Chicago Architecture and Tours
Chicago is home to an array of architectural marvels and historical landmarks—from the world’s first skyscraper to the Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park, designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry. Wondering how to see more of Chicago on your next visit? Book a Chicago architecture boat tour for spectacular skyline views, and then head to the Ledge at Skydeck Chicago to get the lay of the land from 103 stories up!
Must-See Chicago Landmarks
That first skyscraper was designed by Chicago architect William LeBaron Jenney and completed in 1885. Since then, the Windy City has continued to grow its reputation as a hotspot for architectural innovation. Here’s a look at some of the landmark buildings you’ll see on your next Chicago architecture boat tour or walking tour:
Home Insurance Building
It’s just ten stories tall, but the Home Insurance Building’s innovative steel frame ushered in a new era in architectural history. Completed during the building boom following the Great Chicago Fire, it employed the “Chicago Skeleton” steel-frame building technique, which allows tall buildings to flex in the wind. The tallest skyscrapers around the world would go on to use it.
Carbon and Carbide Building
This eye-catching Art Deco skyscraper was designed in 1929. It’s pretty hard to miss thanks to glittering gold leaf details, dark green terra cotta, and polished black granite facade. Apparently, its unique materials and color scheme are inspired by a dark green glass champagne bottle topped with gold foil.
Whether you’re a Chicago local or a visitor from beyond, we’ll hazard a guess that you’ve heard of the Willis Tower! Formerly the Sears Tower, it’s Chicago’s tallest building at 1,450 feet and 100 stories. Despite being completed back in 1973, it remains the 3rd-tallest skyscraper in the world.
Jay Pritzker Pavilion
New buildings are forbidden in Millenium Park, so all of its above-ground structures are actually classified as art! That comes as no surprise when you look at the silvery folds and curls of the Pritzker Pavilion, designed by Canadian-born architect Frank Gehry. Its sculptural forms also help to amplify sounds on stage, while an overhead trellis of steel piping creates a sophisticated acoustic sound system over the great lawn.
Book Your Chicago Architecture Boat Tour
Ready to book your Chicago architecture boat tour? You have plenty of options, but here are a few of our favorites:
Chicago Architecture Foundation Center River Cruise
CAC river tours are guided by expert volunteers who share the fascinating origin stories of more than 50 iconic buildings. Get a crash course in Chicago architects, key Chicago figures, iconic landmarks, and over 100 years of history—in just 90 minutes!
Shoreline Sightseeing Architecture River Tours
Shoreline Sightseeing offers Chicago architecture boat tours from all three branches of the Chicago River. Explore everything from hidden gems to the must-see sights in a 75-minute tour.
Chicago River Boat Architecture Tours
Chicago River Boat Architecture Tours are guided by expert volunteers who will reveal the daring designs, innovative technology, and Chicago architects behind the city’s most famous landmarks.