Chicago travel guide | Make the most of your day with our useful tips
Make the most of your holiday with this fantastic Chicago travel guide. You’ll learn all the basic information about the city and get to know the best things to do, restaurants and world-class museums.
With more than 2.7 million people, Chicago is the third-largest city in the United States and the most extensive city in the midwest.
The silhouette of Chicago’s City Center in the past was very different than it is today. In 1871, the central area of Chicago was destroyed by a massive fire, leaving behind just a few ruins and paving the way for the city to create one of America’s tallest and most impressive skylines.
But Chicago is so much more than its downtown area. Chicago is a sports fan’s dream with professional basketball, football, baseball, and field hockey teams. Who doesn’t remember Michael Jordan, Scotty Pippen, and the heyday of the Chicago Bulls?
Let’s find out together now all the essential information you need to know before visiting the city.
Chicago travel guide | The city at a glance
- Airports – O’Hare International Airport is preferred for international flights, while Midway Airport is perfect for local flights and is very close to Downtown. Getting to and from Chicago O’Hare Airport.
- Time zone – USA (GMT-5).
- Currency – The currency in Chicago, as in all the States, is the American dollar ($ or USD).
- Climate – Chicago’s climate is typically continental with hot summers, cold winters, and frequent temperature, humidity, and wind direction changes. More moderate temperatures occur in the spring and fall.
- Transports – Chicago has an excellent public transportation system that includes both buses and trains. Other useful services to get around the city easily are Lyft, Uber, and cabs. Walking is also a great option.
- Visitor information – Visit Chicago safely with the government’s advice.
- Best food – Deep-dish pizza, Pizza Puffs, Chicago hot dogs, Jibarito Sandwich.
Getting Around Chicago
Chicago’s public transportation system is very user-friendly and allows you to get around every corner of the city quickly and easily.
The best way to get around Chicago is to take the “El”, the elevated rail system that encompasses all of the city’s neighborhoods. You can take the El downtown from either O’Hare or Midway Airport. CTA rail lines.
Chicago’s bus system is very robust and allows you to get from one neighborhood to another easily. Make sure you know your route before you get on your chosen bus and have the fare ready. Bus Map.
As in many cities across the States, Lyft and Uber are the most popular ridesharing companies. Sometimes Uber turns out to be cheaper, but that’s not always the case.
You can call a cab company or hail one you meet on the street. You can also book your rides through convenient CHICABS.
On Foot or By Bike
Although Chicago is too big to navigate on your own two feet, you can explore its neighborhoods on foot or by bike.
In Chicago, you’ll find many walking tours (also free) that make it easy to discover sections of the city with the help of a local guide.
Speaking of bikes, you’ll also find a Divvy bike-sharing system in town that lets you rent a bike whenever you need it (there are hundreds of stations throughout the city). Divvy day passes cost $15, while single rides cost $3.30.
Need a luggage storage place before starting your tour? Here are all the best solutions.
Chicago travel guide | Best things to do in the Windy City
Learn about all of Chicago’s hotspots and their secrets here.
1. Visit the Art Institute of Chicago
The Art Institute of Chicago is located Downtown and is one of the world’s great art museums. Its galleries house a collection that spans the centuries and the world.
Alongside the permanent exhibitions, the museum hosts traveling exhibitions and events.
You can buy your ticket directly online, choosing the day and time you prefer.
The museum is closed on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and holidays such as Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Thanksgiving.
2. Don’t miss the Field Museum
The Field Museum is short for the Field Museum of Natural History (FMNH), one of Chicago’s top attractions and one of the largest natural history museums in the world.
Along with a large collection devoted to natural history, the museum has outstanding educational and scientific programs.
Its (nearly) two million annual visitors show the importance of the artifacts, exhibits, and fossils housed within.
Find out now how much admission is and how to get to the museum.
3. Get to the Museum of Science and Industry
If your mission is to visit all the cool science museums in the city, you can’t forget about the Museum of Science and Industry.
This museum is perfect if you’re into all things nerdy or if you’re traveling with your kids.
Inside the museum, you’ll also be able to try some extraordinary experiences, like going down a coal mine or climbing aboard a World War II submarine.
Check out all the exhibits and book your visit on the official website.
4. Explore the city Millennium Park
Like almost every city in the world, Chicago has its own oasis of peace in the heart of downtown: Millennium Park.
This historic park is also home to a number of monuments, one of them being the Cloud Gate (aka The Bean), the sculpture created by Anish Kapoor and which has become one of the symbols of the city.
Another attraction not to be missed is the Crown Fountain, a very special fountain made up of two 15-meter high towers where the faces of some Chicago people are projected.
5. Take a lakefront bike ride
A walk or bike ride along Lake Michigan is one of the many exciting experiences the city of Chicago has to offer.
This scenic 18-mile long trail follows the lake shoreline and extends from Ardmore Street to 71st Street.
It passes through pretty neighborhoods, parks, and more modern places.
If you’re in town in the summer, you can also hit the city’s most popular beaches.
Other unmissable attractions:
- The Willis Tower
- The Navy Pier
- Wicker Park
- Shedd Aquarium
- Gastronomic tours.