17 Famous Landmarks in Chicago, Illinois to See


8 min read
Tall skyscrapers in a skyline facing green trees and a small pond with clouds above
Chicago, aka "The Windy City," is known for jazz music, skyscrapers, art, and history

As the perfect travel getaway, this curated list of famous landmarks in Chicago, Illinois will help you figure out which attractions to visit when in town. “The Windy City” is located on the banks of Lake Michigan and offers everything a traveler could want without overwhelming first-time visitors.

Chicago is famous for its beautiful buildings, vibrant history, and thriving art and music scenes. Rising to prominence in the early 20th Century, it was one of the most important cities in the world until the midcentury. However, the city has a way of remaking itself, of always presenting a new, dynamic image to the world.

As the birthplace of skyscrapers and Jazz, the home of Al Capone and Oprah Winfrey, there is nothing third rate about “the Second City.” Chicago will surprise and fascinate you with its bold attitude and charming appeal!

The city is built along an easy-to-understand grid, and a Chicago map with landmarks has been included below to assist you with your exploration.

  • 17 landmarks

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17 Famous Chicago Landmarks

Chicago Landmarks Map

Using the map of Chicago landmarks, you can explore all the landmarks.

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The Chicago River among highrises, one of the famous landmarks in Chicago, Illinois
The Chicago River is one of the famous landmarks in Chicago, Illinois

The Chicago River

The Chicago River is a must-see Chicago landmark. A stroll along the Chicago Riverwalk is to walk in the company of skyscrapers. The boardwalk functions as a public park for city residents and boasts jogging paths, kayak wharves, restaurants, and bars along its shores.

If you find yourself in the city on Saint Patrick's Day, the Chicago River runs green in honor of the city's Irish heritage, hosting one of the United States' most iconic block parties.

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Silver bean-shaped sculpture surrounded by trees and high-rise buildings
Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate, aka "The Bean," is located in Millennium Park

Millennium Park

Millennium Park may be the most iconic of all the Chicago sites and landmarks present on this list. This 25-acre section of Grant Park is home to Cloud Gate.

Popularly known as "The Bean," this mammoth edifice in stainless steel comes from the imagination of the artist Anish Kapoor. It is a crowd favorite, with people swarming this world-famous landmark to gaze upon their reflections in the sculpture's mirrored surface.

The Millennium Park Project transformed crumbling railyard and parking lots into a multi-use urban greenspace. It includes a Frank Gehry-designed amphitheater, an urban prairie and the enchanting and interactive Crown Fountain - a summertime favorite for adults & kids alike.

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A pier with a Ferris wheel, tall buildings in the background and clouds above
Navy Pier is famous for its boardwalk with an amusement park, shops, and restaurants

Certainly, one of the most famous places in Chicago is the 3,330-foot-long Navy Pier. This iconic boardwalk stretches into Lake Michigan, encompassing an amusement park, gardens, shops, restaurants, and various family attractions.

Opening on July 15, 1916, Navy Pier has always been a major landmark of Chicago; however, after World War II, it witnessed a steady decline in popularity.

After decades of neglect, Navy Pier was redesigned and introduced to the public as a mixed-use venue. Since 1995, Navy Pier has grown to become one of the top destinations in the Midwestern United States.

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Boats under a steel railroad bridge and between skyscrapers and trees
The Kinzie Street Bridge was the world's longest and heaviest bascule bridge in 1908

Kinzie Street Railroad Bridge

Spanning the Chicago River, Kinzie Street Railroad Bridge is a little-known historical landmark in Chicago.

The railroad bridge was an essential lifeline to the booming railroad, freight & shipping industries that Chicago built its fortunes upon in the 19th century. At the time of its opening in 1908, Kinzie Street Railroad Bridge was the world’s longest & heaviest bascule bridge.

Today, the bridge has been designated a Chicago Landmark. While no longer in operation, it is an impressive sight, now permanently locked in an upright position.

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A tall limestone tower between skyscrapers with trees nearby under a blue sky
Chicago Water Tower survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and has an art gallery

Chicago Water Tower

One of the only structures to have survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the Chicago Water Tower is by default one of the most famous monuments in Chicago. The limestone tower is located within the Old Chicago Water Tower District along Michigan Avenue's Magnificant Mile.

Today, the Chicago Water Tower, or the Historic Water Tower as it's also known, houses a small art gallery featuring the work of local artists.

The adjacent Water Tower Place is the city's favorite mall. The upstairs food court is especially appetizing, offering a tempting array of cuisines to the Magnificent Miles' weary shoppers.

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Green trees along a river with boats flowing between modern high-rise buildings
For 25 years, the Willis Tower, erected in 1974, was the world's tallest building

The Willis Tower

Completed in 1974 to house the Sears, Roebuck & Co headquarters, the Willis Tower, popularly called the Sears Tower by locals, held the title as the tallest building in the world for 25 years. This downtown Chicago landmark rises a colossal 1450 feet and offers an unsurpassed panorama of the city.

The Sky Deck, located on the Willis Tower's 103rd floor, is not for the faint of heart. Glass balconies extend 4 feet from the facade, allowing visitors the experience of floating above the city.

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Jane Addams Hull-House Museum

Founded by Jane Addams in 1889, the Hull-House served at-risk immigrant communities, which became instrumental in initiating social change in the city.

As a center for social reform, the Hull-House provided opportunities and education for the working classes streaming into Chicago at the close of the 19th Century.

A historic Chicago landmark, the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum is part of the College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts at the University of Illinois Chicago.

With a collection of over 1000 artifacts related to Hull-House history, the museum plays an instrumental role in contemporary issues surrounding immigration and worker's rights.

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The Art Institute of Chicago

With a permanent collection totaling nearly 300,000 pieces, the Art Institute is one of the most famous places to visit in Chicago. Founded in 1879, the Art Institute is one of the nation’s oldest art museums and sees over 1.5 million visitors crowding its halls annually.

The museum houses over 5,000 years of human artistic civilization, including an incredible collection of Impressionist painters. The most notable is George Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.

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People watching baseball players playing on a field below
Wrigley Field is Chicago's second-oldest major league baseball stadium 

Wrigley Field

Chicago loves baseball. Wrigley Field is an iconic Chicago landmark and the home to the Chicago Cubs. Located in Wrigleyville (yes, the neighborhood is named after the baseball park), Wrigley Field, with its ivy-covered outfield wall, is the second-oldest major league baseball park in the country and a city institution.

Should you find yourself in the city during baseball season, head on down to the stadium to catch a baseball game, or revel with fellow fans on the streets and at sports bars around Wrigleyville to cheer on the Cubs to victory.

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Frank Llyod Wright's Robie House

Located in Chicago’s Hyde Park, the Robie House is a masterpiece of early modern architecture. It was designed by architect Frank Llyod Wright. Llyod Wright rose to fame for his innovative designs, building his career in Chicago at the beginning of the 20th Century.

Built between 1909 and 1910, the Robie House is a landmark building in Chicago and one of the most famous examples of Wright’s signature Prairie Style, a style inspired by the sweeping landscape of the Midwestern prairies. In 2019, the Robie House became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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A neoclassical structure with modern skyscrapers in the background on a sunny day
Chicago's Field Museum ranks as one of the world's largest natural history museums

The Field Museum

The Field Museum is one of the largest natural history museums in the world and a landmark in Chicago, attracting over two million visitors annually. This landmark in Chicago is noted for its world-famous collection of fossils and dinosaurs.

Do not miss SUE, one of the largest T. rex ever discovered to date. 67 million years old and measuring over 41 feet long, SUE is a favorite for kids and adults alike; the museum has built a separate wing to house their Jurassic friend.

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333 North Michigan

Historical landmarks in Chicago are everywhere, and the city's downtown Loop District is home to the most important examples of early 20th-century architecture in the world.

The 333 North Michigan skyscraper was built in 1928 and rises 396 feet above Michigan Avenue. Looking out across the Chicago River, this art deco beauty is an iconic part of Chicago's historic skyline.

Visit the distinguished Tavern Club, once a favored haunt of the city's cultural and business elite, today has been reimagined into a chic watering hole for the downtown crowd.

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Inland Steel Building

One of the most recognized mid-century landmarks in Chicago, the Inland Steel Building is one of the city's most notable, post-World War II era, modernist high-rise projects. The building was the first skyscraper built after the Great Depression, representing the economic miracle of the city of Chicago.

The Inland is walking distance from other mid-century marvels, including the Daley Plaza with its monumental Chicago Picasso, and a little further afield, the Mies van der Rohe-designed Federal Center together with sculptor Alexander Calder's orange "Flamingo."

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Spacious interior greenhouse with plants and flowers on the ground
100-year-old Garfield Park Conservatory is one of America's largest greenhouses

Garfield Park Conservatory

One of the largest greenhouses in the United States, the Garfield Park Conservatory is a wonder. After decades of neglect, the 100-year-old greenhouse underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation in 1994.

Today, this urban oasis has nine distinct horticultural exhibits, including the original Victorian Palm Hall with over 70 varieties, some reaching as high as 64 feet!

The Conservatory hosts regular event series for both children and adults— everything from painting classes and gardening workshops to yoga and the popular Music Under Glass concert series. It is also a great place to visit with a date!

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Tiger resting on a green lawn
Lincoln Park Zoo is a 35-acre zoo that opened in 1868

Lincoln Park Zoo

The Lincoln Park Zoo is an institution and a historic landmark in Chicago; opening in 1868, the Zoo is the fourth oldest in North America.

The 35-acre Zoo is located in the heart of the city and is free admission for the public! Exhibits include big cats, polar bears, penguins, gorillas & monkeys alongside other species, totaling above 1000 animals.

The Zoo’s biggest draw is the Regenstein African Journey, a 60,000-square-foot exhibit that simulates four distinct African habitats with a host of African species.

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Washington Park Court District

If you are looking to explore an undiscovered side of the city, head to Chicago’s South Side. This predominantly African-American neighborhood grew out of Chicago’s early segregationist planning policies.

Despite its dangerous reputation, the South Side is known for its proud black heritage and numerous black-owned businesses.

Architecture buffs will enjoy the Washington Park Court’s historic row houses that showcase a variety of styles, including Classical Revival & Romanesque.

When you get hungry, go to the South Side institution “Chicago’s Home of Chicken & Waffles,” your stomach will thank you.

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Top view of a highway between high-rise skyscrapers and a sandy shore
Oak Street Beach is one of the 24 beaches on Lake Michigan

Oak Street Beach

Come summertime, Chicago is famous for its sandy Lake Michigan beaches. The Chicago Park District manages a network of 24 beaches, stretching over 28 miles. When the temperatures soar, the entire city flocks to the lake.

The city’s famous South Lake Shore Drive is home to beaches with views out across Lake Michigan, as well as the impressive cityscape of skyscrapers. Head to the idyllic Oak Street Beach, just off of Michigan Avenue, for an impressive view of the John Hancock Building and Michigan Avenue.

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In Summary

This list of landmarks in Chicago is meant to reveal what makes Chicago unique. The city is full of surprises and has a seductive charm all its own!

Chicago is a city of ease - a casual and cosmopolitan metropolis where every visitor feels at home. Hopefully, this list piqued your curiosity about Chicago! The city is full of incredible places to discover!

This article was edited by Loredana Elena.

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Written by William Stanto

esthamon1989 WRITER Nomad by Birth, all over the map. Currently in Cairo.