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Chicago Architecture Guide

By Viator, November 2017

5 2628 Reviews | Add your review

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.

Tours & Tickets

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Chicago Architecture River Cruise, Chicago, null
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Chicago Architecture River Cruise

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 2400 Reviews

Experience one of the world’s most beautiful cities on a 75-minute cruise on the historic Chicago River. On this architecture cruise, head down the main branch ...  Read more

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Duration: 75 minutes (approx.)

From USD $43.68
Chicago Walking Tour: Interior Architecture of the Loop and Pedway Tour, Chicago, Day Cruises
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Chicago Walking Tour: Interior Architecture of the Loop and Pedway Tour

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 92 Reviews

Get an in-depth look at Chicago Loop architecture on a walking tour that takes you inside landmark buildings in the design-rich city. Appreciate the interiors ...  Read more

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Duration: 2 hours (approx.)

From USD $26.00
Chicago Walking Tour: Modern Architecture, Chicago, Walking Tours
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Chicago Walking Tour: Modern Architecture

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 10 Reviews

Explore Chicago's international, modern and postmodern movements, from the powerful, minimalist work of Mies van der Rohe's to contemporary styles that ...  Read more

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Duration: 2 hours (approx.)

From USD $20.00
Chicago Walking Tour: Art Deco Skyscrapers, Chicago, Historical & Heritage Tours
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Chicago Walking Tour: Art Deco Skyscrapers

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 41 Reviews

Discover the opulent exteriors and interiors of the Roaring '20s Jazz Deco and the classic finishes of Art Moderne buildings in this 2 hour tour. Learn of ...  Read more

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Duration: 2 hours (approx.)

From USD $20.00
Chicago Walking Tour: Tiffany Treasures, Chicago, Historical & Heritage Tours
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Chicago Walking Tour: Tiffany Treasures

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 29 Reviews

This tour explores the art glass designed, crafted or installed by the Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company, Louis Comfort Tiffany and his contemporaries, in ...  Read more

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Duration: 2 hours (approx.)

From USD $40.00
Chicago Walking Tour: Historic Skyscrapers, Chicago, Literary, Art & Music Tours
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Chicago Walking Tour: Historic Skyscrapers

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 40 Reviews

Perhaps Chicago's most identifiable claim to fame resides in its architecture. The prototype of the modern industrial metropolis arose from the charred ...  Read more

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Duration: 2 hours (approx.)

From USD $20.00
Private Chicago City Sights Helicopter Tour, Chicago, Historical & Heritage Tours
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Private Chicago City Sights Helicopter Tour

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 8 Reviews

Discover all of Chicago’s top sights from great heights on this private helicopter tour. Travel in a state-of-the-art helicopter for magnificent views of Lake ...  Read more

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Duration: 15 minutes (approx.)

From USD $174.50
Chicago Segway Art and Architectural Tour, Chicago, Helicopter Tours
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Chicago Segway Art and Architectural Tour

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 8 Reviews

See Chicago’s landmark architecture, outdoor sculptures and famous skyline by Segway! This family-friendly guided tour is both an exciting and educational way ...  Read more

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Duration: 2 hours (approx.)

From USD $70.40

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