Harold Washington Library Center


This grand, art-filled building with free internet terminals and wi-fi is Chicago's whopping main library. Major authors give readings, and impressive performances take place in the auditorium (Chance the Rapper often shows up for the OpenMike for teens on Wednesday evenings). The light-drenched, 9th-floor Winter Garden is a sweet spot for reading, writing or just taking a load off; the floor also has good exhibitions in its galleries. The 3rd-floor Maker Lab features 3-D printers and drop-in demonstrations.

It can be a bit confusing to get around. Escalators go up to the 3rd floor (home of the browsable newspapers and computer commons); from there transfer to the elevator to reach floors four through nine. And those green-copper creatures staring down from the exterior roof? They're wise old owls.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Chicago attractions

1. Mergenthaler Lofts


Built in 1886, the former headquarters for the legendary Linotype company has been converted into snazzy loft-style condo apartments.

2. Pontiac Building

0.13 MILES

A classic 1891 design by Holabird & Roche, the Pontiac features the same flowing masonry surfaces as the architects’ famed Monadnock Building in the Loop.

3. Monadnock Building

0.13 MILES

Architecture buffs on a pilgrimage bow down to the Monadnock, two buildings in one that depict a crucial juncture in skyscraper development. The north…

4. Chicago Federal Center

0.15 MILES

Famed architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe designed the buildings at 230 S Dearborn St (aka the Kluczynski Building) and 219 S Dearborn St (aka the Dirksen…

5. Kluczynski Federal Building

0.16 MILES

No discussion of famed Loop architecture is complete without mentioning the boxy, metal-and-glass style of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, whose functional,…

6. Flamingo

0.18 MILES

Alexander Calder’s soaring red-pink sculpture provides some much-needed relief from the stark facades of the federal buildings around it. Calder dedicated…

7. Fine Arts Building

0.19 MILES

This building has been an artists' haven for more than a century. You'll still hear opera voices and trumpet music drift out of the music studios, which…

8. Santa Fe Building

0.24 MILES

The 1904 Santa Fe Building is a terra-cotta beauty where architect Daniel Burnham kept his offices. Enter the lobby and look up at the vast light well…