Chicago on the water

Looking for an original and surprising experience in Chicago? There's nothing better than taking a cruise on the Chicago River! You'll cruise between buildings with their intricate, oversized architecture. In this futuristic setting, the sensation of cruising on the river is full of contrasts! Chicago is revealed harmoniously from the river.

The Chicago River winds its way through the city as far as Lake Michigan. It is one of the arteries of the city centre. In this sense, it lends itself perfectly to discovering the heart of the city of Chicago.

With a length of 250 kilometres, the river is one of the city's major arteries. Part of the city's trade developed along this waterway, which provided a link between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi. Thanks to the river, it was possible to reach the Gulf of Mexico and then the ocean!

Cruise on the Chicago river

Cruise on the Chicago river

- © Erika Cristina Manno / Shutterstock

The Chicago River, the city's main thoroughfare

Opting for a cruise is a real festival for lovers of architecture and urban photography! With its many buildings, listed buildings and fifty or so bridges (the second highest density in the world after Amsterdam), you won't know where to look!

The Chicago River by night

The Chicago River by night

- © Nicole Mulstay / Shutterstock

The Chicago River is lined with many iconic buildings. These include the Reid, Murdoch & Co. building (1914), the Wrigley Building (1929), the twin towers of Marina City (1964), the Trump International Hotel and Tower (2009) and the more recent St. Regis Chicago (2021).

Chicago's urban magic - the buildings and the Chicago River

Chicago's urban magic - the buildings and the Chicago River

- © Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

The average cruise lasts two hours, with some lasting longer. This excursion is suitable for all types of public.

A river at the heart of Chicago's wonders

It goes without saying that a cruise on the Chicago River is particularly recommended for families! Young and old alike will marvel at this fantastic urban spectacle. You'll realise just how big and important the third-largest city in the United States is!

There are also cruises aboard electric boats, some of which are available for private hire.

Several companies offer different itineraries and themes. Shoreline Sightseeing is one of them.

This company offers a cruise with commentary by a guide, who will help you discover the eventful history of Chicago. He will also help you to get a better grasp of the city's major works of art and architecture.

Chicago sa rivière et les buildings

Chicago sa rivière et les buildings

- © / Shutterstock

Good to know, it is also possible to use the services of a taxi boat. Departures take place every day (several times a day in summer). There are several landing stages in the city.

Water taxis operate on both Lake Michigan and the river. Their itineraries include stops at various piers, making it easy to get from one point of the city to another quickly. Even more surprisingly, there are also event cruises! You can choose when you're in town:

  • Sunset cruises - there's nothing more romantic for lovers!
  • 4th of July fireworks cruises on both Lake Michigan and the Chicago River.
  • Outings on St Patrick's Day, when the Chicago River turns ... green, the emblematic colour of this Irish celebration. The cruise also goes Irish. The ship's restaurant serves Irish dishes.

Finally, in addition to the cruise, you can discover the Chicago River site in a different way by following the Chicago Riverwalk. This tree-lined promenade runs along the main branch of the Chicago River. The Riverwalk is a pedestrian walkway that stretches for over two kilometres. Suitable for sports enthusiasts and families, it is lined with restaurants, bars, places to relax and gardens. All these points of interest are popular with locals and visitors alike.

It's a great way to get to know the city's major works of art and architecture.

Chicago Riverwalk

Chicago Riverwalk

- © FeyginFoto / Shutterstock

Where to stay near the Chicago River?

The River Hotel, as its name suggests, overlooks the Chicago River. It is a 4-star hotel located in the heart of downtown Chicago. From the hotel you can even access the Chicago Riverwalk directly!

This historic establishment does not offer a breakfast service, but a coffee machine is available in the hotel. The good-sized rooms often offer stunning views of the downtown buildings and the Chicago River. The value for money is one of the best in this sought-after area.

River Hotel Chicago

River Hotel

Room in the heart of the city with an enchanting view of the Chicago River.
8.4 Very good
£135 / night

Where to stay in a luxury hotel on the banks of the Chicago River?

The Langam Chicago is a 5* hotel where luxury comes into its own. This comfortable and elegant establishment offers top-of-the-range facilities in the heart of downtown Chicago. Its exceptional location on the banks of the Chicago River provides direct access to the city centre.

The attention to detail, the services offered and the design all contribute to an exceptional stay.

The Langham Chicago Chicago

The Langham Chicago

"Superb modern and luxurious hotel very well located in the heart of Chicago". Customer review May 2022
9.3 Fabulous
£488 / night

Practical information

👉 When to go to Chicago for a Chicago River cruise?

Certainly, the ideal times are spring and summer. Most cruise operators only operate when the weather is fine. It's at these times of year that the city is at its busiest, with terraces and cafés open along the river.

How do I get around downtown Chicago?

The city is very well served by public transport, with an efficient network of metro and bus services. The Chicago River area has many metro and bus stations.

💎 Editor's tip

The Chicago Transit Authority coordinates the bus and metro networks.

Coming by car is clearly not the best solution, as parking spaces are rare and expensive, but underground car parks are plentiful.

by Faustine PEREZ
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