By { Beth Weitzman

The Peninsula Chicago is one of my favorite hotels in The Windy City, with gorgeous rooms, superb service and incredible cuisine, and a recent stay reinforced my opinion. Centrally located on the Magnificent Mile, this luxury hotel has deservedly received the coveted Forbes five star and AAA five diamond awards for 17 years running, and it continues to evolve with the addition of  its recently opened rooftop Z Bar and new spa services partner Subtle Energies.

In celebration of its 15th anniversary in 2016, The Peninsula Chicago unveiled 331 guest rooms and suites redesigned by Bill Rooney. Accommodations impress with French deco-inspired decor, Pratesi linens on ultra plush beds, fine wood finishes and lush fabrics in soothing shades of deep blue and cream. Spacious suites offer a large living room with chrysanthemum-themed, hand-embroidered silk art walls created by artist David Qian. 

As one of the most technologically advanced hotels in the world, rooms feature smart amenities, including digital bedside and desk tablets (available in 11 languages) to control lights, temperature, television and music; review hotel services; and peruse restaurant menus, and information about the city and its attractions. LED touch-screen wall panels detail weather information, privacy settings and service options; and long-distance and international VOIP calls and high-speed Wi-Fi are complimentary. Comfort and convenience is assured with easily accessible power outlets, device chargers, a wireless printer, couch with retractable built-in cup holders, and service cabinet with a Nespresso machine, Bernardaud china and snacks. I especially like the spa function on the bathtub control that dims the lights and turns on relaxing music. It’s pretty fabulous!

The VIP offerings continue with Keys to the City, a program that provides hotel guests access to top Chicago destinations and experiences. Four restaurants—The Lobby, Shanghai Terrace, Pierrot Gourmet, and the new rooftop Z Bar, which recently launched brunch—are exceptional. Plus, the Peninsula Spa boasts 15,000 square feet of luxurious services and amenities, along with a complete fitness center and indoor pool. Extra bonus: a bespoke BMW house car is available to transport guests within several miles of the property.

Lofty Lounge

High above iconic Michigan Avenue, The Peninsula’s recently opened rooftop Z Bar is an internationally inspired destination that combines impeccable design, daring drinks and globally inspired cuisine. Named for the company’s first female general manager, Maria Zec, it’s the place to see and be seen. 

Guests arrive via dedicated elevators designed to look like lush forests; the doors open to a small welcome foyer. Conceived by award-winning design firm Yabu Pushelberg, four distinct lounges each present unique design concepts and experiences. Guests travel through the spaces, excited by a sense of discovery. In addition to a dramatic skylight and floor-to-ceiling windows, there’s a delightful series of scenic murals and playful animal portraits created by Moss & Lam design studio-including my favorite one, an adorable pug.

The front lounge pays homage to Chicago’s architecture with hexagonal-patterned, mixed-marble floors. This space flows into the second lounge, the sepia-toned main room with a 17-seat metal-topped oval bar as its focal point, a dramatic bean-shaped skylight and hand-painted murals of Chicago’s iconic bascule bridges. The third lounge acts as a private salon for 10 to 12 guests, plus an adjoining exterior space that connects guests to the bustling city energy. The final space, a 53-seat outdoor terrace, wraps around the north and east sides of the building. Grab a coveted seat here to enjoy spectacular views of the John Hancock building, the historic Water Tower and other Michigan Avenue landmarks. 

Music at Z Bar comes courtesy of renowned DJ and international music producer Alyson Calagna. Her global playlists and custom tracks are developed exclusively for the bar and create an atmosphere that is lively and upbeat, casual and soulful. Guests can also find Calagna’s curated playlists on Z Bar’s website via Spotify. 

An innovative handcrafted cocktail program features bold, global flavors and with a hint of the exotic. Some drinks are crafted tableside, while others feature surprising touches like gold leaf, caviar, tonics and spices. A curated beer menu and extensive wine list also are on offer. 

The sophisticated yet casual food menu features small plates with ingredients and flavors drawn from Asia, Europe and the Americas. Try the daikon frites, Z Bar’s version of French fries with Chinese lap cheong, garlic chive, white soy and spiced tomato jam; or the beef cracklings made with beef tendon and sprinkled with malt vinegar and Hawaiian pink salt.

Subtle Pleasures

The 15,000-square-foot Peninsula Spa and adjoining fitness center, located on the top two floors of the five-star hotel, feature floor-to-ceiling windows, abundant natural light and epic views of the city. The Spa is comprised of eight treatment rooms, a mani/pedi room, a men’s and a women’s eucalyptus steam room, an indoor pool, a yoga studio, the most cozy relaxation area with fireplace, and an outdoor sundeck offering inventive spa cuisine. 

The Peninsula Spa recently partnered with Subtle Energies, an Australia-based Ayurvedic aromatherapy, natural skincare and wellness solutions brand making its first entry into the United States market by offering products available exclusively at The Peninsula Hotels in New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles. Treatments include a selection of therapeutic massages, rejuvenating facials, cleansing body scrubs and wellness journeys created to target specific concerns, such as aging, hormonal imbalance, fatigue and sleep disorders. 

Ten Subtle Energy treatments are available, including the signature Blissful Marma Massage, a 90-minute session that combines therapeutic and aromatherapy techniques, such as Ayurveda strokes, Marma point therapy, aesthetic lymphatic drainage and kasa bowl work to increase circulation and blood flow. Other offerings include half- and full-day spa retreats, couple’s massages, hydrating manicures and more.

Meanwhile, the state-of-the-art fitness center boasts top-notch exercise equipment and complimentary fitness classes. In the pool, guests can choose from water Pilates,  swim conditioning, interval training and other classes. On dry land, there are classes in strength conditioning, cardio and yoga. 

For a luxurious stay in the Windy City, you really can’t beat The Peninsula Chicago, my kind of hotel!