Where to find the best skyline views in Chicago

Take in Chicago's amazing architecture by visiting some of the city's best skyline vantage points
Photograph: Courtesy Adler Planetarium
By Zach Long and Clayton Guse |
Advertising

Chicagoans love to brag about how gorgeous our city looks—and rightfully so. Our photogenic skyline boasts a surplus of beautiful buildings, including classic skyscrapers and some towering new additions. In fact, the only thing more Instagrammable than Chicago's cuisine might be its architecture. If you're looking for the perfect place to snap a memorable photo of the city, we've gathered a list of 13 vantage points that are nearly guaranteed to get you all the likes your heart desires. From two Loop rooftops to the winding Riverwalk to an El station, these are the best places to take it all in.

The best views in Chicago

Photograph: CC/Flickr/Charles Barilleaux

The lakefront by Adler Planetarium

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. When the light and water conditions are just right, you can catch a view of the skyline reflecting onto the lake.

Photograph: CC/Flickr/Charles Barilleaux

Photograph: CC/Flickr/

From a plane at night

Chicago at night is a beautiful sight to behold, but seeing it from above is jaw-dropping. If you're flying into (or out of) O'Hare or Midway, you can almost always catch a stunning glimpse of the entirety of the city and its glowing grid of lights.

Photograph: CC/Flickr/Daniel Lobo

Advertising
Cindy's
Photograph: Thomas Hart Shelby

Cindy's at Chicago Athletic Association

There's a lot to love about the Chicago Athletic Association, and the 13th-floor view from rooftop restaurant Cindy's is one of the best reasons to visit. It's not the only place in town where you can get a gorgeous look at Millennium ParkGrant Park and the lake in a single place, but it's one of the few terraces in the Loop where you can do all that while sipping amazing craft cocktails.

Photograph: Thomas Hart Shelby

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

Chicago Riverwalk

If you don't have the time to take a boat tour, strolling along the Riverwalk is an easy way to see Chicago's best 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.

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas 

Advertising
Lake Shore Drive
Photograph: Martha Williams

360 Chicago at the John Hancock Center

The John Hancock Center is the fourth tallest building in Chicago, but its location by the lake on the Near North Side gives it an amazing 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, or grab a drink at the Signature Room. On a clear day you'll be able to see up to 55 miles in any direction and spot four other states.

Photograph: Martha Williams

Photograph: CC/Wikimedia Commons/Jeremy A

The elevated crossing at the Ashland Green and Pink Line station

A view worth missing your train for? Believe it. If you've ever transferred at the Ashland Green and Pink Line stop, you've likely had a chance to take in the amazing, unobstructed perspective of the skyline from the station's elevated crossing over the tracks. It's arguably the most comprehensive view of Chicago's architecture on the West Side (and the city in general).

Photograph: CC/Wikimedia Commons/Jeremy A

Advertising
016.td.fw.tock.op.comeagain.Willis.22xSS
Photograph: Matthew Bowie

Willis Tower Skydeck

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. 

Photograph: Matthew Bowie

Chicago skyline from Promontory Point
Photograph: CC/Flickr/JohnPickenPhoto

Promontory Point

Tucked away along the lakefront in Hyde Park, the vantage 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 monstrous, menacing and downright gorgeous.

Photograph: CC/Flickr/JohnPickenPhoto

Advertising
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

LondonHouse balcony

There are plenty of buildings that overlook the Chicago River, but LondonHouse boasts a balcony that allows you to gaze directly down the river, giving you a picturesque view of the Marina City Towers and various bridges. Once you're done admiring the scenery, grab a table and enjoy a cocktail or a meal against the gorgeous urban backdrop.

Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

Photograph: CC/Flickr/Alex D Stewart

Belmont Harbor

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 are looking for a happy place, this is a sure bet.

Photograph: CC/Flickr/Alex D Stewart

Advertising
Photograph: CC/Flickr/Whitney

North Pond at Lincoln Park

You can see some adorable animals at the Lincoln Park Zoo, but if you want to check out something a bit more inspiring, head over to the North Pond on the park. The city's buildings pop up above the trees, contrasting urban monoliths with natural flora.

Photograph: CC/Flickr/Whitney

TerzoPiano.bestOutdoorRestaurant.jpg
Photograph: Jeff Kauck

Terzo Piano

Attached to the Art Institute, the sights at restaurant Terzo Piano are just as beautiful as the artwork housed inside the galleries. Like the rest of the museum's Modern Wing, the spot was designed by legendary architect Renzo Piano. A meal here will set you back, but dining on the terrace on a perfect summer day is a priceless experience.

Photograph: Jeff Kauck

Advertising
Photograph: Courtesy Chicago Park District

Northerly Island

The 91-acre peninsula that is home to Northerly Island Park once hosted the tiny Meigs Fields airport, but Mayor Richard M. Daley demolished the whole thing (effectively overnight) back in 2003. Now it's an isolated, peaceful area filled with winding trails, some great places to snap pictures of the skyline and an expansive music venue.

Photograph: Courtesy Chicago Park District

Advertising