Where to stay in Chicago without a car: 6 Best areas & hotels

Wondering Where to stay in Chicago without a car? In this post, I will help you to find the best areas/neighborhoods to stay in Chicago without a car (+ a helpful map), how to get around without a car, and the best hotels for all budgets.

Chicago is a major city located in the state of Illinois and is the third-most populous city in the United States, after New York City and Los Angeles. It is known for its rich history, diverse culture, and significant contributions to finance, technology, arts, and architecture.

Situated on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan, one of the Great Lakes, the city is home to iconic buildings like the Willis Tower and the John Hancock Center. 

Chicago is home to numerous theaters, museums, art galleries, and music venues. It is known for its blues and jazz heritage, as well as its contributions to comedy and improvisational theater.

The city is famous for its food scene, including deep-dish pizza, Chicago-style hot dogs, and various ethnic cuisines due to its diverse population.

The lakefront area along Lake Michigan is a popular recreational area with parks, beaches, and walking/biking trails.

How to get to and get around Chicago?

Getting to Chicago is easy by air, train, and bus. Chicago has two major airports: O’Hare International Airport and Midway International Airport. Getting from these airports to downtown Chicago is easy by taxi, Airport Express vans, or trains.

Chicago is also a major hub for Amtrak, the national rail service. Union Station is the primary terminal for Amtrak trains, offering connections to various cities across the country. Additionally, Greyhound and Megabus operate bus services to and from Chicago.

If you’re driving, Chicago is accessible via major highways such as I-90, I-94, I-55, and I-290. However, keep in mind that traffic congestion can be significant, especially during peak hours.

Once you’re in Chicago, you can get around on foot, by public transport, car rentals, or ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. 

Chicago has an extensive public transportation system known as the “L” (short for “elevated”), which includes both elevated trains (subway) and buses operated by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). The ‘L’ covers most parts of the city and its suburbs.

Downtown Chicago is quite pedestrian-friendly, and walking is a great way to explore areas like the Magnificent Mile, Millennium Park, and the Loop.

While not always necessary within the city due to the comprehensive public transportation, car rentals are available if you plan to explore areas outside the city.

Where to stay in Chicago without a car?

The best areas to stay in Chicago without a car are The Loop, West Loop, South Loop, Magnificent Mile, Streeterville, and River North. These areas offer plenty of accommodation options for all budget travelers.

The Loop is the best overall place to stay in Chicago without a car due to its central location, walkability, and well-connected public transportation. You can easily explore major attractions on foot, as well as using the “L” trains, Uber and Lyft.

West Loop is the best area for foodies, located west of The Loop. South Loop is the best location for museum lovers, situated south of The Loop. It is where you can find the Museum Campus, with its Adler Planetarium, Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium.

River North is just north of the Loop and is the best place for a vibrant nightlife and art scene. It’s also within walking distance of downtown attractions. Magnificent Mile is the best base for shopping with attractions like the John Hancock Center and Water Tower Place. 

When booking your accommodation, you consider staying near “L” train stations or major bus routes, as these will be your primary modes of transportation without a car. 

During my trip to Chicago, I stayed at the mid-range citizenM Chicago Downtown. It was a great hotel in a central location, close to everything, a great base to explore the city on foot and by public transportation. My room was small but comfortable and efficient. 

Map of areas and neighborhoods in Chicago to stay without a car:

map of best areas to stay in Chicago without a car
map of best areas to stay in Chicago without a car

6 Best areas to stay in Chicago without a car:

1. The Loop

The Loop is the best overall area to stay in Chicago without a car. It is the central business district of Chicago and is well-connected by public transportation, making it convenient for both tourists and residents to get around the city without the need for a car. 

The area is served by several CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) train lines, buses, and is also home to Union Station, a major transportation hub.

Staying in The Loop puts you in close proximity to many of Chicago’s top attractions, including Millennium Park, Art Institute of Chicago, Grant Park, and the Magnificent Mile shopping district. 

It’s also home to a variety of restaurants, theaters, and cultural institutions. The public transportation options in The Loop are efficient and provide easy access to other neighborhoods and attractions throughout the city.

Keep in mind that Chicago has a well-developed public transportation system that extends beyond The Loop, so even if you’re not staying directly in The Loop, you can still easily explore the city using the CTA’s buses and trains.

Best places to stay in Chicago Loop without a car:

Luxury ($$$): JW Marriott Chicago, 5-star hotel located in central Chicago, within a short distance from Monroe Public Transit stop, providing easy access to several of Chicago’s most popular attractions. It has paid on-site car parking.

Mid-range ($$): The Chicago Theatre and Art Institute of Chicago, 4-star boutique  hotel, located in the heart of Chicago, within a short walk from shopping on State Street,  Oriental Theatre building.

Budget ($): Residence Inn by Marriott Chicago Downtown/Loop, 3-star hotel, conveniently located in downtown Chicago, within walking distance from Willis Tower, Chicago Board of Trade Building, and surrounded by many restaurants, bars, and shops.


2. West Loop

West Loop, located just west of Chicago Loop, is a great base for foodies and those who love exploring a lively dining scene and local experiences. This area has undergone significant revitalization and is known for its trendy restaurants, art galleries, and boutique shops.

The West Loop is often associated with the Fulton Market District, which was historically a meatpacking and warehouse area. In recent years, it has undergone significant redevelopment and is now a hub for trendy restaurants, tech companies, and upscale residential buildings.

You can find a a variety of dining options on Randolph Street, known as Restaurant Row.

The West Loop is well-connected in terms of transportation. The area is served by public transportation, including the CTA Green and Pink Lines. Additionally, the neighborhood is easily accessible by car, with major expressways nearby.

Best places to stay in Chicago West Loop without a car:

Luxury ($$$): Nobu Hotel Chicago, 5-star hotel, located in the West Loop neighborhood of Chicago, a short drive from Union Station. It features an on-site bar and private parking, an indoor pool, and a shuttle service. 

Mid-range ($$): The Hoxton, Chicago, 4-star hotel, located in West Loop, a short stroll from popular attractions such as Willis Tower, Chicago Board of Trade Building and the CIBC Theater. 

Budget ($): Hampton Inn by Hilton Chicago, 3-star hotel, conveniently located in the downtown West Loop neighborhood, well-connected to public transport to go to the downtown area.


3. South Loop

The South Loop, located just south of the downtown area, offers a mix of historic architecture, museums (including the Field Museum and Adler Planetarium), and proximity to Grant Park. 

It’s a bit quieter compared to the Loop but still well-connected by CTA Green and Red Lines. It’s suitable for families, history enthusiasts, and anyone attending events at McCormick Place.

Best places to stay in Chicago South Loop without a car:

Mid-range ($$): Sonder South Wabash, great 4-star accommodation, set in the South Loop neighborhood of Chicago, close to Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Buckingham Memorial Fountain. It provides air conditioning units with a private bathroom and a kitchen including a dishwasher, oven, microwave and a toaster.

Mid-range ($$): Sentral Michigan Avenue, great accommodation in central Chicago, offering the garden, the infinity pool, and shared lounge area. Its location offers easy access to DePaul University, Field Museum of Natural History and Art Institute of Chicago.

Budget ($): The Buckingham Hotel, 3-star hotel, located in the heart of the financial district, on the 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange building. Located within walking distance from the WillisTower and the State Street shopping area.


4. Magnificent Mile

Magnificent Mile is a great base for car-free travelers, especially shoppers, upscale travelers, and those who enjoy lake views. This area is known for its high-end shopping, iconic architecture, and proximity to Lake Michigan.

Magnificent Mile stretches along Michigan Avenue, from the Chicago River to Oak Street, in the city’s Near North Side. It is home to numerous flagship stores/boutiques, ionic department stores, including Apple, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Burberry, and Tiffany & Co.

This area have easy access to numeous train lines, including Brown Line, Purple Line, and Red Line, offering easy access to other parts of the city without a car.

Best places to stay in Magnificent Mile without a car:

Luxury ($$$): Sofitel Chicago Magnificent Mile, 5-star luxurious hotel, located close to the Mag Mile, offering stunning views of Lake Michigan and the city skyline. Short drive by car from Navy Pier and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Mid-range ($$): DoubleTree by Hilton Chicago Magnificent Mile, 4-star hotel  in the heart of downtown Chicago, 5 minutes’ walk of the famous Magnificent Mile. Also, a short drive from Millennium Park and Willis Tower.

Budget ($): Aloft Chicago Mag Mile. 3-star hotel, located close to Ohio Street Beach, featuring a private parking, a shared lounge and a restaurant. Also a short distance from Northbridge, Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art and Water Tower Chicago.


5. Streeterville

Streeterville, near the Magnificent Mile, offers a mix of shopping, dining, and attractions like Navy Pier. It’s a good choice if you want to be close to Lake Michigan and enjoy waterfront activities. 

Best places to stay in Streeterville without a car:

Luxury ($$$): The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago, 5-star hotel, located atop the famous Water Tower Place in Chicago’s Gold Coast district, close to Streeterville and Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art. It has rooms with views of the city or lake.

Mid-range ($$): Ivy Boutique Hotel, 4-star boutique hotel in the heart of downtown Chicago, offering spacious rooms with modern wood furniture and a fully-stocked minibar.

Budget ($): Fairfield Inn and Suites, 3-star accommodation, located in the heart of Chicago,  2 blocks away from Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, a short walk from Navy Pier, John Hancock Observatory, and Oak Street Beach.

6. River North

Known for its vibrant nightlife, art galleries, and trendy restaurants, River North is popular among young travelers and those who enjoy an active nightlife scene. 

Attractions in and around River North include the Merchandise Mart, a massive commercial building with showrooms and offices, as well as popular dining and entertainment areas along Hubbard Street.

Best places to stay in River North without a car:

Luxury ($$$): Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago, 5-star hotel, offering views of Lake Michigan, Chicago River or city skyline. It is located in a great location, within walking distance from shopping, dining and entertainment on Michigan Avenue’s Magnificent Mile.

Mid-range ($$): The Royal Sonesta Chicago River North, 4-star boutique, eco-friendly hotel in the heart of the River North neighborhood, within easy walk from the CTA Red Line. It has an indoor pool and sundeck, and rooms for couples and families.

Budget ($): Hampton Inn & Suites, 3-star modern hotel, located in central Chicago, steps from major attractions, including the Magnificent Mile, Navy Pier or Shedd Aquarium.


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In conclusion, The Loop, West Loop, South Loop, Magnificent Mile, Streeterville, and River North are some of the best places to stay in Chicago without a car. These are central locations and are easily explored on foot, by public transport, Uber and Lyft.

Overall, The Loop is the best area to stay in Chicago without a car due to its central location, easy access to transportation and major attractions like Millennium Park, the Art Institute of Chicago, and shopping on the Magnificent Mile. 

I hope you enjoyed my article and find it both informative and helpful. If you have any questions or would like to share your thoughts, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. Your feedback is invaluable and helps me continue to create more quality content.

About Author: Ocean Cameron

I'm Ocean, founder and main editor of travelhotelexpert.com. I’m a passionate traveler who specializes in uncovering the best hotels and locations in every city, especially for first-timers, all without the need for a car.

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