For the last 3-4 months, I’ve been bouncing around Chicago’s hostel scene as I’ve been trying to figure out what I’m doing with my life. As I’m sure I’ve stated before, I LOVE hosteling, and I’m excited to share my honest review of my favorite Chicago hostel properties with you to help you get the most out of your visit.
Just general note on Chicago hostel prices before we get started – the best but also most expensive time to visit Chicago is in the summer, where a bunk bed in a hostel room can run between $60-160 dollars per night. In the winter, spring, and fall, beds are typically in the $18-40 range. Weekdays are cheaper than weekends for obvious reasons, and if you’re planning to come into town for a festival weekend, try to book as far in advance as possible to keep your costs down.
This property was by far my favorite. It is located right in the heart of Wrigleyville, home to the Chicago Cubs and some of Chicago’s liveliest nightlife. It’s also one of the most reasonably priced, granted you aren’t trying to stay there during a festival weekend.
There is free breakfast, and to be honest it was pretty bomb (they had pancakes, so I’m sold). There’s a sweet common area in the basement with a bar, ping pong table, foosball table, and tv. There’s also a patio, which was really nice even though it was a little bit cold. (It is Chicago after all, so if you’re visiting outside of June-September, be prepared to get a nice beer jacket going before you spend any time outside).
The wall separating the kitchen and the first floor guest room is paper thin, so it did deter me from taking a much-needed nap in the middle of the day and kept me up for most of the night (front desk guy yelling at drunk idiots stumbling in, people up at 6am eating breakfast). The higher floors might be ok – it might be worth asking to be on a higher floor if it’s available.
All the common areas close after midnight, so there’s nowhere to hang out once all the bars close. I understand why, since the walls are so thin, but it would have been nice to stand in the kitchen, have a glass of water, and chat softly with Hostel Bae without the staff guy lurking. Maybe at least keep the basement common space open. I’m sure you’ve got cameras down there already so you can still deter people from doing whatever.
The other thing about this place that threw me off a little bit is that the lockers weren’t inside my room. If you don’t care as long as your stuff is locked up somewhere, this is more than sufficient, but I travel with a laptop and a lot of tech equipment so this was a bit stressful (although ultimately fine).
Urban Holiday Lofts
I liked this property, a lot. It’s located in Wicker Park, steps away from dozens of restaurants and bars, and the coolest Walgreens I’ve ever seen. It was also reasonably priced, and seemed to have some cool activities scheduled. I didn’t participate in any of them because I was in school twelve hours a day and spending all my free time with my gorgeous ChiTown Boo, but I definitely wish I could have.
Coolest Walgreens ever, at the corner of Damen and Milwaukee
The upstairs common area is huge, clean, and beautiful (lots of light). They also have free breakfast, although again I didn’t partake, this time because I swiped a bag of bagels from my parents’ house that week so I wouldn’t have to wake up earlier to go to breakfast, so I can’t speak to how good it actually was.
WHY DO THE COMMON AREAS CLOSE AT MIDNIGHT AND NOT REOPEN UNTIL 8:00? Is this a Chicago thing? A girl’s gotta work. I get why you don’t want people hanging out there at night – people are loud, drunk, etc. But also, I work / sleep weird hours as a digital nomad (gotta keep up with those time zone demands) and also have weird sleep habits to begin with (partially because ChiTown Boo doesn’t have CURTAINS in his BEDROOM so I keep waking up at 6:00am when it gets light). So like if you don’t want me to sit on the floor and use the outlet next to the front desk between 5-8am when I need to get work done, consider changing that rule. That being said, if you’re awake during normal hours, this place will be more than sufficient for what you need.
Freehand Hostel / Hotel
Disclaimer: I stayed at this property for far too long, so that may have shaped my opinion of it a bit. This is is a wonderful hostel property, don’t get me wrong. It’s marketed as as this beautiful hipster paradise, and in some aspects, it really is. However, their business model / target customer base doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.
This property is half hostel, half hotel, and the only place to hang out is in the kitchen, which is located in the basement and really isn’t that nice. The Freehand is home to the Broken Shaker bar, a nationally recognized cocktail bar. The drinks are really good, but they’ll run you $15 a pop (or $5 for a beer) and you can’t hang out in the cafe / bar area in the evenings without the staff pressuring you to buy something. The bar, because it’s super overpriced, doesn’t attract the backpacker crowd, so it’s a lot of bougie Chicago locals and mustachioed hipsters hanging out there at any given time. The coffee at Cafe Integral (also located on the property) is really good, and it makes for a nice spot to work during the day, for my fellow digital nomads.
The rooms are nice, although they are a bit small once you get 4 people and all of their stuff into one room. The beds are comfortable and built out beautifully, with curtains for privacy so it feels like you have a personal sleeping pod, which was especially nice after being in hostels for a long time. The only potentially negative thing about the rooms is that some of the bathroom doors don’t lock, which seems necessary for ensuite rooms shared with strangers. As far as common spaces and a good atmosphere for meeting other travelers goes, I’d honestly give this place a 2/10.
This property, while located right in River North, can be grossly overpriced for what it is. But if you can get a bunk around the $30/night mark rather than the $160/night mark (for a bunk bed in a shared dorm, ffs), and you aren’t traveling alone, the Freehand Chicago is a lovely place to stay.
(Their other properties are much better – I’d fully recommend the Freehand Miami and Freehand Los Angeles)
HI Chicago, The J.Ira & Nikki Harris Family Hostel
I really liked this property, even though I only stayed there for one night. It’s about what you can expect from a Hosteling International property – it’s huge, clean, has a solid free breakfast, and organizes a lot of good ways for you to get out and see the city. It also has a large lobby and common area, so you have space to meet other travelers if you’re flying solo.
The building itself feels like it at one point used to be a college dorm, so if you’re looking for that quintessential American dorm experience, this might be your spot. It’s also located right near Columbia College Chicago and Robert Morris University, so the area definitely has that college feel as well.
It’s located just south of the Loop, so it’s close to all of the city’s main attractions and just steps away from public transportation so you can easily access the rest of what the city has to offer that’s beyond walking distance.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of properties available in Chicago, but these are the best of the reasonably priced, decently located hostel properties the city has to offer. There are a couple others but they don’t allow residents with a ‘60’ zipcode, whereas the others restrict it to ‘606’ (Chicago), so I wasn’t able to check them out myself. That being said, this property looks totally awesome and is reasonably priced, and I’d love to stay there someday if I ever switch my US residency to somewhere other than Illinois.
Ready to book your trip to Chicago? Click here to book your stay with Hostelworld, your one-stop hostel reservation management site.
Are there any places that I missed, or any future posts you want to see about what to see and do in Chicago? Let me know below in the comments!
Hanna (Bubu Backpacks)
If you’re planning a trip to Chicago, be sure to also check out my guide on how to visit the city on a budget to get the best bang for your buck out of your visit.
In addition, for all my ladies planning their first solo trip, check out this guide on what to look for when choosing your accommodation as a solo female traveler.
Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links, so I may earn a commission from any bookings you make at these properties. However, you’ve just finished reading my honest assessment of each of them, and I wouldn’t recommend them at all if I thought it was somewhere you’d have a bad experience for any reason.
Did you find this guide useful? Why not pin it for later?