My first visit to the Langham was in July 2013, a scant 2 weeks after its soft opening (see prior review). As a long-time admirer of architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's modernist style, it was breathtakingly exciting to stay in the first hotel housed in a Mies structure, the IBM Building, which in the last year has been rebranded the AMA (as in American Medical Association) building. At the age of 52, Mies emigrated from Germany to become the director of the architecture school at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), which I egregiously and embarrassingly called the Illinois Institute of Architecture in my first review. Crown Hall on the IIT campus is one of several iconic Mies buildings in the Chicago area, with others including the 860-880 North Lake Shore Drive apartments, the Federal buildings and post office in the Loop, and the astonishing Farnsworth House in Plano, about 60 miles from Chicago. The IBM Building was one of his last, actually completed after his death. The rectangular building sits on the north shore of the Chicago River, between Bertrand Goldberg's landmark Marina City (the "corncob" towers) and the egotistical lake-view-usurping Trump Tower, which now has ENORMOUS, tacky signage along the river.
For my first stay, the Langham was just a bud of a flower, its complete beauty still unrealized. The Club Rooms and Lounge, Chuan Spa, Travelle Restaurant and Lounge were still under construction, but the hotel's aspirations for greatness were clearly evident. For this return stay exactly one year later, the Langham was in full bloom, with every petal of its grand design open for all to see and admire. The hotel is currently top-rated by TripAdvisor reviewers as well as in Travel and Leisure magazine's August 2014 Best List (Continental U.S. Large City Hotel category). I had booked a Club Level room, as well as a spa treatment for this visit, and also planned to check out Travelle.
As always, I chose to take the subway (CTA) Blue Line from O'Hare into the city. Exit at Clark/Lake and walk along the river to reach the Langham. Doormen, bellmen and Service Stylists (women in Chanel-like pink suits) are there to greet you at the main Wabash Ave. entrance. There is a second entrance on State St. which is unstaffed and distressingly unsecured. Sometimes the Langham's iconic pink London taxi cab is parked out front. The ground floor lobby, designed by Mies' architect grandson Dirk Lohan, was as lovely as ever, with its white armchairs (apparently based on a never-produced Mies design) and desk very similar to one at the Farnsworth House. The hotel's emphasis on art throughout the hotel is immediately evident--the Jaume Plensa sculpture of a young girl's head, called "Anna", is more significant now that there are 4 much larger heads on display in Millennium Park for its 10th anniversary. Plensa designed the Crown Fountain in Millennium Park also.
Most guests check-in on the 2nd floor, where another beautiful lobby and reception/concierge desks, as well as the Travelle and Pavilion restaurants, are located. Club Level guests check in at the Club Lounge on the top floor 12C (aka floor 13 according to the elevator buttons). The Club Lounge is yet another beautiful space, separated into 3 areas--lounge, dining area and food/beverage service area. It occupies the entire south (riverfront) side of this floor, and thus has fabulous views, including a bit of the lake beyond egomaniac Trump's building. Most Club guests will be hypnotized into spent much time in this relaxing oasis, where eating, drinking, socializing, business, or just lolling about can be done. I noticed some hotel staff breakfasting here as well. A team of butlers (led by super-kind and professional Carlos and including the tireless Edwin and Timothy) and other staff work ceaselessly to cater to guests' every whim. The main food presentations are breakfast and evening cocktails and canapes. Breakfast was not a full buffet but more than ample, with a variety of breads and pastries, fruit, salmon, charcuterie, cheeses, and four hot items (scrambled eggs, bacon, oatmeal and a 4th dish that changed daily). Midday, snacks are available such as fresh and dried fruits, cookies and other sweets. Some days teatime nibbles both sweet and savory are presented (a more complete afternoon tea is served in the Pavilion). In the evening, make-your own cocktails are available, as well as canapes both room temp and warm. The warm items usually included 2 fried things (egg rolls, pot stickers, empanadas, etc.) and a meat/veggie kebob. Unfortunately not presented were the seafood and sushi other TripAdvisor reviewers raved about, and which appear on the hotel's website photos. I couldn't help but wonder if this was a distressing budget reduction measure. Another niggle--with the staff's primary focus on guests, there were times when the Club was so busy that secondary tasks, such as clearing tables and replenishing empty food and beverage offerings, went uncompleted for somewhat long periods of time. More staff would be helpful during such times. My visit was chock-full of architectural tours in numerous parts of the city, by foot, bike and Segway, through the Chicago Architecture Foundation, Frank Lloyd Wright Trust, and Bike n' Roll, and it was always a pleasure to return to this sanctuary for revival, refreshment, and regrouping.
Club Level rooms are located on the top 3 floors (11, 12, 12C). I had asked for and received an east-facing room closest to the south to try to get a glimpse of the lake. My Grand Room was directly adjacent to the Lounge, and thus had almost as good a view. East-facing rooms look onto Wabash Ave., over the hotel entrance, and egomaniac Trump's Tower. The further south your room is, the more likely you will get a glimpse of the river. West-facing rooms look onto Marina City, House of Blues and Hotel Chicago (formerly Hotel Sax, I think), also with river glimpses the further south you are. Although you may see a smidgen of the lake from some east rooms, I think I prefer the west rooms because they are a bit more private (you are on level with Marina City's parking ramps, not their apartments, and you face the window-less side of Hotel Chicago, whereas the east rooms directly face lake-view hogging Trump Tower, especially its fitness centre), and perhaps a bit less noisy (I distinctly heard many a doormen's whistle for a taxi).
There are precious few direct river-view (south-facing) rooms since the north and south are the short sides of the rectangular building. Most floors have 2 corner Classic River View Suites and 2 Grand River View Rooms on the south side. I had a southwest Classic River View Suite for my first stay. The Club floors have only 2 Classic River View Suites and the 2 Langham Signature Suites, the Infinity Suite and Regent Suite, both huge and southeast facing with 2 bedrooms, two-thirds the size of the Club Lounge. North facing rooms and suites look onto the River North area, but on lower floors look onto a massive black multi-story garage. I would recommend stopping on floor 7 to see the large Hedrich Blessing photo of the Farnsworth House, where Mies' design elements are visible in a residential, rather than commercial, rendering.
I was escorted to my room by Timothy, who demonstrated to room's features and explained the Club Level privileges. A James Nares print was mounted on the wall between my room and the Lounge. It was one of several of his pieces in the hotel on floors 12C and 2. The room was of course smaller than my first visit suite but still amply large, over 500 sq. ft. The bedroom had a dressing area with 2 closets and a vanity, king bed with a chic cityscape throw, table with 2 chairs, desk, over 50-inch HD TV, and a lacquered cabinet that contained the minibar and fridge plus upscale barware and a Nespressso machine with water changed by housekeeping daily. The bathroom was large and lovely, with travertine marble widely used by Mies, great lighting, dual sinks, enclosed WC, wet room with 2 shower heads, tub with handheld nozzle, and window that turns clear/opaque with the flip of a switch. The A/C was whisper-quiet. Niggles: The entry hall light sometimes turned on by itself, while the bathroom lights turned off by themselves at 3 most inopportune times. Although a foot mat was placed bedside at each turndown, I was never given slippers. This seems to be an inconsistent happening based on other TA reviews. I didn't make a fuss and simply made do with the adorable SpongeBob SquarePants flip-flops I had packed to use poolside.
My experience at the Chuan Spa was sublime and serene. The entire 4th floor, which includes the spa, fitness centre, pool, relaxation room, locker rooms and fitness room, is wonderfully designed and spacious. The warm tiled stone chaises in the locker rooms are comfortable enough to doze off in, and the multi-sensory "pods" you can use after a treatment are fun if not entirely the immersion experience I expected. The pre-treatment relaxation room lulls you with the soft sound of water cascading down dual marble slabs. Treatment rates are more on weekends, and memberships are available to locals.
Travelle has a restaurant, lounge and bar area designed by David Rockwell. I liked the video installation by Yorgo Alexopolous the lounge, as well as the collage of Millennium Park images by Chris Dorland in the bar. My lunch was quite good, the service, not so much. The restaurant was far from crowded, and there were a lot of staff walking about, but I had to call out for someone to take my order, and then my starter and main course were brought out all at once. It was nice to look into the glass-enclosed kitchen, however.
Although the Club staff can provide concierge services, I did use the concierge on level 2 a few times. Chris was very helpful and professional.
I have never had a bad stay in many visits to Chicago at several different hotels. The choices are many, including some, like the Langham, in architecturally significant buildings. The Chicago landscape constantly changes--they're doing a massive updating of the Riverwalk area, the first Virgin Hotel is about to open, the former Elysian hotel (now the Waldorf Astoria) has fallen from grace a bit in the eyes of TA reviewers. The Langham is Chicago's piece de resistance now, and Mies will always be Mies. It's my new Chicago home, a prime reason to return sooner rather than later.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Conveniently located downtown in a landmark building designed by renowned architect Mies van der Rohe, luxury hotel The Langham, Chicago is just minutes away from the boutique-lined boulevards of Chicago’s retail hub and within walking distance to many of the city’s premier tourist sites. ... more less
- Reservation Options:
- TripAdvisor is proud to partner with Expedia, DerbySoft Ltd Shanghai HQ Supplier Direct, Booking.com, LoveHolidays, Ebookers, Hotels.com, Southall Travel, Odigeo, Travel Republic (UK), Evoline ltd, 5viajes2012 S.L., HotelQuickly, getaroom.com and Cancelon so you can book your The Langham, Chicago reservations with confidence. We help millions of travellers each month to find the perfect hotel for both holiday and business trips, always with the best discounts and special offers.