Whether you are relocating or local, our Chicago Neighborhood Guide can guide you to the best of everything Chicago has to offer. The Lake Michigan shoreline provides more than 18 miles of bicycle, walking, and skating paths. Chicago’s acclaimed dining scene boasts over 9,000 restaurants. Chicago shopping along the Magnificent Mile is world-class. Find the bars that show the games for your favorite Chicago sports team, or find out what shows are coming to the city’s many theaters.
The guide also includes information on Chicago real estate and Chicago relocation for those planning on moving to the Windy City. Use the map to check out housing options, area amenities, and local resources in each of the Chicago neighborhoods—everything from parks to Chicago hospitals and Chicago transportation—and then make the decision that suits your particular lifestyle.
Chicago’s modern cityscape of iconic skyscrapers and tree-lined waterfront evolved from a long history of architectural firsts, forward-thinking city planners and a concerted effort to merge metropolitan life with the natural beauty of the land. Whether you see that skyline on a 3×5 postcard or catch a glimpse of the Willis Tower from a spot along the 22 miles of lakeshore, there’s no mistaking this city’s distinctive profile. Beyond the stretch of beaches and high-rise offices lies a diverse population of residents that compose the heart and soul of this town of 2.8 million. A multicultural community from around the country and all over the world has found their home in this city, shaping the sprawling urban center into over 180 separate Chicago neighborhoods.
Chicago’s modern grandeur had humble roots, beginning as a mere village of settlers living along the icy waters of Lake Michigan in the 1830s. As a popular passage for travelers and merchants traversing between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River, Chicago quickly developed into a significant Midwestern transportation and commercial hub. The introduction of major railroads and the increasing traffic of ships through the city’s waterways added to the small port’s recognition as a key nexus between the eastern and western coasts of the country. While mercantilism, trade, and shipping were streaming into the growing metropolis near the water’s edge, tiny enclaves of pioneers and farmers started to pop up around the outskirts of the bustling commercial center—precursors to the mélange of Chicago neighborhoods that would later be embraced by the far-reaching city limits.
Local legend blames Mrs. O’Leary’s cow for kicking over a lantern that started the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, a blaze that burnt down a third of the city. Whether or not the legend is true, the fire changed the face of Chicago—a transformation seen throughout the city to this day in its architecture, grid-like layout, and vast square miles of lakefront parkland. The flames destroyed much of downtown, but Chicagoans are resilient, and after the fire they didn’t hesitate to start the rebuilding process, with strict codes against using flammable materials such as wood to guide new building construction. Today, you’ll still notice a large portion of Chicago’s structures are made of brick and stone, and even new developments have continued the tradition with a modern spin on the vintage brownstone walk-ups and courtyard residential complexes.
The age of vertical construction also emerged out of this post-Fire time period. Revolutionary architects and structural engineers such as Louis Sullivan, William Holabird and Martin Roche, Daniel Burnham, Mies van der Rohe, and Frank Lloyd Wright took full advantage of the “blank canvas” of Chicago’s downtown, erecting what many call the first skyscraper—standing 10 stories tall, an impressive feat for the time. Other steel-frame high-rise towers soon followed, with some of the world’s tallest buildings still existing in the midst of the city’s downtown vicinity. For many years the world’s tallest building, the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) still ranks highly among international engineering marvels, and remains a must-visit experience for locals and tourists alike.
While not all of Chicago’s buildings are record-setting monuments, they remain attractive all the same. High-rise condominiums span the length of the shoreline both to the north and south of downtown, and the rest of the city is mainly occupied by mid- and low-rise edifices and one- and two-story homes.
THE NORTH SIDE
Neighborhoods just north of the Loop—centered around the area south of where the Chicago River meets Lake Michigan—are characterized by tree-shaded streets and rows of stately townhouses. The majority of Chicago housing in these areas is divided into flats, although many are maintained as single-family residences. Vintage courtyard condominiums and converted apartment buildings also line the blocks, while new construction and rehab projects continue to revive older structures and provide homebuyers with modern living spaces close to downtown. Northern Chicago neighborhoods along the water’s edge such as Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Uptown, Edgewater and East Rogers Park have the added bonus of breathtaking lakefront parks, marinas, golf courses and beaches.
THE SOUTH SIDE
Chicago’s south side has quickly grown into a trendy hotspot for first-time buyers and the young working class, as its traditionally industrial district has been converted into luxury lofts and brand new residential condominiums. While maintaining the area’s rich cultural history and landmark sites, real estate developers and community organizations have transformed this once-dilapidated section of Chicago into a thriving, desirable place to live. A long stretch of pristine public parkland also runs along the shoreline connecting the South Loop, Douglas, Oakland, Kenwood, and Hyde Park neighborhoods to the Loop and beyond with an extensive pedestrian trail and bike path.
THE OUTER NEIGHBOURHOODS
As you search further out from the Loop and the lake, you’ll find a greater selection of detached single-family homes, complete with front and back yards and private garages. Many of these Chicago neighborhoods matured from early townships and settlements established by European immigrants and pioneering individuals. Throughout the years these small communities were annexed into the city, becoming an official part of Chicago’s widespread scope. Influenced by strong cultural ties and traditional American values, each neighborhood holds its own unique identity that adjusts with the changing times. While you’re sure to find rows of tightly-packed, classic Chicago bungalows in many of these far south, west and north side areas, homeowners will also discover large Victorian homes and more contemporary residential designs set on sprawling green lots.
CHICAGO HOMES FOR ANY OWNER
Whether your ideal home is a sleek, urban loft-style space overlooking the water from the 20th floor, or a simple one-level house with your own front porch and lawn, Chicago’s many neighborhoods are bound to include the picture perfect home you’ve always dreamed of.