Since opening in 2015, The Gwen, A Luxury Collection Hotel (521 N. Rush St.; www.thegwenchicago.com ) has earned plaudits from all over the globe. Some of the most recent honors came courtesy of the readers of Conde Nast Traveler; they voted The Gwennamed after Gwen Lux, a Chicago-born woman sculptor of the 20th centurythe top hotel in Chicago and the country, as well as number eight in the world (ahead of revered spots in Beijing, Doha, Miami and London, among other cities).
"The Conde Nast Traveler Readers' Choice Award is always such a meaningful designation for us at The Gwen because it comes directly from our guests," said Area Director of Sales & Marketing Anna Jaszczyk in a statement. "And after such a challenging year for the hospitality industry, we are so grateful for the recognition and honored to have made a memorable impact on our guests."
So is The Gwen really worth your timeand, more importantly, your money? Windy City Times visited the hotel for a closer look.
Location: The Gwen is ideally centered in the heart of downtown Chicago. You can't get any closer to good shopping, as it's next door to the Nordstrom complex and steps away from Michigan Avenue. Moreover, it's a very short walk to the Loop; and steps away from the revived Chicago Riverwalk as well as incredible restaurants and nightlife. The Gwen is also close to all sorts of public transportation, so that it's incredibly easy to explore other areas of Chicago.
Feel/atmosphere: The Gwen offers 311 newly renovated guest rooms ranging in size from 375 to 425 square feet as well as suites that are 475 to 1,400 square feet. (FYI: I put in numbers for staying Nov. 13-17; the rooms were $302-$999 per night.) My room was immaculateand the bathroom was even stocked with one of my favorite skin-care brands (Molton Brown).
The vibe at The Gwen is what I would call "adult upscale cool." The decor is sleek and very contemporary, with the fifth-floor lobby containing open areas that lead to Upstairs at The Gwen (more on that later). The clerks couldn't have been friendlier or more helpful when I checked in or out (the latter at 7 a.m.)and The Gwen is probably the only place in the city with a Moet vending machine. Also lending to the adult feel is what The Gwen doesn't have: a poolsomething typically seen in more family-friendly hotels.
Amenities: This Art Deco-inspired rooftop retreat Upstairs at The Gwen has so much to offer, including skyline views, delightful culinary items and dazzling drinks. You may find yourself looking at the carefully planned menu for some time. The iteration I viewed had a drink menu that revolved around the zodiac, one of Lux's interests. (In fact, Lux had the building's bas-relief sculptures reflect the zodiac.) I had the Seven of Cupsan olio of pear liqueur, orgeat, persimmon, lemon juice, cinnamon and clove foamand found out the drink is indicative of new opportunities and choices (something that reflects my own life). Other libations range from dessert cocktails (like the chocolate martini) to Japanese whisky.
Executive Chef Matt Jergens' food is just as complex and worthwhile as the Upstairs' drinks. From the smoked eggplant (with pita) to the potato croquettes to the Spanish octopus to the Gwen burger, you can't go wrong.
With the Upstairs, you can dine inside or outdoors on the terrace (if the weather cooperates). Interestingly, the area also offers curling (the sport), as the area is reimagined for colder weather, as there are also fire pits.
The Gwen also has the upscale Mediterranean dining spot Kostali, where Carrie Nahabedian (Naha) is the executive chef (and partners with cousin Michael Nahabedian). Unfortunately, the restaurant wasn't open when I visitedbut I do plan to stop there in the near future. While dining at Upstairs the Gwen, Jaszczyk mentioned Kostali's Tipsy Tea a few times, and it certainly sounds temptinghigh tea during the weekend that has a boozy twist. See www.thegwenchicago.com/activities/tipsy-tea-party/ for more about it; you don't have to be a hotel guest to be there. (The Kostali is also an option for Thanksgiving.)
Of course, I have to check out the fitness facility. This is one of the more impressive ones I've experienced, and this facility (which is open 24/7) has more than enough equipment to keep fitness diehards satisfiedand then some.
By the way, there's also glamping (camping with luxury amenities) available some months. Perched on the 16th floor, the Gwen Lux Suite Terrace encompasses more than 1,000 square feet of open-air real estate with picturesque views of Michigan Avenue and some of the city's most iconic architecture. And save your pennies; rates start at $5,500.
However, that's just the tip of the iceberg for The Gwen, which has concierge services, a 24-hour business center, laundry service and dry cleaning, and more. It's also pet-friendly.
COVID/health and safety: Staffers wear masks, and guests are required to wear them inside, except when dining.
Bottom line: The Gwen is definitely more for adults without children (or who just want to leave the kids behind for a short while), business travelers and the like. For those who travel or arrange events here, many treasures await at this hotel. The Gwen lives up to its billing, and deserves its allocades.
Note: This hotel visit was based on an arranged invitation.