Chicago Architecture: 15 Must-See Buildings

If you want to see the best man-made architectures, then Chicago is the America’s most magnificent architectural city with its high rises and skyscrapers touching the sky. Chicago’s world renowned architecture is a paradise for any architect. It reflects the history of the American architecture. Whether you like Art-deco, colonial revival, Edwardian architecture, Gothic Revival, Greek Revival, Renaissance Revival, urban or modern architecture, Chicago offers various styles for any architectural lover!

Based on my recent trip to the windy city, I found these top 15 must see buildings for any Chicago visitor who wants to explore the surreal architecture of this city!

1) Wrigley Building

Address: 400 N. Michigan Ave.

Chicago Architecture: 15 Must See Buildings

Wrigley building is an iconic building with a clock tower, reflecting the French Renaissance and Spanish Colonial Revival architectures. The Wrigley Building was Chicago’s first air-conditioned office building. Don’t forget to see the brightly illuminated night view of this building!

2) Tribune Tower

Address: 435 N. Michigan Ave.

Chicago Architecture: 15 Must See Buildings

Tribune Tower reflects the neo-Gothic structure and it is a gateway to the Magnificient Mile – the elite shopping destination in Chicago. Take the time to stop and admire the architecture and craftsmanship of this beautiful building!

3) Chicago Water Tower and Pumping Station

Address: 806/811 N. Michigan Ave.

Chicago Architecture: 15 Must See Buildings

The Water Tower and nearby pumping station were the only two buildings in downtown Chicago that survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 which razed the whole city to the ground. With all its small neo-gothic towers resembles more a tiny European medieval castle than a water tower, it contrasts sharply with nearby modern buildings at the Magnificient Mile.

4) Aqua

Address: 225 N. Columbus Dr.

Chicago Architecture: 15 Must See Buildings

The 82 story Aqua tower is an immediate home on the skyline was designed by a first female architect – Jeanne Gang. It’s an upscale residential apartment at the Lakeshore East with a splendid view of the Chicago downtown.  Its name was derived from the wave-like forms of the balconies as well as its proximity to nearby Lake Michigan.

5) Marina City

Address: 300 N. State St.

Chicago Architecture: 15 Must See Buildings

The twin towers with its unique eye-catching corncob design kicked off yet another architectural renaissance in Chicago. Marina City is a mixed-use residential/commercial building complex in the heart of the downtown Chicago with an amazing view! Marina City was the first urban post-war high-rise residential complex in the United States and is widely credited with beginning the residential renaissance of American inner cities.

6) Willis Tower / Sears Tower

Address: 233 S. Wacker Dr.

Chicago Architecture: 15 Must See Buildings

The Willis Tower or commonly referred as Sears Tower is the tallest skyscraper in the Chicago with 108-story and 1,451-foot tall. It remains the second tallest building in the United States (after One World Trade Center) and the Western Hemisphere. It is one of the most iconic and one of the Chicago’s most popular tourist destinations. The Willis Tower observation deck, called the Skydeck is located on the 103rd floor of the tower. No trip to Chicago would be complete without visiting the Skydeck for the breathtaking view of the windy city! And yeah, don’t forget to get yourself clicked at the ledge to capture your memories for Chicago visit!

7) John Hancock Center

Address: 875 N. Michigan Ave.

Chicago Architecture: 15 Must See Buildings

Also Known locally as ‘Big John’ is the 100-story and 1,127-foot John Hancock Center as established itself as one of the world’s most recognized skyscrapers and an iconic example of the late twentieth century Chicago design, construction, and engineering. The building’s structural, programmatic, and architectural innovations combine to create a design that is heralded for its elegant simplicity. Located on the 94th floor of the historic John Hancock Center in the heart of downtown Chicago, 360 CHICAGO offers breathtaking views of the city and Lake Michigan from over 1,000 feet above the Magnificent Mile.

8) The Rookery

Address: 209 South LaSalle St.

Chicago Architecture: 15 Must See Buildings

The Rookery is one of the most historically significant buildings in Chicago reflecting Queen Anne style architecture with its skylit atrium and spiral staircase. Beautiful exterior and even more beautiful, glass-roofed lobby, which has been restored to a renovation Frank Lloyd Wright completed some years after the original construction. Don’t forget to stop in and check out the lobby if you are walking by this building!

9) Carbide and Carbon Building

Address: 230 N. Michigan Ave.

Chicago Architecture: 15 Must See Buildings The Carbide & Carbon Building, presently the Hard Rock Hotel Chicago reflects the Art-deco architectural style of 1920s America. The building has 37 floors and is 503 feet tall. The facade is composed of luxurious polished black granite, green and gold terra cotta and gold leaf with bronze trim, making it a dazzling building on Chicago’s skyline!

10) Chicago Board of Trade Building

Address: 141 W. Jackson Boulevard

Chicago Architecture: 15 Must See Buildings

Chicago Board of Trade Building was Chicago’s tallest building from 1930 to 1965, an Art-deco building with a pinnacle statue of Ceres makes it unique among the other skyscrapers of the windy city! The building has been featured in several movies, such as Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Batman Begins, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and The Dark Knight. The building was featured as the outer part of the Daily Planet in the 2013 Superman movie Man of Steel.

11) Lake Point Tower

Address: 505 N. Lake Shore Dr

Chicago Architecture: 15 Must See Buildings

Lake Point Tower is an upscale high-rise residential building located on a promontory of the Lake Michigan lakefront in downtown Chicago. It reflects the sleek and modern architectural style, offering the panoramic breathtaking view of the Chicago skylines!

12) Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co. Building

Address: 1 S. State St.

Chicago Architecture: 15 Must See Buildings

The Carson Pirie Scott & Co. building, also known as Sullivan Center has a majestic presence at the corner of State and Madison. It’s exemplary of Sullivan’s theories of organic architecture reflecting the late 19th and Early 20th Century American Movements style architecture. The building design was inspired by plants native to the Midwestern prairie. The first glance of this building will leave you spellbound by its unique architecture!


13) Marquette Building

Address: 140 S. Dearborn St.

Chicago Architecture: 15 Must See Buildings

Marquette Building is a National Historic Landmark considered as an exemplary model of the Chicago School of Architecture.  Its rich terra cotta ornamentation, decorative bronze reliefs and sparkling Tiffany mosaics is a magnificent work of architecture. This was one of the most profitable skyscrapers built in Chicago during the 19th-century building boom.

14) Fourth Presbyterian Church

Address: 126 E Chestnut St.

Chicago Architecture: 15 Must See Buildings

Fourth Presbyterian Church located at the Magnificient Mile reflects the Gothic Revival style of architecture. It is a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in the United States. Take some time and enjoy the stained glass and its architecture which is must-see for any first-time Chicago visitor!

15) Trump Tower

Address: 401 North Wabash Ave.

Chicago Architecture: 15 Must See Buildings

A 98 story skyscraper condo-hotel in downtown Chicago, Trump Tower reflects the glass sleek modern style architecture. The design of the building includes, from the ground up, retail space, a parking garage, a hotel, and condominiums adding to the glory of the Chicago skylines. 

Chicago Architecture: 15 Must-See Buildings

If you’ve been to Chicago, do let me know your favorite architecture in the comments below and if not, which building’s architecture you liked the most?

Happy traveling!


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