A bed for the night in America

Where is it?

High above uptown Chicago, at the northern end of the Magnificent Mile.

Describe the setting

It corners a busy but smart intersection of the city's main drag, which runs south from this swanky Gold Coast neighbourhood. The shore of Lake Michigan is only a short walk eastwards from here. Directly beneath this skyscraping hotel sits a shopping mall that houses a six-storey Bloomingdales and numerous international designer boutiques.

Does it have a USP?

In a city where size matters, the Four Seasons – all 40 floors of it – is a big cheese. After getting hopelessly lost between the wide open plains of the reception area and the entrance lobby six floors below, I did consider leaving a trail of bread-crumbs to help me find my room again after dinner. I've seen airports smaller than this joint, though admittedly none with marble fountains all over the place or a luxury spa and sky-lit swimming pool in the middle.

Comfort factor?

Its beds are legendary for their ability to lull even the most troubled insomniac into bone-melting sleep. Pillows are gorgeously overstuffed, the Frette linen is smooth, cool and crisp. My suite also had a small drawing room with two sofas, a plentiful mini-bar, video, radio, CD and DVD. There are two huge TV sets, one at the foot of the bed, useful for watching back-to-back re-runs of The Mary Tyler Moore Show at 5am, when your internal clock insists you ought to be wide awake. Every room has picture windows giving panoramic views of downtown Chicago and/or Lake Michigan.

What's in the bathroom?

You mean apart from the chintzy wallpaper, crystal candle sconces and vast marble vanity? Well, there's a bathtub as deep as a canyon, a shower stall as big as an elevator, and towels as wide, white and soft as a snowy field. Generous supplies of toiletries by L'Occitane. There's also a large walk-in wardrobe adjacent to the bathroom, which lights up obligingly, rather like a fridge, whenever you open its double doors.

I'm hungry ...

Not for long. Five-star American hotels equate quality with quantity, so if, say, you're only peckish at breakfast and order plain scrambled eggs with toast, your plate may well arrive accessorised with an extra kilo of hash browns and grilled tomatoes, plus five kinds of jam for the toast. Even a bowl of granola is loaded with extraordinarily large mixed berries, which look like the result of a sci-fi genetic experiment.

What are the people like?

Rich and American, mostly. The women are spectacularly well-groomed "social X-rays", as Tom Wolfe would have it, and even wear full make-up in the spa. There are a fair number of posh Brits around, playing up their (real or imagined) Hugh Grant-ish appeal. It's a popular place for weddings, celebrated in the splendid ballroom, but I bet the bride's father would have to be loaded. The staff are a crack squad of hospitality professionals, and only slightly scary to your average awkward Brit. When I managed to jam a gushing bath tap only 10 minutes after arriving and had to alert reception to the imminent possibility of a flood, an immaculately boiler-suited plumber appeared within seconds.

Local interest

No matter how high your room, looking out of the window at the 100-storey John Hancock Tower will make you feel like you're at the bottom of a well. From street level, you can ascend to the tower's 94th-floor observation deck, in a lift that travels at 549 metres per minute. Shop on your doorstep along Magnificent Mile by all means (Gucci, Prada, MaxMara, Tiffany ...), but don't miss the fantastic Architectural River Tour, which offers stunning views and good commentary on the city's unique high-rise heritage. A good, half-day browse round the Art Institute of Chicago's amazing collection is also a must.

Access for all?

Wheelchair users should indicate requirements when booking a room. Nappies, strollers, babysitters, games and videos are available; "child-proofed" guest rooms and an infants' pool make it very family-friendly.

What's the damage?

Weekend bed-and breakfast rates start at $355 (£220). Deals are often available.


120 East Delaware Place, Chicago, Illinois (001 312 280 8800; www.fourseasons.com).