Chicago and its suburbs are located on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan, one of the 5 large inland lakes known as the Great Lakes. The third largest city in the USA (just under 2.7 million inhabitants) is considered the birthplace of skyscrapers – the first steel-framed high-rise building was erected here in 1884 – and these still dominate the cityscape today.
The nickname “windy city” refers to the climatic conditions in the city – since natural boundaries such as mountains and hills are missing, the city is largely exposed to wind and storms.
Chicago is an important business and science location, 7 nationally known universities can be found here, many large companies have their headquarters here. The convenient location on the transcontinental route from New York across the Great Lakes to the Pacific Coast led to the development of an important railroad junction here early on; the train station is still the largest in the world today. The airport and inland port form the economic center of the American Midwest and are among the top in the world rankings.
Tip 1: Art Institute of Chicago
Founded as early as 1879 and located in the same place since 1893, the AIC exhibits primarily works of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. It also houses ancient, Egyptian, American, Asian, European, Islamic, classical, modern and contemporary art, as well as graphic and industrial design and architecture.
In addition, it houses the Ryerson & Burnham Libraries architectural archive. The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the most visited art museums in the world, with around 1.5 million visitors per year. With a good 300,000 m² of space in 8 buildings, it is the second largest in the USA after the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Among the most important works are: Self-portrait by Vincent van Gogh, “Haystack” and other famous works by Claude Monet, “The Crystal Palace” by Camille Pissarro, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” by Georges-Pierre Seurat or “Nighthawks” by Edward Hopper
Tip 2: Navy Pier
On Lake Michigan near the Chicago River, in the Near North Side neighborhood of Chicago (Illinois), is Navy Pier. This is a 1,010 m long pier, with the most beautiful promenade in Chicago, which extends into Lake Michigan.
Navy Pier is the main attraction of the Chicago metropolitan area with Ferris Wheel, carousel, miniature golf, tour boats, Chicago Children’s Museum, an IMAX theater, Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows, Shakespeare Theater and fireworks over the pier. 50 acres of parks, gardens, stores, restaurants and entertainment attract more than 8 million visitors a year to Navy Pier.
An evening at Navy Pier is an absolute must for all Chicago visitors. This is where locals and tourists meet to end a beautiful summer day.
Tip 3: Millenium Park
Millennium Park in Chicago, Illinois, is built on the site of a former railroad station and attracts thousands of visitors each year with its architectural, musical and scenic attractions. Outdoor concerts, sculptures and gardens are just some of the incentives to pay the park a visit.
In 1997, the mayor of Chicago in the American state of Illinois commissioned the design of a musical venue. Those responsible chose the former Illinois Central Road station, which had been abandoned since 1971. Over time and with the help of architect Frank Gehry, the project took on ever greater dimensions.
Today, Millennium Park houses a unique mix of modern architecture, impressive sculptures and gardens on its approx. 100,000m² and attracts thousands of visitors every year.
Highlights of the park include the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, designed by architect Frank Gehry himself, the “Cloud Gate” designed by Anish Kapoor, affectionately known as the “Silver Bean” by Chicago residents, and the “Crown Fountain” by Catalan artist Jaume Plensa. Two monumental glass towers, onto which faces of Chicago residents are projected, function as fountains about 9m high, with water flowing down their walls.
Tip 4: Skydeck
One of the tallest buildings in the world is the Willis Tower. The skyscraper has 108 floors and was commissioned by the Sears corporation. Therefore, it was known as “Sears Tower” for a long time. When the London-based insurance company Willis Group rented several floors as office space in 2009, it bought the naming rights to the skyscraper and renamed it Willis Tower. In Chicago parlance, however, it is still called Sears Tower.
On the 103rd floor is a visitor platform: the Skydeck. On a clear day, the view stretches 80 kilometers across the huge Lake Michigan. If you’re lucky, you can see the four surrounding states of Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan from the observation deck. Visitors reach the observation deck via two elevators that are among the fastest in the world. They reach a speed of 480 meters per minute. The trip to the 103rd floor therefore takes just 45 seconds.
After the name change in 2009, the Willis Company had glass balconies added to the exterior of the building. Those who venture out have a direct view through the floor to the sidewalk, which is 412 meters below. It is the highest observation deck in the United States.The balconies are made of glass all around, and the visitor is not standing outside, but inside a glass box that protects against winds and dangerous situations.
Tip 5: Riverwalk
The Chicago Riverwalk is a picturesque pedestrian promenade along the south bank of the Chicago River. During the summer months, the coveted promenade is a busy place to stay, thanks to its many restaurants, cafes, parks with benches and overlooks.
The Chicago Riverwalk runs six blocks along historic Wacker Drive from Lake Shore Drive on Lake Michigan to Lake Street, with access from every major intersection. Visitors can explore different areas, all connected by a continuous pedestrian path. Each of the six areas has its own landscaping and therefore its own features and attractions.
Attractions along the Riverwalk include the boat tours that depart here, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza, and the McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum. For a breathtaking view from the water, you can take a variety of boat tours.