Chicago

The Windy City of Chicago welcomes you with spectacular architecture, fascinating history, and 1,001 cultural highlights. Come with us to the metropolis of the American Midwest!

Chicago facts

State: Illinois
County: Cook County, DuPage County
Area: 606.1 km² (588,3 km² land area)
Population: about 2.75 million
Nickname: Windy City
Time zone: Central (UTC -6)

Chicago: location & population

The metropolis of Chicago is located in the state of Illinois at the southern end of Lake Michigan, which is one of America's five Great Lakes.

With approximately 2.75 million residents, Chicago is the most populous city in the Midwest and the third-largest city in the United States, after New York City and Los Angeles.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Chicago metropolitan area counts about 9.6 million residents, making it one of the 40 largest urban areas in the world.

Districts of Chicago

The city of Chicago is divided into 77 community areas. The following four neighborhoods are not to be missed on a Chicago vacation.

Chicago Loop

The Chicago Loop is the most famous and most photographed district of Chicago. On the densely built-up area directly on the shore of Lake Michigan, world-famous skyscrapers like the Willis Tower and the AON Center rise to dizzying heights. You'll also find the Chicago City Hall and Millennium Park with the futuristic Cloud Gate in the Chicago Loop.

Hyde Park

You'll instantly fall in love with this charming neighborhood just south of downtown Chicago! Not only is it rich in art and culture, but you'll also discover its namesake Hyde Park, the University of Chicago, and numerous historic buildings, such as the Frederick C. Robie House. Another place you can visit in the Hyde Park Community Area is the home of the legendary boxer Muhammad Ali.

Bucktown-Wicker Park

Located north of downtown, the Bucktown-Wicker Park neighborhood is best known for its indie artist vibes and entrepreneurial spirit. Cross the vibrant Six Corners intersection and browse the neighborhood's boutiques, second-hand shops, and record stores. Afterwards, take a break at one of the many restaurants, cafés, or beer gardens.

West Loop

Do you like things trendy and chic? Then you'll feel right at home in the West Loop, where numerous boutiques, cafés, public art projects, and innovative restaurants await you. The West Loop is also home to the United Center, where the Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks play their home games.

Climate in Chicago

Think carefully about what time of year you want to travel to Chicago because the temperature differences are huge! Chicago has a continental climate: while the thermometer can climb to 30 °C during the day in the summer months, you can expect freezing temperatures in the winter.

The proximity of Lake Michigan means there's always a fresh breeze to cool you off in the summer. However, if you travel to Chicago in the spring or fall, you can feel firsthand why Chicago lives up to its nickname, the Windy City. At these times of the year, storms often blow in from Lake Michigan.

Traveling to Chicago

Chicago has two major commercial airports:

  • Chicago O’Hare (ORD)
  • Chicago Midway (MDW)

The larger of the two airports, Chicago O'Hare, is used by about 80 million passengers annually, making it the third busiest airport in the United States and the sixth busiest in the world.

Travelers from Europe usually arrive at Chicago O'Hare Airport, which is located about 25 km northwest of downtown Chicago. Direct flights are available with Lufthansa and United Airlines (from Frankfurt am Main or Munich), KLM (from Amsterdam), or Austrian Airlines (from Vienna).

Chicago O'Hare Airport also has excellent connections to nearly all major US airports, including Los Angeles, New York-La Guardia, San Francisco, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Denver.

Travel authorization Chicago

Please keep in mind: If you are not a US citizen or Green Card holder, you must apply for a visa or ESTA in order to enter the United States.

ESTA – visa-free to the USA

With an ESTA, you can stay 90 days visa-free in the USA. Apply online now!

Getting around in Chicago

In the Chicago metropolitan area, you have several options to get from point A to point B:

Public transport

Public transportation in Chicago is very well organized, featuring a dense transportation network. The "Chicago Elevated" trains and numerous buses are managed by the Chicago Transit Authority and run day and night. To get to the suburbs of Chicago, you can take the "Chicago Metra" trains from Union Station.

Rental car

You should treat yourself with a rental car if you plan to explore the surrounding area of Chicago. It is not a good idea to drive in the city center, as you will have to pay very high parking fees of up to $40 per day.

Taxi

If you only want to drive occasional routes, a cab is a good option in Chicago. Calculate a basic fee of $3.25 plus $1.40 for each kilometer driven. Standing and waiting time will cost you $20.00 per hour.

Bike

Like most major American cities, Chicago offers bike rental services. Divvy, for example, has a convenient and extensive bike rental system. You pay about $7 for a day.

Note: You need a credit card to use the machines at the rental stations.

On foot

The most important sights of Chicago are located in the city center and can be easily reached on foot. Don't miss out on a walk to Chicago's architectural highlights and along the Chicago River!

Accommodation in Chicago

No matter what your vacation budget is, you can find places to stay in Chicago in every price range.

Hotels

Most hotels are concentrated in and around Chicago's bustling downtown. Here are some recommendations:

Booking.com

Virgin Hotel Chicago

This boutique hotel in the Chicago Loop is not only close to numerous shopping and entertainment venues but also offers a restaurant and a rooftop terrace.

  • Area: Chicago Loop
  • Address: 203 N Wabash Ave, Chicago Loop, Chicago, 60601, USA
  • Price category: $$
  • Hotel details: Virgin Hotel Chicago

LondonHouse Chicago

At LondonHouse Chicago, you'll stay in the heart of the city center with a view of the Chicago River. After enjoying the magnificent panorama from the rooftop terrace, you can work out in the in-house 24-hour fitness center.

  • Area: Chicago Loop
  • Address: 85 East Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL 60601, USA
  • Price category: $$
  • Hotel details: LondonHouse Chicago

The Robey

Are you drawn to the trendy Bucktown-Wicker Park neighborhood? When you stay at The Robey, you're right in the middle of it! In the historic building, you can stay in a spacious loft and enjoy refreshing cocktails in the Rooftop Lounge on the 13th floor.

  • Area: Bucktown-Wicker Park
  • Address: 2018 W North Avenue, Wicker Park, Chicago, IL 60647, USA
  • Price category: $$
  • Hotel details: The Robey

The Gwen

Do you like to travel with all the amenities? For a room price of around €300 per night, you can stay at the luxurious "The Gwen" just a few minutes from Navy Pier away. In addition to a breathtaking panoramic view of the skyscrapers around you, you'll also enjoy a terrace bar, a restaurant, a fitness room, and much more.

  • Area: Chicago Loop
  • Address: 521 N Rush St, Chicago, IL 60611, USA
  • Price category: $$$/li>
  • Hotel details: The Gwen

Apartments

Are you traveling with a group of friends? Then you might find a bargain by renting an apartment. Take a look at these websites:

  • hometogo.de
  • apartments.com
  • airbnb.com

Hostels

You are on the road all day and actually only need a cheap place to rest for a few hours? In that case, a hostel would be an option for you, which you can book in Chicago for as little as €30 to €50 per night.

Best sights in Chicago

When sightseeing in Chicago, these five highlights should be at the top of your to-do list.

Millenium Park

With 25 million visitors annually, Millennium Park takes the top spot among Chicago's best attractions. The public park in the Loop district was created to celebrate the third millennium and is located just a few steps from the shore of Lake Michigan. Here, you can walk through the bizarre-looking Cloud Gate, listen to concerts at Jay Pritzker Pavilion, snap a special vacation photo in front of the interactive Crown Fountain, or stroll through Lurie Garden.

Willis Tower

You probably better know the Willis Tower under its former name Sears Tower. The 442 m high skyscraper is best known for one record: after its completion in 1974, the office tower was the tallest building in the world for 25 years! Today, the 108-story Willis Tower is home to the Willis Group, which gives it its name, United Airlines, Morgan Stanley, and the law firms Schiff Hardin and Seyfarth Shaw, among others. From the "Skydeck" observation platform on the 103rd floor, you can enjoy the best panoramic view of Chicago, Lake Michigan, and the plains of Illinois.

Northerly Island

Northerly Island, the man-made peninsula on the shore of Lake Michigan, was an airport from 1946 and was transformed into parkland around 2005. Today, you can travel to the stars here at the Adler Planetarium, attend concerts at the Huntington Bank Pavilion, or marvel at the classicist sculptures by Tadeusz Kościuszko, Karel Havlíček Borovský, and Copernicus.

Navy Pier

Built in 1916, Navy Pier extends some 1,000 m into Lake Michigan. The pier was originally a port of call for excursion boats and a cargo transfer point for ships. Today, it is mainly used for recreational purposes: you'll find numerous attractions, such as the 47.5 m high Ferris wheel, the Chicago Children's Museum, a movie theater, as well as numerous stores, restaurants, and exhibition areas.

Buckingham Fountain

The Buckingham Fountain brings a bit of Parisian charm to Chicago's Grant Park, as it was modeled after the Latone fountains in the gardens of Versailles Palace. The Art Deco-style bronze seahorses that decorate the fountain symbolize the four states bordering Lake Michigan: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Culture highlights in Chicago

The fact that Chicago's winters are characterized by sub-zero temperatures is something the city can compensate for perfectly because the Windy City's indoor activities are really something to behold! Chicago has an almost inexhaustible variety of museums. Among the approximately 60 museums, 200 art galleries, and 20 art centers, these highlights await you:

  • Art Institute of Chicago
  • Field Museum of Natural History
  • Museum of Science and Industry
  • Chicago History Museum
  • Money Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank
  • Field Museum

Not enough for you? When you've visited all your favorite museums, Chicago still has about 250 theaters, 225 music venues, and about 200 dance companies waiting to welcome you.

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Nature and parks in Chicago

Chicago is surprisingly green for a metropolis. Especially along Lake Michigan, you'll find extensive recreational areas. Don't miss these parks in Chicago:

Grant Park

"Chicago's front yard" stretches right next to the Chicago Loop along the shore of Lake Michigan. Grant Park is home to Millennium Park, Maggie Daley Park, the Museum Campus, and the iconic Buckingham Fountain. In the summer, the park really comes to life: this is when the huge festivals "Taste of Chicago" and "Lollapalooza" take place here. A skate park, two marinas, and many art installations also attract thousands of visitors to Grant Park.

By the way: In 2008, Barack Obama celebrated his election victory at Grant Park with thousands of supporters.

Lincoln Park

Lincoln Park, named after Abraham Lincoln, stretches about 11 km along the lakefront north of the Chicago Loop. There is no shortage of recreational opportunities in the expansive park: here, you are spoiled for choice between a visit to the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Lincoln Park Conservatory, or the Lincoln Park Cultural Center. The long Lakefront Trail is perfect for jogging, skating, and biking. Plenty of other sports facilities give you opportunities to get active. Baseball, basketball, beach volleyball, cricket, soccer, tennis, archery, or golf – what do you choose?

Shopping in Chicago

If you want to go on an extensive shopping tour, you will find everything your heart desires in the metropolis of Chicago. There are not only multi-story department stores like Macy's, Nordstrom, and Bloomingdales, which offer a huge range of goods under one roof, but also many small and creative stores.

These are our shopping tips for Chicago:

  • Magnificent Mile & Water Tower – an extensive range of stores, boutiques, and restaurants
  • 900 North Michigan Building – six floors full of stores and leisure facilities
  • Wicker Park – small, creative retailers
  • Chinatown – bargain stores and restaurants
  • Rosemont Shopping Center – outlet stores of many national and world-famous brands

Food and drinks in Chicago

In Chicago's cuisine, you'll find all kinds of influences from different cultures that came to the city with its immigrants. That's why the Windy City's diverse dining scene covers a wide culinary spectrum. Whatever you're in the mood for, you're sure to find it in Chicago!

That's why Chicago, along with New York and San Francisco, is one of three American metropolises for which the Michelin Guide publishes its own city edition.

Some Chicago dishes that have achieved cult status are not to be missed on your trip:

  • Deep Dish Pizza
  • Chicago Style Hot Dog
  • Italian Beef Sandwich

Nightlife in Chicago

From relaxed dining and drinks to club dancing – Chicago's nightlife scene is lively and diverse.

Rooftop restaurants

You can enjoy cocktails and dinner with a spectacular view of the skyscrapers at one of downtown's excellent rooftop restaurants. Some of the most famous places in Chicago are:

  • “Tony’s Rooftop Bar” at Time Out Market
  • the rooftop bar of the Nobu Hotel
  • “Little Wild” in West Loop
  • “Boleo” in the Kimpton Gray Hotel

Bars & beer gardens

The creative Bucktown-Wicker Park neighborhood is the perfect place to spend a social evening with your friends in the beer garden or take a tour of the bar scene.

Clubs

If you want to turn night into day in Chicago, there are plenty of clubs in the downtown area. You'll find a particularly high density in the River North neighborhood.

Comedy

Chicago is known for its excellent and lively comedy scene. You can end your day with a lot of humor, for example:

  • in “The Second City” in Lincoln Park (By the way, this is where comedy stars like Bill Murray, Chris Farley, and Amy Sedaris began their careers.)
  • in the “Annoyance Theatre” in Lake View
  • in the “Laugh Factory”
  • in Lincoln Park
  • in “The Revival” in Hyde Park

Ghost Tour

Maybe you want to be a little creeped out? Then explore the city's shady past! In the evenings, you can go on crime, gangster or ghost tours in many corners of Chicago – an experience that will remain in your memory for a long time!

Sports events in Chicago

Chicago is one of the best places for sports fans in America. The Windy City is home to one or two of the top teams in all major US sports. If you want to mingle with the locals in Chicago, the best thing to do is get a ticket to a sports event.

Basketball

The legendary Michael Jordan scored countless points for Chicago's basketball team, the Chicago Bulls, in the 1990s. The NBA team won a total of six championship titles and can be seen playing home games at the United Center.

The Chicago Sky women's basketball team, founded in 2006, plays in the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA). You can watch their matches live at Chicago's Wintrust Arena.

Baseball

Baseball fans in Chicago have a choice of two MLB teams: Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox. The three-time World Series-winning Chicago Cubs have been based in the Windy City since 1871, making them the oldest MLB team, never to change cities. Their home games are at Wrigley Field on the North Side.

You can see the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on the South Side. The team has won a total of three World Series titles and six American League championship pennants.

American Football

Chicago's football team, the Chicago Bears, is one of two founding members of the NFL that still play in the National Football League. They have been able to win nine championship titles and more games ​than any other NFL team. Their stadium, Soldier Field, is located on the Near South Side just south of the Chicago Loop.

Ice hockey

When it comes to ice hockey, the metropolis of Chicago also plays a major role. The Chicago Blackhawks NHL team has been around since 1926, making them one of the National Hockey League's "Original Six" teams. The Chicago Blackhawks have won the Stanley Cup six times. Their home games take place at the United Center.

Chicago Marathon

Once a year, thousands of runners flock through the streets of Chicago to compete in the world-famous Chicago Marathon. The fourth-largest running event in the world always takes place in October and is open to a field of around 45,000 athletes.

Instagram hotspots in Chicago

On your Instagram channel, do you want to share only the best impressions of Chicago? Then head over to these five Chicago highlights:

  • Cloud Gate
  • Skydeck Chicago
  • Lincoln Park
  • Chicago Riverwalk
  • Cafés in the West Loop

The history of Chicago

Prior to the settlement of European colonists, the area around the Chicago River was inhabited by the Potawatomi tribe. The first non-Potawatomi resident of Chicago was a Haitian named Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, a trapper who established a trading post on the shores of Lake Michigan around 1779.

Chicago's convenient location on Lake Michigan allowed the business to flourish quickly so that Fort Dearborn was built on the Chicago River in 1803 to protect the trading post. During the war against England, the army fortification was the scene of the "Fort Dearborn Massacre," in which the fort was completely destroyed, and 52 American settlers were killed.

After the war, the trading post on the Chicago River became the most important hub for raw materials in the region, attracting more and more settlers. When Chicago was declared a city in 1837, more than 4,000 people lived in the area.

Chicago's economic boom was further boosted by the opening of the Illinois and Michigan Canal and the city's integration into the railroad network in 1848. Goods could henceforth be transported from the Great Lakes across the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico.

The city experienced a dark hour on October 8th, 1871, when the Great Chicago Fire raged for two days and destroyed most of the houses, which were usually made of wood at the time. As the city was rebuilt, many multi-story buildings were constructed with stone, and Chicago grew in height. The first steel structures became the forerunners of today's skyscrapers.

Due to Chicago's importance as a major transportation hub, population growth continued unabated. Europeans in particular, e.g., Irish and Germans, came to Chicago as immigrants in the 19th century in search of a better life. By 1910, two million people called Chicago their home.

In the 1920s, Chicago became the "City of Gangsters." Prohibition made the smuggling of alcohol a lucrative source of income, shootouts, and crime were a daily occurrence, and the notorious gangster boss Al Capone emerged as the head of organized crime in Chicago. The Great Depression also caused many company bankruptcies, high unemployment, and social tensions in the 1930s.

In the 1950s, Chicago ranked second after New York City as the most populous city in the United States, housing more than 3.6 million residents. However, large portions of the middle class moved to the suburbs in the following decades. Under Mayor Richard J. Daley, extensive new construction and restructuring projects were carried out from the 1950s to the 1970s, during which some neighborhoods were completely redesigned.

Fun facts Chicago

You probably didn't know these interesting facts about the "Windy City" of Chicago:

  • The name Chicago is derived from the Potowatomi term "Checagou" or "Checaguar," meaning something like "wild onion" or "skunk."
  • Walt Disney was born in Chicago in 1901. He studied drawing at McKinley High School Chicago and the Art Institute of Chicago.
  • In 1907, physicist Albert A. Michelson of the University of Chicago became the first American to receive the Nobel Prize in Natural Sciences.
  • The Adler Planetarium was the first planetarium in the Western Hemisphere: on May 12th, 1930, it opened the view to the stars.
  • The 1979 movie "Blues Brothers" revolves around the Chicago music scene.
  • Chicago is also known as the railroad capital of the USA. The city is served by more major rail lines than any other place in America.
  • Chicago is an absolute highlight on St. Patrick's Day! Then the whole city glows in bright green – even the waters of the Chicago River!

Immigrate to Chicago

Do you dream of moving to Chicago? Here's what you need to know about living and working in the Windy City.

Working in Chicago

Chicago is still a booming economic center and the most important hub in the Midwest of the USA. The labor market in Chicago is very diverse. Important industries include the production of electronic devices and precision instruments, engineering and car manufacturing, steel production, printing, and food processing.

The Chicago port is a major hub for petroleum, iron, coal, motor vehicles, chemical products, textiles, grains, and fish. In addition, the Windy City is home to several Fortune 500 companies, including Boeing, Caterpillar, Exelon, JLL, Kraft Heinz, McDonald's, Mondelez, Sears, United Airlines, and Walgreens.

Living in Chicago

According to the Cost of Living Index, the average living cost in Chicago is just above the American average. While the cost of housing and food is no higher than in the rest of America, you mainly have to dig a little deeper into your pocket for transportation costs.

If you're looking for a charming and vibrant residential neighborhood with lots of diversity, you'll feel right at home in Lincoln Park, Wicker Park, Lakeview, or Bucktown.

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