Architecture in Chicago
Chicago has some of the best and most interesting architecture in the country. From its skyscrapers to its churches, Chicago has a wide variety of architectural styles, and it's a city that's constantly adding new buildings that draw visitors in. Many of these amazing structures are right along the river in the downtown area, so you can see them from the streets or from a boat cruise. Whether modern or historical, every building has its own story.
Chicago Harbor Light
The Chicago Harbor Lighthouse is found at the south end of the northern breakwater and protects the Chicago Harbor.
Chicago Water Tower
The Chicago Water Tower is a landmark of the Old Chicago Water Tower District. It sits along the famous Magnificent Mile shopping district and was built in 1869, making it the second oldest water town in the country. Inside the building is a gallery that features local artists and photographers.
800 North Michigan Avenue, The Magnificent Mile, Chicago, Illinois, 60611
The Willis Tower, still called the Sears Tower by most locals, is a 110 story skyscraper that was completed in 1973. For 25 years it was the tallest building in the world. The tower's observation deck is famous for its glass boxes, with glass floors, which give visitors a unique view of the city.
233 South Wacker Drive, Loop, Chicago, Illinois, 60606
The Chicago River is an iconic part of the city, and it runs parallel to the lakeshore through the heart of the city. The Riverwalk is along a popular stretch of the river, and it's lined with many great restaurants and some of Chicago's most impressive architecture. You can wander along the Riverwalk, rest at one of the many benches, take in the impressive views or simply people watch.
Loop, Chicago, IL, 60601
The Rookery Building
The Rookery Building was designated a Chicago Landmark in 1972. The two story lobby was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright between 1905 and 1907 and the building's structure is notable as being the oldest surviving high rise in the city.
209 S. LaSalle St., Financial District, Chicago, IL, 60604
The Loop is Chicago's downtown neighborhood and it is at the heart of the city's tourism scene. This area is filled with iconic attractions, classic architecture, theaters, restaurants, and shopping. It's where you'll find Millennium Park, the Chicago Riverwalk, the theatre district, and State Street. There are river cruises, architectural tours, as well as a vibrant nightlife scene with music festivals, and live music venues. For many tourists, this is the neighborhood where they spend the most time.
Marina City sits along a branch of the Chicago River in the downtown area. It's unique design includes two cylindrical 588 feet tall towers and at its completion it was the tallest residential building in the world. Within the building you'll find the House of Blues and the Hotel Chicago, part of the Marriott.
300 N State St, River North, Chicago, IL, 60654
The Wrigley Building
The Wrigley Building is one of the most notable early skyscrapers in Chicago. It was built in the 1920s and has two towers - a 30 story south tower and a 21 story north tower - with a walkway between the two on the 14th floor. This was also the first air conditioned building in Chicago.
400-410 N Michigan Ave, The Magnificent Mile, Chicago, IL, 60611
This theatre is managed by an independent non-profit and it regularly hosts performances by the Joffrey Ballet, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the Civic Opera. It is one of the oldest surviving concert halls in Chicago's downtown area, dating back to 1889.
430 South Michigan Avenue, Printer's Row, Chicago, Illinois, 60605
Head to The Villa District in Irving Park to check out some of the classic Chicago bungalows. This neighborhood also has a number of breweries, a local theater, and Victorian mansions.
One Illinois Center
One Illinois Center is a notable architectural landmark in Chicago for its International Style. It is also the home to the Chicago Architecture Center, which is an impressive museum with a number of exhibits and models. You can also pick up the Architecture River Cruise here which is organized by the Chicago Architecture Center.
111 E. Wacker Drive, South Shore, Chicago, Illinois
Located on the South Side of Chicago, this neighborhood is rich in history. It was the location of the 1893 World's Fair and it has a number of notable residences including a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright as well as the former home of President Barack Obama. Hyde Park sits on the edge of Lake Michigan and offers beautiful water views. It's also easily accessible to the 18 mile lakefront running and biking path. Within Hyde Park you'll find the University of Chicago, the Museum of Science and Industry, and part of Jackson Park.
Previously known as the Standard Oil Building, this is the third tallest building in Chicago. It was built in 1973 and at one time it's white facade, now white granite, was wrapped in Italian Carrara marble.
200 E. Randolph St., Loop, Chicago, IL, 60601
875 North Michigan
Previously call the John Hancock Center, this building is an iconic symbol in the Chicago skyline. It climbs 1,128 feet high and is almost 1,500 feet to the tip of its antennas. The building is considered to be one of the best examples of structural expressionism in the city.
You can head to the 94th floor to see the Tilt attraction at 360 Chicago. When it's clear, you can see up to 55 miles away.
875 N Michigan Ave, The Magnificent Mile, Chicago, IL, 60611
This award winning skyscraper has a neo-Gothic design with influences by world renowned landmarks such as the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, Angkor Wat and the Great Pyramids.
435 N. Michigan Ave., The Magnificent Mile, Chicago, IL, 60611
Chicago Architecture Center
Located in the impressive Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s skyscraper at One Illinois Center, this museum has exhibits on the many skyscrapers of Chicago. Located right by the Chicago Riverwalk, they offer a number of walking, bus and boat tours as well.
111 E Wacker Dr,, South Shore, Chicago, IL, 60601
Walden Pond & Thoreau's Cabin
Henry David Thoreau, the famous American author, wrote some of his most famous works at this cabin which is now a museum and park. Visitors can walk around the famous Walden Pond which has a small beach area and walking trails. It's a nice spot for a swim in the summer. The area is now a state park and open to the public.
915 Walden St, Concord, Massachusetts
25 stories high and spanning two city blocks, this unique marketplace sits at the intersection of the North, South, and Main branches of the Chicago River. The architects sought to bring together the concept of a warehouse, a department store, and an office building. Within the building you'll find a number of home furnishing showrooms and a large number of tech companies.
222 N. Merchandise Mart Plaza, Near North Side, Chicago, IL
Located by the lake, South Shore offers impressive views of the Chicago skyline. The neighborhood is filled with unique architecture and a diversity of culture. If you want to take advantage of the lakefront setting, head to Rainbow Beach Park. The South Shore Cultural Center is a beautiful area for picnics and nature as well as theater and opera. To explore the area's architecture, head to Jackson Park Highlands, which is a residential area with impressive mansions.
The Chicago Cultural Center
Located in Millennium Park, the Chicago Cultural Center opened in 1897 to house the first Chicago Public Library and to serve as the headquarters for the Grand Army of the Republic. Today it is a free cultural center that hosts a number of free concerts, art exhibits and other activities that are open to the public.
78 E Washington St, Millennium Park, Chicago, IL, 60602
Rogers Park is a bit off the main tourist circuit, but it has a number of unique architectural examples, including the Emil Bach House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, as well as an impressive theater scene. The neighborhood is diverse, and that's reflected in the restaurants found there. It is also home to the Glenwood Avenue Arts District which has impressive murals, award-winning theaters, and a variety of live music venues. There are also many art galleries in the neighborhood. To the east the neighborhood runs into Lake Michigan's shoreline and there are many nice waterfront views.
Aqua is a more recent addition to the Chicago skyline. It was completed in 2009 and is considered to be a recognizable building for its dramatic undulating balconies that were designed to look like waterfalls. The building houses a hotel, apartments, and condominiums and it reaches 859 feet in height.
225 N Columbus Dr #220, Loop, Chicago, IL, 60601
How much does it cost to experience the architecture of Chicago?
Prices for activities, things to do, and tours range from $22 to $780. The average cost for a tour or tickets is $125. A few of the best options are below.
Where to Stay in Chicago