Hostels typically call to mind frugal Eurotrips, and with good reason: communal space, limited privacy, and anonymous bunkmates aren’t typical hallmarks of the jet set. But with enterprising hoteliers debuting elevated-but-economical competitors to already-established players, Chicago’s growing hostel scene is suddenly attracting some of the trendiest travelers in town.
The Hollander’s multipurpose lobby space, H! Bar, beckons with cocktails, a coffee bar, and WiFi, all in a stylish raw space.
With The Hollander, Grupo Habita (the design maverick behind buzzy spots like Hotel Americano in New York) lends its auteur touch to Wicker Park’s Six Corners, converting the intersection’s iconic Hollander Fireproof Warehouse into a stylish hotel/hostel option, featuring eight shared rooms laced with lithe bunks and spare-but-sharp private bathrooms, all with a less-is-more philosophy that included preserving as much of the building’s original design as possible. “All the original brick and the original walls are there,” notes Jared Johnson, the property’s director of sales and marketing. “And it’s just raw—by default, it comes across as very elegant.” To wit: the building’s lofty, street-level coffee shop, H! Bar, begs to be Instagrammed—whether you’re from out of town or just a curious local. 2022 W. North Ave., 872-315-3080; thehollander.com
The Rosewall at athletically inspired hostel Fieldhouse Jones, which features custom varsity lockers in every room.
On the heels of hostel-chic destinations Holiday Jones in Wicker Park and Urban Holiday Lofts in Bucktown, developer Robert Baum—with equal partner Michael Downing—has expanded his portfolio with Fieldhouse Jones, an ambitious overhaul of the long-shuttered Borden Dairy Depot that honors the city’s tradition of field house as community hub. “Our goal was to take that sort of feel of the essence of Chicago and bring it into modern times,” says Baum, who tapped local firm Bugaj Architects to furbish the 53-room structure with luxe accoutrements like Restoration Hardware bathroom fixtures and a communaluse, stainless steel demo kitchen. True to its athletically inspired namesake, flourishes like vintage dart boards pepper the common areas, and the lobby wows with a meandering chain of 400-plus tennis rackets, an installation by local Chicago artist Christophe Gausparro. 312 W. Chestnut St., 312-291-9922; fieldhousejones.com
River North hot spot Freehand Chicago, which kicked off the city’s boutique hostel trend in a big way.
The granddaddy of hip Chicago hostels, Sydell Group's Roman & Williams-designed Freehand opened in River North in 2015, paving the path for the city’s affordably stylish hospitality trend—and since more than half of the inventory is traditional hotel-style rooms, shared-room guests enjoy amenities that aren’t standard at conventional hostels (think: 24-hour desk service and on-site housekeeping). Plus, at lobby-level mixology destination Broken Shaker, hostel visitors can mix with Chicagoans and the surrounding neighborhood at large. Observes GM Emilia Merchen, “Guests at the hotel get that local experience without having to travel far.” 19 E. Ohio St., 312-940-3699; freehandhotels.com/chicago