Chicago, the Windy City, is filled to the brim with exciting sights and experiences. One of Chicago’s most famous features is its glorious skyline, which is especially awe-inspiring when viewed from the lake. From parks and museums to excellent restaurants and beautiful architecture, there’s so much to experience in Chicago. Plan your visit with this detailed Finnair travel guide to Chicago.
Sights in Chicago
Chicago offers stunning sights for architecture lovers and history fans; there are plenty of prestigious museums where you can learn all about the US railways, the notorious gangsters of the 1920s including Al Capone, science, natural history and much more. Some of the city’s top museums include the Adler Planetarium, the DuSable Museum of African-American History, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Chicago History Museum and the Museum of Photography. The Art Institute of Chicago, the National Museum of Mexican Art and Loyola University Museum of Art should satisfy any art enthusiast. There are numerous old churches, most of which feature beautiful art and interesting designs. Some top churches to visit are St. Hyacinth’s Basilica, St. Mary of the Angels and the National Shrine of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini. When it comes to skyscrapers, Chicago isn’t shy—the city is home to several of the world’s tallest towers. The observation decks at the mighty Willis Tower (previously known as the Sears Tower) and the John Hancock Center offer sweeping city views.
Chicago is one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse cities in the USA. The different ethnic enclaves provide many interesting experiences; travel the world without leaving Chicago with a stroll around Chinatown, Greektown, Little Italy, Pilsen and Little Village with their large Mexican and Puerto Rican community, Seoul Drive, the Indian-centred Devon Avenue and the Uptown area around Argyle with its communities of Thai, Laos, and Vietnamese people. There’s even an Irish castle in the Far Southwest Side! Shedd Aquarium and Lincoln Park Zoo are fantastic family-friendly attractions, while old and young alike enjoy relaxing on the beaches around Lake Michigan. While on the waterfront, you can also enjoy a Ferris wheel ride at Navy Pier. If you’d like to catch your breath and relax, why not take a stroll through one of the city’s many parks, such as Lincoln Park or Millennium Park? When in town, you can also enjoy some excellent jazz music while dining in one of the city’s cosy restaurants and book tickets for a fabulous show.
Things to See and Do Near Chicago
- Brookfield Zoo – If you love animals and have already visited Lincoln Park Zoo, this top-class alternative in Brookfield could be just what you’re looking for.
- Naperville – A city close to Chicago, you’ll find public art and art galleries galore, a nice river walk and the interesting Naper Settlement, a reconstruction of the town from when it was founded in the 1800s. The colourful and interactive DuPage Children's Museum is a top place for families.
- Six Flags Great America – One of the state’s best theme parks, there are fast and thrilling roller coasters, spinning rides, shows and more here.
- Starved Rock State Park – A large state park around a two-hour drive from Chicago, featuring many scenic waterfalls and canyons.
Shopping in Chicago
From luxury treats to budget finds, there is something for everyone when it comes to Chicago’s shopping. Fashion, literature, electronics, homewares and more can be found in Chicago’s diverse retail outlets.
- Magnificent Mile – This is the city’s most well-known shopping street. There are several large malls and a number of luxury boutiques.
- Lincoln Square – You’ll find a wide selection of quirky and offbeat stores here.
- River North – The gallery district in this part of the city is a perfect place to pick up interesting artwork, home items and crafts.
- Hyde Park – The selection of bookstores here make this a prime spot for literary lovers.
- Schaumburg – The main place for shopping in the city’s northwestern suburbs, the enormous Woodfield Mall can be found here along with many other stores.
Food and Drink
- Chicago pizza – The deep-dish pizza that originated in the Windy City is now famous across the world. It’s made by placing a thin layer of dough in a dish, stretching it up the sides, before filling it with an assortment of meats and vegetables and covering with tomato sauce and cheese. It is then baked, producing a soft and somewhat sloppy dish.
- Chicago hot dog – Made from beef, Chicago’s hot dogs are served in a poppy seed bun and topped with mustard, slices of tomato, chilli peppers, onion, dill pickle, salt and relish.
- Pork chop sandwich – A full pork chop (complete with the bone) is served on a sandwich with spicy peppers and grilled onions.
- Italian beef sandwich – Showing the city’s diversity, this sandwich contains roasted beef between slices of white bread. There’s usually a choice of spicy peppers or fried bell peppers, and you can also add a French sauce if you like.
Transport in Chicago
Chicago is a large city and many of its attractions are fairly spread out. There are areas that are ideal for walking around, though, and the public transportation system in Chicago is efficient and affordable. There’s a convenient integrated ticketing system for buses and trains. The grid system makes it easy to navigate the city.
- By foot – The downtown core has wide pavements and is a great place to walk around and soak up the sights. There’s no need to be too concerned about the weather either, thanks to the Chicago Pedway System: a network of bridges, underground passages and covered walkways that connect many buildings.
- Buses – Buses run along most major streets across the whole city, making it easy to travel from place to place. Bus stops are well marked and LED displays inside the vehicles show where the bus will stop next. Fares are cheap. You can pay cash to the driver, though you will need the exact amount as change is not given. You can also purchase a top-up card from stations to pay for bus rides, and multi-day passes are available too. Night services ensure that people can always get home.
- Trains – Several colour-coded train lines cross the city, two of which keep operating around the clock. Other lines run from early in the morning until late at night. Ticket machines are available at the stations. There are also fast and reliable commuter trains that connect the city centre with the suburbs.
- Taxis – Although traffic congestion can make taxi journeys slow, the rates are very reasonable and taxis are widely available all around the city. You can hail a taxi on the streets or order a cab ride by phone or mobile app. Taxis have meters and charge standard fares.
- Water Taxis – In the summer months, water taxis operate on the edges of the downtown area. Tickets must be bought from the individual operators.