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Chicago Travel Guide

10 Chicago Neighborhoods That Every Traveler Should Experience

An insider’s guide to Chicago's diverse cultural scene.

Like any large city, Chicago is a diverse one, with immigrants having settled in neighborhoods that, even decades later, share their culture with pride. Step into these parts of Chicago to enjoy a meal (it’s easy to create your own food crawl), an afternoon of shopping, a walking tour, museum visits, or peruse boutiques selling imported wares. Nearly all of these neighborhoods also host an annual outdoor event of some sort—bringing together food, music, and performing arts—which is a great way to immerse yourself into their culture.

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Head to Chicago’s South Side—South Wentworth Avenue between Cermak Road and West 26th Street—for the best selection of dim sum, including at the large and lively Ming Hin and the neighborhood’s oldest bakery, Chiu Quon, in business since 1986 and known for its BBQ-pork buns. While smaller than Chinatowns in New York City and San Francisco, you’ll find restaurants, bakeries, tea shops, grocers, and houseware stores. On a nice day, order bubble tea to-go and hang out in Ping Tom Memorial Park, where the annual Dragon Boat Race is hosted every June, as well as concerts, movie screenings, and dance performances. Another must-see is Nine Dragon Wall, modeled after a wall in Beijing’s Beihei Park. Depicting 500 dragons, it’s born out of glazed tiles imported from China.

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An easy walk from the Loop, this Near West Side neighborhood has welcomed Greek immigrants since the late 1800s, and Chicago’s now home to one of the country’s largest Greek populations. Each summer’s Taste of Greektown shines a spotlight on the community’s cuisine, but year-round, you can enjoy gyros, spanakopita, and saganaki (flaming cheese), as well as shops like the Athenian Candle Co. (founded in 1920 and on its third generation of ownership), not to mention baklava at Artopolis. There’s a public art installation of butterfly sculptures and the 40,000-square-foot National Hellenic Museum, marking the modern Greek-American experience.

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From paletas (popsicles) to tamales, Pilsen is where you can taste your way across Mexico. But you can also check out a museum devoted to Mexican art: the National Museum of Mexican Art, which debuted in 1987 and continues to be the largest Latino cultural institution in the U.S., with its exterior design inspired by friezes in Oaxaca, Mexico. While exhibits do rotate, in October, the Día de los Muertos show is a huge draw and ranks among the country’s largest. While Pilsen is also a haven for vintage-clothing and antique-furnishings stores, sweet tooths will want to stop into Sleep Walk Chocolateria & Dark Matter Coffee, selling house-made chocolates, as well as empanadas, tacos, and drinking chocolate.

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In a neighborhood where much of Chicago’s Black history lies—and where Louis Armstrong and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks resided—Black-owned businesses are a huge focus in the country’s largest African-American arts district. You can sip a pint of beer at Turner Haus Brewery or dig into cheesy grits and chitterlings at Pearl’s Place. On a self-guided walking tour, take in landmark sites like The Forum (where Civil Rights events occured and big-name musicians like Nat King Cole once performed), Bronzeville Walk of Fame, and Monument to the Great Migration, plus art murals paying homage to Chicago’s Black history. Bronzeville Art District Tour leads monthly walks, visiting galleries highlighting the work of Black artists, such as Gallery Guichard.

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Polish Triangle

With an estimated two million Polish people living in Chicago, the Windy City is dubbed the largest Polish city outside of Poland. Head to the Polish Triangle (the intersection of Division, Milwaukee, and Ashland Avenues) if you want to try delicious Polish food, such as Polish sausage or pierogis with a cup of soup (zurek or pieczarkowa) at Podhalanka. Jefferson Park hosts Taste of Polonia every Labor Day weekend, featuring live music across four stages, along with cooking classes, carnival rides, craft beer, and Polish food. It’s the largest Polish festival in the country. At the Polish Museum of America—open since 1937—are permanent and rotating exhibits, plus a library and archives.

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Little India

Along Devon Street in West Rogers Park are Indian, Nepalese, and Pakistani bakeries and restaurants serving up items like samosas, mango lassi, curries, and dosai. According to 2019 census data, the Pew Research Center calls this the fourth-largest Pakistani-American community in the U.S. If you like to shop, there are many opportunities to browse colorful silk saris at a variety of stores. For packaged teas and other groceries, drop into Kamdar Plaza. Textiles, meditation products, and home décor imported from India are sold at Reshams.


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On the far North side of Chicago, along North Clark Street, Lost Larson—opened in 2018 by the former pastry chef at three-Michelin-star Grace—is a Swedish bakery that’s a nod to the neighborhood’s earliest settlers. On its menu are Swedish sweets like cardamom buns and lingonberry almond cakes. Midsommar and Julmiddag celebrations take place each year. Learn more about the Midwest’s Swedish roots at the 24,000-square-foot Swedish American Museum, which has been going strong for just over four decades now. Also in business since the 1970s is SVEA, a diner that champions its limpa bread, Swedish pancakes, and lutefisk.

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Ukrainian Village

Anchored by the Ukrainian National Museum of Chicago and the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, this neighborhood near the West Side welcomes travelers who want to learn more about the area’s Ukrainian immigrants. This population group (of Ukrainians and Ukrainian-Americans) ranks second-largest in the U.S. In fact, its permanent collection is one of the largest Ukrainian folk-art collections outside of Ukraine. The museum also has 500 works of visual art by Ukrainian artists. Delta Gift Shop retails imported textiles, clothing, books, and art. Ukrainian cuisine can also be folded into the visitor experience, including at Tryzub Ukrainian Kitchen, open since 2016 and serving everything from pierogi, beef goulash, and chicken Kyiv to house-infused spirits with a modern—but very authentic—twist, like the citrus-avocado “cheesecake.”

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Little Italy

Along Taylor Street on Chicago’s near West Side—also encompassing the University of Illinois at Chicago—is a slice of Italy. On Sundays between May and October, the century-old, mile-long Maxwell Street Market pops up as an outdoor market selling resale items, food, and crafts to the tune of live music. Family-owned restaurants, delis, and bakeries spanning back several generations in Little Italy include Mario’s Italian Lemonade, a summer-time Italian ice stand dating back to the 1950s; Conte de Savoia, a deli in business since 1948 and stocked with imported cheese, wine, olive oils and more—plus sandwiches to-go; and the James Beard Award-winning Tufano’s Vernon Park Tap, in the same family since the 1930s, and featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

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Lincoln Square

Chicago is home to one of the largest German-American populations, and while they’ve since dispersed into several neighborhoods, Lincoln Square is where you’ll find some German-centric businesses to support. This includes Himmel’s, serving up entrees like käsespätzle and Bavarian pork shank. Gene’s Sausage Shop and Delicatessen was founded in 1972 by two brothers who are Polish immigrants. On a nice day, you’ll want to dine on the rooftop, ordering items like a schnitzel platter, Polish sausage, or a goulash plate. In early September—typically the second full weekend—German-American Fest is hosted in Lincoln Square, a tradition that’s been going strong since 1920 and featuring live music by German bands as well as Oktoberfest-style food (brats, schnitzel, and pretzels) over three days. There’s even a Berlin Wall Monument in this neighborhood, at the Western Brown Line CTA station, and it includes a segment from the actual wall in Berlin.