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10 of the best architecture tours of Chicago

Discover Art Deco skyscrapers, modern marvels and Frank Lloyd Wright–designed homes on these architecture tours of Chicago
Chicago Cultural Center
Photograph: Martha Williams

If flying buttresses, Tiffany mosaics and Gothic columns get you all hot and bothered, you’ll love these fascinating architecture tours of Chicago. Nerd out over the design, engineering and construction behind the most beautiful buildings in Chicago on guided walks, bus rides and boat tours. First-time visitors will be happy to know that these architecture tours double as sightseeing walks of the best Chicago attractions—you might even be able to snap a few Instagrams along the way. Even if you don’t have a clue who Frank Lloyd Wright was, the best architecture tours of Chicago are almost guaranteed to leave you inspired.

RECOMMENDED: Check out the full guide to the best Chicago tours

Architecture tours of Chicago

Chicago Architecture River Cruise

Chicago Architecture River Cruise

For a comprehensive overview of Chicago’s skyline, there’s no better vantage point than the water. You’ll spy more than 40 architecturally significant buildings, including the John Hancock Center, the Wrigley Building, the Aon Center and Willis Tower, as you drift along the Chicago River. An expert guide will give you the lowdown on Chicago’s rise from the Great Fire of 1871, the advent of balloon-frame construction and other crucial moments in the city’s history. $43.68

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

Chicago Architectural Aficionados Bus Tour

Prefer to stay on dry land? Step aboard an air-conditioned coach for a 30-mile journey around the city. Your driver will take you through the Loop, Hyde Park, Gold Coast and other neighborhoods, with stops along the way to tour particularly gorgeous buildings. Frank Lloyd Wright fans will be pleased to know that one of those interior tours is at the Robie House, the Prairie School–style dwelling the starchitect designed in 1909. $45

Chicago Cultural Center
Photograph: Martha Williams

The Pedway and Loop History and Architecture Tour

This walking tour makes use of the Pedway to explore both street-level and subterranean Chicago. You’ll visit some of the best-known buildings in the city, including the Chicago Cultural Center (home to the world’s largest Tiffany dome), the Rookery (the oldest highrise in the city) and Millenium Station (a filming location from The Dark Knight). $25

Photograph: Cheri Eisenberg

Chicago Walking Tour: Art Deco Skyscrapers

The ’20s and ’30s saw the creation of so many iconic Chicago buildings: One North LaSalle, the Civic Opera Building, Century Tower, the Carbide and Carbon Building and so on. Admire the geometric shapes, vibrant colors and sophisticated elegance that Art Deco construction is so well known for on this two-hour walking tour. $18

Auditorium Theatre
Photograph: Courtesy Viator

Auditorium Theatre Historic Tour

Stunning form meets ideal function in the architecture of this National Historic Landmark: Not only do the 24-karat gold-leafed ceiling arches look gorgeous, but they also create perfect acoustics. Audience members in the highest row of the top gallery can still hear an unamplified voice from the stage. Tour this seriously impressive structure dating back to 1893 to test out the sound quality for yourself. $12

Modern architecture in Chicago
Photograph: Courtesy Viator

Chicago Walking Tour: Modern Architecture

If you prefer sleek metal and glass designs to ornate Gothic architecture, you’ll want to book a spot on this walking tour of the city’s most famous modern buildings. Peep minimalist designs from Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, admire the postmodernism of the Harold Washington Library and ogle the chic contemporary look of One South Dearborn, among others. $18

Museum of Science and Industry
Photograph: J.B. Spector

Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 Tour

The announcement that the World’s Columbian Exhibition of 1893 would be held in Chicago spurred an explosion of new construction. Beaux-Arts buildings sprung up all over Hyde Park and the South Side—so many sparkly new buildings, in fact, that the area earned the nickname “White City.” More than 125 years later, visitors can still see the architectural impact of the fair on the city. This interactive tour includes old photos, visual scavenger hunts and educational games to keep you engaged. $42
Photograph: Matthew Bowie

Private Chicago Architecture Tour

Don’t want to share your tour guide with a group? Reserve a private tour to spend an entire afternoon exploring the city’s most impressive buildings. You’ll stop at everything from Willis Tower to Gothic facades on the Magnificent Mile to Frank Lloyd Wright homes in Oak Park. Did we mention you’ll be chauffeured from stop to stop in a luxury town car or SUV, too? $495

Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

Women in Chicago Architecture

As in so many industries, women’s contributions to the world of architecture have only recently begun to get their moment in the sun. Discover some of the female architects leaving their mark on Chicago’s skyline on this tour led by an expert from the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Who built the world? Girls! $50 for the public, $42 for members

William E. Martin House
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Teemu008

Frank Lloyd Wright Neighborhoods by Bus

Frank Lloyd Wright superfans (Frankensteins? Wrightonians?) might want to opt for this bus tour that visits 25 homes designed by the renowned architect. This tour hosted by the Chicago Architecture Foundation follows Wright’s career from 1899 to 1913 to give you a comprehensive overview of his work. $50 for the public, $42 for members

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Teemu008

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