Grabbing drinks with friends isn’t just about the cocktail– the location is equally important. Luckily Chicago has some of the best “scenic sip” options out there thanks to its stunning architecture. If you’re looking for a new place to try around the city, check out one of these bars with great views in Chicago. While you’re there, you can also check out a number of the other great things to do in Chicago, from our friends at Eventbrite, which range from beer fests to music festivals.
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Named after the iconic drawbridges that line the Chicago River, Raised is home to a rooftop bar with great views of Chicago in every direction. What sometimes goes unrecognized is that the view is just as great from inside too. They love to highlight local breweries and have over 40 beers on the menu. Inspired by urban gardeners and hop growers, the name also reflects the use of raised gardens in urban areas like Chicago.
This bar is atop the Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel and looks out onto the Chicago River, where you can see boats gliding by while enjoying a cocktail made by one of their mixologists. The location, at State and Wacker, gives you great views of many of the city’s most iconic buildings. Marina City and Mies van der Rohe’s AMA Building are across the bridge, while the historic Michigan and Wacker skyscrapers, like the Wrigley Building, are two blocks northeast. To the south, of course, is the north edge of the Loop and that great State Street. Those surroundings make this among the best bars with great views in Chicago.
This award-winning restaurant and cocktail bar has a view of classic Chicago landmarks. Right outside is Millennium Park, home to Cloud Gate and Jay Pritzker Pavilion. If you look directly out the glass atrium walls you’ll see Lake Michigan, giving Cindy’s its self-proclaimed “Great Lakes beach house with a view” description. During the warmer months, the restaurant is home to an open-air terrace where you can enjoy dinner or just a quick drink after work with coworkers. No matter the time, day, or season, Cindy’s is a spot worth visiting.
We know Cindy’s quite well, of course, since it’s a rooftop bar atop the historic Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. We’ve often concluded custom private tours in this landmark structure, which was the home of one of the city’s most illustrious private clubs for a century. You can still see that clubhouse atmosphere in the amazing Venetian Gothic architecture of the facade and second-floor “Drawing Room.” Or just come on the tour. 😉
As one of Chicago’s oldest restaurants, North Pond has a lot to offer. It was built in 1912, used originally as a place for skaters to warm up after spending an afternoon on the ice. The location is impressive on its own, but combined with the history, North Pond is one of our “must try” spots. The restaurant focuses on sustainability and gets their seasonal products from local markets and farmers. North Pond also stands out for their efforts in helping the community. A dollar is added to all bottles of wine, which is then donated towards a nonprofit. Being nestled on a pond in Lincoln Park creates the perfect cozy atmosphere for a snowy Friday night overlooking the park, with a drink in hand.
We also love being able to suggest a bar with a great view in Chicago that’s not in downtown. You can see the Hancock Center and a few other major Gold Coast towers across the waters. But your immediate surroundings are the meadows and glacial moraines of historic Lincoln Park. Plus, there’s a church hidden behind a skyscraper only a few blocks away.
The Signature Room
Speaking of the Hancock Center! Located on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Center, or 875 N. Michigan Avenue if you prefer, The Signature Room has breathtaking views of the whole city. Although drinks can be a little pricey, there aren’t many places in town that offer a panoramic view as spectacular as this one. If you can, try to get a window seat (or use the restroom if you’re a lady) and it’ll make your time and money spent well worth it.
It’s hard to name a significant piece of Chicago architecture that’s not visible from The Signature Room. The most eye-catching, though, may be the other “supertall” skyscrapers. Arrayed from left to right as you gaze out the windows, the Aon Center, Trump Tower, and Willis Tower all soar over 1,000 feet above the city. The Vista Tower will join that club quite soon. These can look particularly enchanting when fog envelops every other building.
The J. Parker
The J. Parker is a great choice if you want to be outside, but the weather’s just not right. With an area for guests to enjoy that’s fully enclosed by glass, this restaurant and bar gives you the chance to enjoy the outdoors while being inside. If the weather’s great, there are also 140 seats outside to choose from while sipping on your handcrafted cocktail. The J. Parker is located on top of Hotel Lincoln with a view of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline.
An older piece of Chicago architecture is worth spotting from this bar with great views of Chicago. Just to the southwest, St. Michael’s Church is one of the only buildings to survive the Great Chicago Fire. The German community built this soaring Catholic Church in 1869. In fact, it was the tallest building in Chicago for 16 years. The walls remained standing despite the blaze, though a lot of reconstruction was needed. That makes it one of only a handful of examples of pre-fire architecture in Chicago.
With the continent’s longest free standing bar, BIG Bar is a site that needs to be seen. There are floor-to-ceiling glass windows, with an impressive view of the city. Dividing the glass windows in the middle of the bar is a liquor tower that bartenders climb to grab whatever they need next. There are signature cocktails to try out and TVs above the bar which makes it the perfect place to watch the big game while enjoying a great view.
Out the window is the glittering skyline of River North. You can blow friends away by dropping this truth bomb: all the land across the river is artificial landfill. It all started when the US Army Corps of Engineers straightened and then reversed the Chicago River. Engineers built a massive embankment on the north side to keep the river and lake waters separate. The lapping of waves against this barricade deposited sand and silt. Over the decades that accumulated into the ground we now call River North. Wild, huh?
Even More Bars with Great Views Beckon!
These are only a handful of the bars with great views in Chicago, of course. We hope to see you at one of them this summer.
– Alex Bean, Content Manager and Tour Guide
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In business since 2010, Chicago Detours is a passionate team of educators, historians and storytellers. We applied a decade of experience as one of Chicago’s top-rated tour companies to become a virtual event company in 2020. We bring curious people to explore, learn and interact about Chicago’s history, architecture and culture through custom tours, content production, and virtual events.