room – the bed wrapped in snowy white linens topped with soft king-size pillows, the gas fireplace in the living room area, the Juliet balcony, the back-to-back TVs on the wall separating the bed from the living room.
We even appreciated the practical work desk and complimentary wi-fi.
The marble and mosaic bathroom with its deep soaking tub and separate shower for two enhanced with Tuscan Soul amenities may be the unit's most seductive features. An assortment of spa soaks and scrubs were arrayed beside the tub. And the TV inside the bathroom mirror, night light, and lighted magnifying makeup mirror made us tell the management they might have to call the authorities to evict us.
Dining There's one restaurant inside the hotel, where guests can enjoy anything from a well-crafted breakfast (we especially liked the spinach-mushroom-gruyere omelet, cooked to perfection) to a gourmet dinner.
Don't feel like getting dressed? Treat yourselves to breakfast in bed leaving instructions before you go to bed or calling in the morning. And remember: No tipping.
Yet you owe it to yourselves to visit the restaurant. It's a lovely room, with windows overlooking the city and tables covered in white linen cloth spaced discreetly apart. (We actually spied a waiter ironing one of the tablecloths on a slow night.)
Dinners are sophisticated takes on each season's bounty. For example, we started with day boat scallops and fresh peas that conveyed the taste of spring in every bite. Ravioli filled with king crab and topped with floral leaves was a delicious entrée that also honored the season.
Weddings The Waldorf Astoria Chicago will only host one wedding a day on its fifth floor, where four event spaces — all with natural light from long vertical windows — are located. They range in size from the ballroom, which can accommodate up to 150 guests plus a dance floor, to an intimate room where eight or so adults will feel comfortable.
Couples interested in planning a wedding here should ask for the Catering department. The banquet chef will help in planning a custom menu and the pastry team can concoct a dreamy confection. The hotel will also recommend preferred vendors for flowers, photography, and other elements that make a wedding memorable.
Activities The hotel's white-walled spa contains a couples suite with two massage beds, where you can have customized massages lasting 60 or 90 minutes. If you like hot-stone massages, the spa offers a gentler, lava shell one: The shells are heated from the inside and lighter than stones. Opt for the Romance package, and you can add a pedicure for both of you in the intimate nail salon. Guests who book an hour treatment or longer are entitled to complimentary use of the indoor heated pool, steam, sauna and fitness classes in the spa.
Nearby The hotel is located in the city's most upscale Gold Coast shopping area. Boutique neighbors steps from the hotel include Marc Jacobs, St. Laurent, Brioni, and Versace as well as a large Barneys outpost. And if you're in the market for a wedding dress, BHLDN across the street sells gowns and bridal accessories. The hotel also has a house car, a Mercedes S-550, available on a first-come basis to whisk guests to restaurants, shows, Michigan Avenue shopping, and museums within a two-mile radius. And it's a short walk to the Red Line subway stop at State and Chicago Streets.
Pros/Cons Enjoy the view from your Juliet balcony while you can; a new skyscraper is rising next to the hotel. Hilton Hotel points can be applied to a stay. Do I need to tell you that it's expensive but worth it for a couple who want to celebrate a special occasion?
Although you will feel completely safe and cosseted inside the hotel, know that Chicago is going through a high-crime period and gun violence is a reality. Most shootings take place in other parts of the city, but it's smart to stay aware of your surroundings and avoid potentially dangerous situations.
Vibe This is a tranquil, refined environment more conducive to couples and business people than for family travelers. During our two day stay, we saw no children but we did admire several well-groomed and well-behaved dogs.
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Waldorf Astoria Chicago
11 E Walton St
Chicago, IL 60611