For many visitors, Chicago is synonymous with its iconic outdoor monuments—from the Picasso and Cloud Gate sculptures to the 108-story Willis Tower, one of the world’s tallest skyscrapers. But perhaps the best way to immerse yourself in the city’s rich cultural heritage is to explore one of the many first-class museums in Chicago. What’s more, nearly all of the top museums in Chicago are housed in grand historic buildings, so architecture buffs will be happy with any of the Chicago museum destinations on our list. Check it out below, and start planning your trip today!

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The Field Museum

The Field Museum is one of the oldest museums in Chicago—it has been displaying biological and anthropological collections since the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893! Now offering over 20 permanent exhibitions over a sprawling 480,000 square feet, its most popular attractions include SUE, one of the world’s most complete and best-preserved T. rex specimens, royal Egyptian tomb artifacts, and outdoor gardens showcasing over 100 species of native plants.

The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institue of Chicago’s permanent collection includes Georgia O’Keeffe’s Sky above Clouds IV, Georges Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, Van Gogh’s The Bedroom, and groundbreaking works by contemporary artists like Kerry James Marshall. You can also check their events and exhibitions schedule to see what will be on display during your visit. Curators at the Art Institute strive to show art in a way that dynamically fosters an “expansive, inclusive understanding of human creativity.” Whether you’re studying art yourself or looking for some relief from the daily grind, don’t miss it!

Shedd Aquarium

The only aquatic Chicago museum is a sure bet for anyone who’s curious about what can be found at the ocean’s deepest depths. Devoted to “sparking compassion, curiosity, and conservation for the aquatic animal world,” the Shedd Aquarium offers seven permanent exhibits and spearheads initiatives that promote accessibility and community outreach across the city.

Adler Planetarium

If you love space exploration, don’t miss this popular Chicago museum! Founded in 1930, the Adler Planetarium invites more than half a million visitors each year to learn more about the history of space exploration, get a closer look at replicas of Mars space rovers and historic telescopes, and decode the night sky.

Museum of Science and Industry

At the Museum of Science and Industry, you can learn how scientific discoveries have made dramatic impacts on our culture through time. Check out more than 400,000 square feet of hands-on exhibits—from a 40-foot tornado to a World War II submarine replica—all carefully designed to awaken the scientific curiosity in all of us and breathe lids into our history.

Discover the Top Museums in Chicago

Have trouble deciding between popular Chicago museum options? We’re happy to help you plan your visit and select the Chicago attractions that pique your interest, whether that means a deep dive into art history or getting the Skydeck Experience from the Willis Tower’s 103rd floor!