Situated between two large lakes, the famously bike-friendly state capital of the state of Wisconsin is said to be one of the most quintessentially American cities. It’s known for being home to the sprawling flagship University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, as well as its four large lakes, its collection of parks and green spaces, its UNESCO World Heritage site, craft brews, and as a vibrant cultural centre; including a lively array of nightlife and a varied annual calendar of events and festivals.
Apart from being a thriving hub of musical, artistic and gastronomical offerings; other highlights include its spectacular views and the plethora of water-based activities on offer, as well as an extensive network of bike and trail paths including the Ice Age National Scenic Trail and skiing in the winter. Furthermore, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to Madison Wisconsin’s host of interesting museums, farmer’s markets, restaurants and bars.
The choice of accommodation in Madison is first rate too, from cute boutique inns to chic, modern characterful hotels here are the best cool and unusual hotels in Madison, Wisconsin (in no particular order)…
1. The Graduate Hotel – a youthful, trendy and funky hub perfect for Gen-Zs, Millennials, or anyone wishing to relive their youth!
The hip four-star Graduate Hotel is situated alongside the waters of Lake Mendota just one block from the buzzing University of Wisconsin campus, offering stunning views of city and lake alike.
Chock-full of character and boasting a décor that exudes a fun and whimsical vibe which manages to be both trendy and relaxed at the same time (thanks to its cool college-themed rooms). The Graduate Hotel Madison is a great base from which to explore the city’s lively university district and soak up the exuberant atmosphere or be sociable and have a party too!
There are plenty of great onsite amenities too, including a cosy café, an awesome rooftop bar and restaurant as well as an onsite gym if you fancy keeping fit (and keeping up with the college students) during your stay and that all-important free Wifi.
Packed with personality and charm and surrounded by museums, restaurants and bars, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to deciding how to spend your time in Madison.
But our favourite quirky touch here at the Graduate is the unique student card which acts as your passkey to the hotel during your stay – just one of the many ways the Graduate puts ‘fun’ at the top of the class!
Oh, and your pet pooch is welcome too!
- To book, check prices or availability for The Graduate Madison
Both the décor and the name of the ultra-cool, contemporary boutique-style Hotel Indigo are a homage to the hotel’s former life as a paint factory, a theme that is delightfully represented throughout the characterful building – most notably with the appearance of a giant paint can on the ceiling in the lobby.
Bursting with colour, character, and charm, The Hotel Indigo is surrounded on both sides by water, located on a strip of land between two of Madison’s four famous lakes. Its bright, art deco rooms boast large windows – not to mention amply photo opportunities thanks to that incredible view and the funky furnishings.
Once you’ve had your fill of exploring the city, you can either unwind in the hotel’s atmospheric bar area, or head up to your spacious room for a hot shower in the modern bathroom complete with complimentary Aveda bath products.
- To book, check prices or availability for Hotel Indigo Madison
3. AC Hotel by Marriott Madison Downtown – a sleek, contemporary hotel overlooking the imposing state capitol building
Designed for “creative and well-travelled spirits”, this upscale hotel offers great facilities and a cool, trendy décor perfect for design lovers. Relax and let your worries drift away in the fabulously sleek Nordic style of the AC Hotel.
The stylish interior isn’t the only thing to love about this hotel: the location is superb too. Overlooking the historic state capitol building and just a couple of blocks away from the picturesque Mendota Lake, the AC Hotel offers its guests the best of both sides of Madison, WI.
As you would expect from downtown Madison, there are spectacular views all around – and the hotel has really made the most of those amazing views with its elegantly furnished roof terrace, where you with find both a bar and dining options. As if that weren’t enough, you can even gaze out over that stunning cityscape whilst you workout as the treadmills in the on-site gym overlook the capitol building too.
You needn’t sacrifice substance for style here at the AC Hotel either as you will find free electric vehicle charging stations. The hotel is completely smoke-free and offers free valet parking.
- To book, check prices or availability for AC Hotel by Marriott
4. The Edgewater – a stunning, classically styled hotel in the heart of downtown Madison boasting breath-taking views and an understated elegance
The chic and elegant waterfront Edgewater Hotel with a spa and multiple restaurants to choose from – including a fantastically popular lakeside grill – is ideal for those looking to stay in a hotel with bags of classic charm that still offers all the latest mod-cons one could dream of.
Hailing from around the 1940s and maintaining much of the original architecture and mid-20th century feel from the era, almost all of the Edgewater’s over 200 rooms offer truly amazing views of the city.
Its location makes it perfect for a romantic break, or even for use as a wedding venue (or any other event you may be celebrating). Plus, if it’s amenities you’re looking for, then the Edgewater has those to spare! You’ll find an onsite hairdresser, a spa, and a nail salon to ensure everybody looks their best for every occasion.
If you happen to be visiting in the winter, brave the cold and take a skate around the hotel’s lakeside ice-skating rink, before warming up with a delicious meal at the hotel’s glamourous restaurant and bar.
As well as boat moorings, the hotel will also provide free transport to and from the airport in addition to a local free shuttle.
- To book, check prices or availability for The Edgewater
5. The Madison Concourse Hotel – a luxurious, fabulously located hotel that oozes modern glamour with timeless touches
The fabulous Madison Concourse Hotel is just a block or two away from State Street (where all the action happens in downtown Madison) and a five-minute walk from Wisconsin State Capital, as well as a stone’s throw away from the Science Museum and the Orpheum theatre, if you fancy taking in a show during your stay.
This impressive hotel boasts a Titanic-esque staircase, and large spacious rooms for a variety of different events, such as weddings. But if none of that tickles your fancy, then why not take a dip in the indoor pool? Let your troubles drift away as you float upon the warm water and gaze up at the sky through the large pool skylight.
If going all the way to the pool sounds like too much trouble, why not treat yourself to a poolside room? If you want even more luxury, then you can sign up to become a member of the salubrious Governor’s Club, which claims the top three floors of the hotel, offering a private bar and the most spectacular views of the city.
- To book, check prices or availability for The Madison Concourse Hotel
6. Sheraton Madison Hotel – a stylish retreat overlooking Lake Monona that offers a host of onsite amenities
Newly refurbished, the stylish and spacious Sheraton Madison Hotel is decorated with a calming neutral palette and soft art deco touches throughout and the range of both indoor and outdoor dining options means that there is sure to be something to suit everyone.
The impressive lobby houses a small shop where you can grab a snack or a coffee before heading out to explore the numerous nearby attractions, whilst the bar area offers a laid-back, smart-casual place to enjoy an evening drink after a day of sightseeing, shopping or taking in some of Madison’s richly varied cultural offerings.
You will also find numerous water-filling stations dotted around the hotel, so you can refill your bottle before heading out on the local trails whilst minimising your plastic production.
Fancy staying at the hotel? Then head to the beautifully finished pool area – lit by an enormous skylight, it really is not to be missed.
- To book, check prices or availability for The Sheraton Madison Hotel
7. The Buckingham Inn – a highly-rated hotspot finished with quaint and quirky details, perfect for couples or those looking for a characterful hideaway
This delightfully homely and uniquely characterful boutique B&B is thoughtfully and lavishly finished. Despite its 3-star rating, the decor of the Buckingham Inn can be said to rival that of its namesake! Expect stained glass windows, gold filigree, soft lighting, and a laid-back cosy vibe throughout.
This home away from home includes a complimentary breakfast and the proprietors will take any personal dietary needs into consideration. To ensure that nothing disturbs your relaxation, the bed and breakfast operates an over 16 policy, making this the perfect couples retreat in the relaxed environs of Madison.
Ideally positioned close to the lakeside and the botanical gardens, there are plenty of options for activities. However, if you fancy staying in and getting cosy, why not enjoy a glass of wine in your room whilst watching Netflix?
The Buckingham Inn comes highly recommended, and its unique personal touch is evident throughout.
- To book, check prices or availability for The Buckingham Inn
8. Tru By Hilton Madison West – a cool and contemporary accommodation option filled with fun, Instagrammable features
This brightly coloured hotel exudes energy and a sense of play. The fully air-conditioned rooms are spacious and furnished with a minimalist style that pays special attention to detail, with handy extras such as iPod docking stations.
There is free parking and a complimentary breakfast to help fuel you up for the many activities on hand in downtown Madison, which is only a few miles away. Or, you can always just hang out at the hotel and take advantage of some of the onsite games, such as air hockey and pool.
- To book, check prices or availability for The Buckingham Inn
9. Cambria Hotel Madison East – a bright, modern and comfortable hotel made unique with quirky, colourful details
The bright and modern Cambria Hotel offers an inexpensive and conveniently located option for travellers who wish to be slightly further away from the downtown area and is ideally located either for those travelling by car or arriving into the nearest airport.
With a comfortably furnished outdoor area, inviting indoor pool and hot tub complex and a cool, laid-back bar-bistro area, there is plenty to keep you occupied during your stay.
Relax over a freshly prepared meal or cup of barista-style coffee, or grab a snack from the 24-hour convenience store and retreat to the privacy of your clean and spacious room complete with thoughtful details such as luxurious bedding and upscale amenities like two flat-screen LCD televisions, spa-like baths featuring Bath and Body Works amenities, microwaves and refrigerators, coffee and mediaHub plug and play technology for your laptop, MP3 player, game console and digital camera.
- To book, check prices or availability for The Cambria Hotel
10. Madi Cottage – an understated cottage with a private outdoor area that’s perfect for a family or friends’ holiday
Perfect for larger groups or longer stays, Madi Cottage provides a home away from home that is very popular with families as its three large bedrooms ensure there is plenty of room for up to ten people.
You will have access to your own personal outdoor area, fully equipped kitchen, and laundry room with everything you could possibly need: crockery, toiletries, bedding, and towels.
The best bit? Downtown Madison is just 4 miles away. So you can enjoy the secluded peace and quiet of this cute and quirky holiday cottage, whilst having the humming activity of Madison within easy reach.
The property also enjoys free private parking, making it a great choice of holiday rental for those travelling by car on an all-American road trip.
- To book, check prices or availability for Madi Cottage
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Gary is an award winning full time professional photographer and videographer with too much wanderlust for his own good. Fuelled by strong coffee, you’ll often find him wandering well off hiking trails in search of interesting photographic subjects or scenery to video. Self taught and with the use of pioneering digital techniques, he quickly built up a strong client base and has worked with many prestigious organisations, including GQ, BBC, London Fashion Week, Grazia, Sky, Metro, Vogue Italia. He specialising in evocative images of people, places and cinematic videography and his goal is to make the viewer look twice and engage. As well as a penchant for good design, the ketogenic diet and Hungarian Vizslas, he also has a huge affection for Chicago, Bucharest, Scandinavia, Croatia and absolutely everywhere in Italy. Find him on Instagram @garynansome, Twitter @garynansome and his website https://garynunn.co.uk/