Plans to head to Chicago in the near future? New to the city? Any Windy City trip will go that much better with a little knowledge of the lay of the land and what you’ll find in each neighborhood.
Chicago’s downtown is divided up into three primary areas: Near North Side – an affluent neighborhood at the north end of downtown, the Loop – the city’s centrally-located business district, and the Near South Side – a former industrial area turned residential neighborhood.
Hint: Click on "Map" below any neighborhood name to pull up a map that shows its borders.
Near North Side
Video courtesy of Choose Chicago
A quick introduction to Old Town
Old Town is home to the legendary improvisational comedy troupe The Second City, and this neighborhood has transitioned from decidedly artsy and funky to still-lively but family friendly. In fact, family-owned restaurants featuring everything from BBQ to sushi are common – as are well-worn taverns, specialty shops and boutiques. Also noteworthy: as one of the few downtown neighborhoods to survive the Chicago fire of 1871, it boasts pre-grid streets and many beautiful Victorian homes.
Pictured above: One of Gold Coast’s Fabulous Wallet-Shrinking Merchants
Gold Coast is where you can find high-end boutiques (Barney’s, Armani, Chanel, Jimmy Choo, Tom Ford, etc.), fine dining (Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse, Nico Osteria, Le Colonial, Lou Malnati’s Pizzaria) – and an assortment of beyond-the-means-of-most auto dealers. Visit if you have deep pockets – or if you’d just like to live like you do for a few days.
There’s fun to be had at Streeterville’s Navy Pier
Upscale, tall and gleaming, Streeterville is the site of some of Chicago’s tallest buildings and to some of the most expensive real estate in the country. Dining, nightlife, retail and cultural experiences abound. It’s also home to the attractions of Navy Pier, to sandy Ohio Beach and, depending on what authority you talk to, the Magnificent Mile – a stretch of towering buildings where dining and shopping opportunities for the well-heeled abound. Book one of our Ohio Street Stay Alfreds for an elegant way to enjoy it all.
A neighborhood of warehouses until enterprising artists and shop owners began creating loft and retail spaces in the 1970s, River North is now home to art galleries, every style of cuisine imaginable and high-energy nightlife – all in a neighborhood with a distinctly industrial feel. It’s also a just a short walk to the Magnificent Mile, and the Loop neighborhood is just across the river and easily accessible on foot. If this neighborhood checks all of the boxes on your list, check out our LaSalle Street/805, West Illinois Street/Jones or State Street/Grand Plaza Stay Alfreds.
Named for the elevated transit tracks that surround it, the Loop is Chicago’s central business district. It’s home to the iconic Bean (Cloud Gate) sculpture, green park spaces, the Theater District and the Art Institute of Chicago. If you’re in town for retail therapy, by sure to check out the shops on State Street, which also boasts a wide variety of gourmet restaurants – just what you need to keep your energy up while exploring the Windy City. Our Lake Street Stay Alfred in the Loop’s northern edge is the perfect place to stay. Neighborhoods within the Loop include New Eastside – a recently developed former rail yard that’s home to skyscrapers like the Aon Center, Printer’s Row – a former publishing district whose buildings now house residential lofts along with a nice assortment of bars and restaurants, and the sprawling South Loop – a neighborhood featuring a significant number of residential lofts that occupy former factories.
Located just south of downtown Chicago proper (aka The Loop), the Near South Side Neighborhood was once a hub of industry. Now, its factories have been converted into lofts, and residents love the Near South Side for its proximity to the Loop and all it has to offer. Of course, the neighborhood itself isn’t without its charms: Recent years have seen more and more local shops opening, and restaurants like Café Bionda and MingHin Cuisine mean that it’s an easy walk to a great meal. Near South Side is also home to many of the city’s most well-known attractions: Soldier Field (home of the Bears), Northerly Island, the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and McCormick Place. Sound like just the place for you? Book a stay at Stay Alfred at South State Street or Stay Alfred on Wabash.
Near South Side
Booked Your Chicago Accommodations?
Now that you’ve got the lay of the land, it’s time to make your trip that much more memorable by booking a place that offers so much more than a hotel ever could (a kitchen, in-unit washer and dryer and private bedrooms, for starters). Check out our Chicago vacation rentals today.