Looking for a cool, affordable, and stylish place to stay in Chicago’s River North Neighborhood? Read on to get my full review of the Freehand Hotel Chicago!
After visiting Chicago last September, I knew this was a city I’d be visiting again and again. Not just for my own enjoyment, but to thoroughly explore it so I can share it with you guys! In order to create the most helpful posts and travel guides to Chicago, I’m working my way around the city to make sure I explore different neighborhoods.
On my last visit, I stayed in the Loop (downtown Chicago), one of the main tourist areas of the city. On my most recent visit (a quick two-nights before flying to Portugal), I wanted to focus in on the River North neighborhood since it’s another popular area for visitors. Luckily Chicago has plenty of hostels around to choose from, and after a bit of research, I decided to book my stay at the Freehand Chicago.
This place is sort of a mix between a hostel and a boutique hotel. There are lots of private rooms, but also shared room options for travelers on a budget. It has all the style and amenities of a trendy hotel, with plenty of communal spaces and events that hostelers are used to. Really it’s the best of both worlds!
This location is part of a larger group of Freehand Hotels around the USA, with other properties in Miami, NYC, and Los Angeles.
I chose a female-only shared room, also known as their “quad rooms”. I stayed for two nights, and paid for everything myself (aka NOT sponsored or affiliated with Freehand Hotels in any way).
My stay was fantastic, and I’m really impressed with what they have going on here at Freehand Hotel Chicago. Lately, I find myself moving toward accommodations that are exactly this kind of mix between traditional hostels and something a little more…upscale, for lack of a better word. Bougie on a budget, perhaps?
Don’t get me wrong, I still love a good and cheap hostel, but I appreciate the added details, extended amenities, and overall design of places like this.
Freehand Hotel Chicago Review
- Location: 19 East Ohio Street (River North Neighborhood) Ι MAP
- Check-in Time: Noon
- Check-out Time: Noon
- In-house café and bar
- Wi-Fi: Complimentary Wi-fi for all guests, throughout the entire hotel, café, and bar. Connection seemed to be really good in all parts of the hotel.
- Breakfast: A complimentary breakfast spread is provided for all guests in the guest kitchen each morning from 7:30-10:30 am. It’s a typical hostel/hotel breakfast of bread, spreads, cereal, juice, etc.
- Note: a $50 safety deposit will be put on your card when you check in, and will be refunded after you check out.
- Where to Book: Hostel World Ι Booking.com
Shared Rooms (Quad Room)
The “hostel” style rooms at the Freehand Hotel Chicago are the quad rooms. There are four beds (two bunks), but they’re not your typical bunk beds. They’re beautifully-crafted, and happen to be some of the most comfortable bunks I’ve ever slept in. The mattresses are good quality, each bunk has a privacy curtain and a nook (so you can keep necessities by your bed), and a super soft duvet is provided for you.
The shared rooms have ensuite bathrooms (to share only with your roommates), with spacious tiled showers. There is also a small lounge area with a built-in couch and small desk/table. Medium-sized lockers are also in the room, but you will need to bring your own padlocks (unless you want to pay $5 to rent one).
There were plenty of outlets to share between four people, plus a power outlet in each bunk so you can charge your phone in bed!
You will be provided with bed linens (plenty of blankets available) and a towel free of charge. Bathrooms have hand soap and a hair dryer, plus a bath mat. Beds are assigned at check-in, so make sure you stick to the right bed.
Female-only and co-ed rooms are available.
Other Room Types
Besides the shared rooms, the Freehand Chicago also offers private room options. There is a queen room, a king room, and a penthouse.
The King rooms have a king-size bed, ensuite bathroom, a desk, and a seating area with a TV. The Queen room is the same, but with a queen-size bed and slightly smaller. Both rooms provide toiletries.
The Penthouse features two bedrooms; one with a king/queen size bed, and the other with four twin size beds. So they sleep up to 6 people. There is also a large living area, and of course ensuite bathrooms.
The lounge area in the first floor lobby is the main area people use both for the café and the bar. So during the day, you’re likely to see people hanging around on the couches with their laptops working away; in the evenings, people will bring their drinks to socialize. It’s a dark, intimate kind of lounge with lots of built-in seating areas, cozy couches, and tables. There are outlets dispersed throughout the room so you can easily charge your laptop while you work.
The Freehand Hotel has a handful of communal spaces for guests to use. This includes the lounge, café, and bar, of course, but also the necessities for a good stay.
- Guest Kitchen
- Laundry Room
- Fitness Center
Café Integral (In-House Café) at Freehand Chicago
Café Integral is a worthy coffee shop stop whether you’re staying at the Freehand Chicago or not. Delicious espresso drinks are served, along with pastries and light bites. Grab a coffee and hang out in the lounge, or take one to go.
Events & Activities
It seems there is always some sort of event or activity going on at the Freehand Hotel Chicago. This is one of the things that really gives it an upscale hostel vibe. Guests are encouraged to meet, mingle, and have fun. No need to hide out in your room when there are weekly events going on, from happy hour to meditation to tarot readings and live music.
There are event calendars posted throughout the lobby and elevators, plus you can easily check on their website or ask in the lobby.
Nearby: River North Neighborhood
The River North neighborhood is a popular tourist area, so there are tons of restaurants, shops, bars, coffee shops, attractions, nightlife, and more nearby. It’s definitely a great location base to explore the rest of Chicago.
Chicago’s Freehand Hotel is just a few blocks from the Chicago River, the Magnificent Mile, and not too far from the Navy Pier (definitely walkable when the weather is nice).
Here are a few places I recommend checking out nearby:
- West Town Bakery (literally right next door) for coffee and pastries.
- Walk a couple blocks to the Magnificent Mile if you want to do some shopping.
- The Museum of Contemporary Art is a short walk if you like art.
- Just on the other side of the river is tons of stuff to see in the Loop.
- Head to Beatrix for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Overall Experience at Freehand Hotel Chicago
My overall experience with the Freehand Chicago is a positive one. It’s priced certainly higher than your average hostels around the world, but it’s on par with other hostels in the U.S. (and you get a lot for your money). It’s definitely a good overall value for the price, quality, amenities, facilities, and location.
If you’re just looking for a cheap no-frills hostel, this might not be the place for you. However, if you love hostels but are looking for some added “luxuries”, then I think you’ll love it. Again, there are also lots of private rooms, so you can get a relatively affordable room if you prefer hotels over hostels.
I definitely want to visit the other Freehand Hotel locations after this experience, and I might even stay at the one here in Chicago again!
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Disclaimer: My stay was paid for 100% at my own expense. This post is in no way sponsored by or affiliated with Freehand Hotels or any other company.
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