The 50 most beautiful buildings in Chicago

We searched Chicago's skyline from the skyscrapers to the side streets (and beyond) to find our favorite examples of the city's architectural excellence

Photograph: Courtesy of the Chicago Architecture Foundation
Wrigley Building

It's easy to find exemplary architecture in Chicago, whether you're admiring the skyline from Lake Michigan or taking a stroll through the streets of a neighborhood. After a large section of the city burnt to the ground in 1871, architects went to work rebuilding Chicago on a grand scale, erecting classic buildings like the Tribune Tower and the Chicago Cultural Center.

RECOMMENDED: Your guide to living in Chicago

The architectural innovation hasn't slowed down since, with recent projects like Aqua Tower and the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library cementing Chicago's status as a hotbed of innovative structures. Even the city's historical buildings are being put to new uses, housing stores, bars and restaurants that allow visitors to experience a part of the area's architectural history. We went on a few boat tours, consulted some experts and explored the city to assemble our list of 50 of Chicago's most beautiful buildings.

Museums

The countdown begins…

We begin our countdown of the 50 most beautiful buildings in Chicago with a prison

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Museums

Beautiful buildings by the numbers

We break down our favorite architecture by height, age and style

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Museums

The experts' picks

We asked professors, architects and traffic reporters to name their top Chicago buildings

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Museums

Readers' poll

We've told you which buildings are the most beautiful. But do you agree? Have your say

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Things to Do

Chicago's 15 ugliest buildings

We're ready to erase these architectural misfires from our city's skyline

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Things to Do

Chicago's best boat tours

Tired of walking around town? Get your float on with these nautical excursions

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Museums

The 50 most beautiful buildings in Chicago: 50-41

We searched Chicago's skyline from the skyscrapers to the side streets (and beyond) to find our favorite examples of the city's architectural excellence Follow us                    Most popular in Museums 10 best Chicago museums: Top institutions to visit in Chicago The Art Institute, Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry and more of the best Chicago museums to take in art, nature, history and culture. Whether you're a local or an out-of-towner, if you have a day off in Chicago, spending it at a museum is a no-duh. (Ferris Bueller knew this; he hit up the Art Institute.) These well-respected institutions offer informative and inspiring encounters with art, history, science and culture, not to mention noteworthy architecture. There's variety to be experienced: Tour the AIC's bright, Renzo Piano-designed Modern Wing, commune with butterflies at the Notebaert Nature Museum or encounter aquatic life at the Shedd Aquarium. Whatever your agenda, be sure to hit our list of the best Chicago museums. Another no-duh suggestion: Take advantage of the museums' free days. The Field Museum Founded to house the biological and anthropological collections assembled for the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, this massive natural history museum still packs ’em in with more than 30 permanent exhibitions covering 300,000 square feet. Inside the permanent displays, you can see glowering dinos, marvel at ancient artifacts from a royal Egyptian tomb, undergo a les

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Museums

The 50 most beautiful buildings in Chicago: 40-31

We searched Chicago's skyline from the skyscrapers to the side streets (and beyond) to find our favorite examples of the city's architectural excellence Follow us                    Most popular in Museums 10 best Chicago museums: Top institutions to visit in Chicago The Art Institute, Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry and more of the best Chicago museums to take in art, nature, history and culture. Whether you're a local or an out-of-towner, if you have a day off in Chicago, spending it at a museum is a no-duh. (Ferris Bueller knew this; he hit up the Art Institute.) These well-respected institutions offer informative and inspiring encounters with art, history, science and culture, not to mention noteworthy architecture. There's variety to be experienced: Tour the AIC's bright, Renzo Piano-designed Modern Wing, commune with butterflies at the Notebaert Nature Museum or encounter aquatic life at the Shedd Aquarium. Whatever your agenda, be sure to hit our list of the best Chicago museums. Another no-duh suggestion: Take advantage of the museums' free days. The Field Museum Founded to house the biological and anthropological collections assembled for the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, this massive natural history museum still packs ’em in with more than 30 permanent exhibitions covering 300,000 square feet. Inside the permanent displays, you can see glowering dinos, marvel at ancient artifacts from a royal Egyptian tomb, undergo a les

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Museums

The 50 most beautiful buildings in Chicago: 30-21

We searched Chicago's skyline from the skyscrapers to the side streets (and beyond) to find our favorite examples of the city's architectural excellence Follow us                    Most popular in Museums 10 best Chicago museums: Top institutions to visit in Chicago The Art Institute, Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry and more of the best Chicago museums to take in art, nature, history and culture. Whether you're a local or an out-of-towner, if you have a day off in Chicago, spending it at a museum is a no-duh. (Ferris Bueller knew this; he hit up the Art Institute.) These well-respected institutions offer informative and inspiring encounters with art, history, science and culture, not to mention noteworthy architecture. There's variety to be experienced: Tour the AIC's bright, Renzo Piano-designed Modern Wing, commune with butterflies at the Notebaert Nature Museum or encounter aquatic life at the Shedd Aquarium. Whatever your agenda, be sure to hit our list of the best Chicago museums. Another no-duh suggestion: Take advantage of the museums' free days. The Field Museum Founded to house the biological and anthropological collections assembled for the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, this massive natural history museum still packs ’em in with more than 30 permanent exhibitions covering 300,000 square feet. Inside the permanent displays, you can see glowering dinos, marvel at ancient artifacts from a royal Egyptian tomb, undergo a les

Read more
Museums

The 50 most beautiful buildings in Chicago: 20-11

We searched Chicago's skyline from the skyscrapers to the side streets (and beyond) to find our favorite examples of the city's architectural excellence Follow us                    Most popular in Museums 10 best Chicago museums: Top institutions to visit in Chicago The Art Institute, Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry and more of the best Chicago museums to take in art, nature, history and culture. Whether you're a local or an out-of-towner, if you have a day off in Chicago, spending it at a museum is a no-duh. (Ferris Bueller knew this; he hit up the Art Institute.) These well-respected institutions offer informative and inspiring encounters with art, history, science and culture, not to mention noteworthy architecture. There's variety to be experienced: Tour the AIC's bright, Renzo Piano-designed Modern Wing, commune with butterflies at the Notebaert Nature Museum or encounter aquatic life at the Shedd Aquarium. Whatever your agenda, be sure to hit our list of the best Chicago museums. Another no-duh suggestion: Take advantage of the museums' free days. The Field Museum Founded to house the biological and anthropological collections assembled for the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, this massive natural history museum still packs ’em in with more than 30 permanent exhibitions covering 300,000 square feet. Inside the permanent displays, you can see glowering dinos, marvel at ancient artifacts from a royal Egyptian tomb, undergo a les

Read more
Museums

The 50 most beautiful buildings in Chicago: 10-1

We searched Chicago's skyline from the skyscrapers to the side streets (and beyond) to find our favorite examples of the city's architectural excellence Follow us                    Most popular in Museums 10 best Chicago museums: Top institutions to visit in Chicago The Art Institute, Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry and more of the best Chicago museums to take in art, nature, history and culture. Whether you're a local or an out-of-towner, if you have a day off in Chicago, spending it at a museum is a no-duh. (Ferris Bueller knew this; he hit up the Art Institute.) These well-respected institutions offer informative and inspiring encounters with art, history, science and culture, not to mention noteworthy architecture. There's variety to be experienced: Tour the AIC's bright, Renzo Piano-designed Modern Wing, commune with butterflies at the Notebaert Nature Museum or encounter aquatic life at the Shedd Aquarium. Whatever your agenda, be sure to hit our list of the best Chicago museums. Another no-duh suggestion: Take advantage of the museums' free days. The Field Museum Founded to house the biological and anthropological collections assembled for the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, this massive natural history museum still packs ’em in with more than 30 permanent exhibitions covering 300,000 square feet. Inside the permanent displays, you can see glowering dinos, marvel at ancient artifacts from a royal Egyptian tomb, undergo a les

Read more
Museums

Architectural experts' picks

We asked professors, architecture enthusiasts and traffic reporters to name their top Chicago buildings We have opinions about the most beautiful buildings in Chicago, but we wanted to see what other members of the community had to say. So we reached out to some of the city's foremost architectural experts, including the president of the Chicago Architectural Society, the president of the firm organizing the construction of the Lucas Museum, and two traffic reporters who see the skyline from a unique perspective every day. Take a look at their lists of favorite structures in the city. RECOMMENDED: 50 of Chicago's most beautiful buildings Follow us                    Most popular in Things to Do Chicago attractions: The 25 best sights and attractions in Chicago Among the city's parks, museums and skyscrapers, these are the very best Chicago attractions to help you fast-track your sightseeing around town Whether you're entertaining out-of-town guests or simply want to act like a tourist in your hometown by revisiting the best Chicago attractions, iconic venues and historical spots, make sightseeing a lot easier by consulting Time Out's definitive guide to Chicago's best sights, top attractions and things to do. We've compiled our favorite popular sights in the city, featuring the best parks, museums, and hubs of arts and culture. Adler Planetarium Though it’s staffed by world-class researchers at the forefront of their field, the museum’s real draw will always be the virt

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