Things to See in Chicago’s Loop

Like any huge city, Chicago has its own lexicon to refer to some of its more important districts. “The Loop” refers to the downtown area, but not to all of it. Some people mistakenly think that the Loop is defined by the El train that makes a loop in the center, and although it gets its name from the public transit routes, and though the routes roughly outline the district, the actual Loop is bigger. It is enclosed to the north and west by the heavy-flowing Chicago River, to the east by Lake Michigan, and it stretches south only as far as Harrison Street. Chicago’s top hotels are located in the Loop, which you can book through HostelBookers. There are many sights in the Loop, and this article will highlight the most popular among them.

Chicago has a vibe all its own, which in a large part is thanks to the now-historical elevated trains. These trains mark the old boundary of the central business and financial sector, which has since exploded in size and crossed the river. The trains are iconic, and the old stations are worth a visit.

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Image source: mknott

Otherwise, the other principle sight in the Loop is Chicago’s tallest building, which made the city the center of attention for many decades. The Sears Tower was renamed the Willis Tower in recent years, which Chicago residents are not happy about, since now it’s the “Big Willy”. This tower is the city’s emblematic symbol, and no childhood drawing of the skyline is complete with its bulky figure. You can take the fast elevator to the Skydeck observation tower at the top, which has recently been renovated to include a glass-floor balcony with sheer-drop views to the street below.

Chicago is known for its architecture. It was the first city to have a skyscraper, and the Sullivan Building remains standing. Besides the Sears Tower, other Loop landmarks include the Art Deco Carbide and Carbon Building, Sullivan’s Haskell Building (the loop’s oldest), The Rookery and the innovative Reliance Building. If you happen to pass the impressive old exterior of the Auditorium Theater, see about a performance or concert of some kind in order to admire its interior.

A tour of the Loop might best begin, however, at the Chicago Board of Trade, where the visitor’s center is set up. The building itself stands apart from its neighbors in a very stark way. You might recognize it from the film The Dark Knight. Follow the avenue along which this skyscraper sits to the east. Eventually it opens up onto a major avenue, and across the way is the immensely vast Grant Park, which hosts countless events during the summer months. Go left and you’ll come to the Loop’s main museum, the Art Institute of Chicago. It houses priceless historical works of art, and its new modern wing has a myriad contemporary art as well.

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Image source: warriorwoman531

Beyond the institute is the modern Millennium Park. The big reflective Bean is the central point where tourists take photos of themselves with the Chicago skyline reflected in the smooth silver surface. There are cafes and restaurants nearby, and the Pritzker Pavilion is used for outdoor concerts and picnics.

At the east extreme of the Loop, beyond the parks, you come to the edge of Lake Michigan. From here you can take in the whole downtown line of buildings, which form rank and file flush against the parks. Along the lake there are paths to walk, which lead into other parts of the city—the planetarium and aquarium lay to the south, and to the north Navy Pier juts into the water.

Chicago’s Loop is its heart, and from here you can get to the rest of the city’s sights aboard the El or via the Pace bus routes.

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