Chicago Loop Guide

The Loop is “downtown” and the heart of Chicago’s bustling business district. It gets its name from the CTA’s elevated tracks that loop the area and provide unparalleled transportation to the rest of the city and the suburbs. In the last few years, its residential opportunities have grown tremendously as city dwellers seek to live, work and play in close proximity.

The Loop is named after the part of Chicago where its famous elevated trains circle the city. This area is a bustling commercial center with a skyline full of diverse architectural styles. It’s also home to urban residents who enjoy being in the heart of a world-class city.

Major Components

Some of the most important and best-known buildings in the Loop are frequented by hundreds or even thousands of people each day.

The Sears Tower held the title of “World’s Tallest Building” for many years; even today, there is some debate over this title. The Sears Tower still holds the title for the height of the highest occupied floor and height to the top of the roof. The building is 110 stories tall and rises 1,454 feet above the ground.

Chicago’s present City Hall was dedicated in 1911; before this, the City Hall had moved location more than once due to the Chicago Fire. The main entrance of City Hall is on LaSalle Street and is guarded by four relief panels sculpted in granite, depicting four features of municipal government: city playgrounds, public schools, the park system, and the water supply system.

The Daley Center (formerly called the Chicago Civic Center) was built in 1965. It was the first public building in Chicago to be built in the modern style and was constructed in steel and glass. The Daley Center is the site of the famous Picasso sculpture, unveiled in 1967. Also in the Loop are the Thompson Center and other federal buildings.

On LaSalle Street, widely regarded as the financial center of the United States, resides the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, as well as the Chicago Stock Exchange (CHX). The Chicago Stock Exchange (CHX) was established in 1882, with Charles Henrotin as chairman and president. Trading hours are from 10 am to 4 pm (EST) daily, and the floor is a whirlwind of activity. Other banks on LaSalle include Northern Trust, Harris Bank, Chase and LaSalle Bank.

Major corporations are headquartered in the Loop, such as IBM, Boeing, Wrigley and The Tribune Company; several other companies have large offices in the Loop as well.


Although the Magnificent Mile is just to the north, the Loop does attract shoppers. State Street, once known as unpaved and muddy State Road, was renovated and transformed in the late 1800’s to become the classy, polished avenue it is today.

On State Street is the historic Marshall Field’s store (now Macy’s), which is known for its celebrity signings and appearances, its annual holiday window displays and its famous twin clocks which have been a meeting point for Chicagoans for decades. The Carson Pirie Scott flagship store is another historic building that is over 100 years old. Truly, State Street is a shopper’s haven in its own right, with over 100 stores including Old Navy, Filene’s Basement, Lerner, The Body Shop, Sears and the Children’s Place.

Other popular stores are scattered throughout the loop, such as Nine West, Ann Taylor, Brooks Brothers and The Gap.

Cultural/ Theater District

The Art Institute of Chicago, on the eastern side of the Loop, is enormous, with a collection of over 5,000 years of art. The museum features exhibitions year-round, as well as lectures, workshops, performances and more on a daily basis. On the other side of the Loop lies the Civic Opera House. The Civic Opera House, home to the Lyric Opera of Chicago, opened in 1929. The building has a 45-story office tower and two 22-story wings on either side, so that the Opera Building seems like a throne facing the Chicago River. The mezzanine foyer has thirty-one boxes. Above this level are two balconies, each of which seat 800. In total, the Civic Opera House seats 3,563 people.

Also in the Loop are a number of theaters. In the early 1990’s, plans began for a live-theater district in Chicago. The plans included the renovation of four historic theaters. Today, these plans are complete and the Theater District spans several blocks in the Loop and includes six major theaters. These include the Ford Center for the Performing Arts (was Oriental Theater), The Chicago Theatre, the Auditorium Theatre, the Cadillac Palace Theatre, the Goodman Theatre and the LaSalle Bank Theatre (was Shubert Theatre). The Theater District is within walking distance of the Civic Opera House, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Art Institute and Grant Park, thus creating a vibrant cultural life within Chicago’s business district.

The “L”

The original “L” lines were opened in 1888. Although there was not much demand for an elevated train line at that time, the “L” system has continued to expand and is now one of the busiest in the world.

Although the train system is called “elevated”, it is both a subway and an elevated system. The “L” consists of seven distinct lines, known by various colors. The “L” runs all over the city, and even to some suburbs. It connects urban dwellers directly to Chicago’s two major international airports and forms a comprehensive link to almost every nook and corner of the city in synchronization with the bus system.

Lower Wacker

Scene of a real-life car chase and movies such as “Batman Begins” and “The Blues Brothers”, Lower Wacker is one of Chicago’s best-kept secrets. Locals know that Lower Wacker, which lies beneath Wacker Drive and Michigan Avenue alongside the Chicago River, is an excellent way to bypass traffic and congestion. Circling about two-thirds of the Loop, Lower Wacker is actually at ground level (Wacker and Michigan are actually elevated) and in some places Wacker is actually tri-level instead of bi-level; the levels are designated “upper”, “lower” and “lower, lower” Wacker.

Navigating the darkened corridors of Lower Wacker, drivers feel as though they are in an underground tunnel; it can be exciting during the day, and downright foreboding at night. Pedestrians are rarely seen walking along the sidewalks on Lower Wacker, although there are cars whizzing by at all hours. A quick drive down Lower Wacker is worth the possibility of getting hopelessly lost; it is a street unlike any other.


The Loop, although primarily a business district, is refreshingly full of works of art. Outdoor sculptures populate the Loop, such as the famous figure by Pablo Picasso, built in 1967 and made of Cor-Ten Steel to match the Daley Plaza, which it ornaments. Other outdoor sculptures include works by Marc Chagall, Joan Miro and Alexander Calder.

The Loop leads into several recreational areas as well. Grant Park is right at the edge of the Loop, across Michigan Avenue. This is the site of numerous festivals throughout the year, including the Jazz Festival, the Blues Festival, the Taste of Chicago and several film festivals. Grant Park is also home to Buckingham Fountain and the Grant Park Symphony.

Millennium Park, a newer addition to Chicago, has a bandshell and the “Bean”, a huge sculpture that is already a major tourist attraction.

The Chicago River is another source of entertainment; locals and tourists alike tour the River by boat, taking in the view and learning about Chicago’s architecture. Every year, the River is dyed green on St. Patrick’s Day.

Although the Loop has long been a place where only business people gathered, the neighborhood is changing. Everyone can find their niche in this quickly-growing, multi-dimensional haven of art, recreation, culture and history as well as business.


The real estate market in neighborhoods near The Loop is as diverse as the people who make up the city. Studio condominiums start at $120,000. Full-amenity high-rises, spacious townhouses, and urban lofts range in price from $150,000 to the millions.


Trendy neighborhoods like Printers Row, West Loop, South Loop, and Millennium Park attract residents who enjoy fine dining, nightclubs, galleries, and museums. The nearby Magnificent Mile offers high-end shops, and there are many activities and events available in parks along the shores of Lake Michigan.

Location & Area

  • North Boundary: 200 N Lake
  • South Boundary: 300 S Jackson
  • East Boundary: 45 E Wabash
  • West Boundary: 200 W Wells
  • Primary Zip Code: 60611

Current Trends and Facts of Loop Chicago

While always a destination for the world’s businesses, the Loop is an easy walk to the Michigan Avenue shops and office buildings, and LaSalle Street financial centers. After hours, the Loop comes alive with restaurants, boutiques, books, and antique stores.

With a golf course, two marinas and Grant Park nearby, and the city’s great theaters and museums within easy walking distance, residents find that it is easy to incorporate recreation and culture into everyday life.

History of the Loop

Although many believe the term “The Loop” comes from the elevated “L” trains that do indeed form a loop around the downtown area, the name actually comes from the route of a streetcar that served Chicago in 1882.

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the Loop was a hotbed of architectural activity. In 1900, the Loop had the world’s greatest concentration of skyscrapers. Architects such as William Le Baron Jenny, Louis H. Sullivan, Daniel H. Burham and many others were innovating modern high rises at this time.

In 1900 the Masonic Temple was the most famous building in Chicago; it stood 21 stories and 302 feet tall, and was the world’s tallest building. It enjoyed fame and tourist visits until it was torn down in 1939.

Other skyscrapers in the Loop, that have since been torn down, included the Chicago Stock Exchange (1894-1972) and the Marshall Field Wholesale Store (1885-1930). Others that were built during this time are still standing. These include the Public Library (which is now the Cultural Center), the Fisher Building, the Monadnock Building and the Carson Pirie Scott building.

The Loop’s destiny was formed by the railroads that went through the area. In 1971, the last of the Chicago’s stockyards was closed down and the Loop’s business-oriented future began with the building of the Sears Tower (now Willis Tower) in 1974. This building brought on thousands of high-paying jobs in the field of finance and law, among others. In 1975, Water Tower Place opened and spurred developers to consider the downtown area as a new horizon for shopping and entertainment.

Chicago Theater

Chicago Theater, I’m sure you’ve probably seen the six-story sign is there to greet you, and welcoming you into an evening of amazing theater performance. Even if you’ve never been to Chicago, you’ve probably seen this sign. It’s a bold famous landmark of the city. And the inside really gives you a feeling of magnificent opulence.