Backpacking in the USA: Top 5 Sights in Chicago, Illinois

When you head to Chicago as a backpacker you might be overaud by the sheer size of the city and the numerous activities to do here. You should first make sure you get a good Chicago hotel to check into before you start exploring. Quite simply Chicago is the third most populous city in the USA, behind New York City and Los Angeles, housing almost 3 million people.


Photo from Trover by Krolik

Chicago attracts around 50 million visitors per year and they come from not just the USA but countries from all over the world. The city is an international hub for finance, technology and commerce. Its airport O’Hare International Airport is often regarded as the busiest airport in the world. The city is also home to sports teams across all major sports in the USA. With a nickname of the Windy City, Chicago remains a popular city to explore and for a backpacker on a budget, there are some cheap and free things to see and do. This is a list of 5 sights which can be done on a backpacker’s budget.

1. Willis Tower (Sears Tower)
The instantly recogniseable Sears Tower is Chicago’s iconic building. It was actually renamed Willis Tower in 2009 however it hasn’t lost any of its appeal since its opening back in 1973, when it was the world’s highest building. With scintallating views and 110 floors, the Willis Tower remains a popular sight for tourists and locals.

Willis Tower

Photo from Trover by Annie C

2. Chicago River
Chicago River runs through the city and is famous because in 1887, the local government decided to reverse the flow of the river. These days you can sit in cafes, bars and restaurants and admire it or walk alongside it as it winds its way through the city. There are a few bridges to admire and kayaking on the river is a popular activity.

3. The Magnificent Mile
Walking through downtown Chicago, you’ll notice the famous “Magnificent Mile” which is on Michigan Avenue. As the nickname suggests this is a fantastic walk for about a mile which features some of Chicago’s finest buildings, landmarks, shops, offices, tourist attractions and cafes. It’s free to walk along of course but be sure to pop into one of the bars or cafes to watch the world go by and keep your eyes open for bargains.

4. Buckingham Fountain
Buckingham Fountain is also a free sight for the backpacker in Chicago. The popular fountain is situated in Grant Park and was designed by architect Edward Bennett. It bears a similarity to the Latona Fountain in Versailles in France.

Buckingham Fountain

Photo from Trover by Erik Rowley

5. Holy Name Cathedral
Yet another free sight for a backpacker to check out is the excellent Holy Name Cathedral. Chicago has quite a few religious buildings including Mosques and Synagogues but it is the Holy Name Cathedral that attracts most of the tourists.

As a backpacker to Chicago these five cheap and easy sights should get you started.

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