The City of Chicago

A Global City

Chicago is a global city with 77 distinct neighborhoods. You’ll never have to venture far to find a familiar community or a new experience in Chicago. Find your new favorite food in Greektown, eat deep dish pizza in Lincoln Park, cheer on the Chicago Bulls and listen to soul, jazz, and the blues. Learn more about getting to, staying in, and truly experiencing everything Chicago below.

A City of Communities

Chicago’s rise to its position as a Midwestern metropolis was meteoric; on the heels of expanded transportation and manufacturing industries, the city’s population increased fiftyfold from 1850-1900, from 30,000 individuals to 1.5 million. That powerful will to endure and expand, which continued despite having to essentially rebuild itself from scratch after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, is reflected in the city’s motto: “I will.” In 1893, Chicago announced itself to the world when it hosted the World Columbian Exposition, a major historical event that drew 27.5 million visitors to Chicago and whose vestiges can still be visited today in Jackson Park and Midway Plaisance— located in the same Hyde Park neighborhood that also hosts the University of Chicago.


Hyde Park is but one of Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods, each of which contributes its own cultural color to the rich palette of histories that span from 138th Street in the south to Howard Street in the north, from Lake Michigan in the east to O’Hare Airport in the west. Whether on a House trip to try out a new restaurant, a visit to an experimental theater, or a simple stroll in one of Chicago’s many parks (another, earlier city motto, “Urbs in Horto,” means “city in a garden”), students interact not only with our immediate area but the wider world reflected in a truly global city.


Learn more about life in our Hyde Park neighborhood »

Engaging with the City

Through the Arts Pass, UChicago students take advantage of free access to a range of world-class downtown museums that include Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum, and the famed Art Institute, which boasts collections spanning from Classical sculpture to archaic Chinese jades, Chicago architectural fragments, and works by Jackson Pollock, Henri Matisse, and Georgia O’Keeffe. The Art Institute is also a frequent site for class excursions and internships.


All within walking distance of the Art Institute, and easily accessible through CTA train and bus lines made free by the U-Pass, students take photos with friends at Cloud Gate (a.k.a. “The Bean”), ascend Hancock Tower, stroll the River Walk, rock out at Lollapalooza, board architectural boat tours, and pick routes to explore the rest of the city via the many intersecting “L” lines in the Loop.


Students looking to relax or study might head to Wicker Park or Logan Square, each with its own multitude of coffee shops. Meanwhile, those looking to have a special dinner with some of the best cuisine Chicago has to offer make forays to the many famed restaurants along Randolph Street in the West Loop, a place where they can also shop used and handmade goods at the Randolph Street Market.


For students interested in the arts, 2nd Fridays in Pilsen offer access to many local galleries and artists (and are attended by UChicago RSOs), while the stand-up comedy and theater scenes of Lake View and Lincoln Park draw House excursions for shows at a plethora of venues such as the famous Second City and MCL. Many concerts, shows, and theater productions across the city, including the Joffrey Ballet and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, are available to students at discount rates via the same Arts Pass that gives students access to Chicago’s many wonderful museums.  


Near UChicago, on the South Side, students frequent Sox games and snag Chicago dogs in Bridgeport, enjoy boba and dim sum in Chinatown, peruse the uniquely Chicago version of Día de Los Muertos altars on display at Pullman’s annual Altar Walk, appreciate the tranquil beauty of Osaka Garden in Jackson Park, and savor the lakefront public trails and recreational spaces that they can travel from 79th Street to Promontory Point to the 31st Street Beach and—with the help of one of those omnipresent Divvy bikes, perhaps­—all the way up into the Loop and on to the North Side of Chicago.


Winter is an especially exciting time for students interacting with the city: Two ice skating rinks open in Chicago’s downtown (one in the shadow of the Bean, with the other in nearby Maggie Daley Park), and Christkindlmarket brings a traditional German holiday market and plenty of cheer to Daley Plaza from November through December. The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival makes the Chicago River gleam with fireworks following one of the city’s favorite parades in November, and Zoo Lights helps grow that city-wide shine by adding another level of aesthetic wonder to the already-serene beauty of Lincoln Park.


Our students engage Chicago through service, summer work, meaningful internships, and full-time, post-graduate work opportunities—financial work at Morningstar (founded by a Chicago Booth graduate) to curatorial projects at Washington Park’s Du Sable Museum of African American History, to service in coordination with Chicago Public Schools and local community organizations. Students also engage the arts and cultural experiences available in the city through our Arts Pass, which, as mentioned earlier, allows free or greatly reduced price access to many famed cultural institutions such as the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the Art Institute.


Today, Chicago is the third largest city in the United States and remains a hub for trade and commerce. It has a Federal Reserve Bank, a host of world-class museums, and nine Fortune 500 companies like Boeing in the city (plus 22 more in the Chicagoland area). Half of all freight and commuter trains in the United States pass through Chicago, and our city boasts one of the world’s busiest airports (O’Hare International), one of the world’s largest public libraries, and the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower—the second tallest building in the U.S.


Both students and lifelong residents find that there’s always something to do in the City of Big Shoulders.


Deep-dish pizza. The Chicago Dog. Italian Beef. But Chicago cuisine runs much deeper than these icons.  With an innovative spirit and many immigrant influences, its robust dining scene has so much more to offer. For instance, ever hear of the jibarito? It’s a dish original to Chicago’s Puerto Rican community, essentially a steak sandwich with garlic mayonnaise and fried plantains for a bun. Or how about gam pon gi—also a Chicago-original—a kind of Korean-style chicken wing doused in a sweet and savory sauce and shaped to be eaten like a lollipop? Flaming Saganaki (essentially, cheese on fire)? Yup, that crazy dish is local to here, too. And the world’s first brownie? It was invented at Chicago's Palmer House Hotel for the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. (P.S. You can still order the original at the hotel!)


Chicago is a fantastic place to eat, for both its new culinary innovations and the classics. Whether you splurge with your parents in the city at the famed restaurants along Randolph Street in the West Loop, or make outings with classmates to Hyde Park newbies and classics such as Salonica, Valois, Medici, and the Promontory, Chicago will always have some novel new flavor to explore. For a greater glimpse of Chicago’s diverse cultural landscape, it’s worth exploring the culinary side of Chicago’s many enclaves: From Chinatown for xiaolongbao (soup dumplings) and egg tarts; to birria and champurrado in Pilsen; to the kik alicha (spiced yellow split peas), tibs, and injera bread at various Ethiopian restaurants on the North Side.

Getting Around

Accessing all of the parks, beautiful architecture, and cultural institutions of Chicago is a breeze using the University of Chicago’s U-Pass for undergraduate students. Via the U-Pass, students have unlimited access to Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) trains and bus lines during the school season.


The CTA trains—collectively known as the “L”—are among the easiest and most common ways to navigate the City of Chicago. The lines are distinguished by color, and all of them, at some point, run into the Loop, where they meet other lines in the heart of Chicago for simple transfers. A series of CTA buses connect Hyde Park and the University of Chicago, to the train lines, Midway Airport, and downtown.


Other options for navigating the city include the Metra, a commuter train that runs downtown, to the suburbs, and to other destinations like Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and Divvy, a bike-share system that offers discounts to UChicago staff and students and has locations throughout campus and the city. On Friday and Saturday evenings, the University of Chicago also provides a convenient South Loop Shuttle to ferry students to and from campus to downtown.


Two airports handle Chicago’s air traffic. Midway International Airport, the closest to the University of Chicago, is located roughly eight miles from campus and is easily accessible via CTA lines.  O’Hare International Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world, is located approximately 25 miles northwest of Hyde Park and can also be accessed via the CTA.