Chicago is world-famous for its plethora of unique architectural styles and its wealth of sacred historical buildings and attractions. If you happen to be staying at our Emil Bach House, designed and built by acclaimed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, your architectural journey of the city has already begun!
Whether you are a Chicago local or visitor, we have highlighted six must-see historical and architectural attractions for you to enjoy and experience year-round below:
1) Willis Tower
Address: 233 South Wacker Drive
The Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower) is one of the tallest buildings in the world located in the heart of Chicago’s downtown. Completed in 1974, this iconic building set the standard for supertall skyscrapers around the globe, both in its innovative design and graceful styling. While you are here, enhance your experience by taking the elevator up to the observation deck on the 103rd floor known as the Skydeck Chicago. If you’re feeling a bit more daring, take in the view of the city from The Ledge – four glass boxes that extend 4.3 feet outside the Tower and stand 1,353 feet above Wacker Drive. With glass on the ceiling, floor, and all sides, it is truly an unforgettable experience!
Address: 78 East Washington Street
Opened in 1897, the Chicago Cultural Center is a Landmark building operated by Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. The country’s top architects and craftsmen used the most lavish materials, such as rare imported marbles, polished brass, fine hardwoods, and mosaics of Favrile glass, mother-of-pearl and colored stone, to create an architectural masterpiece. Here you will find the world’s largest stained-glass Tiffany dome (38 feet in diameter with some 30,000 pieces of glass) which was restored to its original splendor in 2008. On the north side of the building is a 40-foot-diameter dome with some 50,000 pieces of glass in an intricate Renaissance pattern. Take in this architectural beauty with family and friends while enjoying free music, dance and theater events, films, lectures, art exhibitions and more.
Address: 111 South Michigan Avenue
The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States. It was founded as both a museum and school for the fine arts in 1879, a critical era in the history of Chicago as civic energies were devoted to rebuilding the metropolis that had been destroyed by the Great Fire of 1871. The permanent collection has grown from plaster casts to nearly 300,000 works of art in fields ranging from Chinese bronzes to contemporary design and from textiles to installation art. With a wide variety of special exhibitions, daily gallery tours, performance programs, and more, the Art Institute has something for everyone!
Address: 104 South Michigan Avenue
While on Michigan Avenue, visit the Monroe Building for an example of exquisite renovation of a beautiful historic building. Step into the lobby to see the brilliantly colored, rhythmic vaulted ceiling comprised of one of the world’s largest collections of Rookwood Pottery tile (the most important and influential art potteries of the early 20th century). Here you will also find the Pritzker Military Museum & Library, a one-of-a-kind museum. Colonel Jennifer N. Pritzker, IL ARNG (Retired), founder of the Pritzker Military Museum & Library, assembled a major collection of books and related materials on military history, with a particular focus on the concept of the Citizen Soldier in America. Today, building upon that foundation through the generosity of private donors, the Pritzker Military Museum & Library has become a non-partisan museum and library that attempts to increase the public understanding of military history and the sacrifices made by the men and women who have served.
Address: 1601 North Clark Street
Interested in learning about the Great Chicago Fire of 1871? The history of prohibition in Chicago? This is the place to start! Located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, close to Lake Michigan and Lake Shore Drive, the Chicago History Museum is Chicago’s oldest cultural institution. The museum continues to share the stories of the city and its people through exhibitions, programs, publications, and digital media. If you live in Chicago or are visiting and are curious about the city’s past, present, and future, the museum should be your first stop!
Address: 400 North Michigan Avenue
Take in the city’s legendary architecture from the best seat in the house—the river. This is a perfect option if you prefer to have an experienced tour guide detail the 130-year long history behind the skyline while navigating through the heart of the city on all three branches of the Chicago River. The boat includes a full-service bar, snacks, and a climate-controlled Lounge to help keep you cool when it’s warm and warm when it’s cool (or freezing).
Have you visited any of these attractions or have a favorite historical and architectural attraction that didn’t make the list? Let us know in the comments below!