Chicago is famous for its stunning architecture and iconic skyline. Where is the best place to take in those beautiful views? Here are some of our favorite spots across the city.
by Kerstin Adams, Marketing Coordinator
1. Cindy’s Rooftop at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel
Get a bird’s-eye view of the hustle and bustle of Michigan Avenue and Millennium Park while surrounded by old world craftsmanship. Once a private club for the elite, the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel is now open for all to enjoy, after undergoing an extensive two-year restoration. Enjoy a handcrafted cocktail at Cindy’s Rooftop, located on the 13th floor of the landmark building, while taking in views of the street, park, Art Institute of Chicago and Lake Michigan.
2. Lincoln Park Bridge over South Pond
Enjoy views of downtown from a distance during a walk on the bridge over the South Pond in Lincoln Park, just outside Lincoln Park Zoo. In 2008, Studio Gang Architects supervised the restoration of the pond, which transformed it into a renewed urban wildlife habitat. The firm also installed the striking Nature Boardwalk pavilion made of wood and fiberglass. After admiring the city’s skyscrapers with lively waterfowl in the foreground, grab a bite to eat at Café Brauer, a 1908 masterpiece by architect Dwight Perkins.
3. Rockefeller Memorial Chapel Tower
If you’re up for climbing 271 stone steps, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the University of Chicago campus and Hyde Park from the top of the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel tower. Designed by famed architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, the chapel is a masterful modernization of the Gothic Revival style. Be sure to get up close to the 72-bell carillon and the tower's stone sculptures while taking in the city view. Check out the chapel’s website for details about visiting.
4. Northerly Island
In the 1909 Plan of Chicago, Daniel Burnham laid out his vision for Northerly Island as part of a series of manmade islands that would provide breathtaking views of the city’s skyline. Thanks to Studio Gang, Burnham’s vision is now a reality. Unveiled as an eco-park in 2015, this artificial 91-acre peninsula was once an airport and the site of the 1933–1934 Century of Progress Exposition. Now it’s a living ecosystem where people can admire the skyline and enjoy nature without leaving the city.
5. Wicker Park's Northwest Tower
From the ground, you would never suspect that the six corners of Damen, Milwaukee and North Avenues have one of the best views in Chicago. If you head to the top of the Northwest Tower at the intersection, you’ll be greeted with an aerial view of the skyline rarely seen outside the downtown area. A recent renovation of the 1929 Art Deco building into a hotel has resulted in it being renamed The Robey, a reference to Damen Avenue’s name prior to 1927. Take the elevator up to the Up & Up rooftop bar for 180-degree views of the skyline and a drink.
6. From the L
The L offers countless perspectives of the city. If you’re sitting in the right seat at the right time, you can get some unique views of downtown from several different lines. Riders waiting at several Green Line stops, including Ashland and Morgan, have a clear sight of the skyline from the west. The Orange Line between Halsted and Roosevelt gives passengers a less well-known—but nonetheless beautiful— view from the south. The Pink Line between Ashland and 18th offers a great panorama from a distance and Brown Line trains traveling south into the Chicago stop offer a more up-close look at downtown.
7. From the water
Like the L, many spots on Lake Michigan and the Chicago River seem to offer the best angle to take in the beauty of Chicago’s buildings. Our favorite is from the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise aboard Chicago’s First Lady Cruises. The boat carries passengers through a canyon of skyscrapers, passing many historic buildings like Tribune Tower, Merchandise Mart and the Wrigley Building, as well as more modern buildings like 333 West Wacker and Marina City.