Not only is the University of Chicago often ranked as one of the top ten universities in the USA, it is also one of the universities with the most number of Nobel Prize winners in the States. It is therefore unsurprising that this campus has somehow become a tourist attraction in its own right. Just like how you will want to visit Harvard University and MIT when you visit Boston, a trip to Chicago is not complete without visiting The U. of C. campus. The sprawling campus with its gothic architecture and ivy-covered buildings has an old world charm that makes it a joy to explore.
Check out the shelves of books in the Seminary Co-op Bookstore
Since this is a famous school, of course you have got to stop by the bookstore where the students buy their books. This independent bookstore, with shelves and shelves of over 100,000 titles ranging across humanities and social sciences, exudes a hip yet scholarly feel. With comfy seats in the bookstore for you to sit down and flip through a book, this bookstore is definitely a bookworm’s idea of paradise. If you are hungry, just head over to the café beside it for a quick coffee and croissant.
Step into the beautiful Rockefeller Memorial Chapel
The Rockefeller Memorial Chapel is the performance and ceremonial centre of the University of Chicago. With the gorgeous Collegiate Gothic architecture as its backdrop, it is often the chosen venue for events, performances and worship services. Even if there are no events going on, do stop by to check out this chapel, which is easily identifiable as it is the tallest building on campus grounds standing at slightly over 60 metres (200.7 feet) tall. With the intricate details, exquisite carvings and stained glass, the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel is very impressive when viewed in person, and it is an ideal place for picture-taking.
Take a tour of the Robie House, designed by Frank Lloyd
Once you are done with touring the chapel, drop by for a tour of the Robie House, which is a US National Historic landmark on the U. of C. campus. Designed by famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, for businessman Frederick C. Robie, the Robie House is often cited as the best example of the Prairie style, distinguished by the distinct exterior horizontal lines, low-pitched roofs, the incorporation of brick and wood in the design, and the use of artistic glass windows. Visitors are also welcome to take the Robie House tours from 9am to 4pm, Thursdays through to Mondays.
Check out the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library with a glass-domed reading room
As the latest addition to the University of Chicago libraries, the most special feature of the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library is its huge glass-domed reading room. Elliptical in shape, with the roof entirely transparent, this library allows sunlight to pass through. From the outside, all you see is just a perfect glass dome emerging from the ground. Silly me circled the entire glass dome looking for the entrance, only to realise that you have got to enter through the Regenstein Library entrance beside it! However you will need a student card to enter this library so it is best if you trail behind a student if you would like to enter. If not, you can still admire the perfect glass dome from the outside.
See an Egyptian Pharaoh statue in the Oriental Institute Museum
The University of Chicago is home to the Oriental Institute Museum, which offers free admission to all. If you are a history buff who likes Egyptian archaeology, then this is definitely your kind of museum. Once inside, be awed by the Colossal Statue of King Tutankhamun, who is one the most famous pharaohs of ancient Egypt. Standing at slightly over 5 metres (17 feet, 4 inches) tall and weighing over 5,400 kg (11,905 pounds), this immense statue was excavated by the Oriental Institute from the ruins of a temple built by Tutankhamun’s successors near the temple of Medinet Habu in Luxor. Other than this King Tutankhamun statue, which happens to be the tallest ancient Egyptian statue in the Western Hemisphere, there are many other ancient sculptures and antiques from Iran, Iraq, Israel, Nubia, Syria and Turkey, mainly dating from 10,000 B.C to 650 A.D.
Try not to visit during winter
Chicago is well-known for its harsh winter season and I’m sure you wouldn’t want to stroll in the campus with the icy coldness hitting your face. Therefore, it is best to visit during the other seasons, and preferably on a day when the Robie House is open for tours. The University of Chicago is, without a doubt, very beautiful; think of a Hogwarts-style campus, with a picturesque backdrop. Even just sitting on the benches makes for a great shot! Do allocate at least a few hours for the campus tour so that you can take in all the sights without having to rush. The campus is a short 10-minute walk from the 59th Street Metra train station.