23 Best Museums in Chicago| 2024 (with Photos)

Rosalia Ignatova

Rosalia Ignatova - Travel Writer

Published: July 20, 2023

Hey there! I'm Rose, a passionate explorer and lover of all things art and culture. Join me as I take you on a journey through the vibrant museums of Chicago, showcasing the city's rich history and artistic masterpieces.

Best Museums in Chicago: Our Top Picks

Get ready to embark on an exciting journey through the vibrant museum scene in Chicago. In this guide, we'll be delving into the 23 best museums this magnificent city offers.

Museums are more than just buildings housing artifacts. They are gateways to knowledge, inspiration, and a deeper understanding of the world around us.

From art and history to nature and science, Chicago's museums cover a diverse range of subjects, ensuring there's something for everyone to enjoy.

So, let's dive in and discover the hidden treasures awaiting us.

Most Recommended Thing to Do

Visit Millennium Park.

Top Choice Hotel

The Langham Chicago

Our Top Choice Restaurant


Our Top Choice Bar for Nightlife

The Violet Hour

Best Time to Visit

Summer: Vibrant festivals, lakefront activities, and beautiful weather.

Average Temperature

Cold winters, hot summers - Chicago's temperature varies.

Transportation Options

Trains, buses, taxis, rideshares, bicycles, walking, ferries, scooters.

Average Cost ($, $$, $$$)


My Top Recommendation

Chicago, a vibrant city in the United States of America, offers a multitude of experiences that are sure to leave you captivated. Indulge in the city's rich history by taking a leisurely stroll along the iconic Magnificent Mile, where you can shop to your heart's content and admire the stunning architecture that surrounds you.

Get a taste of the city's diverse culinary scene by stopping by one of the famous deep-dish pizza joints, and don't forget to treat yourself to a classic Chicago-style hot dog while you're at it. As night falls, immerse yourself in the vibrant music and comedy scene that Chicago is renowned for, by catching a show at one of the many legendary theaters and comedy clubs scattered throughout the city. With its unique combination of history, food, and entertainment, Chicago is a truly unforgettable destination that will leave you wanting more.

What You'll Need to Bring

  1. Money, including cash and credit cards.
  2. Comfortable shoes for walking.
  3. Appropriate clothing for the weather.
  4. Travel documents such as passport or identification.
  5. Mobile phone and charger.
  6. Maps or a navigation app.
  7. Camera or smartphone for capturing memories.
  8. Snacks or water bottles for on-the-go refreshment.
  9. Travel-sized toiletries.
  10. Any medication or prescription you may need.

What Not to Miss

  1. Millennium Park
  2. The Art Institute of Chicago
  3. Navy Pier
  4. Magnificent Mile
  5. Willis Tower Skydeck
  6. Shedd Aquarium
  7. Wrigley Field
  8. Museum of Science and Industry
  9. Lincoln Park Zoo
  10. Chicago Riverwalk

What to Avoid

  1. Rush hour traffic
  2. High crime areas
  3. Overpriced tourist traps
  4. Tacky gift shops
  5. Street food with poor hygiene
  6. Unreliable public transportation during peak hours
  7. Tourist areas during weekends and holidays
  8. Shadowy alleys and dimly lit streets at night
  9. Excessive consumption of deep dish pizza (unless you're a huge fan!)
  10. Engaging with aggressive street performers or panhandlers.

1. Art Institute of Chicago 

Art Institute of Chicago

Get lost in a world of artistic wonder at the Art Institute of Chicago and its beaux-arts style architecture. This is one of the largest art museums in the world. It boasts a huge collection of art from all around the world, spanning thousands of years of history.

At the Art Institute, prepare to be mesmerized by the enchanting blend of art and architecture at the Art Institute of Chicago. As you step inside, you'll be greeted by an awe-inspiring collection of masterpieces from around the world.

From Van Gogh's vibrant "The Bedroom" to Monet's serene "Water Lilies," every corner of the Art Institute exudes artistic brilliance.

Also, it's not just the art that captivates. The museum itself is a masterpiece. Marvel at the grandeur of its Beaux Arts style architecture, which effortlessly combines elegance and grandiosity. Get ready to embark on an artistic journey like no other.

2. The Chicago History Museum

Chicago History Museum

Journey through time for history buffs. Here you can uncover history at the Chicago History Museum. Embark on an extraordinary voyage through history as you explore the Chicago History Museum. Here, you can immerse yourself in the captivating tales of the city's past, from the Great Chicago Fire to the rise of the Windy City.

At the Chicago History Museum, visitors can delve into the city's fascinating past through interactive exhibits and captivating stories. Uncover the triumphs and tribulations that shaped the Windy City into what it is today.

This museum is run by the Chicago Historical Society.

3. Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

This is what some people call nature's delight. Discover wildlife at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and see what's all the fuss about.

Get ready for a wild encounter with nature at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, where you'll embark on a journey through the vibrant ecosystems of the Midwest. From interactive exhibits to captivating displays, you'll gain a deeper appreciation for the region's flora and fauna at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.

Then, if you loved this nature-themed museum, you can head over to the Lincoln Park Zoo, a haven for animal enthusiasts. Roam through the lush grounds as you encounter lions, giraffes, and playful primates. It's a chance to connect with wildlife and witness the wonders of the natural world in the heart of the city.

4. The National Museum of Mexican Art

National Museum of Mexican Art

Are you ready for a Mexican art extravaganza? Indulge in a captivating journey into the rich tapestry of Mexican art and culture at this exceptional museum in Chicago. Visit the National Museum of Mexican Art, a dedicated institution showcasing the diverse heritage of Mexico through its permanent collection.

Marvel at vibrant paintings, intricate textiles, and exquisite sculptures that beautifully capture the essence of Mexican creativity. The National Museum of Mexican Art is not one to be missed while you're in town.

5. The Contemporary Art Museum

Contemporary Art Museum

Who is ready for some contemporary marvels and modern art? The Contemporary Art Museum offers an ever-changing landscape of creativity with its rotating exhibits, ensuring a fresh and exciting experience with each visit. Get ready to be inspired, enlightened, and swept away by the marvels of contemporary art.

Immerse yourself in the vibrant European art scene, admire the boldness of pop art, explore the intricacies of Asian art, and appreciate the beauty of decorative arts. Beyond the exhibits, the Contemporary Art Museum also hosts cultural events that further enrich your artistic exploration.

6. The American Writers Museum

American Writers Museum

Now for some literary escapades... Step into a world of words and embark on a literary adventure at the American Writers Museum. Here you can delve into the lives and works of renowned authors, from Mark Twain to Maya Angelou, as you uncover the rich tapestry of American literature.

Immerse yourself in interactive exhibits that bring classic novels to life and celebrate the power of storytelling. This is a great museum for bookworms and story lovers alike.

7. Chicago Children's Museum

Chicago Children's Museum

Get ready for thrilling interactive adventures that ignite curiosity and foster learning at the Chicago Children's Museum. At the Chicago Children's Museum, little ones can unleash their creativity and imagination through hands-on exhibits, from building towering structures to exploring a vibrant water play area.

There are some amazing interactive adventures where you can engage with exhibits at the Chicago Children's Museum.

8. Chicago Architecture Center 

Chicago Architecture Center

Now, let's see some architectural wonders together. Discover the architectural marvels that define the city of Chicago at this extraordinary museum dedicated to design and history. The Chicago Architecture Center takes you on a journey through the city's iconic structures, showcasing the ingenuity and innovation that shaped its skyline.

This museum was opened by the Chicago Architecture Foundation in 2018 and it is based at a prime location overlooking the river. This is a celebration of modern architecture. Immerse yourself in permanent exhibits that unveil the secrets behind Chicago's architectural treasures.

And if you love this experience, you can also book an architecture river cruise in Chicago to see the buildings up close with a guide. Then, wander through the picturesque streets of the Gold Coast District, where stunning architectural gems showcase the city's heritage.

9. DuSable Museum

DuSable Museum

Venture to the DuSable Museum, a hidden gem - a small museum dedicated to African American history and culture. Delve into the remarkable achievements and contributions of African Americans, from art and music to civil rights activism.

This museum offers a captivating journey through time, unveiling the layers of history that make Chicago the dynamic city it is today.

10. Museum Campus

Museum Campus

Begin your exploration of science at the Museum Campus, where the Columbia College Chicago campus serves as a gateway to a world of knowledge.

Immerse yourself in the wonders of nature, astronomy, and paleontology at the Adler Planetarium, the Field Museum, and the Shedd Aquarium.

11. Hyde Park Historical Society

Hyde Park Historical Society

Visit the Hyde Park Historical Society, a small museum brimming with local heritage. The Headquarters is located in an 1893 restored cable car station in Chicago’s historic Hyde Park neighborhood.

Here, you can discover the unique narratives of Hyde Park and its role in Chicago's history.

12. Illinois Holocaust Museum

 Illinois Holocaust Museum

The Illinois Holocaust Museum provides a thought-provoking journey through history, offering interactive exhibits that promote understanding, empathy, and dialogue.

At the Illinois Holocaust Museum, powerful exhibits tell the stories of resilience and courage during one of humanity's darkest times. This might not be the most cheerful of the attractions on the Chicago museum scene, but it is one of the most poignant and important.

13. The Smart Museum of Art

Smart Museum of Art

The Smart Museum of Art is free to enter. Here, there are rotating exhibits as well as permanent collections of art. This museum is supposed to encourage people to express themselves artistically and provide a space for scholars to explore art in a deeper way.

14. Museum of Surgical Science

Museum of Surgical Science

Then, journey to the Museum of Surgical Science and delve into the fascinating history of medical advancements. Unleash your curiosity and satisfy your thirst for knowledge at these remarkable destinations that showcase the best of science in the heart of Chicago.

15. Pritzker Military Museum

Pritzker Military Museum

Pay tribute to the heroes who have shaped history at the Pritzker Military Museum. Delve into the compelling world of military history through exhibits and engaging displays that offer a glimpse into the courage and sacrifices of those who served.

This museum provides a profound appreciation for the bravery and innovations that have shaped our world. Now, let's explore some iconic landmarks in Chicago.

16. Chicago River Museum

Chicago River Museum

Venture to the Chicago River Museum and uncover the rich history of the city's lifeline. Learn about the engineering marvels that shaped the Chicago River and its crucial role in the city's development.

This museum offers a glimpse into the past, unraveling stories of civilizations and the transformative power of water.

17. African American Heritage Museum

African American Heritage Museum

Visit the African American Heritage Museum, where exhibits and artifacts showcase the resilience and creativity of the African American community.

Celebrate the diversity and strength of a remarkable culture as you engage with the exhibits and gain a deeper understanding of the African American experience.

Also, the Frank Lloyd Wright home is relatively near so maybe you can explore it later.

18. International Museum of Contemporary Photography

Museum of Contemporary Photography

Venture to the International Museum of Contemporary Photography and witness the power of visual storytelling through captivating and thought-provoking exhibitions.

From iconic classics to cutting-edge contemporary works, these museums ignite the imagination and inspire creativity in every visitor. Surrender to the beauty and depth of art as you embark on this unforgettable journey of artistic indulgence.

19. Lincoln Park Conservatory

Lincoln Park Conservatory

Discovering nature can be so much fun. Don't forget to visit the enchanting Lincoln Park Conservatory, a serene oasis nestled along Michigan Avenue. Marvel at the lush botanical displays and be transported to a world of greenery and tranquility. These natural havens offer a perfect escape to reconnect with the beauty and importance of nature.

20. Grainger Sky Theater and the Doane Observatory

Grainger Sky Theater

Who is ready for some sky-high adventures? You can observe the cityscape at the Grainger Sky Theater and the Doane Observatory.

A visit to the Adler Planetarium is one of many fun things to do in Chicago. Here, you can step into the Grainger Sky Theater and the Doane Observatory, where cutting-edge technology transports you around the universe. Explore the cosmos and witness the wonders of space in a mesmerizing and immersive experience.

21. Chicago Cultural Center

Chicago Cultural Center

Get ready to be inspired, captivated, and transported by the magic of words. At the Chicago Cultural Center, a hub of creativity and expression, cultural events and exhibitions bring the city's artistic spirit to the forefront.

Expand your horizons, indulge your senses, and let the cultural enchantment of Chicago sweep you away in this education center.

22. The Field Museum of Natural History

Field Museum of Natural History

Natural history museums are always interesting. Step back in time and explore the rich history of Chicago at this esteemed Chicago natural history museum. At the Field Museum, discover the wonders of nature and its history through its vast permanent exhibits, from ancient civilizations to awe-inspiring dinosaur fossils.

Embark on educational expeditions at the renowned Field Museum. Get up close to Sue, the largest and most complete T. rex ever discovered, and discover the wonders of ancient Egypt. Brace yourself for an adventure through time that will leave you in awe of our remarkable human heritage.

23. The Oriental Institute Museum

 Oriental Institute Museum

Embark on a captivating journey through time as you explore the iconic Oriental Museum. Spanning an entire city block, this museum allows you to immerse yourself in ancient civilizations with its remarkable permanent collection.

Here you can discover the wonders of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and beyond, as artifacts and archaeological treasures transport you to distant lands.

The Oriental Institute Museum offers a glimpse into the wonders of ancient civilizations, with its museum's permanent collection of artifacts and architectural relics.

FAQs About the Best Museums in Chicago

Now let's see some frequently asked questions about museums in Chicago.

What are the best museums in downtown Chicago?

The best museums in downtown Chicago offer a diverse range of experiences. Explore the rich history of the city at the Chicago History Museum and discover the wonders of sports at the Chicago Sports Museum. Don't miss the renowned National Museum of Mexican Art, where you can immerse yourself in art, culture, and fascinating exhibits that showcase the city's vibrant heritage.

Which museums are near Washington Park?

Washington Park is in close proximity to several notable museums in Chicago. Take a short trip and visit the Chicago Sports Museum, where you can delve into the world of sports history. For art enthusiasts, don't miss the opportunity to explore the vibrant works of Andy Warhol at various Chicago museums nearby like the Art Institute of Chicago.

What are the largest science museums in or nearby Chicago?

The largest science museum in or nearby Chicago is the Museum of Science and Industry. It boasts expansive exhibition spaces and offers a diverse range of interactive and educational experiences.

Summing Up: Best Museums in Chicago

Summing up, the museum scene in Chicago is a treasure trove of cultural richness and intellectual stimulation. With its diverse array of museums covering art, history, nature, and more, this city truly has something for every curious mind.

Whether you're a fan of interactive exhibits or prefer to immerse yourself in the city's history, the museums of Chicago will leave you amazed. From the National Museum of Mexican Art to the Field Museum, Chicago has it all.

So, next time you find yourself in the Windy City, explore the fascinating world of these remarkable institutions and create lasting memories. Happy museum-hopping.