Chicago is a large city made up of many smaller neighborhoods. One of the best ways to get to know each of these areas is through the free tours offered by Chicago Greeters. These local guides can give you the history, cultural traditions and insider tips on where to eat and shop. Whether it’s Hyde Park, Chinatown or Pilsen, there are plenty of areas to explore in Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods.
Home of former President Barack Obama and the site of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, Hyde Park has a rich history. This neighborhood is bordered by the University of Chicago to the west and the Museum of Science and Industry to the east. With over 2000 exhibits, the Museum of Science and Industry is one of the largest science museums in the Western Hemisphere. For travelers interested in architecture, head to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an iconic masterpiece of American architectural design.
Another Hyde Park highlight is the DuSable Museum, the nation’s first institution dedicated to African American history and culture. It is located in Washington Park, home to a bird and butterfly sanctuary and the much-photographed Fountain of Time. And the Hyde Park Art Center has been a powerhouse on the art scene for more than 70 years, claiming the title of oldest alternative exhibition space in Chicago. Insider Tip: Check out the new Sophy Hotel and explore Chef Erick Williams’ virtue restaurant.
Chicago’s Chinatown is a historic neighborhood filled with traditional specialty shops, window displays full of colorful wares and souvenirs, and family restaurants. In fact, the cuisine is one of this neighborhood’s biggest draws – from steaming bowls of noodles to Cantonese specialties to classic dim sum, there are plenty of dishes to explore. For sightseeing, be sure to stop at The ART Gallery to see works by Asian artists. The open-air Chinatown Square shopping center has cafes and boutiques, and you can even spot your sign among the 12 Chinese zodiac statues in the center of the mall. Don’t miss a stop at Ping Tom Memorial Park, which offers beautiful views of the city and the Chicago River.
Rich in Latino culture, Pilsen is a neighborhood overflowing with music, art, culinary traditions and nightlife. It is home to award-winning restaurants, iconic music venues and sensational murals. The buildings are covered in huge paintings and mosaics that pay tribute to the neighborhood’s Spanish roots. Take a stroll around the neighborhood to take in it all, especially the 16th Street Murals. The neighborhood’s thriving arts scene is known as the Chicago Arts District. This seven-block stretch is filled with artist’s lofts, studios, retail spaces, galleries, and more. Another must for art lovers is Pilsen Arts and Community House, a local gallery focused on community and accessibility. Pilsen is also a haven for offbeat boutiques, hip eateries and cool music venues alongside bodegas, panaderias and family restaurants serving authentic Mexican cuisine. Don’t miss the National Museum of Mexican Art while you’re there. This free museum immerses visitors in Mexican culture through a collection of textiles, folk art, prints, photographs, and more. Pilsen is also home to a diverse food scene, known for everything from authentic taquerias to critically acclaimed fine dining. Dive into modern take on Vietnamese family recipes at HaiSous, feast on classic Mexican staples at 5 Rabanitos, and try lofty versions of globally inspired flavors at SKY
This colorful enclave is bursting with vibrant culture and cuisine, from traditional bakeries, family restaurants to unique local shops. In fact, there are nearly 500 businesses on this two-mile stretch. Shop for artisan crafts at Artesanías Elena, or stock up at Dulcelandia del Sol, a warehouse full of rainbow-colored candies. Enjoy some of the best chilaquiles (a traditional Mexican breakfast dish) in town at La Catedral Café & Restaurant, or wander the wild side and snack on fried rattlesnake at La Casa de Samuel. Admire murals and mosaics at the small but evocative Manuel Perez Memorial Plaza, which hosts local events and a marketplace.
Pullman was built as the county’s first planned industrial city. Designed by luxury railroad car magnate George Pullman for his employees, the community included more than 1,500 company-owned homes, a church, school, and a building housing offices, retail stores, a library, and a bank. The Pullman Historic District is a carefully preserved time capsule that transports visitors to 1880s Chicago. Be sure to visit the A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum, which honors the important contributions black railroad workers made to the American labor movement; stop at the visitor center, housed in the restored clock tower building. For Chicago-style ribs, head to the Lexington Betty Smokehouse.
Bronzeville is an art-filled community, home to a diverse array of galleries and historic sites. Highlights include the monthly Bronzeville Art District Tour, which covers the area’s vibrant gallery scene and showcases black artists at spots like Gallery Guichard, Faie African Art Gallery, and the Bronzeville Artist Lofts. There are many restaurants in the area, including Pearl’s Place; Norman’s Bistro; Truth Italian and Bronzeville Winery (which has a menu of comfort foods like shrimp and grits.