Chicago is a beautiful city with plenty of spots for great photography. Whether you’re a tourist or a local, here are some of the best places to snap pictures in Chicago. From the skyline views to the nature preserves, there’s something for everyone! Here are the best photography spots in Chicago that you really shouldn’t miss.
Best Photography Spots in Chicago
Boasting many parks and world class museums, Chicago is a great place to take photographs in all seasons. Its iconic skyscrapers make for some fascinating shots, and there are lots of contemporary artworks that are equally photogenic.
These are the top Chicago photo locations, from street art to skyscrapers.
1. The SkyDeck
You can’t beat the views of the Windy City from The Sky Deck on the 103rd floor of Willis Tower. This Chicago skyscraper, formerly known as Sears Tower, has 110 floors in all, and is the highest building in the Western hemisphere. You might recognize it from the film, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
The Sky Deck is situated 1,353 feet above ground and gives you a bird’s eye view for 50 miles in all directions. The Ledge was added in 2009 and is a series of glass boxes that extend out from the building by 4.3 feet. There’s a transparent floor for the ultimate panoramic views!
The SkyDeck is so popular that there are often queues to enter at the weekend. If you want to get the best shots, it’s probably worth purchasing the City Pass, which gets you into the Express Fast Pass lane.
Address: 233 S Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL 60606
2. 360 CHICAGO
Another great observation deck in Chicago is 360 CHICAGO. Located 1,000 feet above ground in the former John Hancock Tower, the 360 CHICAGO Experience gives incredible views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline.
On a clear day, you can see four states from the 94th floor viewing platform. Visitors can enjoy a drink while taking in the sights, or if feeling brave, try out TILT.
The highest thrill ride in Chicago, TILT is the only attraction of its kind in the world. It gives you downward facing views from 1,030 feet up!
Address: 875 N Michigan Ave 94th floor, Chicago, IL 60611
3. Architecture Tour River Cruise
Voted the most popular tour in America by TripAdvisor in 2020, Shoreline Architecture Cruise features over 40 Chicago tourist attractions. guides. Its a great way to get panoramic city skyline shots from the river.
The guides are very knowledgeable and will point out interesting buildings such as Marina City along the way.
Departure point: the docks at the NE corner of Michigan Avenue
4. 3 Arts Club Cafe
Not to be confused with The Arts Club of Chicago, 3 Arts Club Cafe is a beautiful coffee house and restaurant on Dearborn Street. The historic building dates from 1914 and was previously a club and home for women studying the three arts of music, theatre and painting.
It now houses Restoration Hardware, a luxurious design store spread over six floors. There’s a lovely rooftop terrace as well as a wine vault and Design Atelier where you can reimagine your home.
3 Arts Club Cafe is one of the most Instagrammable Chicago photography spots and also a great place to have lunch. Please bear in mind however that you can only take photos using mobile phones inside, rather than cameras.
Address: 1300 N Dearborn St, Chicago, IL 60610
5. Museum Campus
Another great place to photograph Chicago’s skyline is from Museum Campus. There are some great cultural attractions to photograph here, such as The Field Museum and The Adler Planetarium.
You can get wonderful shots of Lake Michigan and the skyline from Lake Shore Drive near Shedd Aquarium. It’s a bit of a walk from the centre so we’d recommend the Absolutely Segway Tour to get there. There are lots of stops to take photos along the way at scenic places like Buckingham Fountains.
Address: 1200 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60605
6. North Avenue Beach
Another great vantage point is from North Avenue Beach, close to Lincoln Park Zoo. There are fine views of the Chicago skyline and of Lake Michigan as well as the sandy beach itself.
The best time to come is at sunrise or sunset. It’s a popular Chicago wedding proposal spot, particularly in Summertime. However, if you have a drone, you can take some amazing aerial shots of North Avenue Beach during daylight hours.
7. Flamingo Mural
One of the most colorful Chicago sights is the flamingo mural on North Wells Street. Appropriately located on the side of The Flamingo Rum Club, a Cuban restaurant, is one of the best Instagram spots in the Windy City.
Cars can park right next to it which can make getting a good photo challenging. We’d recommend visiting early in the morning for the best opportunity.
Address: 601 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60654
8. The Wrigley Building
Chicago is actually known as the birthplace of the skyscraper. As you’d imagine, there are some impressive skyscrapers in Chicago, including the Wrigley Building on North Michigan Avenue.
It was inspired by the Giralda Tower of the cathedral in Seville, Spain. The South Tower opened in 1921 and the North Tower was completed in 1924.
The 14th floor walkway was added in 1931. The building takes its name from William Wrigley Jr. who commissioned it as the headquarters of his chewing gum company.
At the time, it was the first building in Chicago to have air conditioning. It’s a prime example of Chicago art deco style and makes for a striking photograph in black and white or colour.
Address: 400-410 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611
Some other Chicago skyscrapers that are great to photograph include:
- Carbide & Carbon Building
- Chicago Board of Trade
- John Hancock Center
- The Merchandise Mart
- Tribune Tower
9. Cloud Gate
Although it’s officially named Cloud Gate, this iconic Chicago landmark is known as The Bean to most locals. It takes it’s nickname from its bean shape.
Designed by famous architect Sir Anish Kapoor, Cloud Gate was unveiled in 2004 and is inspired by liquid mercury. The surrounding buildings are reflected in its polished stainless steel exterior. This is one of the most Instagrammable places in Chicago.
For an unusual photograph, walk underneath it and take a close up of the concave structure. If you’re hoping to get a selfie shot but are travelling solo, there are usually people willing to oblige.
However, if you’d like to get a photograph of the Chicago Bean with no one on it, the best bet is early morning or at night. Cloud Gate is open from 6 am to 11 pm.
Address: AT&T Plaza, Millennium Park, 201 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60602
10. Crown Fountain
Also in Millennium Park and next to Cloud Gate you’ll find Crown Fountain. This interactive video sculpture was designed by Jaume Plensa and built by Krueck + Sexton Architects.
Taking inspiration from the traditional use of gargoyles in fountains, it features a pair of 50 foot tall video boards and the faces of local people who volunteered to be photographed for the project. From April to October, the towers intermittently spit water from their mouths, which makes for an even more interesting photograph.
There are also fountains on the ground, which are very popular with children in Summertime. Aim the camera high if you’re worried about getting people in your shot, or focus on structural details such as reflections on the ground.
Address: 201 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60602
11. Art Institute of Chicago
One of the best museums in the city, the Art Institute of Chicago is also a fantastic place to take photos. Outside the building, snap away to your heart’s content. The famous bronze lions were designed by Edward Kemeys and unveiled in 1894.
Inside, a few simple guidelines apply:
- Tripods, flash attachments, video cameras, and selfie sticks are not allowed
- Mobile phones and cameras are fine if you do not use the flash
The Art Institute courtyard is a scenic spot for photos, with the Triton fountain from 1926 acting as a worthy focal point. Other photogenic attractions in this Chicago art museum include the Chagall America Windows, Nighthawks by Edward Hopper and American Gothic by Grant Wood.
Address: 111 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603
12. Gino’s East
It might seem surprising to include a pizza restaurant in our list of the most photogenic Chicago sights, but this is a foodie city and Gino’s East is no ordinary eatery. Since opening in 1966, it’s attracted a whole host of celebrities and international visitors.
The walls, furniture and even the ceilings of this Chicago deep pan pizza restaurant are covered in graffiti. Diners are actively encouraged to leave their mark by borrowing one of the pens.
The only challenge is finding a free spot ;-). Make sure to take a photo of your own graffiti so that you can try to find it if you return.
Address: 162 E Superior St, Chicago, IL 60611
13. Buckingham Fountain
One of the most famous landmarks in Chicago is Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park. Inspired by the Latona Fountain at the Palace of Versailles, it was unveiled in 1927.
The fountain operates from April to October and there are frequent water shows on the hour. In the evening, the color light shows make for one of the best photo ops in Chicago. They last for 20 minutes and run every hour from dusk until 10 pm.
Address: 301 S Columbus Dr, Chicago, IL 60605
14. Flamingo Sculpture
Located in front of the Kluczynski Federal Building in downtown Chicago, Flamingo is an impressive sculpture by Alexander Calder. Completed in 1973 and unveiled in 1974, this steel sculpture is painted a striking shade of red.
In fact, the shade has come to be known as Calder red! It certainly makes this sculpture a great photo location at any time of the day, and particularly at night.
As you can walk underneath and around the structure, there are some interesting photo opportunities here. Another idea is to zoom in on part of the sculpture and to align it with one of the buildings behind.
15. Milton Lee Olive Park
A slightly less known Chicago photography spot can be found at Milton Lee Olive Park. Located at 598 E. Grand Avenue, this tranquil space is shaded by honey locust trees.
It offers spectacular Chicago skyline views and is never too crowded. From the circular fountains, you can often get nice reflection photos.
16. Centennial Wheel and Navy Pier
For a fun or romantic Chicago photo shoot, head to Navy Pier and the Centennial Wheel. You can either buy a ticket to ride the ferris wheel or simply get photos next to it.
We have heard reports that the glass inside the ferris wheel’s cabins can be dirty with people’s fingerprints. This isn’t ideal for great photos, so take a cleaning cloth with you for the best results!
17. The Chicago Theatre
What could be more appropriate to photograph in Chicago than the theatre of the same name! Located at 175 N State Street, this historic building dates from 1921.
Designed by George and Cornelius Rapp, it cost $4 million to build – a huge sum in those days. Whether you choose to shoot the whole building or focus on the Chicago sign, it’s a beautiful sight by day or night. And why not buy tickets to see a show, the interior is stunning too!
18. Route 66 Signs
We’re ending this feature on the best Chicago photography spots with a beginning – the Begin Route 66 sign to be specific. Iconic Route 66 starts in Chicago, Illinois and you can find the original sign on 99 E Adam St.
Close by, the End Route 66 sign is located on E. Jackson Blvd. Both signs are great Chicago picture spots. They’re attached quite high on the lampposts as people kept taking the signs as souvenirs.
If you’d like refreshments, Lou Mitchell’s on Jackson Blvd is next to the Route 66 sign. It’s also a great place to photograph, with original decor and a neon sign which dates from 1949.
There are many more interesting Route 66 Illinois attractions, which are great to photograph and we highly recommend a trip to see them all. On your Route 66 tour, make sure to travel through the Heritage Corridor and Pontiac, Illinois, which both have some iconic roadside attractions.
Address: Route 66 Begin sign, 99 E Adam St. (intersection with Michigan Ave. Route 66 End sign – E. Jackson Blvd. (intersection with S. Michigan Ave.).
19. Chicago Botanic Garden
If you enjoy visiting and photographing beautiful gardens, don’t miss this one at 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe on the outskirts of Chicago. Boasting 27 different gardens spread over 385 acres, it’s great for shots at all times of year.
Of particular interest to keen photographers are the Japanese Garden, the Heritage Garden and Barbara Brown Nature Reserve. Just bear in mind that a permit is needed for commercial photography.
In Conclusion: Best Photography Spots in Chicago
If you’re looking for an amazing photo op, Chicago is the place to be. With its iconic architecture and stunning lake views, the city provides plenty of opportunities for photographers of all levels to capture amazing shots.
We’ve highlighted some great spots to take photos in Chicago, but there are countless others waiting to be discovered. Be sure to check out our other Illinois articles for more great photography tips and locations.
Let us know your tips for any great photography spots in Chicago that we’ve not yet included! Which of these Chicago photo spots would you most like to visit?
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