Chicago Area Map
Chicago's eastern boundary is formed by Lake Michigan, and the city is divided by the Chicago River into three geographic sections: the North Side, the South Side and the West Side. These sections surround the city's compact downtown area – the Loop.
Accessible via all L lines.
Located near the shores of Lake Michigan, the Loop refers to a group of high-rise buildings within a rectangular loop of elevated train tracks, hence its name. As the city's central business hub, the Loop offers visitors a taste of a bona fide big city experience. Here, you'll find the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower), the second-tallest building in North America. Most hotels and restaurants located in this area cater to business travelers: Lodging here verges on the high-end and luxury side, and you'll find many of the city's Michelin stars congregated in this neighborhood's dining establishments. If you are looking for lower price tags or to enjoy the city's nightlife, consider bedding down north of the Loop since this area is generally quiet after dark.
The North Side is home to many of Chicago's popular tourist attractions, including The Magnificent Mile, as well as many of the city's best hotels and shops. The North Side is also home to the city's most popular touristy and residential neighborhoods.
Near North Side: The Magnificent Mile and Streeterville
Accessible via the Red Line's Grand, Chicago, Clark/Division and North/Clybourn L stops and the Brown and Purple lines' Merchandise Mart, Chicago and Sedgwick subway stations.
Extending north from the Loop is the Streeterville area of the Near North Side and The Magnificent Mile, a stretch of Michigan Avenue (the main downtown thoroughfare) lined with large department stores and luxury retailers. You'll also find several notable hotels – including the Park Hyatt Chicago and The Drake, a Hilton Hotel – along this bustling street.
The larger Streeterville area is well-versed in entertainment. This is where you'll find Navy Pier, a popular family hangout thanks to attractions like the Chicago Children's Museum and a 196-foot-tall Ferris wheel. This neighborhood isn't just for kids, though: More mature travelers come here to take advantage of the diverse culinary scene and artsy venues, including the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Streeterville also encompasses Ohio Street Beach, where Chicagoans come to relax during the steamy summer months. Although many hotels in this area are designed for business travelers, families and budget-minded visitors will find a few options here that will suit their needs.
Accessible via the Red Line's Grand and Chicago L stops and the Brown and Purple lines' Merchandise Mart and Chicago subway stations.
Located across the Chicago River from the northwest corner of the Loop (and directly west of The Magnificent Mile), the River North district was once a thriving industrial area. Now, all of the neighborhood's factories and warehouses accommodate innovative gallery spaces, art studios and trade showrooms. River North is also a gathering spot for foodies: Restaurants here serve everything from raw oysters to Spanish tapas to barbecue ribs. Area hotels are trendy as well, with big-name properties like the Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago and The Langham, Chicago laying claim to space here. But there are also several boutique properties to choose from and a smattering of more affordable accommodation options.
Accessible via the Red Line's Clark/Division L stop.
Michigan Avenue continues north along the lake into the Gold Coast neighborhood. Much more demure than Streeterville to the south, the Gold Coast is home to some of Chicago's most desirable real estate, including a number of historic mansions, including the Original Playboy Mansion, as well as high-end shops and upscale hotels like the Thompson Chicago. This part of town also has a bit of a wild side: Once the sun sets, make your way to North Rush Street for your choice of nightlife venues.
Accessible via the Red Line's Clark/Division and North/Clybourn L stops and the Brown and Purple lines' Sedgwick subway station.
West of the Gold Coast is Old Town, which earns its name from its historical brick alleys and Victorian architecture. Old Town has long acted as a mixing bowl for Chicago's varied population: While exploring this neighborhood, you're bound to encounter young professionals, immigrants and members of the LGBT community. If you can, spend an evening at Old Town's The Second City comedy club, where famous comedians like Tina Fey and Steve Carell got their start. But don't plan on bedding down here; when it comes to hotels, Old Town is lacking.
Accessible via the Red Line's North/Clybourn and Fullerton L stops and the Brown and Purple lines' Armitage and Fullerton subway stations.
The Lincoln Park neighborhood includes both the park itself and the residential streets located west. Inside the park – which runs along the edge of Lake Michigan – is the Lincoln Park Zoo, one of the oldest zoos in the country and a popular (and free) family attraction. The park also features the extensive North Avenue Beach (a nice spot for sunbathing during the warmer months) and the Lakefront Trail, which traces the beach as it makes its way from the northern Edgewater neighborhood down to Navy Pier. Additionally, you'll find plenty of shops and restaurants along Armitage and Lincoln avenues and Clark Street, plus the nationally acclaimed Steppenwolf Theatre on North Halsted Street near the North/Clybourn metro stop.
As far as hotel options go, Lincoln Park doesn't have a lot of variety. The neighborhood offers a handful of budget-friendly hotels, as well as a few bed-and-breakfasts and boutique properties like the Hotel Lincoln, A Joie de Vivre Hotel.
Wicker Park and Bucktown
Accessible via the Blue Line's Division, Damen and Western L stops.
If you tire of The Magnificent Mile's well-known stores, check out the independent bookstores, such as Myopic Bookstore; art galleries, such as Jackson Junge Gallery; and boutiques scattered throughout Wicker Park and Bucktown. Sitting west of Lincoln Park, this part of town is Chicago's creative epicenter; the Wicker Park and Bucktown districts teem with art galleries, many of which are located in the Flat Iron Arts Building on North Milwaukee Avenue. Wicker Park and Bucktown also contribute to Chicago's reputation as a foodie destination, with celebrated restaurants serving everything from Midwestern specialties to Nepalese fare. The area's hotels, on the other hand, are not nearly as glamorous as its arts and dining scene. Rather, Wicker Park and Bucktown lodging is better described as homey, with several bed-and-breakfasts to choose from.
Accessible via the Brown, Purple and Red lines' Belmont L stop, the Red Line's Addison and Sheridan subway stations, the Brown and Purple lines' Diversey and Wellington stops and the Brown Line's Southport and Paulina metro stations.
Just north of Lincoln Park is Lakeview, a lively neighborhood home to a variety of restaurants, stores and entertainment venues. Make your way to Wrigleyville for a Cubs game at Wrigley Field or one of the area's four main commercial thoroughfares – Clark Street and Lincoln, Belmont and Broadway avenues – if you're interested in shopping or nightlife. Plus, you'll find a smattering of independent theaters here. Another Lakeview area worth checking out is Boystown, the nation's first officially recognized gay village.
Though parts of Lakeview are lively, other sections of the neighborhood offer some respite from fast-paced city life. The neighborhood encompasses a swath of Lincoln Park that's home to the 8-acre Bill Jarvis Migratory Bird Sanctuary, and away from the commercial districts, you'll find leafy residential areas and a smattering of independently owned bed-and-breakfasts.
Uptown and Andersonville
Accessible via the Red and Purple lines' Wilson L stop and the Red Line's Lawrence and Argyle subway stations.
The Uptown neighborhood just north of Lakeview was Chicago's go-to spot for debauchery during the '20s and '30s. Since then, Uptown has seen its glory fade, but revitalization efforts are once again luring locals and travelers to this northern neighborhood. Many of the area's old art deco buildings are being refurbished, and although Chicagoans once flocked to the bars here because they sold liquor during Prohibition, Uptown's watering holes are now popular for their live music and dancing. For food, Argyle Street offers a variety of ethnic specialties like Vietnamese and Middle Eastern fare.
Continue north of Uptown and you'll find yourself in quirky Andersonville. Like Uptown, Andersonville boasts thriving culinary and nightlife scenes, but this area is also known for its diverse population. Near the southern edge of Andersonville is the Swedish American Museum, and throughout the neighborhood, you'll uncover various LGBT-friendly bars, independently owned businesses and even a craft brewery. Lodging options are few and far between in Uptown, but in Andersonville, travelers can bed down in several B&Bs.
Edgewater and Rogers Park
Accessible via the Red, Purple and Yellow lines' Howard L stop and the Red Line's Berwyn, Bryn Mawr, Thorndale, Granville, Loyola, Morse and Jarvis subway stations.
Located along the Lake Michigan shoreline, Edgewater draws Chicago's resident beach lovers to its vast stretches of sand. Additionally, Edgewater is quite popular with families thanks to its parks and historic enclaves. Bryn Mawr is perhaps the most well-known of these: West Bryn Mawr Avenue is lined with old-fashioned streetlamps and a bevy of 1920s architecture. It should come as no surprise that Edgewater is also well-known for its antiques shops.
North of Edgewater is Rogers Park. Chicago's northernmost neighborhood is one of its most diverse. The area – which encompasses Loyola University Chicago's campus – boasts an eclectic population made up of Asian, East Indian, German and Russian Jewish ethnic groups, all of which have left their mark on the community, especially in cuisine. Restaurants surrounding the university serve specialties from all around the globe.
Chicago's West Side is a cultural melting pot, housing Greek, Mexican and Puerto Rican communities, among others. Although West Chicago is more residential than the Loop and the North Side, the districts on the Chicago River's west bank are worth exploring – especially if you like to eat.
Accessible via the Green and Pink lines' Clinton, Morgan and Ashland L stops.
As its name suggests, West Loop sits immediately west of downtown Chicago. This former industrial area is now one of the city's edgiest, with former factories and warehouses sheltering galleries, boutique shops and restaurants. For a wide selection of bars and eateries, head to West Randolph Street: Nicknamed "Restaurant Row," this thoroughfare near the Fulton Market is lined with bars, bakeries, breweries and a host of dining venues. Meanwhile, interspersed between the trendy condos along West Monroe Street and the Dwight D. Eisenhower Expressway are the Hellenic craft stores and lively tavernas of Greektown. In addition to good food and lively nightlife venues, Greektown also features the National Hellenic Museum, where you can learn more about Greek culture. Hotels are not as plentiful here as they are in downtown, but lodging in the West Loop does cater to a variety of budgets.
Accessible via the Blue Line's Grand, Chicago, Division and Damen L stops.
North of the West Loop is West Town, home of Chicago's Ukrainian Village. This small section of town – bordered by West Kinzie Street, the Chicago River, West Bloomingdale Avenue and North Kedzie Avenue – features the Ukrainian National Museum, some interesting 19th-century architecture and a smattering of shops, restaurants and bars. However, lodging is limited here, so consider staying in the Loop and crossing the river when you want to visit.
Accessible via bus Nos. 52, 53, 65, 66, 70, 72, 82 and 94.
Continue east from West Town and you'll reach Humboldt Park, Chicago's Puerto Rican district. Humboldt Park lures visitors with its Puerto Rican cuisine, local shops and various cultural institutions, such as the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture. You'll also find the two largest monuments to a flag in the world anchoring Humboldt Park's Paseo Boricua, a six-block section of Division Street located at the eastern edge of the neighborhood, as well as colorful murals on many of the area's buildings.
Little Italy/University Village
Accessible via the Blue Line's UIC-Halsted and Racine L stops and the Pink Line's Polk and 18th Street subway stations.
If you've come to Chicago for the pizza, head south of the West Loop to Little Italy. Also known as University Village because of its proximity to the University of Illinois at Chicago campus, Little Italy is the place to go for a plate of pasta or a slice of pie. Some of the restaurants here have been handed down from generation to generation. But Italian isn't the only cuisine represented in Little Italy: This is also the place to go for a bite of Polish sausage. Head over to the Maxwell Street Market just east of the neighborhood for sausages and other street foods.
Because of demand from the university, you will find some hotels here – but not nearly as many as you would if you looked in the Loop or North Side neighborhoods.
Lower West Side and Little Village
Accessible via all Pink Line L stops between 18th Street and Central Park.
If you go to the West Loop for Greek food and Little Italy for Italian fare, continue south to the Lower West Side for Mexican specialties. Referred to as Pilsen by locals, this part of town has long acted as a haven for immigrant communities. Although it was originally dominated by Europeans, somewhere in its 150-year-long history, the population of the Lower West Side shifted; today, the area comprises vintage shops, cafes and numerous bodegas serving up authentic Mexican dishes. Between shopping and dining, you should peek in at the incredible murals that grace the walls throughout this neighborhood. You'll even find some in the 18th Street L station.
Continue west from the Lower West Side and you'll find yourself in Little Village, another primarily Mexican-American district. Like its eastern neighbor, Little Village is a great place to go to sample authentic south-of-the-border cuisine.
You'll find several of Chicago's top things to do sitting just south of the Loop, but areas even farther south have garnered a bad rep. Once a hot bed for Prohibition-era crime, the South Side has long played the backdrop to gang violence and crime. But parts of this neighborhood are experiencing a renaissance: Now, some South Side areas house growing residential neighborhoods. This area is also the future home of the Barack Obama Presidential Center.
Accessible via the Green, Orange and Red lines' Roosevelt L stop, the Red Line's Harrison and Cermak-Chinatown subway stations and the Green Line's Cermak-McCormick Place stop.
Just south of the Loop, this part of Chicago attracts tourists and locals in droves. The South Loop has a little something for everyone. It's here that you'll find the largest chunk of Grant Park and the city's Museum Campus, where The Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium reside. (Grant Park also hosts some of the city's liveliest festivals, including the Chicago Blues Festival and Lollapalooza.) Just south of The Field Museum is Soldier Field (where the NFL's Chicago Bears play). And if you head south of the Adler Planetarium, you'll find Northerly Island's 12th Street Beach and Daphne Garden. Head west of Lake Michigan to South Michigan Avenue to see the mansions of Millionaire's Row, where Chicago's richest residents lived during the late 19th century. Even further west is the trendy Printer's Row area, where boutique shops and small theaters rub elbows with a cornucopia of restaurants, bars and live music venues. And, the South Loop houses McCormick Place, the largest convention center in the country.
Given that the convention center can be found here, South Loop hotels (including the Hilton Chicago and The Blackstone, Autograph Collection) cater to business travelers. But leisure travelers and families will find several independent properties and budget-friendly options here as well. For a fast-paced tour of the South Loop, consider signing up for a Segway tour, many of which concentrate on the attractions within the museum campus and lakefront areas.
Accessible via the Red Line's Cermak-Chinatown L stop and the Green Line's Cermak-McCormick Place subway station.
A walk down South Wentworth Avenue will lead you past a smattering of dim sum restaurants and tea houses, not to mention the colorful gate marking the entrance to Chicago's Chinatown district. This lively (albeit small) part of town houses a dense Chinese population – the members of which have left their mark on the area's appearance. Between the pagodas in Ping Tom Memorial Park and the terraced rooftop of the Chicago Chinese Cultural Institute lies a variety of Asian grocery stores and craft shops. You'll also find interesting zodiac-influenced art throughout Chinatown Square, a plaza surrounded by restaurants and boutiques.
Accessible via the Green Line's 35th-Bronzeville-IIT, Indiana, 43rd Street, 47th Street and 51st Street L stops and the Red Line's Sox-35th Street subway station.
During the early 20th century, Bronzeville became a refuge for African-Americans looking to escape persecution in the South. As a result, this South Side neighborhood experienced a cultural boom similar to the Harlem Renaissance, with such legendary people as civil rights activist Ida B. Wells and musician Louis Armstrong helping to nurture a strong political and artistic voice in the community. Tributes to Bronzeville's cultural icons – including sculptures and murals – can be found throughout the area, as well as Victorian, Gothic and Romanesque architecture. A tour of Bronzeville's cultural landmarks is an interesting way to spend an afternoon in Chicago, but a lack of lodging will make spending the night here difficult.
Accessible via Metra's 47th Street (Kenwood) stop on the Metra Electric District line.
Sitting south of Bronzeville along the shores of Lake Michigan is Kenwood, a fairly small neighborhood known for its expansive mansions. This part of town has been home to some of the city's most prominent residents, such as Muhammad Ali and Muddy Waters. When you're not keeping your eyes peeled for historic homes, you can check out the exhibits at the Hyde Park Art Center. Kenwood also boasts some prime parkland, as well as a few strips of beach.
Accessible via Metra's 51st/53rd Street (Hyde Park), 55th - 56th - 57th Street and 59th Street (University of Chicago) stops on the Metra Electric District line.
Aside from the South Loop, Hyde Park is one of the most popular South Side neighborhoods among visitors. It was in this area that the famous 1893 World's Columbian Exposition electrified the city; the fairgrounds are now home to the Museum of Science and Industry, which overlooks Lake Michigan and the Columbia Basin from its seat in Jackson Park. This green space also features a couple of beaches, not to mention walking paths. Jackson Park is connected to Washington Park (home of the DuSable Museum of African American History) by the Midway Plaisance, a park-like promenade that runs the length of the neighborhood's southern border and frames the southern edge of the University of Chicago campus. The presence of the university has yielded a fairly affordable dining scene, as well as a handful of lodging options.
As you would in any big city, exercise caution when you're out and about. Keep your valuables with you at all times. Make sure to have a clear sense of your surroundings when traveling after dark, and avoid walking alone as much as possible. Neighborhoods in the South and West sides are prone to gun violence and are best avoided, especially after dark. Keep in mind that the White Sox stadium is located in the South Side, but visitors coming to games should consider using the L, which makes a stop right outside the stadium. Neighborhoods like South Loop, Kenwood and Hyde Park are not as affected as areas west of Lake Michigan (where poverty is more prevalent), but it's still best to stay alert at all times.
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