Chicago is renowned for its architecture. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, some of the most innovative architects lived and worked in this city, creating iconic buildings that stand today as legacies of their signature style. Several of the most striking buildings in the country can be found in Chicago, from the distinctive Prairie style of Frank Lloyd Wright to the chic modernism of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. For those interested in exploring this fabulous collection of worldly architecture, an architecture tour is a smart choice. Fortunately, Chicago abounds with options including everything from river cruises to walking tours.
One of the best ways to see the city’s architecture is actually from the water! Companies like Shoreline Sightseeing offer river cruises that showcase top architectural landmarks like the Tribune Tower, the Wrigley Building, Marina City, and more than 40 examples of unique Chicago architecture. These cruises provide plenty of photo opportunities, and are a relaxing way to enjoy a fully-narrated journey through the city’s architectural heritage.
Another, more widely available option for exploring Chicago’s remarkable architecture is the walking tour. Multiple companies offer walking tour options, ranging in length from two to four hours. You can choose walking tours that cover indoor or outdoor attractions (indoor options are more common in the wintertime months, to help you avoid the often bitterly cold Chicago winter). Some top sites on one popular winter tour from Chicago’s Finest Tours, for example, include Millennium Station, Chicago Cultural Center, Daley Center, City Hall, and the State Street Macy’s.
A few tours even combine an architectural focus with other components like food and drink. Chicago Detours, for one, offers a tour of architecturally significant bars. There are also several architecture tours that focus on important moments in Chicago history, like the 1893 World’s Fair & Columbian Exposition. Others focus on contemporary architecture and more modern construction, so there’s a tour focus to suit practically every interest.
Then, of course, there’s the Chicago Architecture Center, which offers over 80 different tour options, which include walking tours, bus tours, bike tours, L train tours, and cruises. They feature cruises sorted by venue, neighborhood, style, genre, and more. Popular tours include a cruise aboard the vessel called Chicago’s First Lady, a tour featuring architectural highlights of the entire city on a 3.5-hour bus ride, a walking tour that showcases the golden age of Chicago architecture found along Michigan Avenue and State Street, and a two-hour excursion that points out Chicago architecture from the distinctive vantage point of L train stops and stations.
Architecture tours come in many styles, but here’s a few of the most popular tours and tour companies:
Chicago Theatre Tour:Chicago is home to one of the best theater scenes in the country. Among the shining jewels of this community is the historic Chicago Theatre. Take a tour of this magnificent venue, built in 1921 and home to generations of top theatrical talent in the decades since. Go behind the scenes to see the gorgeous French baroque interiors and celebrity autographs on the walls.
Chicago Architecture Center: This non-profit organization runs an extensive variety of acclaimed tours highlighting Chicago’s many remarkable buildings. Favorite tours include the Chicago River Cruise tour, the Art Deco Skyscrapers tour, and the Chicago Architectural Highlights tour.
Shoreline Sightseeing: Has been running scenic tours of Chicago along Lake Michigan and the Chicago River for 80 years. Their most popular tours include a river excursion highlighting Chicago’s acclaimed architecture and a lake cruise departing from Navy Pier.