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13 jaw-dropping skyline views in Chicago

Take in Chicago's amazing architecture by visiting some of the city's best skyline vantage points

Written by
Zach Long
&
Emma Krupp
Contributor
Lindsay Eanet
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Of all the incredible Chicago attractions there are to explore, most magical of all might be the twinkling city skyline. Lucky for you, there are plenty of ways to take in the skyline in all its glory, from the quirky corncobs of Marina City to the towering majesty of the Willis Tower (even if you still call it by its old name)—all without breaking the bank. No matter which side of Chicago you call home, you're bound to find some pretty amazing skyline vistas, whether you're peering out from Chicago rooftop bars, commuting on the L or hanging out in a lakeside park. Snap a pic and linger awhile at these appealing vantage points—the views are (mostly) free.

RECOMMENDED: The best places for hiking near Chicago

The best views in Chicago

  • Things to do
  • Millennium Park

It's no secret that the flagship parks of downtown Chicago—namely Grant and Millennium—are home to some pretty stunning views of the skyline. To get a more novel downtown perspective, though, try visiting the Lurie Garden. Tucked into the southern end of Millennium Park, its verdant expanses of wildflowers and grasses make an extra-appealing foreground for the city skyline.

  • Things to do
  • Loop

If you don't have the time to hop on a boat tour, strolling along the Riverwalk is an easy way to see Chicago's finest architecture from a new angle. Buildings tower far above you on either side, and there are plenty of places to sit down and take in the scenery.

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  • Restaurants
  • Loop

There are tons of buildings that overlook the Chicago River, but LondonHouse boasts a balcony that allows you to gaze directly down the water below, giving you a picturesque view of the Marina City Towers, Michigan Avenue and other iconic spots. Once you're done admiring the scenery, grab a table and enjoy a cocktail or a meal against the gorgeous urban backdrop.

  • Things to do
  • Streeterville
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875 N. Michigan Avenue (formerly known as the John Hancock Center) might only be the fifth tallest building in Chicago, but its location by the lake on the Near North Side gives it a top-notch view of Lake Shore Drive as well as the rest of the city. You can check out the Tilt attraction at 360 Chicago on the 94th floor for a harrowing sight of the city below—on a clear day you'll be able to see up to 55 miles in any direction and spot four other states.
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  • Things to do
  • Loop
  • price 2 of 4

The most obvious place to catch a great view of Chicago is on the 103rd floor of the city's tallest building. Since the Willis Tower added The Ledge, which suspends guests in a glass box 1,353 feet in the air, the attraction offers about as good of a view as you're going to get anywhere in the country, aside from an airplane.

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  • Museums
  • Science and technology
  • Museum Campus
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Taking a bike ride or a stroll along the lakefront by the Adler Planetarium is a great way to see the city. The museum sits just north of Northerly Island in a spot that juts out into the lake east of South Loop—and when the light and water conditions are just right, you can catch a view of the skyline reflecting onto the lake.

  • Things to do
  • Lake View

Walking along the northern end of Belmont Harbor explains why Lake Michigan is a Great Lake—when you hit the edge of the water it feels like you've reached the edge of the Earth. If you're on the North Side and looking for a happy place, this is a sure bet.

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  • Things to do
  • Lincoln Park

Lincoln Park is full of attractions, but after you've finished scoping animals at the zoo, try looking toward the horizon for incredible skyline vistas—the whole park is bursting with them. Just as an example, you can head over to the South Pond, where the city's buildings pop up above the trees, contrasting urban monoliths with natural flora.

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Armour Square

Originally a railroad yard, Chinatown's Ping Tom Park is now home to 12 acres of rolling green space and riverfront paths with picturesque views of the skyline facing north. For an even clearer vantage point, climb up to the 18th Street Bridge, where you can soak in views of both the cityscape and the historic St. Charles Air Line Bridge.

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We know the former site of the Meigs Field airport is great for catching a concert, a leisurely stroll or some fishing, but the peaceful patch of land also offers breathtaking views. It’s surreal to stand in the middle of this serene grassy area and see a majestic city towering on the horizon. 

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  • Things to do
  • Hyde Park

Tucked away along the lakefront in Hyde Park, the views from Promontory Point demonstrates just how huge Chicago's skyline really is. It's more than seven miles away from the Loop, but the buildings still look as looming and stately as ever. 

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