Peninsula Chicago: The 2009 World's Best Hotels
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Peninsula Chicago: The 2009 World's Best Hotels

The Peninsula Chicago lacks a rich history, having opened only in 2001.

The Peninsula Chicago lacks a rich history, having opened only in 2001. But with its combination of modern luxury, attentive and friendly service and prime location in the heart of the Magnificent Mile — just a few steps from Tiffany & Co. and across the street from Saks Fifth Avenue — this hotel has quickly won a reputation as an ideal gateway to the Windy City.

The staff welcomes demanding rock stars and tired road warriors with equal aplomb. The Peninsula builds employee loyalty with perks that include appearances in an advertising campaign photographed by Annie Leibovitz and visits to other Peninsula locations worldwide, where they can share best practices with their peers. These investments pay off for guests. “Many of our staff know our guests by name and anticipate their needs prior to their arrival,” says general manager Maria Razumich-Zec.


339 rooms, Rates: $575 to $8,000

The hotel lobby, decorated in gold and green tones with metal motifs that reflect Chicago’s agricultural and industrial heritage, sits five floors above street level and bathes in natural light. The Pen, an airy, two-­story restaurant just off the lobby, has 20-foot-tall windows overlooking the hotel terrace and North Michigan Avenue. It’s a great place to grab a newspaper off the stack, order breakfast and shake off any lingering jet lag before the work day. The restaurant’s chocolate buffet, which offers decadent desserts accompanied by a hot jazz combo, is a local favorite on Friday and Saturday evenings.

One of the charms of the Peninsula is how it harnesses the best of Chicago weather — sunshine and gorgeous summers — while coddling guests against the worst of the elements. After braving a bitterly cold January day of meetings, guests can relax in the Bar, off the lobby, a clubby haunt with overstuffed leather furniture and a fireplace. When the winds off Lake Michigan blow warm, beverage ser­vice moves out to the terrace, where hotel guests and the city’s young socialites bring on the party. Given the legendary variability of the climate, ­it’s not unusual for guests to have the wrong gear. “We can arrange a quick and private jaunt to Ralph Lauren or Brooks Brothers for business attire or cruise wear — no shipwrecks required!” says Todd Nelson, the hotel’s chief concierge.

The location is perfect. The Peninsula is walking distance to businesses located near North Michigan Avenue, including Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the American Bar Association, and a quick taxi ride to the Loop, the city’s business and financial center. Turn right out the hotel’s front door to head to Giordano’s, one of Chicago’s famous stuffed-­pizza joints; turn left and walk a block to Tru, the foodie favorite run by chef Rick Tramonto.

The Peninsula’s signature restaurant is Avenues, a favorite of local reviewers and an elegant place to woo a client or celebrate a new contract. Seating is available at a bar overlooking the kitchen, making Avenues comfortable for solo diners too. At the street level, Pierrot Gourmet offers sandwiches, salads and pastries to eat in or carry out, a popular option for hotel guests racing to catch a flight at O’Hare International Airport. The Shanghai Terrace harkens to the Peninsula’s Hong Kong headquarters, serving Cantonese food and dim sum indoors and out, depending on the weather.

The hotel’s guest rooms feature no-fuss luxe, the better to clear your head after a busy day. Furnishings include Pratesi linens, iPod docking stations and plasma televisions in the bathroom. A bedside control panel allows guests to adjust the room’s lighting and temperature without getting up. Guests who need a higher level of service, or pampering, may stay in one of the hotel’s suites. Among other features, the $8,000-a-night Peninsula Suite has a private outside terrace with a Jacuzzi hot tub.

If guests have time to squeeze in a workout, the Peninsula Chicago’s gym is bright and filled with equipment. Adjacent studio space accommodates a full slate of workout classes. The blue-tile lap pool is gorgeous, and thanks to floor-to-­ceiling windows that offer a view over Lake Michigan, guests feel almost as if they are out on the great lake. They can even stretch out on deck chairs and order in poolside lunch from the room service menu.


Even as they enjoy a recovery, luxury hotels keep raising the bar with renovations, technology and a strong accent on service.
Affluent business travelers are driving market growth in the hospitality industry, and hotels are responding in kind.
Boutique hotels excel at the type of attentive and distinctive service that guests are demanding.
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