There may be other cities top-of-mind when people think of great destinations for architecture, art and design, but those that know, know that Chicago is a spectacular destination to take in all three. These are some of our must-sees around the city, from renowned architecture and museums to the impressive outdoor public art displays from modern masters.
Chicago’s Best Architecture: Modern Masters, World Records and a Boatload of History
- Right in the middle of the Illinois Institute of Technology’s campus sits Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Crown Hall. Considered a masterpiece of minimalism and openness, it’s one of the most architecturally significant buildings of the 20th century Modernist movement.
- Legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright spent the first 20 years of his career in Chicago. The city and its surrounding areas boast some of his most celebrated creations, including the Frederick C. Robie House, The Rookery, Wright’s Home and Studio and Unity Temple. A selection of tours including Wright Around Chicago are available.
- Seeking a moment of quiet reflection? The stunning Bahá’í Temple, with its elaborate dome and intricate carvings, is surrounded by peaceful gardens and fountains. The temple is a quick jaunt just north of the city, in the village of Wilmette. It’s one of only eight dedicated temples of the Bahá’í Faith and is the oldest Bahá’í House of Worship in the world.
- The Kimpton Gray Hotel, centrally located in the Loop neighborhood, is housed in the historic New York Life Insurance Building. Incorporating modern design elements, the hotel is the stylish marriage of past and present.
- If you can’t settle on a single landmark, check out the infamous architecture-centric river cruises.
Chicago’s Museums & Galleries: Art & Design with Multicultural Influence
Eclectic collections and exhibitions across the city mean there’s something for every type of art enthusiast to love.
- Though it was originally founded as a pop-up museum in 2012, there was a powerful demand for a museum in the city devoted explicitly to design, so the Design Museum of Chicago is now a year-round fixture. There are three new shows each year and admission is free, with a $5 suggested donation.
- A gallery crawl in the River North Gallery District is a great way to spend a couple of hours. Considered the densest gallery center in the city, it’s an embarrassment of riches for all types of art from painting and photography to textiles, furniture and glass. Find out which galleries to visit in River North—plus where to get lunch!—in our guide to Chicago’s most fun neighborhoods.
- The Art Institute of Chicago is a gorgeous Beaux-Arts building that was built in 1893 for the World’s Fair. Inside, it features a diverse and engaging collection. Its famed modern art collection includes masterpieces like Grant Wood’s American Gothic and Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks.
Chicago Public Art: A Picasso, A Mosaic and Larger-Than-Life Sculptures
With more than 500 works exhibited across the city, Chicago’s public art program is seriously inspiring. The Loop neighborhood alone is home to a wealth of acclaimed pieces.
- The untitled sculpture by Pablo Picasso, fittingly called The Picasso, can be viewed and even climbed on, in Daley Plaza. Picasso was offered $100,000 for the sculpture but actually refused the payment and instead offered it as a gift to the city.
- Just around the corner from The Picasso sits Joan Miro’s Miro’s Chicago originally called The Sun, the Moon and One Star. At 39 feet tall, this mixed media sculpture towers over Brunswick Plaza.
- The Four Seasons mosaic by famed Modernist Marc Chagall can be seen in the Chase Tower Plaza. It’s comprised of thousands of fragments and features 250 different colors. Doing it for the ‘gram? No shame! Take your best art-filled photo with these tips for taking better art wall photos.
- The Agora installation by Magdalena Abakanowicz consists of 106 headless and armless iron sculpted figures on the south end of Grant Park. The statues are assembled to look like a crowd, some standing and some walking in different directions. Visitors can walk amongst the statues for a truly immersive experience.
- And of course, you’ll want to get a mirrored selfie in the world famous Chicago “Bean.” Designed by British artist Anish Kapoor, it’s actual name is the much prettier sounding Cloud Gate, and it’s located in Millenium Park in downtown Chicago.
Where to stay: Whatever your interest in art, architecture and design, there’s no shortage of gems to discover. Stay close to the sights at one of Kimpton’s four boutique hotels in Chicago.
Ready to plan your next art-lovers trip? Check out the best under-the-radar museums in Washington, DC or make a trek to one of the new museums opening this year around the world.
Please make your map of the galleries printable.
We’d love to make that map printable for you, Ann, but it’s not our map. The map is found on the Chicago Gallery News website. If you follow the link, there’s an email address listed at the bottom of the page on the left-hand side. We suggest you email them and see if they have a printable or downloadable version available. Fingers crossed!
We stayed at the Chicago Kimpton with my family and my parents. Such a great place and so welcoming of a then little bubba.
Thank you 🙂
We’re so happy you enjoyed your time with us, Rene; hope to see you back in Chi-town again soon!
I live in Glen Ellyn by D.R. Horton and love it, but when we have family come to town we always home them stay at Chicago Kimpton, its just more luxury then I am willing to provide in my home, and really if you knew my mother in law you wouldn’t let her stay in your home either! Anyway, If you buy check out the D.R. Horton homes and if you’re just visiting we wholeheartedly suggest Kimpton!
That’s us, Betsy! Putting up with our guests’ inlaws so they don’t have to since 1981.