Chicago Architecture

Our most recommended Chicago Architecture

Chicago River: 1.5-Hour Guided Architecture Cruise

1. Chicago River: 1.5-Hour Guided Architecture Cruise

Experience more of Chicago by boat than on any other architectural cruise. See architectural highlights and enjoy an open-air deck or climate-controlled interior as you travel the main River and its north and south branches. View all of Chicago's architectural highlights during this comprehensive sightseeing tour. Be entertained by the expert and friendly tour guides as they explain the 130 year-long history behind the skyline, while bartenders and staff keep you comfortable with refreshments.  Choose between the fresh air of the open-air decks or enjoy the comfort of the climate-controlled interiors during your cruise. The tour starts at the Michigan Avenue (DuSable) bridge and goes up the main branch of the Chicago River past Wolf Point. It then cruises along the north and south branches of the river, before heading back past the Chicago Riverwalk towards Lake Michigan. On the way, learn about ornate, historic early skyscrapers like the Wrigley Building and the Tribune Tower, the imposing art deco Merchandise Mart, mid-century skyscrapers like the Mies Van der Rohe AMA Building. Don't miss the circular Marina City Towers, the majestic Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower and the tallest building in Chicago) the soaring AON Center, and more modernist structures like Aqua, Trump Tower, Nuveen, and the new Vista Tower. During your cruise, have the opportunity to enjoy a full-service cash bar featuring authentic Chicago products, including local beer and spirits, and Garrett’s Popcorn. Don’t forget to take a selfie at the Grand Staircase at the front of the boat or pose for photos at the picturesque stern or bow of this classic vessel.

Chicago: Willis Tower Skydeck and The Ledge Ticket

2. Chicago: Willis Tower Skydeck and The Ledge Ticket

Enjoy an unrivaled view over the city of Chicago on a trip up the city's Willis Tower. This famous building, once known as the Sears Tower, is not only home to a Skydeck on the 103rd floor, but it also features The Ledge, a series of 4 glass-paneled boxes that extend out from the building's facade to give visitors a view straight down. As you wind through the ground levels of the Willis Tower, you will be surrounded by museum-quality exhibits highlighting the iconic tower. Learn about Chicago's rich history and culture through these informative visuals. Watch a video presentation, "Reaching for the Sky," where you will be briefed on the history of the building and of architecture in Chicago. Then step into your elevator and you will be amazed at how quickly it ascends. As you travel, your multimedia-equipped elevator will inform you about your vertical progress. Upon reaching the 103rd floor, step out onto the Skydeck, which offers views spanning over 50 miles and across 4 states. Then summon your courage to step out onto The Ledge, a glass balcony that hangs over the edge, for vertigo-inducing views 1,353 feet (about 412 meters) straight down to the city below! Download the Skydeck Mobile App for a free viewfinder which points out many of Chicago’s notable landmarks. Learn more about sights like Navy Pier, Wrigley Field, Grant Park, Art Institute of Chicago, Shedd Aquarium, and Field Museum of Natural History.

Chicago: 360 Chicago Observation Deck Skip-the-Line Ticket

3. Chicago: 360 Chicago Observation Deck Skip-the-Line Ticket

Marvel at the views from 1,000 feet over Chicago’s legendary Michigan Avenue with this ticket to the 360 CHICAGO observation deck on the 94th floor of the John Hancock Center. Save time with skip-the-line access to this popular attraction. Head up to the 360 CHICAGO observation deck to take in breathtaking views of Chicago’s lakefront and view the city skyline from above. Take a peek at 4 neighboring states from this height. Feel the thrill of a 40-second ride in one of North America's fastest elevators to the observation deck to experience what 'Travel & Leisure Magazine' voted one of the best views in America. Enjoy an interactive exhibit on the Ground Floor that highlights Chicago’s rich history and showcases 9 of the city’s culturally unique neighborhoods. Then, on the 94th floor, explore the history and architecture of the magnificent city stretched out before you with audio tours in 5 languages. By purchasing this timed ticket, you get to skip the ticket desk and present your barcoded voucher to security to be scanned - you may have to wait in a short line at security, then head directly into the Ground Floor Exhibits, and then on to the Elevator Line.

Chicago: 45-Minute Family-Friendly Architecture River Cruise

4. Chicago: 45-Minute Family-Friendly Architecture River Cruise

Admire Chicago’s impressive architecture from a unique perspective aboard a cruise sailing down the Chicago River, which features an indoor and outdoor deck, along with live commentary tailored to entertain the whole family. Treat yourself to a full-service cash bar at your own expense. Experience the best of the Chicago River from Lakeshore Drive to the Willis Tower, navigating along the South branch of the river, before heading back past the Chicago Riverwalk towards Lake Shore Drive and Lake Michigan. Be entertained by the fun and experienced tour guides as they explain the history behind Chicago’s buildings along the river and the exceptional architects who created this ever-changing skyline. Enjoy the most relaxing way to sightsee in Chicago, exploring the city free of traffic, noise, and congestion. Make sure to visit the full-service cash bar featuring authentic Chicago products, including local beer and spirits. Explore the open-air decks that allow you to feel the cooling river breeze and see the city from many vantage points that provide perfect photo opportunities.

Chicago River Architecture Cruise: Skip-the-Ticket-Office

5. Chicago River Architecture Cruise: Skip-the-Ticket-Office

Skip the lines at the ticket office and climb aboard a state-of-the-art cruise for a 60- or 75-minute cruise of all 3 branches of the Chicago River, and marvel at the architecture that has made the city so legendary. Get an insight into the buildings and engineering of a city that gave birth to the skyscraper and is the spiritual home of modern American architecture. Your expert guide will lead you down the Chicago River to uncover hidden gems, as well the city’s most renowned landmarks, such as the John Hancock building, Trump Tower, Marina City, Willis Tower, and more. Relax with a glass of something cold from the cash bar, as you cruise the Windy City’s waterway, and learn its status as a modern metropolis and one of the world’s most beautiful cities. End your tour in the same place where you boarded the boat.

Chicago: 1.5-Hour Lake and River Architecture Cruise

6. Chicago: 1.5-Hour Lake and River Architecture Cruise

Experience an architecture cruise along the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, a family tradition since 1935. Admire Chicago’s historic and ever-changing skyline with a local expert guide as you cruise through the city. Choose between the open-air decks or the comfort of the climate-controlled interiors during the cruise. Start the cruise at Michigan Avenue (DuSable) bridge and go up the main branch of the Chicago River to Wolf Point before heading back past the Chicago Riverwalk towards Lake Michigan. Learn about historic skyscrapers like the Wrigley Building and the Tribune Tower, the deco Merchandise Mart, mid-century skyscrapers like the Mies Van der Rohe AMA Building, the circular Marina City Towers, the AON Center, and modernist structures like Aqua, Trump Tower, Nuveen, and the Vista Tower. After passing through the Chicago Lock and cruising past Navy Pier, admire the Chicago skyline from Lake Michigan, one of the largest bodies of fresh water in the world. Here you can also see the twin super-skyscrapers, the famous Willis (formerly Sears) Tower, and the John Hancock Building. See the majesty of Grant Park with its famous Buckingham Fountain, and iconic Chicago venues such as Soldier’s Field, Adler Planetarium, and the Shedd Aquarium. Enjoy several vantage points for memorable pictures throughout, and finally arrive back at Du Sable Bridge on Michigan Avenue.

Chicago: Gangsters and Ghosts 2-Hour Walking Tour

7. Chicago: Gangsters and Ghosts 2-Hour Walking Tour

See a different side of Chicago on a family-friendly guided tour and hear the tales of the ghosts that haunt the city. Explore the famous Chicago Loop district with interesting stories hidden behind each turn. Embark along the Chicago Loop, known as the vice district during the 1920s and 30s. See the places where gangsters such as Al Capone used to party, make deals, and carry out business. Visit haunted locations and old crime scenes led by historians. Stop at the Congress Hotel, Death Alley, and the Palmer House. Enjoy a refreshment along with way, with frequent stops and a restroom break.

Chicago: 75-Minute Architecture Cruise by Speedboat

8. Chicago: 75-Minute Architecture Cruise by Speedboat

Climb aboard a speedboat for a thrilling river and lake cruise around some of Chicago’s architectural gems. Gain insights into the city's most famous landmarks from your guide. Admire sights like Willis Tower, Tribune Tower, and Buckingham Fountain. Depart from the former Navy training center of Navy Pier on the shores of Lake Michigan on a tour along the lakefront. Sail through the locks and along the Chicago River all the way to the second tallest building in the USA, Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower). Get up close to Chicago’s most iconic buildings and unique architecture, and enjoy amazing views and an entertaining narration as part of the exciting ride. Learn the fascinating history of structures like the neo-Gothic Tribune Tower and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Cruise the lakefront of Lake Michigan to see monuments and attractions such as Buckingham Fountain, Grant Park, Chicago Harbor, and the Chicago Museum Campus.

Chicago: 3-Hour Private Speakeasy Cocktail VIP Tour

9. Chicago: 3-Hour Private Speakeasy Cocktail VIP Tour

Spend an evening visiting the Chicago speakeasies that have been open since the Prohibition Era in the 1920s, many preserved in their original conditions. With your own private group, enter by way of secret entrances and enjoy the same cocktails ordered by infamous Chicago gangsters and bank robbers at these venues nearly a century ago. Relive the glamor of the 1920s while listening to stories of the rampant racketeering and bootlegging of the era.   Alcohol is available for purchase at the three to four different speakeasy stops. Your private tour guide will make Prohibition Era drink recommendations and tell you the stories behind them. Travel around with your young, professional guide and be chauffeured in luxury transportation, ranging from a luxury SUV to a full-sized luxury motor coach.

Chicago: History, Culture and Architecture Walking Tour

10. Chicago: History, Culture and Architecture Walking Tour

Start your tour under the dazzling marquee of the Chicago Theater (which you might recognize from the movie-musical Chicago) before heading off into the bustling city. Your first stop is inside one of the best-preserved spaces built for shopping in Chicago, featuring an unforgettable atrium at its core. Then head towards the Chicago Pedway, a uniquely Chicago feature used by locals and commuters daily to move about the city in a network of underground tunnels. Afterward, head back above-ground near City Hall and head inside to see the classic interior design and architecture. Next, enjoy a sweet treat, and local tradition: Chicago-style popcorn. Weather permitting, take a stroll along the Chicago Riverwalk while taking in views of several soaring buildings, including Marina Towers, the Britannica Building, and the Willis Tower. From there, make your way to another delicious destination. Along the way, enjoy views of the world-famous Wrigley Building and the incredible Chicago Tribune building, the heart of Chicago’s thriving and historic journalism industry. Your second tasty confection is locally made chocolate from a Chicago staple. Finally, take a stroll through the beautiful lakefront parks along Michigan Avenue. Round up your tour in the picturesque Millennium Park, home to the iconic Bean sculpture. Here, your guide will conclude your tour and point you in the right direction toward more amazing sights, great lunch spots, or drink recommendations.

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What people are saying about Chicago

Overall rating

4.5 / 5

based on 1,499 reviews

Lizzy, our guide was so sweet! You walk through the beautiful city, stop here and there and listen to interesting facts and stories. Halfway through there‘s a break for getting some brownies and using the bathroom. Would definetly recommend! Lizzy always made sure everybody has a great time and no one gets lost and stays with the group. Loved it!

I had a very Knowledgeable and fun tour guide . The trip was interesting and funny. I learned a lot about the city and it's architecture. Highly recommended! Totally worth it.

Fun way to spend time in Chicago! It was easy to keep up with and hear our guide, and she led us to gems in the city we wouldn't have found otherwise!

Superb commentary from informed, intelligent and interesting boat tour guide.

The best city tour I've ever experienced! Highly recommend.