Chicago, Illinois is an absolute architectural wonder with a skyline outlined by skyscrapers of all shapes. The city is studded with Michelin-star restaurants, world-class museums, local theatres and whimsical art installations on the streets. The nightlife with its interesting bars, comedy clubs and live music is an experience worth trying out. Essentially, the city has something for every kind of traveller! So as you plan to explore the city, don’t forget to visit a checklist of iconic architectural marvels. Each building is notable and an extraordinary sight to see. Go ahead, check the most famous buildings in Chicago, Illinois, the USA and enjoy an experience of a lifetime. After you explore these, choose your retreat from the top budget hotels or the best luxury Airbnbs in the city!
1. Chicago Cultural Center
Located in the Loop across Millennium Park is Chicago Cultural Center, a landmark building built in 1897 that was originally a central library. It was converted to an arts and culture center in 1977 and is now operated by the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. It has become Chicago’s reception venue for notable guests like diplomats, royalty, and presidents. The structure is home to Chicago Children’s Choir and to over a thousand cultural programs and exhibits annually.
Chicago Cultural Center
Address: 78 E Washington St, Chicago, IL 60602, United States
2. The Wrigley Building
Right on the famous Magnificent Mile is where you’ll find the Wrigley Building. This skyscraper is home to the headquarters of Wrigley Company, the famous chewing gum brand. It opened in May 1924, and the design was mainly inspired by the Giralda tower of Seville’s Cathedral in Spain and displays French Renaissance twists. The structure is comprised of 2 towers, the South Tower has 30 levels, while the North Tower has 21. Today, it is the home of several commercial offices.
The Wrigley Building
Address: 400-410 Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611, United States
3. Field Museum
Field Museum, officially named the Field Museum of National History, is one of the biggest natural history museums in the world. It opened in June of 1894 and boasts a Classical Revival architectural style. Some of its permanent exhibitions are the Evolving Planet, Inside Ancient Egypt, The Ancient Americas, the Underground Adventure, and Sue, the largest Tyrannosaurus rex specimen. The building was designed by Daniel Burnham and Pierce Anderson and was listed to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
Address: 1400 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60605, United States
Website: Field Museum
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4. Marina City
Marina City, a residential-commercial structure designed by Bertrand Goldberg, is located on State Street close to the Chicago River. The structure is comprised of two 65-story towers that opened between 1963 and 1967. Underneath the building’s platform is a small marina where this Chicago landmark got its name from. It has been occasionally featured in pop culture, especially in the Chicago-set show Chicago P.D. and other movies and programs like The Hunter, The Good Wife, and The Bob Newhart Show.
Address: State Street, Chicago, Illinois, United States
5. The Merchandise Mart
Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago is a commercial building that opened in 1930 and features an Art Deco architectural style. It was originally built by the department store Marshall Field’s and later became the property of the Kennedys. This Chicago structure has been home to various enterprises throughout its existence, including the Chicago campus of Illinois Institute of Art, Motorola Mobility, Shops at the Mart, and many others. Until 2008, due to the large size of the building, Merchandise Mart had its own ZIP Code.
The Merchandise Mart
Address: 222 W Merchandise Mart Plaza, Chicago, IL 60654, United States
Website: The Merchandise Mart
6. John Hancock Center
The John Hancock Center is Chicago’s third-tallest building with distinctively steel-and-glass exteriors. in 1960, Standard Oil Company of Indiana hired Edward Durell Stone to build their headquarters. In fact, when the tower was opened in 1973, it was the second-tallest building in Chicago and the world. The building was initially built with white Carrara marble, but because of the wild temperature swings of Chicago cracks appeared forcing it to undergo a re-facing with durable granite in 1990. The columns form a mesmerising geometric perspective from the ground, making it a memorable experience.
John Hancock Center
Address: 875 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611, United States
Website: John Hancock Center
7. James R. Thompson Center
In what appears to be an extraterrestrial dome of sorts, the James R. Thompson Center is an absolute marvel to visit. This postmodern architectural brilliance was designed by Helmut Jahn and it was designed to make a bold impression. This cool building in Chicago is characteristic of openness and transparency that aims to symbolize the state’s commitment to serving the people. There is an enormous skylit rotunda which is 160 feet (18.3 meters) in diameter and 13 stories high. It is lined with balconies and opens onto a large food court. The building is always bustling with a steady flow of people bringing new life. So, make sure you visit the James R. Thompson Center when you are in Chicago and have your mind blown with how gigantic it is.
James R. Thompson Center
Address: 100 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60601, United States
8. Willis Tower
Standing 110 stories tall, the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower) was the tallest building in the world for nearly 25 years after its completion. The city palette is extended to the building with its iconic black aluminium and bronze-tinted glass exterior. The Willis Tower remains a notable marvel in the architectural world, laying the foundation to future skyscrapers of the city. So, visit this extraordinary architectural giant and enjoy a bird’s view of the city.
Address: 233 S Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL 60606, United States
Website: Willis Tower
9. Tribune Tower
As graceful and extraordinary as the tower is, the story behind its design is equally extraordinary. In 1922, the Chicago Tribune held an international competition where entries were received from 23 countries from across the world. Hood and Howells won this competition for their exquisite design of the tower with a design that was heavily influenced by medieval architecture. The interiors of the tower have famous quotes of Benjamin Franklin, Voltaire, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison carved onto the lobby walls. This architectural beauty is a must visit if you are in Chicago.
Address: 435 Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611, United States
Website: Tribune Tower
10. Civic Opera House
Civic Opera House is a complex construction that never fails to impress. Overlooking the Chicago River, this building houses the second largest opera auditorium in the country, seating capacity of 3,500. Not just the exteriors, but the interiors are also very well designed bringing alive the haughtiness of ancient Rome. The stone columns, high vaulted ceilings and crisscrossed golden weaves are an absolute delight to witness. The auditorium is adorned with gold leaf patterns and fine metallic grates covering the ceiling, embroidered tapestry with bold-patterns panelling the balcony walls and warm gold colours that add magic to the ambience. So make sure you visit the Civic Opera House and be enthralled!
Civic Opera House
Address: 20 N Upper Wacker Dr STE 400, Chicago, IL 60606, United States
11. Auditorium Theatre
The Auditorium Theatre is a masterpiece that brings together art and culture. This building was built with the aim of making opera and arts accessible to the common man. It has been monumental in bringing arts and culture to the citizens of Chicago, attracting international fame. The building is characteristic of repetitive window patterns which makes its design iconic. Overall, a dream venue for performances and an architectural brilliance that has stood the test of time.
Address: 50 East Ida B. Wells Drive, Chicago, IL 60605, United States
Website: Auditorium Theatre
Aqua is a modern architectural marvel that has won many awards for design excellence. With this building, architect Jeanne Gan added a new charm to the Chicago skyline. While the core structure is simple, the walls are designed with slow-rippling white concrete balconies, which make it look like waves. These balconies are unique, allowing the residents to chat with neighbours above or below. An absolute wonder to visit, Aqua is definitely one of the marvels that Chicago beholds.
Address: 225 N Columbus Dr, Chicago, IL 60601, United States
13. The Rookery Building
One of the finest building in the United States, the Rookery Building is an absolute architectural treat. The interior light court maximizes the natural light entering the building. The glass ceiling, two-story lobby and public space is an absolute spectacle to visit. The exteriors are inspired by late Roman, Venetian, Moorish and medieval-European architecture. This iconic building in Chicago is symbolic of the modern & medieval architectural confluence that adorns the city.
The Rookery Building
Address: 209 S LaSalle St, Chicago, IL 60604, United States
Website: The Rookery Building
14. Chicago Water Tower
While the Chicago Water Tower was really only built to hide a standpipe, its intricate design symbolizes the value of simple things; like water supply. The story behind this structure is the important solution designed by Chesbrough to save the city from the inadequate water supply for the growing population. It is built with a characteristic Gothic Revival style, almost fairytale-like. Interestingly, if city legends are to be believed, the Chicago Water Tower was the only building that survived the Great Fire of 1871. Through the years, it has become a rallying point for the city.
Chicago Water Tower
Address: 806 Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611, United States
15. Aon Center
The Aon Center is Chicago’s third-tallest building. Edward Durell Stone designed this building as the headquarters of Standard Oil Company of Indiana. It has remained one of the most elegant structures of Modernist architecture in Chicago. The building is simple, rectangular-shaped with tubular steel frames. In fact, the original marble facade was from Carrara, which is the same quarry used by Michaelangelo for the masterpiece ‘David’. If you are a movie buff, you will know that the movie Transformers 3 was filmed here. So, while you are on a walk exploring the architectural wonders of Chicago, the Aon Center is an absolute must.
Address: 200 E. Randolph St., Chicago, Illinois 60601, United States
Architectural marvels in all its glory
The city is adorned with buildings that will definitely delight you with its extraordinary scale. The medieval and modern influence makes the skyline even more distinct. If you are planning to explore the city of Chicago, Illinois, USA then these famous buildings are a must visit.
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