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Photographing Chicago: The Best Places To Take Pictures In Chicago!

If you’re planning on photographing Chicago when you visit – whether you’ve got 24 hours in Chicago or much longer, you’re going to have a great time! Chicago is honestly such a fabulous city to take pictures!

With miles of beautiful lakeshore beaches, stunning river walks, parks with unique architecture, unique wall murals and an incredible skyline, Chicago is a paradise for anyone who enjoys taking photos!

What’s also great is that all the locations are fairly close to each other and easily accessible!

This article will show you the best places for photographing Chicago as well as give you all the best tips about when to take the best pictures!

Chicago best photo spots instagrammable places

If you’re uploading your Chicago pictures onto Instagram, check out these Chicago quotes and captions which you can use!


PHOTOGRAPHING CHICAGO – The Best Places To Take Pictures In Chicago!

1. Cloud Gate at Millennium Park

Head to Millennium Park first thing in the morning to get to Cloud Gate when there are no crowds.

Cloud Gate is this beautiful stainless-steel sculpture, more affectionately known as “The Bean” as it is shaped like a kidney-bean.

The sculpture is mirrored so you can see the reflection of Chicago’s skyline in it which is so amazing!

It is the most well-known landmark in Chicago and you’ll most likely spend quite a bit of time photographing it as it looks different from every angle!

the bean chicago

During the day Cloud Gate gets very, very busy. The reflection of everyone will be in the giant mirrored sculpture, which is why it is important to get here early if you want to get good photographs.

I was here at 7am and there were only a few people around which was perfect, so make sure to visit The Bean as early as you can! 

It is an impressive piece of art and to see it is the highlight of many people’s trip to Chicago!

Click here for the Google maps location of The Bean.

Chicago best photo spots instagrammable places          

Make sure to also walk around the surrounding Millennium Park when you are here – the gardens are beautiful and if you visit in spring time you will find so many beautiful flowers!

Chicago best photo spots instagrammable places

2. Chicago Theatre

The Chicago Theatre is another one of Chicago’s landmarks and one of the best buildings for photography in Chicago!

Built just over 100 years ago, this was America’s first lavish movie palace and is one of the only ones that still remains and runs to this day!

The theatre is very photogenic – another really Instagrammable place in Chicago, and makes for great photographs both during the day and during the night when it is lit up.

There aren’t crowds here so it is quite easy to get a photo here. However it is right on a main road so you will need to be careful and wait for the traffic to be clear before you get your shot!

Click here for the Google maps location of The Chicago Theatre.

Chicago best photo spots instagrammable places

PHOTOGRAPHING CHICAGO – The Best Places To Take Pictures In Chicago!

3. Chicago “L” Railway

You’ll notice as you walk around Chicago city centre that trains don’t run underground: rather they run overground on railway systems above the road.

This is known as The Chicago “L” (short for “elevated”) – the elevated railway system that runs through Chicago.

The elevated rail system makes for some amazing photos and there are literally so many locations where you can get great shots under the arches!

Chicago best photo spots instagrammable places

As I mentioned, the elevated rail system runs above the road. Therefore if you want to take photographs here you will want to take them where there are as few cars on the road as possible so as not to disrupt the traffic (or get run over!).

Sunday mornings are the best morning to go, when there is the least traffic around but if that’s not possible for you, any morning before 7am is ok. Please be careful when you are shooting here. If it seems too busy, then don’t do it.

I really don’t advise you to shoot alone with a tripod, but rather with someone so you can both get out of the road quickly if needed.

Be advised that the drivers can understandably get a little impatient if you are shooting in the middle of the road so be quick here.

Chicago best photo spots instagrammable places

Click here for the Google maps location of the photo above, shot at the corner of Washington and Wabash (near the Washington/Wabash stop on the Chicago “L”), just a couple minutes walk from Cloud Gate.

4. John Hancock Centre

Now it’s time to see Chicago from above! The John Hancock Centre is one of Chicago’s tallest skyscrapers that offers incredible views of Chicago. 

There will be big queues here so do your best to get there before 10am to beat the crowds. It’s best to buy your tickets beforehand so you can reserve your time and skip the queue!



The John Hancock Centre is on Michigan Avenue (The Magnificent Mile) and offers fantastic views of Chicago in all directions.

For the brave-hearted, The John Hancock Centre also has TILT boxes: enclosed glass boxes that tilt you towards Michigan Avenue!

There is also a bar here that offers perfect views over the lake. 

Click here for the Google maps location of The John Hancock Centre.

John Hancock centre chicago rooftop view

5. Sky Deck at Willis Tower

The Willis Tower is another one of Chicago’s tallest skyscrapers. On the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower is the Sky Deck – the highest observation deck in the USA!

The Willis Centre has several glass panelled boxes known as ‘The Ledge’ that protrude out just over a metre from the building.

You can stand in one of these glass boxes and look down at the city below – which is 410 metres below you! The views of Chicago from here are stunning and you can get some great photos here!

Stepping onto one of these ledges can be quite a challenge if you are afraid of heights. However, if you are up for the challenge it will be totally worth it! If you are travelling alone, the staff here can help you take photographs.

As visiting the Skydeck is very popular, it’s best to be here right at opening time so you will be one of the first to enter, and can get photos without other people in.

Opening hours are 7 days a week from 9am until 10pm. On Saturdays it opens slightly earlier at 8.30am, although I wouldn’t advise coming on the weekend as it is a lot busier – it’s always best to visit mid-week. 

Alternatively, watching and photographing the sunset from up here is amazing, but again it is also very busy.

The last hour before closing is quieter, so if you fancy photographing Chicago in the night from above then this is your perfect chance! Do not however that tripods aren’t allowed here! 

Entry is $25 for adults and $17 for children aged between 3 and 11. Children under 3 are free.

You can buy tickets in advance here to skip the queue and book your preferred time.

Alternatively, if you purchase a CityPass, it gives you free entry to the Sky Deck plus you also get to skip the queue (plus you make lots of savings on entry fees!).



The Willis Tower is close to Union Station. Click here for the Google maps location.

PHOTOGRAPHING CHICAGO – The Best Places To Take Pictures In Chicago!

6. Boat ride on Lake Michigan

Another must do in Chicago is to take a boat ride out onto Lake Michigan and enjoy some fabulous views of the skyline. I went on this one on my first trip to Chicago and had a really enjoyable time! Click below to reserve your ticket.



Alternatively, if you’d rather take it easy and travel on Lake Michigan in style, then a lunch or dinner cruise is perfect. Check out the ones below.



Chicago best photo spots instagrammable places

7. North Avenue Beach

Just a short walk away from Chicago’s skyscrapers you will find miles of beaches along the shores of Lake Michigan!

North Avenue Beach is one of the closest and most popular beaches to the skyline of Chicago and so it is one of the best beaches to take photographs at.

To reach North Avenue Beach walk north of The Magnificent Mile (Chicago’s main shopping street) and you’ll see it on your right.

During the summer it is such a vibe here at North Avenue Beach, with lots of youngsters playing volleyball and enjoying Chicago’s beautiful summer weather!

There is also plenty space to relax, sunbathe, exercise – whatever you fancy doing! Plus the views of the Chicago skyline from here are simply breathtaking!


Click here for the Google maps location of North Avenue beach

Chicago best photo spots instagrammable places

8. North Avenue Beach Hook Pier

To get a stunning view of the Chicago skyline, walk north of The Magnificent Mile (Chicago’s main shopping street) to North Avenue Beach. 

Just before you get to the main beaches however, you will find a pier called North Avenue beach hook pier (as the pier curves around like a hook).

North Avenue Beach Hook Pier is a great place to enjoy the skyline without all the crowds on the beach. You simply can’t beat the views of the Chicago skyline from here.

It’s great to take photos here during the day, during sunset, or evening the evening as the skyline is lit up.

However as the pier sticks out quite a bit it can get very windy here (as you can see from my picture!) so be careful if you use a tripod here!

Chicago best photo spots instagrammable places

Click here for the Google maps location of North Avenue beach hook pier.

Google Maps doesn’t actually recognise Hook Pier as a place as it is so small: if you click on the link, you’ll see it links just to North Avenue Beach.

However, if you look on the map you’ll see below the beaches a thin part of the land hooking round (just to the right of where it says Chicago SUP). This is Hook Pier.

If you go back up near the top of the article and look on the photograph that was taken from the John Hancock Centre, you’ll be able to see Hook Pier clearly.

Chicago best photo spots instagrammable places

PHOTOGRAPHING CHICAGO – The Best Places To Take Pictures In Chicago!

9. Flamingo Rum Club Wall Mural

This flamingo wall mural is quickly becoming an Instagram hot-spot in Chicago! Located on the side of The Flamingo Rum Club, a Cuban restaurant located on North Wells Street just a few blocks up from the Chicago riverwalk.

The restaurant itself is pretty exclusive, but you’re free to take pictures outside without anyone bothering you! Like at The Chicago Theatre, you won’t have to compete with crowds here, only the passing traffic.

You may also want to avoid going in the middle of the day on a really sunny day as it can create shadows on the mural that you may not want, so just bear that in mind.

Click here for the Google maps location of Flamingo Rum Club.

flamingo wall mural Chicago

I have been informed that the Flamingo Rum Club Wall Mural has recently been replaced with The Songbird Mural – let me know if you’ve managed to see it yet!

Chicago has lots of other wall murals too though so don’t worry! Check out this list of other wall murals that will make some great Instagrammable photos!

  • Angel Wings Mural: on the side wall of the Mexican restaurant Federales (1009 W Lake St in West Loop).
  • Butterfly Mural: 2912 Milwaukee Avenue
  • Chicago Mural: 2236 N Milwaukee Avenue in Bucktown (it can be difficult to capture this mural as it is in a car park).
  • Floral Mural: 4905 Old Orchard Shopping Centre, Skokie.
  • Chicago Wings Mural: Old Orchard Mall in Skokie.
  • Spiral Mural: 925 W Randolph (behind Nonna’s Pizza).
  • Tropical Mural of Eden in Chicago: 1748 W Lake St.
  • Tropical Mural of Maison Marcel: Lincoln Park Window French Bakery – 2008 N Halsted (Rear).

There is also a very popular wings mural – called The Wings Of Water, at Chicago O’Hare Airport than you can catch if you’ll be flying out of ORD Airport and didn’t manage to catch enough wall murals during your time here!

The Wings Of Water Mural is located between Terminal 2 and 3, in the rotunda on the upper level.

10. Chicago River Walk & The Wrigley Building

If you’re anything like me, you’ll love it when big cities have rivers running through them. The Chicago River runs through the centre of Chicago, and you can get some really lovely photos walking along the Chicago Riverwalk.

There are plenty bridges where you can stand on and get photos of the river and the many skyscrapers here in downtown Chicago.

The bridges are all unique too – many built in an industrial style, Be sure to check out DuSable Bridge, State Bridge and Franklin-Orleans Bridge.

One of the most beautiful skyscrapers to take pictures of in Chicago is The Wrigley Building. It is located on North Michigan Avenue and was built in the 1920’s to house the headquarters of the Wrigley Company.

Around The Wrigley Building and the bridges gets very busy during the week with office workers walking past frequently, so its you want pictures without people in, it’s best to visit early in the morning!

Chicago riverwalk best places to take photographs

PHOTOGRAPHING CHICAGO – The Best Places To Take Pictures In Chicago!

11. The Honeycomb At Nature Boardwalk, Lincoln Park Zoo

A beautiful urban oasis just across from the beaches is the Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo.

Again from here you can get a beautiful view of the skyline, and it is not too busy.

Entrance to the boardwalk is free as it is not actually in the zoo: it is between the zoo and Lincoln Park, you just walk around the zoo to reach this area.

It is very peaceful here and the lush ecosystem is home to a variety of wildlife. I enjoy taking some time out from the city and relaxing here for a while.

You can find The Honeycomb here – a very unique wooden pavilion that makes for some excellent photos! Through the arch you can see the Chicago skyline as it faces directly to downtown Chicago, so it’s a really fun place to shoot.

It’s not really a place that many tourists visit, rather a lot of locals visit this place. When I visited it was empty, but it can get busy with photoshoots sometimes.

Click here for the Google maps location of the Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo.

Chicago best photo spots instagrammable places

12. Navy Pier & Olive Park Waterfront

For a different view of the Chicago skyline, head to Milton Lee Olive Park, located right next to Navy Pier (going on the Centennial Wheel here is a must do for some brilliant view of Chicago!). 

From Olive Park you can get some really lovely pictures of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline, especially at sunset.


13. Cindy’s rooftop bar

After a long day of sightseeing, relax in one of the best rooftop bars in Chicago! Cindy’s Bar has the perfect view of Chicago!

Go on the outdoor terrace to see great views of Lake Michigan and the legendary Chicago Bean. The atmosphere in this place is great, the place is always buzzing and the cocktails are pretty yummy too!

Click here for the Google maps location of Cindy’s rooftop bar.

Stay here until it gets dark and you’ll see Chicago is also a beautiful city at night time. There is a great energy in this city and even after dark you’ll feel the buzz of the city.

Cindys Rooftop Bar Millenium Park instagrammable     


Conclusion Of Photographing Chicago

As you can see, Chicago is such a photogenic city and there are so many great places in downtown Chicago to take pictures of!

Let me know if you’ve managed to visit any of these places or if there are any other Instagrammable places in Chicago you managed to visit!


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Monday 9th of May 2022

Grant Park is a great place to see


Tuesday 10th of May 2022

Hi Ryan! Thanks for the recommendation - I have never been there, will definitely check it out on my next visit to Chicago! Have a great day!