Nowhere in the US is quite like Chicago for its rich and rewarding architectural heritage, which is why the Architecture Biennial (16 Sep, 2017 – 7 Jan, 2018) is a pretty huge deal. Here are some top tips on how to explore the Windy City’s staggering skyline...

Chicago Architecture Biennial. North America’s largest architecture exhibition has invited more than 140 design doyens from 20+ countries to mark its sensational second edition. They will all be addressing the 2017 theme: ‘Make New History’. Artistic Directors Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee are to thank for an exciting edit of architects and artists, whose eye-opening creations will prompt ponderings around how recent architecture can – and will – make history. Good news, archi-buffs: entrance to the main exhibition is free.

Clarke House Museum. If these doric columns could talk… They’d tell the fascinating tale of Chicago’s oldest surviving house, which was built in 1836 and has witnessed its fair share of history. You’ll need to join an hour-long guided tour to gad about this Greek Revival-style house, which gives a rare insight into middle-class Chicagoan life before the Civil War. Tours are designed for up to 15 people; pick from two kick-off times.

Glessner House Museum. The forbidding Glessner mansion (where the family lived for 50 years) is a treasure trove of decorative arts and a granite paean to the C.19th Richardson Romanesque style. The house was designed by acclaimed American architect Henry Hobson Richardson and was completed in 1887. Admission is free on Wed; docent-led tours only.

Oak Park. 10 miles from The Loop sits a suburb full of perfectly preserved homes designed by starchitect Frank Lloyd Wright. Snoop around his fascinating studio and admire his other masterpieces, including Robie House, or join a walking/cycling tour to get the skinny on some of the Historic Wright District's gorgeous Prairie School structures.

Chicago Architecture Foundation. Whether you’re a skyscraper-gazer or a Lloyd Wright-lover, you’re in good hands with non-profit Chicago Architecture Foundation (aka CAF). There’s plenty to see on one of the Foundation’s fun expert-led tours, but we especially love the spiffy river cruise.

Context Travel. Tours don’t have to involve coach-loads of visor-toting tourists: potter about Chicago in a pleasingly small gang with an expert from Context Travel. Get to grips with downtown, Millennium Park and other big-name attractions in the city centre with the Chicago History Tour, or swot up on Chi-town’s design story on the Chicago Architecture Tour, led by an actual architect.


Chicago Architecture Biennial (16 Sep, 2017 – 7 Jan, 2018) / chicagoarchitecturebiennial.org

Clarke House Museum / 1827 S Indiana Ave / +1 312 744 3316 / tours 1pm & 2.30pm Wed & Fri-Sat / cityofchicago.org

Glessner House Museum / 1800 S Prairie Ave / +1 312 326 1480 / tours 11.30am, 1pm & 2.30pm Wed-Sun / glessnerhouse.org

Oak Park / +1 708 848 1500 / visitoakpark.com

Chicago Architecture Foundation / 224 S Michigan Ave / +1 312 922 3432 / architecture.org

Context Travel / +1 800 691 6036 / contexttravel.com