Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Empire continues to spread its wings worldwide. The British billionaire is well known for tearing up the rule book and pushing the envelope with aviation and cruise ships to great fanfare, and his Virgin Hotels brand is slowly but surely opening properties across the U.S. and the U.K.
Built in 1928, the Old Dearborn Bank Building on North Wabash Avenue in Chicago, Illinois, was purchased by the Virgin Group in 2011. The hotel finally debuted in 2015 following refurbishment delays due to the building’s landmark status.
How does Virgin’s modern and unconventional approach to hospitality mesh with an iconic century-old building?
Here’s what you need to know about Virgin Hotels Chicago.
In the heart of the city, Virgin Hotels Chicago adopts an unstuffy, more casual approach to hospitality, focusing on youthful fun and a hint of British cheekiness. Room rates are lower than nearby luxury properties, though guests may find the informality that can stretch to service standards and food quality too much to bear.
What you’ll love about Virgin Hotels Chicago
Virgin’s fun style is evident throughout the property, providing an alternative to cookie-cutter corporate accommodation offerings. You might feel like you’re staying with a cool friend rather than at a chain hotel.
A location that is close to everything
In downtown’s vibrant “Loop” area, the property is an easy walk from some of Chicago’s most popular attractions, including the Magnificent Mile and Millennium Park with its iconic Cloud Gate sculpture (affectionately known as The Bean). The Chicago Theatre is the ideal Instagram backdrop for your vacation photo just a few blocks away.
Chicago’s elevated trains (the “L”) pass right by the hotel for journeys that cannot be made on foot, with a stop for the Brown, Green, Orange, Pink and Purple lines directly across the road from the hotel.
Rooms that feel like home, with some fun bells and whistles
Virgin Hotels calls its guest rooms “Chambers,” with 250 rooms that start at a generous (in this zip code) 350 square feet and feel homey yet luxurious with furnishings like leather armchairs and gold side tables.
At the base of the bed in the spacious, airy bedroom is a new option for remote work, allowing guests to sit on the bottom corner of the bed, facing the bedhead while working on a laptop — a chiropractor’s nightmare. It’s an interesting idea, but not very practical or comfortable for extended periods.
The bathroom, storage and vanity areas are combined into a single walk-through room, “The Dressing Room,” with plenty of space to unpack and stretch out.
A comfy makeup chair between the double vanity is ideal for preparing for a night on the town. You can keep your glad rags catwalk ready by using the fluffy bathrobes provided. A huge walk-in shower with a rain shower head and a handheld fixture also has a tiled bench for tired feet and Red Flower toiletries to match the occasional red tile, a constant subtle reminder of the Virgin brand.
In many ways, Virgin’s Chambers feel more like a thoughfully-designed and well-equipped city apartment than a hotel room.
A Smeg minifridge (bright red, of course) stocks minibar favorites at surprisingly reasonable prices, including $6 for a large can of First Pils lager, $3 for pretzels and just $2.50 for a bottle of Coke — a bargain compared to many big city minibars where a tin of nuts can easily cost upwards of $15.
While the round tables are not the most practical to work at, the Bel & Bel Vespa high-back cream leather chair is a fun feature to swing around in this already bright and playful space.
The whimsy continues in the hallways with statues that make no sense but bring a smile to guests’ faces among the splashes of Virgin red.
Affordable last-minute suite…
Read More: This concept won’t be for everyone: Virgin Hotels Chicago