Hotel Review: The Ritz-Carlton Chicago Rivals The Best In Chicago (PHOTOS)

Ritz-Carlton Chicago Review

The view from your hotel is everything. Case in point: The Ritz-Carlton Chicago in Chicago, Illinois. The swanky hotel had a $100 million renovation in 2017, experiencing a major facelift that proved as breathtaking as the priceless views. We checked into the five-star hotel just weeks after its full transformation, and it still lives up to its expectations for a review.

The 434-room, 30-floor hotel in Chicago’s Gold Coast is visually impressive, and you often feel like you’re inside a gorgeous jewelbox. While the hotel is quite big for five-star hotel standards, and it dates back to 1975, marble floors sparkle and chandeliers hang, making every space feel intimate.

Ritz-Carlton Chicago Review
View from Ritz-Carlton Chicago.

Also, despite the hotel’s size, don’t expect it to feel crowded. Guests arrive on the 12th-floor, atrium lobby lounge (home to the restaurant and bar), and take a retro-cool elevator to their guestroom on the 15th to 30th floors. In addition to the lobby area, the hotel offers a full-service spa, Club Lounge on the 15th floor, large indoor pool and event spaces, but the amenities are strategically spaced out, so the hotel feels rather intimate.

The hotel is also very pet friendly. I brought my pup Ruby, and she was always greeted with tons of enthusiasm from staff and given plenty of treats on multiple occasions.

The Ritz-Carlton Chicago Review

The main “wow” factor: The views

Ritz Carlton Chicago Review
The money shot at Ritz Carlton Chicago.

The Chicago views are impressive, and they’re strategically commanding. In Chicago, many hotel lobby/check-in desks actually start on a high floor of a building (for The Ritz Carlton, it’s the 12th floor).

After asking locals, a lobby on a high floor is for “safety reasons” but more realistically, it’s to capitalize on these stellar views. When you have a hotel lobby on a high floor, you’re already guaranteed great views.

Ritz Carlton Chicago Review Pet Friendly
Lakeside View at Ritz-Carlton Chicago.

After checking out a few views from other hotels I checked into, I have to admit: The Ritz-Carlton Chicago really does have prime real estate. (This is based on the Lakeside Suite, which I stayed in with views of the skyline, the lake and the John Hancock Tower).

But views abound from many other places inside the hotel. For instance, the indoor pool on the 11th floor is directly underneath a skylight, and the John Hancock Tower looms above you. Architect genius at work here. You can swim and look up at history.

Five-star service and facilities.

The staff is great, and everyone was on point. We had to mention this in our Ritz-Carlton Chicago review because we could tell the hotel gave extensive training for its employees, and it was obvious they were all happy to work there.

The newly transformed lobby lounge at the Ritz Carlton Chicago.
The newly transformed lobby lounge at the Ritz Carlton Chicago.

However, there was one instance where I called the operator to have my luggage taken downstairs. She essentially said “we don’t do that here,” which was interesting, but further into the call, she explained I had to be in the room for this request.

It was strange, considering the level of service for the hotel. There are more than 400 rooms, and they don’t have an army of bellhops, so it seemed like an easy way to approach this predicament. Nevertheless, my other experiences exceeded expectations, so I didn’t harp on it.

One thing future guests should consider: There’s a residence next door that shares the spa, fitness and wellness facilities. While these amenities are provided as a membership to the wealthy neighbors, they never felt crowded.

Ritz-Carlton Chicago Spa
Ritz-Carlton Chicago Spa Men’s Locker Room.

In the spa, there were some old men getting dressed to go in the steamroom. I actually loved this because the moment had that old-school Ritz Carlton flair and made me feel like I was living in their fancy world for a minute.

Ritz Carlton Chicago Lobby
The cafe on the lobby lounge at Ritz-Carlton Chicago.

My Lakeside Suite Room

My corner Lakeside Suite at The Ritz-Carlton Chicago was massive. While the hotel went through a major $100 million transformation in 2017, this particular suite went through a renovation in 2010, and it’s pretty modern.

Ritz-Carlton Chicago Suite
Ritz-Carlton Chicago Suite

The suite wasn’t over the top. In fact, it sort of felt like a really nice, understated residence at a high-end condo. I could feel it was dated, but it was huge, which helped it feel more home away from home. There’s all the amenities you would expect: mini-bar, luxury bath toiletries, room service and plush robes.

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My favorite highlight and worth mentioning for our Ritz-Carlton Chicago review: the windows opened for fresh air! I love this. I travel so much that dry, recycled air in hotels get to me (dry eyes is a health risk), so this was a nice amenity.

The new check-in area at The Ritz Carlton Chicago
The new check-in area at The Ritz-Carlton Chicago.

Dining at Torali and The Cafe

Burger at Torali Ritz-Carlton Chicago
Burger at Torali Ritz-Carlton Chicago

The food and beverage at The Ritz-Carlton Chicago revolves around Torali on the 12th floor. This ultra-posh Italian-inspired restaurant is a nod to old-school aesthetics with new-school design.

What does that even mean? The Ritz-Carlton had long been known for its “stuffy” atmosphere pre-hotel boom. You had to wear dinner jackets and nice loafers, and the demographic was 50+. When The-Ritz Carlton loosened its tie in the mid-2000s (when millennials were changing the way we travel), the hotel chain made dramatic transformations to its dining spaces.

Torali is somewhere in the middle. It feels stuck in a time warp, between that high-brow, posh old-school ambience and refreshing, modern allure. It’s cozy with plush booths, Italian marble and leathers and high energy, but it’s also equipped with old waiters in suits and formal, classy service. It has a country-club vibe to it, but a country-club for the future with floor-to-ceiling windows, and floor-to-ceiling windows for natural sunlight.

The breakfast was great, with steaming hot blueberry pancakes and smoothies, and the dinner menu comprises fresh, in-house made pasta like cavatelli.

Outdoor terrace at Ritz-Carlton Chicago
Outdoor terrace at Ritz-Carlton Chicago

While the meal was excellent, it was the service that stood out. Waiters were like clockwork. It almost felt like a show.

The lobby lounge is also home to a bar and a cafe with an outdoor patio.

The pool at The Ritz Carlton Chicago
The pool at The Ritz-Carlton Chicago has views of the John Hancock Tower from its skylight.

Drawbacks of The Ritz-Carlton Chicago

Ritz-Carlton Chicago Review
Ground floor of Ritz-Carlton Chicago.

For our Ritz-Carlton Chicago review, we have to reiterate the hotel has excellent service, top-notch amenities and killer views. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay, and we always felt we booked the right hotel in Chicago.

The only real drawback for us was the fact that we had to get in one elevator on the ground floor to reach the lobby on the 12th floor, then we had to get in yet another elevator to reach our guest room. That’s a lot of elevators. The truth of the matter is that this is common at many five-star hotels in Chicago, so if you’re OK with multiple elevators, you’ll be fine.

My other, not-a-big-deal gripe is that guests will have to wait a while for the elevators during peak hours. Remember, there are over 400 rooms, so the weekends could see full occupancy.

The Ritz-Carlton Chicago cafe at night.
The Ritz-Carlton Chicago cafe at night.

For our Ritz-Carlton Chicago review, we recommending booking the hotel. It’s great for business travelers, families using Marriott Rewards points, gay travelers, travelers with pets and solo travelers.

Rates: Rooms can go as low as $281 for a standard room and $389 for a suite.

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Jimmy Im has traveled to 113 countries, stayed at over 600 hotels and clocked millions of air miles. He currently lives in New York City.

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