It does not happen too often that I sleep in a hotel which has a detailed Wikipedia entry. This did happen, when I stayed at the Palmer House – A Hilton Hotel in Chicago after visiting Indianapolis and the Weird Al Yankovic concert there. The place is that historic that there are even guided tours through it. It is in fact the third Palmer Hotel after the first one burned down in the 1871 Chicago Great Fire and the second one simply became too small so that it was upgraded in the 1920s. Since 1945, the place is a Hilton hotel, though it has been sold to the Thor Equities in 2005. It is the longest operating hotel in the US.
Palmer House Chicago – Location
The key reason why I chose the hotel (apart from that it is a Hilton, my favored hotel brand) is its excellent location in Downtown Chicago. I finally ended up having one Uber ride to the 360 Chicago Observation deck and having the rides to the airport – all other attractions and sightseeing were easy walks.
As said, the location is nothing but central – Chicago River is some ten minutes walk away, some of the parks and the Historic Route 66 inception sign is even just a bit more than a block. There are also several restaurants, CVS and 7Eleven stores around, so that you really have all you need. The Chicago metro station Monroe is located just at the edge of the hotel and the Chicago airport rail connection is also just a short walk.
Palmer House Chicago – Rooms
I typically do not like that the luggage service is bringing my stuff to the room – but as the whole hotel is full of carpet, pulling two suitcases to my room was more work than expected. My room was the “Hip & Historic Single” room, which had the amazing price of 131.69 USD, incl. tax. I feel I received a Hilton Honors Room upgrade, but cannot tell (see below). The room was spacious and absolutely fitted to my expectations – with a nice, traditional design. One thing which did confuse me was that there was no coffee/tea making facility in the room (it was also not stated in the room equipment of the Hilton website, so: no fault). There were also some nice features like a tablet with a lot of information about the area and the hotel and a USB charging unit at the desk next to the bed (only on one side).
While the living and sleeping area was really spacious and felt luxurious, the bathroom could have used some of that space easily. Especially the toilet was squeezed into the tiny aisle. The design of the bathroom with bathtub was nice, though. The wardrobe next to the entrance door was massive.
Issues in the Room
Unfortunately, there were some things which really bothered me about the room: in the bathroom for example, there was just one piece of soap. In American hotels, you very often have soap for showering as well – but this means you should either have two pieces of soap or a bath/shower gel (honestly, in a five star place I would expect the latter). There was neither of that.
The impression that housekeeping is working very uninspired increased when I tried to open the drawer of the cupboard next to the bed. It almost felt on my feet, I was lucky that I did not hurt myself. The reason was that the drawer was broken out of its rails (the one on the other side of the bed worked perfectly). When you think about this, this means that housekeeping either knew about it and it was not repaired – or that they don’t check and clean the drawers when a new guest is arriving. Just take the story you like more – or less..
Palmer House Chicago – Breakfast / Food
The Palmer House has a lot of restaurants and opportunities for food. There are several well-rated restaurants on site. Unfortunately, I did not make it to one as I arrived at the hotel later than I expected. On the lower level, where you enter the hotel (Lobby Level is one floor up), there are also simple and cheap options like a Starbucks.
As Hilton Honors Gold member, I received complimentary continental breakfast. You could have added 8 USD per person for the hot buffet, but there was not too much added variety so I stayed with the continental option. The buffet items had very good quality, but the selection was quite limited. Juice was not on the buffet, but brought by the waiters, who lacked in removing used plates and refilling your juice even though it was not that crowded at the time I was around there. Compared to other Hilton places, the breakfast was at most average.
Palmer House Chicago – Service
The attitude of the staff was maybe the most disappointing point about the Palmer House stay I had. Maybe it was because I wore a Weird Al Yankovic tour shirt when I arrived there – but neither the doorman nor especially the check-in stuff felt really friendly to me. As written above, the housekeeping could be improved as well as the breakfast service.
If you have a closer look, the hotel offers some very old-fashioned, but cool features. My favorite was that there is a “letter box” on each level – in fact, mail you put it there (hopefully) slides down to a central collection.
When I checked in at about 18:00hrs, I was a bit confused that there was a coffee cup and an open can of beer next to my room door. Okay, these things happen, a hotel is not liable for its guests. What was very annoying, though, that I found the same things at the same in the morning when I went to breakfast and to check-out. Really neither cleaning nor security checking a five star hotel in a 15 hours period? With all the things happening there, I don’t believe in bad luck.
Limited Service Attitude
When I reported the two room defects to the check-out person (who did not ask me whether I had a good stay), I did not feel she was really interested in it (she also did not note my complain down somewhere). When I think about a Home 2 Suites stay in Atlanta where I just remarked that their text message valet parking thing works great, but unfortunately not with international cell phones (as we have more digits in phone numbers) and got parking for free (which I did not want at all), these are shocking differences in service attitudes towards customers. The only real exception was the bell boy, when I took my luggage back from the luggage storage (leaving the luggage there was a rather rude experience, though). Thus, I at least left the hotel with a smile.
Nice Gym and Spa Area
The WiFi was very fine, it is free only to Hilton Honors members. The hotel offers a lovely gym with spa on the eigth floor. I was looking forward to have a swim in their pool, but unfortunately, it was closed down for maintenance. I felt I have not been notified about it at time of booking, but cannot say for sure.
Palmer House Chicago – My View
First of all: wow! The Palmer House is an amazing place, it is fun and impressive to walk through this house and see all the pictures, all the artwork – and also watching hotel guests being dressed up for a party or so. That’s the touristic part. As an overnight stay, they did not meet my expectation. The attitude of the service seemed to be lacking in multiple situations. Having a dangerous defect in my room is of course not acceptable. The price was really amazing, but still, it is a five star Hilton brand hotel – I simply expected more than I got. Only the fact that this place is so amazing by itself and the food quality (not quantity) at breakfast prevents it from a disastrous rating.