Made in the Motor City: The 7 Coolest Hotels in Detroit Reshaping the City’s Future

By Tommy Burson,

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Beyond the post-apocalyptic ruins and “most dangerous city” moniker, Detroit is a city untapped. In some ways, it’s less a city and more of an idea. It’s a city where “Will Work For Food” becomes a piece of artwork to be exhibited alongside Rivera at the DIA. Abandoned buildings have become canvases for artisans, artists, and craftsmen across the city. From the old firehouse that’s been reimagined into to a Michelin-star led restaurant to the music factory that’s housing perhaps the trendiest hotel in the world, we’ll have a look at the seven best (and coolest) hotels in Detroit that are reshaping the Motor City’s beguiling past into its exciting future.

The 7 Best (and Coolest) Hotels in Detroit

best and coolest hotels in detroit

Trumbull & Porter

From the shadows of Central Station

“I stay even when I go” is inscribed in the lobby of Corktown’s Trumbull & Porter. It’s the ethos of not only the hotel but also everything Detroit is, was, and can be. When you’re here, in this city, a part of you never leaves.

A former derelict Holiday Inn located in the shadows of the Armageddon-like Central Station, Trumbull & Porter has gone all-in on Detroit. Nearly all the work on the project was locally sourced, from the ROK Construction Services and Patrick Thompson design leading the renovation efforts to the custom lighting by Colin Tury, Detroit Bikes fleet for guests, and the wooden exterior supplied by Detroit Wood Type Company. Like the David Blair poem in the main lobby, this hotel is an ode to the city—and considering the Herman Miller chairs, Thompson Millworks Beds, and Grand Rapids Chair sofas, it’s also an ode to the entire state of Michigan.

But this “Made in Detroit” mentality is, more importantly, “Made for Detroit.” The hotel also acts as an outdoor music and art venue in summers, where downtown residents flock to enjoy some local music while lounging in the “Pump Room” (which serves up craft beer from Batch Brewing) beer garden. Restaurants Red Dunn Kitchen and Burroughs Lounge serve seasonal American food with an eclectic twist (“Green Eggs & Ham,” anyone?) and the hotels “Steak Room” is a sight out of a meat-lover’s dreams.

It’s less a hotel and more a meeting place, a place to exchange ideas, enjoy a meal, and embrace the city’s artistic vibe.

Hanging above Trumbull & Porter’s porte cochère entrance is a mural by famed Corktown artist Don Kilpatrick. It’s a steaming sewer grate hugging a pair of legs. It’s that moment you stay before you go.

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Foundation Hotel

An exhibition of Detroit Arts

A decade ago, most Detroiters wouldn’t have thought the old firehouse at Larned and Washington would become one of the trendiest hotels in the country.

But calling The Foundation “a hotel” is almost a misnomer. It’s an exhibition in Detroit art, innovation and history. Originally built in 1926 as the city’s fire department’s headquarters, the building’s façade juxtaposes classic firehouse features like the iconic red-arched doors and glazed brick tiles against slightly more modern, industrial-inspired fixtures inside the building.

Walking in, guests are greeted almost immediately with Detroit luxury, a gift shop with Sfumato Fragrances and artwork made from bullet shards from Detroit Wick. Turn left into the stunning Apparatus Room (a callback to the space’s original purpose for storing fire engines), a new restaurant led by two Michelin-starred chef Thomas Lents, who relocated from Chicago for the project. Lents’ goal with the restaurant revolves around hyper-locality like the Pici, a Coney-style Bolognese, beef heart, and horseradish. The entire design—charred wood, ornate light fixtures, and brown booths—is reminiscent of an old-school diner fit for a king—or at least Mayor Duggan.

Beyond the dining room, the hotel itself is an art gallery (thanks to the help of Red Bull House of Art), with works by Detroit artists like Don Kilpatrick, Christopher Gideon, and Dino Valdez scattered throughout the property.

The homage to Detroit intensifies in each room, where a goodie basket of Detroit goods like McClure’s chips await each guest. Each room features a headboard wall constructed from salvaged buildings at ASW Detroit and custom wallpaper from Detroit Wallpaper Co., and photographs of historic Detroit.

And that’s not even getting into the partnership with Detroit Bikes to tour the city.

It’s like a time-warp into Detroit’s heyday. It’s a venture into Detroit’s future. And it’s a portrait of Detroit now.

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The Siren Hotel

Reviving the music of Motown

Named for the Greek mythological creatures who enchanted sailors through song, The Siren Hotel’s song is reviving the music of Motown in the newly renovated Wurlitzer Building.

For decades the Wurlitzer sat silently decaying. Formerly home to one of the largest music stores in the world, the building supplied the country—and even Europe—with unparalleled organs and pianos. Still today, the Wurlitzer organ is the soundtrack of the Fox, Fisher, and Fillmore theaters in Detroit. The building, when originally built, was synonymous with the art to which it was devoted.

Today, The Siren Hotel has restored the Wurlitzer’s old glory into a tribute to what came before and a nod to the unwritten future of this beguiling city. The once-crumbling façade resembles the original renaissance revival construction with intricate terra-cotta reliefs that the Detroit Times once called “sheer beauty,” and the pistachio-colored, Milanese flooring evokes old-world luxury.

Inside the 106-room labyrinth a plethora of restaurants, bars, and shopping. Populace Coffee on the ground-floor will be the place to start your day along with the ‘50s-esque Candy Bar from popular chef Kate Williams. There’s also an enigmatic eight-seat tasting-menu-only restaurant called Albena. And, opening later this year, an all-day diner and bakery, headed by Kate Williams and Matt Wang, called Karl’s.

As if that’s not enough, there’s a florist, two-chair barber shop, rooftop bar (which offers panoramas of the city’s famed skyline), and even a piano karaoke bar because, at this point, why wouldn’t there be one. It’s as if guests don’t even need to explore the hotel’s surrounding historic Broadway district.

The hotel itself is a destination. And the rooms offer an unusual boutique experience, ranging from simple bunk bed rooms to double-rooms with a birdcage all the way to top-floor penthouses.

The idea is not necessarily to be a hotel. It’s to be Detroit.

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The Westin Book Cadillac Detroit

A marker of a revitalized downtown

Once the city’s most opulent hotel when it opened in 1924, the Book-Cadillac fell into disrepair in the ‘80s along with much of the city of Detroit. Its greatness was robbed—vandals broke windows, spray-painted the beautiful plaster, and the Grand Ballroom began to rot.

After 25 years as a landmark to everything wrong with Detroit, the 29-floor, 455-room, 64-condo behemoth Cadillac re-opened in 2008 as the first marker of a revitalized downtown.

Located near the central business district in Midtown, the hotel emerges over Washington Boulevard. Down the street are the rival American and Lafayette Coney Islands. A block further is Campus Martius, the green focal point that launched the city’s rejuvenation. A five-minute cycle away, locals and suburbanites are lining up outside of Slows BBQ or sipping coffee at Astro’s or liquoring up at Sugar House. It could be Brooklyn or Berlin if you closed your eyes, but, no, it’s the Motor City.

Inside, guests are almost immediately transported to the roaring ‘20s Detroit, with an ornate, marble staircase and the iron-clad balconies in the Grand Ballroom conjuring images of the Parisian gilded age. The hotel has three bars and three restaurants. Buttoned-up locals and guests flock to the hotel’s restaurant Roast, run by celebrity chef Michael Symon, for cheap happy hour and artisanal mini burgers. It’s comfort, not haute like the Cadillac’s décor, but no elegance is lost.

The Westin’s a taste of the Detroit of old, reinventing its place, once again, as a taste of the former “Paris of the Midwest.”

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Aloft Detroit at the David Whitney

A beacon to the Golden Age of Detroit

In 1915, the David Whitney Building represented the wealth and idealism in America’s Golden Age. Designed in exquisite Neo-Renaissance style, with a four-story gold-leafed atrium and glazed brick façade, the building was considered among the most important structures in Detroit and a 19-story architectural wonder.

Of course, as with most Detroit stories, the skyscraper ended up abandoned and stripped of its luxury by the 1990s. The copper wiring went to drug deals. The glazed brick façade faded, and the gold-leafed atrium became another symbol of heart-ache in the struggling city.

After 15 years in dereliction, Aloft Hotels bought the property, and in 2014, restored its former glory. The new atrium’s architecture resembles the classic Neo-Renaissance found throughout France, almost reminiscent of the Palais du Rhin in Strasbourg—or at Parisian libraries reading room—with sunlight shining through the roof-top windows and iron-wrought balconies encapsulating the centrum. The modern, colorful rooms offer a surprising twist to the French architecture throughout the building, and most views overlook the cityscape. Downstairs, W XYZ bar, the site’s Euro-chic hangout, hosts regular concerts by Motown’s burgeoning music scenes, be it acoustic sessions by indie rockers or poetic rap sessions by up-and-coming artists.

Situated next to Grand Circus Park, Aloft Detroit couldn’t be in a more convenient location. Whether venturing to a Tigers, Lions, Red Wings, or Pistons game or to Cobo, it’s mere seconds away. Performances at the Fox, Fillmore, are all within immediate walking distance. For shopping, Foxtown and Eastern Market are a relatively quick walk away. And, most importantly, if you’re looking to travel to Greektown, Monroe Avenue only a half-mile from the hotel.

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The Inn on Ferry Street

A slice of the English countryside in Midtown

Just about the last place you’d expect to find a row of beautiful Victorian houses is along the outskirts of Midtown, in an area mere blocks from some of worst blight in Detroit. But that’s exactly where the stunningly-restored Inn on Ferry Street is found.

A collection of four restored Queen Anne mansions and two carriage houses built in the late 19th century, the inn exudes the elegance old motor magnates expected along East Ferry Avenue—now the East Ferry Avenue Historic District. Each “House” contains several rooms and common areas, and the antiquate mirrors, four-poster beds, and century-old fireplaces transport you to an era when Detroit was the wealthiest city in the country. It’s as close to an English countryside home that you’ll find in the U.S.

Down the road, you’re in the heart of Detroit’s cultural center, with the DIA, MOCAD, Detroit Historical Society, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, and the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant all a five-minute walk from the property. Wayne State University and its bars, restaurants, and concert halls surround the property. Just a half-mile down Woodward are brewpubs for Hopcat and Jolly Pumpkin, a necessary component to any Detroit trip, and Café 78 in MOCAD is best for a quiet drink to start the night. In the morning, start your day at nearby Great Lakes Coffee, and end it with a sobering slice from Sgt. Pepperoni’s on the way back to the inn—where you can grab a late-night cookie in your new countryside home.

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The Inn at 97 Winder

Welcome to Victorian England on Winder Street

Three towers loom over the quiet block along Winder Street. The building looks out of Victorian England—the Queen Anne stylings, Mansard roof, and gigantic bay windows. It’s a cottage that, a decade ago, looked like little more than a literal wasteland across from Comerica Park and Ford Field.

The 10-room estate was built in 1876, and, from a design aesthetic, The Inn at 97 Winder has honored old-world luxury with a quirky, boutique coolness. The colorful, Persian rugs, satin fabric, and chandeliers juxtaposed against kitsch antiques like gilded Hindu statues, wall-length Renaissance-style canvases, and classic, leather Winchesters feels almost like you’re in the 19th century home of some wealthy English traveler.

Inside, the hotel contains three parlors and a lounge. Surprisingly, there’s no cigar room. But at least there’s limousine service (what kind of undignified experience did you expect?).

Nearby, the hotel is just a leap from the city’s sporting venues like Comerica Park, Ford Field, and Little Caesars Arena. It’s also just a few minutes from the Fox, Fillmore, Masonic Temple, and the Detroit Opera House if you’re in town to catch a performance. Greektown is also within walking distance just in case you find yourself craving some souvlaki. Those keen on a more alternative experience can cycle up Woodward toward Magic Stick for some local garage rock, cross Woodward and continue west to TV Lounge for some underground techno, or head a bit further downtown to City Club for some industrial and goth rock.

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All photos courtesy of trivago