Palmer House, A Hilton Hotel is the longest continuously running hotel in the United States. It is arguably the most historic place to stay in Chicago. The hotel was a wedding gift from businessman Potter Palmer to his new wife, Bertha. It was destroyed in the Chicago Fire just 13 days after its grand opening, but Palmer wasn’t to be deterred. He secured a loan to rebuild and Palmer House was open for business in 1873—it has never closed since. Today, the four-star accommodations live up to that history with on on-site spa and three-level Health Club. The hotel even hosts a weekly Magic Show in its lounge. Today’s outlook, after a recent $170 million renovation, marries the hotel’s history with modern amenities.
Palmer House –Best for…
The health club at Palmer House isn’t your average hotel gym. The three-level club spans 10,000 square feet in the building. Open 24 hours, there are Preva by PreCor Cardio machines, a signature resistance training circuit, strength training and free weights and a TRX training system. There is usually a pool, but it is currently closed for renovations. That said, the hotel can arrange swimming at an off-site location for interested guests. There is still an eucalyptus steam room guests can take advantage of.
The club also features a class room equipped with exercise and yoga mats, and there are group workout classes including boot camp and yoga that guests can join in on for a small fee. Once you’re done working out, relax at the 8,000 square foot spa on the fifth floor.
Palmer House Amenities
The 1,641 guest rooms at Palmer House combine the hotel’s rich history with modern amenities, like a 37-inch flat screen HDTV and premium broadband wireless (there is a fee for WiFi). Upgrade to a suite for a parlor and dining area, as well as a “libation station.” Executive level rooms offer key-only access for a more private experience. These rooms come with added bonuses as well, like a complimentary continental breakfast and hors d’oeuvres in the evening. Executive rooms also boast a private check-in and dedicated concierge.
All guests can take advantage of the Palmer House Spa and Health Club. The 24-hour fitness center spans three levels offering cardio and weight equipment and a steam sauna. There is usually a pool and hot tub as well, currently under renovation. The hotel also houses several on-site restaurants. The Lockwood Restaurant and Bar offers garden fresh ingredients and a daily afternoon tea. Potter’s is a burger bar known for its cozy leather seating and famous Lakeview burger.
While you’re there, don’t forget to try the Palmer House Brownie. Bertha Palmer directed the kitchen to create one for the Columbian Exposition World’s Fair in 1893—five years before the Sears Roebuck Catalog first referred to the “brownie” in 1898. This historic recipe is the same as the one served at the Palmer House Hilton today.
There is also entertainment right within Palmer House each weekend. Enjoy “Magic Parlour,” where award-winning magician Dennis Watkins delivers an entertaining evening of sleight of hand in an intimate venue.
To host your own event, the hotel also boasts more than 130,000 square feet of meeting and event space, including 78 breakout rooms and three large ballrooms.
Palmer House Location
The historic Palmer House is situated in an equally impressive location, just two blocks from Millennium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago. Easily walk to all the city has to offer, including the Pritzker Military Museum & Library and Chicago Symphony Center just steps away. The Fine Arts Building, Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University and Museum of Contemporary Photography are all within walking distance, as well. The Theatre District and all its entertainment is just to the west.
Nearby accommodations include the Silversmith Hotel Chicago Downtown, Chicago Athletic Association and Hampton Inn Majestic Chicago Theatre District. The price of Palmer House is in step with these local competitors.
Palmer House –The Verdict
Palmer House is arguably the city’s most historic hotel, and it isn’t terribly expensive to stay here and soak in some rich Chicago architecture. There are also some great amenities, like the full-service fitness center and popular on-site restaurants. Plus, the location is in a prime downtown area just two blocks from the Art Institute of Chicago.