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Sights along the Chicago Riverwalk

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This tour will explore the Chicago Riverwalk including the incredible architecture and tourist hot spots in the area.  

Be sure to also check our selection of self-guided tours of Chicago.

The Chicago River which is connected to Lake Michigan is a huge source of pride for Chicago. 

Along the banks, there is a riverwalk path which offers amazing views of some of Chicago’s famous skyscrapers.  

More recently, the Riverwalk has become a tourist destination, offering food, drink, and shops along the banks, as well as art installations and fountains!

If interested, please join us for our guided Chicago Riverwalk and History tour which will cover some different destinations on the Riverwalk. 

Check out the calendar to see when the next tour takes place.

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1. Goddess and the Baker

225 N. LaSalle St.

This tour will begin at Goddess and the Baker which is a local cafe established in 2015 in Chicago.  

It is known for locally roasted coffee and baked goods and is at the corner of LaSalle St. and Upper Wacker Dr. which runs along the River.  So grab a coffee, tea, or snack!

Pro Tips:  They have a public restroom.  Also, try the rainbow cake. You will not be disappointed! 

Cross Upper Wacker Dr. north to get closer to the Chicago River. 


2. Eastland Disaster Memorial

South end of LaSalle St. Bridge; North-East corner of the intersection

After you cross the street, you will see a plaque commemorating the Eastland Disaster. 

On July 24, 1915, more than 800 people lost their lives on the S.S. Eastland which capsized before leaving the dock. 

The boat was about to depart for a company planned picnic day but instead killed more passengers than the Titanic.

To learn more about this, sign up for our guided Haunting History Tour.

Look across the River past the Eastland sign directly to see the Reid Murdoch Building. 


3. Reid Murdoch Building

325 N. LaSalle St.

Across the river, you will see the red brick facade and decorative terra-cotta of the Reid Murdoch building.  

Designed by George C. Nimmons in 1914, it was originally the country’s largest wholesale grocer. 

Many of the building's floors were dedicated to making and processing cheeses, ketchup, coffee, and pickles, among other things.  

In 1915, it became a make-shift hospital for victims of the Eastland Disaster. It was added to the National Register of Historic places in 1975.  

Today, it houses businesses and restaurants but really shines at night with incredible lighting that shows off the building. 

Look across the river to the left of North LaSalle Street Bridge, you will see a very large industrial looking building with a green pyramid shaped roof. 


4. Merchandise Mart

222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza

This iconic and enormous art-deco office building was constructed in 1930 by Alfred Shaw who envisioned combining: the warehouse, the skyscraper, and the department store.  

Marshall Field & Co. set up shop at the beginning to create a central hub for retailers.  At the time, it was the largest building in the world. 

The view from the river is incredible, but consider exploring inside. Find the lobby which features a chevron motif with Jules Guerin’s frieze of murals.

Also in 2019, Art on the Mart was born!  This is an enormous, block-sized light and projection show that takes place nightly on the building. Check it out!

Now walk down the large staircase just next to the Eastland Disaster Memorial. At the bottom of the stairs begin walking east (to your right).


5. Chicago Water Taxi LaSalle/Clark Stop

On the River between LaSalle St. and Clark St.

While walking down the stairs, you may see a Chicago Water Taxi waiting along the river at this spot.

This is one of the places you can hitch a ride with the Chicago Water Taxi! 

There are 7 stops that all run along the Chicago River: 

The Ogilvie/Union (West Loop), Michigan Ave, River North, Chicago Riverwalk (LaSalle/Clark), Goose Island, Chinatown, and Chicago Ave.

A unique way to get around Chicago is to buy a Water Taxi pass. An All-Day Pass is $10 and gives you unlimited rides.  

Alternatively, a one-way ticket costs $6. Check out their site for more details about commuting via a water taxi.

Continue walking east along the Riverwalk


6. Riverwalk Restaurants and Shops

Between LaSalle and State St.

During the warmer months, you will start to notice a hustle and bustle of cafes, bars, and shops!  

This is the section of the Riverwalk to indulge in an ice cream cone, a glass of wine, or enjoy a beer while sitting and watching the kayaks float by.  

There are loads of options, but for the convenience of this route, we recommended Tiny  Tapp & Cafe.

Continue walking east along the Riverwalk. Stop and take a look across the river at the two very tall identical cylindrical towers. 


7. Marina Towers

300 N. State St

Marina Towers were designed by Bertrand Goldberg in 1959 and were built to be apartments and condos and remain that way today.  

Marina Towers are among the most recognized buildings in Chicago due to many appearances in commercials and films. 

The towers are noted for their high-speed elevators!  It takes about 35 seconds from the lobby to the 61st floor.

Continue walking east along the Riverwalk.


8. Vietnam Memorial

330 Chicago Riverwalk

On your right, you will come across the Vietnam Memorial which was replaced and rededicated in 2015 to honor all members of the U.S. Armed Services who served in Vietnam.  

The sculpture above the walkway was designed by Gary Tillery who was a Vietnam veteran. 

Directly across the river from the Memorial you will see a very tall glass tower with the name TRUMP written across it.


9. Trump International Hotel and Tower 

401 N. Wabash Ave.

Built in 2008, this 339 room hotel is the fourth tallest building in the US. 

It was designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, who also designed Chicago’s famous Willis Tower and the John Hancock Center.

The hotel’s façade features stainless steel and iridescent-tinted glass and offers guests panoramic views of the city skyline, Lake Michigan and the Chicago River

The hotel was featured in the movie Dark Knight (2008) and Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon (2011).

Continue walking east along the Riverwalk. 


10. McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum

99 Chicago Riverwalk

This landmark five-story bridge house has been housing the Chicago Bridge Museum since 2016.

There are exhibits on the Chicago River and the famous bascule bridges.

General Admission is $6, Seniors (62 and up) and students with I.D. are $5. 

Kids under 5 are free! For more information on tickets as well as bridge lift viewing tickets, click here.

Pro-Tip: General admission is free on Sundays!

Walk up the stairs next to the Vietnam Memorial returning to street level. 

Continue walking east then Cross Upper Wacker going south and end at the South/East corner of the intersection of Upper Wacker and Michigan Ave.

When you reach the bridge, take the stairs onto th

When you come off the bridge continue along N. Wabash Ave. 

CROSS THE DU SABLE BRIDGE ( write about it)

https://historicbridges.org/bridges/browser/?bridgebrowser=truss/michiganavenue/


11. The Wrigley Building

400-410  Michigan Ave.

Built in 1921 to house the headquarters of the Wrigley chewing gum company, this was the first major office building north of the Chicago River.

It was also Chicago's first air-conditioned office building. This skyscraper is 30 floors tall rising to 450 feet (135 meters). 

The clock tower was inspired by the Giralda tower of Seville's Cathedral.

Its faces are 19 feet, seven inches wide. There are actually offices inside the clock! 


12. Apple Store

401 N. Michigan Ave.

Across the River, you will see a modern glass building designed by Foster and Partners which opened in 2017. 

It is a global flagship Apple store and the design is quite a site to see.  

The building is made of glass which allows the patrons in the building to look out and see the magnificent Chicago River without interruption.  

The Apple Store is like a modern-day trading post which is perfect since it is on the very spot of the original trading post of Chicago.  

Jean Bapiste DuSable who was the founder and first resident of Chicago had his home and trading post in what we call Pioneer Court (a.k.a. Directly next to the Apple Store).

Pro Tip:  This Apple store offers free classes!  Check their website to sign up.

Across the street you will see the Tribune Tower.


13. Tribune Tower

435 N. Michigan Ave.

In 1922, the Chicago Tribune held a worldwide design contest for the “most beautiful and distinctive office building in the world.” 

The result was this iconic, neo-gothic gem. From its completion in 1925 to 2018, the building housed the Chicago Tribune headquarters. 

The tower is, at its highest point, 463 feet (139 meters) tall. 

The upper tower has flying buttresses and the lower tower, made of limestone, is embedded with stones from international monuments like Notre-Dame, the Great Wall of China, Taj Mahal, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Berlin Wall, and many more.

There is even a piece of the moon in the tower’s wall!


14. Billy Goat Tavern

430 Michigan Ave.

Directions:  Cross the Columbus Street bridge heading north. Pause on the bridge to take in the view.  


15. View From the Bridge (William P. Fahey Bridge)

Middle of Columbus St. Bridge

On the South side of the River you will see tall hotels and condos like the Hyatt (1974) designed by A. Epstein and Sons, Swissotel (1989) designed by Harry Weese, and the Aqua building (2009) designed by Jeanne Gang as the tallest building designed by a female architect. 

The newest addition to the South side of the River is 101 story Vista Towers which will be completed mid-2020 and will officially beat the record of tallest building designed by a female architect by Jeanne Gang again!  

On the North side, you will see the mirrored Trump Hotel in the distance which was designed by Skidmore, Ownings, and Merril in 2009. 

To your right is the Sheridan Hotel and the Centennial Fountain at 400 N. McGlurg. 

This fountain was dedicated in 1989 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the reversal of the Chicago River which happened in 1889. 

Watch for the long stray which connects the north and south side at every hour.

Finish crossing the Columbus Street bridge heading north. Take a right and take the stairs back down to the Riverwalk. You will pass the Sheraton on your left and get a closer view of the Centennial Fountain.  Take a left at McClurg past the fountain.


16. Ogden Slip

435 E. Illinois St.

This small boat slip along commercial buildings used to be much more active when boat travel was more common.  At one point this area was known as “North Pier” and had a hopping nightlife. 

Now the commercial building houses a Target Express and a bowling alley!  

While not exactly bustling, this quiet street in downtown Chicago serves as a pathway to one of the top tourist destinations: Navy Pier!

Continue heading North of McClurg and then take a right onto Illinois St.  Head east on Illinois for about 10 minutes to reach the final destination: Navy Pier! 


17. Navy Pier

600 E. Grand

The final destination on this self-guided tour is Chicago’s Navy Pier! 

Navy Pier has come a long way since it was originally constructed in 1914 as the world’s largest Pier at 292 ft wide and 3000 ft long. (89m by 914m)  

It is a great spot to grab lunch, dinner, or Chicago’s famous Rainbow cone.  Please check out our self-guided tour for Navy Pier!

Fun Fact: Chicago dyes the River Green for St. Patrick’s Day!

About The Author

Stephen Pickhardt

Stephen is the CEO of Free Tours by Foot and has overseen the transformation of a local walking tour company into a global tour community and traveler’s advice platform. He has personally led thousands of group tours in the US and Europe, and is an expert in trip planning and sightseeing, with a focus on budget travelers. Stephen has been published and featured in dozens of publications including The Wall Street Journal, BBC, Yahoo, Washington.org, and more.
Updated: August 8th, 2022
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