Hotel Review – Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, Chicago, USA

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Image (c) Andy Higgs, Grown-up Travel Guide

Radisson Blu is a familiar hotel brand to us in Scandinavia but the company has only recently opened its first US property which they chose to locate in Chicago. My three nights in the Windy City seemed like a good opportunity to check out how they were approaching the American market.

I guess the chance of staying in a luxury hotel less than six months old must have been quite tempting too?

It was. Not only is the hotel centrally located in Chicago but the building itself is a local landmark; indeed its rather unique ‘wavy’ design is highlighted on the river trips run by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Trivia fans take note: this is the tallest building in the world to have a woman as lead architect.

So what were your accommodation criteria?

Knowing that decent hotels in Chicago were going to be pricey, I was trying to find somewhere under US$200 a night. Note that as in many US cities Chicago imposes a state tax and a city tax on hotel stays – together this will add 16.4% onto your bill. I left this out as it’s usually payable on departure and not included in quoted rates. Being walking distance from ‘the bean’ and some Batman locations was a nice plus in addition to the aforementioned central position.


Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, 221 North Columbus Drive, Chicago, IL 60601 (01) 312 565 5258





Mid-April 2012.

Vital stats:

Four stars. Opened November 2011. 346 rooms over 17 floors.

Location, location, location?

The hotel is located a couple of blocks south of the river and a few blocks west of Lake Michigan. Millenium Park is at the end of the road and the nearest L-train stop can be reached in 10-15 minutes. The surrounding area contains offices and plenty of other hotels. If you come across a taxi driver who does not know where it is ask for the more established Fairmont Chicago hotel which is right over the street.

What about parking?

Should you be driving you can choose between self parking in the garage under the hotel or valet parking. Neither comes cheap – US$43 and US$53 respectively.

Why choose this place?

It’s new, it’s very funky (check the lobby area below with its wall of fire) and it’s well-located. There are two pools and the rooms are well appointed. If you can’t quite run to the Trump International or the Intercontinental then you can still get a taste of luxury here. Make sure you book as far in advance as possible and watch out for good deals – the price I paid was far below that offered on other sites and was booked through the hotel’s own homepage.

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Image (c) Andy Higgs, Grown-up Travel Guide

Also, if you like to go green this is a perfect choice – the hotel is run according to environmentally-sound principles and has been Green Key Gold Certified. All the wood in the furniture comes from sustainable forest sources and hotel cleaning is carried out using an ‘Ionator’ which doesn’t use any chemicals. Breakfast is of course organic.


There are essentially three different types of room – City and Park View, Business Class and Suites. There are a range of different suites including one type aimed at families. You can request a discount upgrade on booking and if you’re lucky will pay a minimal charge to move up the ranks. I wasn’t lucky, but was very satisfied with my City View corner room, which was large, light and airy with a modern feel.


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The room had the following features: flat screen LED television with the usual mass of cable channels, writing desk with chair, private safe big enough for a laptop, telephone, iron & ironing board, blackout curtains, non-opening windows (which I don’t like but probably has to do with health and safety legislation), a fancy coffee machine, radio with iPad dock. And a great bed.


Yes, this is the US after all so carpets are the norm. Mine was scrupulously clean so thumbs up there.



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The bathroom was large, modern and practical with a double shower, separate toilet and washbasin. Nice Anne Semonin toiletries. Hair dryer provided.

Free internet I hope?

Yes, free and fast. No complaints here.


Continue ReadingHotel Review – Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, Chicago, USA

Following the trail of Scandinavian crime fiction – Sarah Lund, Copenhagen

Holiday season is upon us, and as if that’s not enough other work duties are taking all of my time so to make sure you have something to read on a regular basis for the next month or so we will be republishing some forgotten gems from the past. And adding new content when we can, of course.

Here’s the second of our Nordic Noir locations articles…

Scandinavian crime fiction is still riding the crest of a wave and we have been finding out how the various tourism offices have been capitalising on its popularity. As fans ourselves, it’s certainly fun to visit locations used in films and books too.

Even more fun to play at being Wallander or Sarah Lund for a day?

Er yes, I didn’t realise we’d been spotted…

It was the whisky drinking in Ystad and that jumper in Copenhagen that gave it away mate…

Sarah Lund in The Killing 007

Image (c) BBC/DR/DR

Can we get back on topic please? Right, having wandered after Wallander in the lovely town of Ystad in Sweden it was time for Copenhagen and a few of the places used in “Forbrydelsen”.


Oh right, “The Killing” as it’s known to you guys. The Danish television series was a massive hit in its home country when it came out in 2007. Indeed it was seen by almost half the population – imagine that in UK or USA terms and you begin to see why it stirred up international attention. The BBC in the UK sat on it for some reason but when it was eventually shown there it attracted more viewers than “Mad Men”. The BBC didn’t wait so long to broadcast the second series…

So Copenhagen is all fired up to make a Killing from fans then?

Well, actually no. The tourist board could learn a lot from Ystad about how to promote the connections with the TV series. I suspect they were rather taken by surprise and do seem to be working on it though. When we visited in the summer there was no mention of the TV series on the official website but they have now posted some details on a specific page. Annoyingly (and somewhat unforgiveably) a lot of the deeper links are broken and some of the location details are vague. But it’s a start, so there’s enough for independent travellers to mark on their maps. A better alternative is a guided walk with Peter and Ping (a small company that specialises in literary tours) but these are currently infrequent – again the summer season will presumably offer more regular tours.


Continue ReadingFollowing the trail of Scandinavian crime fiction – Sarah Lund, Copenhagen