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Chicago’s Top Architectural Addresses

Historically, she might have been Second City to New York, but when it comes to stunning cityscapes, Chicago undoubtedly comes out on top. After all, she had the first skyscraper in the world and still shows off eight of America’s tallest buildings – take that right up your brownstone, Manhattan! For architecture aficionados wanting to see Chi-town’s top sights, there is no shortage of astonishing edifices, from grand restored residences to soaring contempo towers. Here are our top picks for a well-rounded construction induction.

Glessner House Museum

Built in 1887, this foreboding family mansion has been praised as one of the most iconic residential commissions of the C.19th for its boundary-pushing aesthetic that shunned the trad, Victorian designs favoured at the time. Now the granite Richardson Romanesque triumph holds a treasure trove of Venetian glass, original inlay furny and other decorative arts, which you can ogle on the thrice-daily docent-led tours. Go on a Wednesday for free admission.

1800 S Prairie Ave. +1 312 3261 480.

Clarke House Museum

If these doric columns could talk. Built in 1836 in the classical Greek Revival style, Chicago’s oldest surviving house has witnessed its fair share of history, from fiery blazes to a period of church ownership, and two physical moves – one of which involved two weeks of air-suspension! Expert tours will navigate you through it all and give a glimpse of family life before the Civil War.

1827 S Indiana Ave. +1 312 7443 316.

John Hancock Center

Ready to take your archi A-Z up a notch? Willis Tower (aka Sears Tower) may be taller, but if you prefer your sights with a side of sips, skip instead to the 96th floor Signature Lounge of the 100-storey John Hancock Center for a Sidecar cocktail and knee-weakening vistas across Lake Michigan and the Magnificent Mile.

875 N Michigan Ave. +1 312 7879 596.

Oak Park

Building buffs beeline for this pocket of perfectly preserved homes by Frank Lloyd Wright just ten miles from The Loop. Not only can you snoop around the very studio where the man himself conceived his iconic Prairie aesthetic, you can also browse various other masterpieces including modernist monument Robie House.

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, 951 Chicago Ave, Oak Park. +1 312 9944 040.

Modern Wing at the Art Institute

Spend a day with some of art’s greatest visionaries at the Renzo Piano-designed home for the Art Institute’s collection of C.20th and C.21st contemporary Euro works. Not only has the space itself been creatively designed with limestone and extensive glass panelling, but inside you’ll find an enviable collection of paintings, sculpture, photography and design. Our tip: Top off your gallery gander at viewy all-day diner Terzo Piano.

The Art Institute of Chicago, 111 South Michigan Ave. +1 3124 4336 00.

Chicago Architecture Tours

Whether you’re a skyscraper-gazer or a Lloyd Wright lover, you’re in good hands with the non-profit Chicago Architect Foundation, who lead informative outings that spotlight the city’s must-see sites. Want to sit back, relax and take it all in? Hop aboard the CAF River Cruise for expert insights on more than 50 iconic monuments.

Chicago Architecture Foundation, 224 S Michigan Ave. +1 312 9223 432.

Published 11 November 2016.

Hero image: dibrova/istock

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