Chicago Architecture Guide

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Chicago is famous for its architecture, especially its towering skyscrapers, and you can see it all on an architecture tour. Because building design evolved as the city grew, there’s plenty to learn about the storied history—here’s where to start.

Willis Tower — once the tallest building in the world
Formerly known as the Sears Tower, this downtown skyscraper stands 108 stories high, making it the second tallest building in the US. The 103rd-floor Skydeck offers spectacular views, and a step out onto the Ledge lets you look straight down to the street below. Make it a stop on a hop-on hop-off bus tour or book VIP access for breakfast, lunch, or dinner at the Skydeck. It’s also visible from most river and downtown walking tours.

John Hancock Center — offering the best views of Lake Michigan
The fourth-tallest building in the city, the John Hancock Center features a 94th-floor observatory and a 95th-floor restaurant, as well as the best views of Lake Michigan in the city. Don’t miss TILT—an enclosed glass platform that tilts guests out over Michigan Avenue from the 94th floor. Stop off at the center during a bus tour or see it from above on a helicopter tour of the city. 

Marina City — Chicago’s “corn cob towers”
Shaped like two corn cobs standing tall along the Chicago River, the Marina City towers were once the tallest residential buildings in the world. Today, they’re home to a mix of commercial and residential uses, including a hotel, bowling alley, several restaurants, and the House of Blues concert hall. View Marina City from an architecture boat cruise or a kayaking tour on the Chicago River.

Tribune Tower — neo-Gothic design on Michigan Avenue
Overlooking the Chicago River, the Tribune Tower features dozens of stones and bricks from historically significant sites all over the world, including fragments from the Berlin Wall, the Parthenon, the Great Wall of China, and Angkor Wat. View the tower on an architecture boat cruise or a walking tour of historic skyscrapers.

Wrigley Building — lighting up the Magnificent Mile
Across the street from Tribune Tower, the Wrigley Building was the first major office building north of the Chicago River. Check it out from the river below or by joining a walking tour of historic skyscrapers.

Chicago Cultural Center — stunning stained-glass domes
The Italian Renaissance-inspired interior of the Chicago Cultural Center (which formerly hosted the city’s central library) features gorgeous stained-glass domes, colorful mosaic floors, and walls made of green, white, and pink marble. Take a walking tour of the Loop focused on interior architecture or Tiffany glass.
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