Review: Waldorf Astoria Chicago

Filed Under: Hilton, Hotels

To be honest, I don’t have an especially favorable perceptionĀ of the Waldorf Astoria brand. While in theory it’s one of Hilton’s luxury brands, their New York property looks like it could be the set of Tower of Terror.

That being said, I had heard rave reviews of the Waldorf Astoria Chicago, which opened just a few years ago. It was formerly The Elysian, also one of Chicago’s top hotels.

For the night I was staying, paid rates were hovering around $435. This is a Category 9 HHonors property, making a free night redemption 80,000 Hilton points. That’s a bit rich for my blood. The good news was that Points And Money was also available, at the cost of 32,000 HHonors points plus $150 per night. That’s a price I can stomach, both in terms of the cash outlay and points cost.


What’s amazing about this hotel is that a standard room is over 600 square feet. That’s insane.


I arrived at the Waldorf at around 4PM, and was impressed as soon as I pulled in — it’s in a massive 60 story building.

Waldorf Astoria Chicago exterior

The hotel’s driveway feels residential, given that it’s separated quite a bit from the street. You really feel more like you’re pulling up to a mansion in suburbia than a city hotel.

Waldorf Astoria Chicago driveway

The lobby felt equally residential, with a reception desk to the right and a large seating area to the left.

Waldorf Astoria Chicago lobby

Waldorf Astoria Chicago lobby

Waldorf Astoria Chicago lobby

Waldorf Astoria Chicago lobby

I was quickly welcomed at check-in, and the associate was extremely friendly and professional, if not a bit over the top.

He acknowledged my Diamond status, and while I hadn’t been pre-blocked for an upgrade, he proactively offered to take a look at their available inventory. He upgraded me to a one bedroom suite, which made that only my second suite upgrade as a Hilton HHonors Diamond member, other than my first stay at the Hilton Budapest.

I was also handed a welcome letter, as well as a 15% discount coupon for Balsan Restaurant, which is the hotel’s restaurant.

Waldorf Astoria Chicago welcome letter

Waldorf Astoria Chicago HHonors elite discount

While I was thrilled at the proactive upgrade, it’s ridiculously frustrating that not all Hilton HHonors benefits apply at Waldorf Astoria properties. At Waldorf Astoria properties you receive the following “My Way” benefits:

Waldorf Astoria™ Hotels & Resorts

  • Space-available upgrade to a preferred room
  • Choice of two among the following: 1,000 HHonors Bonus Points per stay; one in-room movie5 per stay; or a spa, golf or restaurant discount, as designated by the property

So there’s no complimentary breakfast, unlike at all other Hilton family properties.

Anyway, I took the elevator up to the 14th floor, where my suite was located. The hallways were simply gorgeous.

Waldorf Astoria Chicago hallway

I was assigned room 1407, a suite at the far end of the hallway.

Waldorf Astoria Chicago King Suite entrance

The room featured a large entryway with the guest bathroom to the left, the living room straight ahead, and the bedroom and master bathroom to the right.

Waldorf Astoria Chicago King Suite entryway

Waldorf Astoria Chicago King Suite entrance

The guest bathroom featured — as you’d expect — a sink and toilet.

Waldorf Astoria Chicago King Suite guest bathroom

Waldorf Astoria Chicago King Suite guest bathroom

The living room was beautiful. There was a large couch with coffee table and a lounge chair.

Waldorf Astoria Chicago King Suite living room

Waldorf Astoria Chicago King Suite living room

Waldorf Astoria Chicago King Suite living room

Then in the corner was a dining table for two.

Waldorf Astoria Chicago King Suite living room table

Across from the dining table was the desk, which featured a more traditional chair (as opposed to an office chair).

Waldorf Astoria Chicago King Suite living room desk

Next to the desk was a flat screen TV.

Waldorf Astoria Chicago King Suite living room TV

Then next to that was a sink and the minibar.

Waldorf Astoria Chicago King Suite living room bar

Waldorf Astoria Chicago King Suite living room minibar

I loved that this room had a balcony, which is rare for city hotels.

Waldorf Astoria Chicago King Suite balcony

The views weren’t amazing, but it is nice to get some fresh air from a hotel room nonetheless.

Waldorf Astoria Chicago King Suite balcony view

Across from the guest bathroom was the entrance to the bedroom and master bathroom.

Waldorf Astoria Chicago King Suite bathroom

The master bathroom featured double sinks, a massive walk-in shower, soaking tub, and partitioned off toilet.

Waldorf Astoria Chicago King Suite double sinks

Waldorf Astoria Chicago King Suite bathtub

Waldorf Astoria Chicago King Suite shower

Waldorf Astoria Chicago King Suite bathroom

My room had Salvatore Ferragamo toiletries, which I absolutely love, though rarely find in hotels.

Waldorf Astoria Chicago King Suite toiletries

Waldorf Astoria Chicago King Suite bedroom

Then past the master bathroom was the bedroom, which featured a comfortable bed facing a flat screen TV.

Waldorf Astoria Chicago King Suite bedroom

Waldorf Astoria Chicago King Suite bedroom

Next to the TV was a flat screen TV and side table.

Waldorf Astoria Chicago King Suite bedroom

All-in-all it was an extremely well designed and nicely appointed room. The in-room Wi-Fi was also fast.

The hotel also had a gorgeous gym and spa on the fifth floor.

Waldorf Astoria Chicago spa

The gym was huge, with plenty of modern equipment (regrettably I didn’t have a chance to use it during this stay).

Waldorf Astoria Chicago gym

Waldorf Astoria Chicago gym

Then there was a small lap pool, which is rare for Chicago.

Waldorf Astoria Chicago pool

Waldorf Astoria Chicago pool

Then there was also a hot tub and a sauna.

Waldorf Astoria Chicago hot tub

Waldorf Astoria Chicago sauna

While breakfast wasn’t included as a Hilton Diamond member, I did have breakfast at the hotel’s restaurant, Balsan, which is located on the third floor. Breakfast is served from 7AM till 11AM on weekdays, though I was still on Europe time so arrived right as they opened.

I more or less had the restaurant to myself, and service was excellent.

Waldorf Astoria Chicago Balsan Restaurant

The breakfast menu read as follows:


I ordered a nonfat cappuccino and water to drink.

Waldorf Astoria Chicago Balsan Restaurant cappuccino and water

And then had a veggie egg white omelet, fruit, and some wheat toast.

Waldorf Astoria Chicago Balsan Restaurant egg white omelet

The food and service were both excellent.

Waldorf Astoria Chicago Bottom Line

I totally get why people were raving about this hotel. It’s gorgeous, has great service, is great with elite recognition (in the context of being a Waldorf, given the suite upgrade I received), though with standard rooms that are 600+ square feet, that’s almost a moot point. I’d definitely return to this hotel if in town and the price is right.

I do still find it frustrating that not all HHonors benefits apply at Waldorf Astoria properties. One of my favorite things about elite status at luxury hotels is enjoying a nice breakfast “on the house,” as I’ve had some great breakfast at Park Hyatts, for example. Not getting a similar benefit at Waldorf Astoria properties is kind of disappointing.

Still, this property changed my perception of the Waldorf Astoria brand in a positive way.

  1. I had just about the same experience in March. Didn’t get an upgrade, but the standard room is huge and very nice.

  2. HH needs to standardize their WA breakfast policy. Some offer some don’t. On the subject of breakfast, is it only me or does the egg omelet picture looks kind of plasticky and rubbery?

  3. My husband and I stayed at there in June on 2 free nights certificates from Citi Visa Signature card. I have Gold status and we DID receive free breakfast (a credit for 2 of around $60) at Balsan for both mornings. We didn’t get upgraded to a suite, but our standard room was so large, we didn’t care.

  4. FYI, this Waldorf Astoria often has amazing deals. We stayed four nights over Memorial Day weekend this year in an Astoria Suite (two categories up from the one bedroom suite featured herein) for $413 per night on a AAA rate. We are Hilton silver, so practically no status. Though the air con was weaker than I’d prefer, this hotel is the luxe steal even for its regular rate when compared to the other 5 star properties in Chicago–and I’d say it’s the best 5 star luxe steal for most major cities in the US.

    The Waldorf on the Bund in Shanghai is perhaps the ther finest example we’ve seen in the Waldorf line-up. It’s more formal than the Chicago property (owing to its location in Shanghai, a more formal city and country), and more expensive. But it is a spectacularly beautiful property.

  5. My boyfriend and I used to be exceptionally loyal to this property, but after the change to Waldorf, things started going downhill. You’ll now find many of the original Elysian/Waldorf employees at The Langham, providing outstanding service. Our loyalties now lie with Langham.

  6. My favorite thing about the Chicago Waldorf is that it’s a no tipping property — a carryover from the Elysian. The staff gets paid more, but is supposed to refuse tips (and they always have when I’ve offered. And they do go above and beyond. We had a bachelor party of 6 in the Presidential Suite, and they even went out and got an ice chest for us when we requested ice for the beer we’d purchased. Great hotel!

  7. Lucky Luke, why didn’t you stay for (nearly) the same price at the PH ;)? They have the best bf there – bf as in breakfast and not boyfriend lol.

  8. I got free breakfast last time I was there a month ago. I was offered a suite however I turned it down in lieu of getting free breakfast to which they obliged. Great hotel and amazing breakfast.

  9. @ Cathy — I did read on FlyerTalk some reporting receiving complimentary breakfast, though it wasn’t offered to me. Very odd.

  10. In Chicago, Iā€™ve stayed at PH as Hyatt Diamond, Waldorf Astoria as Hilton Gold, and Langham as an 1865 Voyager. I donā€™t think any of the service is like international 5 star hotels, but WA comes the closest.

    I have stayed at WA several times and it remains my favorite in the city. The great thing about WA is that most of the rooms are suites which gives you a high chance of being upgraded (but I think they are less likely to upgrade with a credit card certificate.) The room has both form and function with a good layout. It has my favorite bathroom and wardrobe of any hotel (Carrera and Kallista). The fireplace is awesome in a Chicago winter and there is a great balcony with possible stunning city view. The courtyard view is also pretty. The edifice is stunning and itā€™s in a great location. I agree that, if you are paying for a suite, this is the best value in the city.

    The Langham looks like an office building on the outside and is stunning on the inside. I was upgraded to a gorgeous executive room. I was annoyed that the wardrobe was in the entrance which made it challenging to change after getting out of the shower. I did not get my welcome amenity, chocolate, or newspaper. It took several phone calls and hours to receive this and ice. Not my experience with other 5 stars. Perhaps I would have a better time staying on the club level.

    PH Chicago, even in an updated suite, is not aesthetically up to par with Langham or WA. However with the breakfast and welcome amenity, I would stay here if using cash and point with diamond suite upgrade.

  11. You got upgraded to the Arizona Suite at the Arizona Biltmore, a Waldorf Astoria property. The HHonors scheme applies there.

  12. If you are ever in the Lake Forest area (just out side of Chicago) it would be nice to meet you. I hope that did not sound weird but it would just be really cool to talk about all of your trips!

  13. I didn’t realize I could have booked this hotel until after my stay in Chicago earlier this year. Looks amazing, however, though I didn’t know that Waldorf Astoria hotels didn’t offer free breakfast to HHonors gold/diamond members. Would you say that it’s worth the points premium to book this compared to the Conrad or JW Marriott (both hotels I looked into but declined because I wanted to use up a Marriott certificate) in Chicago (assume all hotels are fully paid for with points)? With cash+points it seems like a no-brainer vs the Conrad.

  14. The WA is generally considered the top hotel in a city filled with some of the finest in the US. In many surveys the WA is considered the top non resort hotel in the US. The Park Hyatt mentioned above is actually somewhat down the list. Not in any order, but the Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons, Peninsula, Langham, Trump and maybe a couple more are rated higher than the Park Hyatt. Of course, most of us don’t get free rooms at those hotels.

    The amazing rooms etc are not the attraction, its the service. They will do just about anything you could ask for and if its only service, its usually free.

    A relative of mine is a major vendor to nearly all of the top hotels in Chicago and he would have had his daughter’s wedding at the WA if the Ballroom had been large enough. He says they are definitely the top hotel in Chicago.

  15. What perfect timing!! We’re staying at Chicago WA this Friday night using a Citi HH Reserve free night cert, then taking the train to FTU Advanced. Looking forward to both!!

  16. Have not stayed at the JW Marriott, but Conrad does not even come close to WA. I’d rather be in a standard room at a WA than suite at Conrad. However, you would definitely get breakfast at Conrad.
    Location of both is better than JW.

  17. u will def be in love with the bf at the PH man šŸ˜‰ If u wanna get a great rate there, then do let me know, respectively let me know where i can reach u šŸ˜‰

  18. I’ve been to this property a number of times (mostly when my daughter was living in Chicago), and echo your comments. It is certainly my favorite property there- and the location can’t be beat.

  19. I just checked into WA Chicago. After reading comments on this blog, I asked if I could get breakfast thrown in. They told me WA had run a trial program offering breakfast, but the program was now discontinued, and the computer wouldn’t allow them to offer me breakfast.

    But I did get upgraded to a suite with an outside balcony. My GF is VERY happy :-).

  20. I just used my weekend coupons (and one fully paid night) for the WA in New Orleans (the above-referenced Roosevelt). I agree about the Christmas decorations and teddy bear tea, but for our stay, last week, it was unremarkable. Nice hotel, okay service, but not top notch, and not what I expect from a WA. I specifically inquired about breakfast and was told they did not offer that to guest, regardless of status. Nor did I receive an upgrade (though since I was using the certs, I didn’t expect it). I had thought we’d get breakfast though, which was disappointing. If I had it to do over again, I would head to the City of Big Shoulders in a heartbeat.

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