Travel & Leisure

Chicago, the multicultural and cosmopolitan playground

Chicago! Its name alone stirs our imagination and our hearts. Words are racing through our heads to describe it. Yes, it is vibrant with its skyline that stands out on the lake, electric with the energy it gives off, cultural with its impressive museums like the Art Institute of Chicago or the Chicago Museum of Sciences and Industry, surreal with its Millennium Park, musical with its blues and jazz, artistic with its monumental digital works, Its urban sculptures signed by Anish Kapoor, Dubuffet, Miro or Picasso, not to mention its architectural laboratory or its renowned architects such as Franck Lloyd Wright, Franck Gehry, Daniel Burnham or Louis Sullivan, who have put their name to recognized achievements, or design, celebrated throughout the world. Discovery with Katya Pellegrino!

Chicago, a city of artists and design

Chicago, city of art and design - © Luxe Magazine

Contemporary art galleries, cutting-edge boutiques, and events of all kinds are on the calendar every month and attract many Chicagoans. As Chicagoans are known to be very demanding and knowledgeable, often shows are first presented and tested in this city, before going on stage in New York. While the Midwestern capital is known for its architecture and penchant for modernity and creativity, it has long combined artistic and urban development. It is in Chicago, for example, that skyscrapers were born, thanks to the development of modern construction techniques based on steel, cement or reinforced glass before being built in New York. Its Skyline on the shores of Lake Michigan can be seen in a surreal way, sometimes against a background of blue sky or sunset, a unique moment to discover the city by boat.

A little history

Chicago - Lake Michigan View - © Luxe Magazine

Louis Joliet and Father Marquette, sent by the French government in 1673, were the first to discover these lands which later became the city of Chicago. The name was given by the Illinois Indians who were the first to claim the land and nicknamed it "Chicaugou" in reference to the great chiefs of the tribes, meaning "great or powerful." But the first to settle in this area around 1780 was an Afro-Caribbean man, Jean-Baptiste Pointe du Sable, with his Indian wife. He built his home on the riverbank.

Founding of Chicago in 1833

Neo Gothic Tribune Tower - © Luxe Magazine
Aerial tramway EL in the Loop district - © Luxe Magazine

But it is in 1833 that the history of Chicago really begins, since the XXth century becoming one of the most important cities in the world with its economic activity, its financial center among the largest - New York, Paris or London - and the first exchange of agricultural commodities, counting in 2020 more than 9,600,000 inhabitants in the region. In 1860, the Republican National Convention also chose Abraham Lincoln as its presidential candidate. Unfortunately, the fire of 1871 destroyed most of the city, which, in the face of this tragedy, found the energy and audacity to rebuild itself in a more beautiful, larger and more spectacular way, creating a steel skeleton that would defy the decades to come. - For example, the First Leiter Building, built in 1879 by William LeBaron Jenney. The city planners then worked on projects that have since become legendary and are part of Chicago's urban heritage, such as the Museum of Science and Industry, the famous aerial tramway EL in the Loop area, the iconic John Hancock Center, the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower, rising to 442 meters) and the neo-Gothic Tribune Tower. Root, Burnham, Adler and Sullivan were among the leaders of the school that became the Chicago School.

The Chicago River, a magical bend

Departure of the Odyssey Cruise - © Luxe Magazine
Chicago and its high-rises - © Luxe Magazine
Merchandise Mert - © Luxe Magazine

This famous river bend is surrounded by the most beautiful towers which are reflected in each other as soon as the sun appears, bordered by the Chicago River which flows into Lake Michigan. It is an absolute must to embark on the Odyssey river cruise to discover all the styles the city has to offer: from neoclassicism to international influences, passing through neo-gothic and fine arts. You don't know where to look, as each building has its own characteristics. One covered with blue mirrors, the other circular with a sort of scales that houses parking lots and apartments, the third the Merchandise Mert, an Art-Deco building from 1930, located on the river front. This 2-hour tour, including lunch, gives a good overview of the city, with its skyscrapers from different eras, it’s like visiting an open-air museum.

The Millennium Park, an open-air art gallery

Pavillon Jay Pritzker au Millenium Park - © Luxe Magazine
The Cloud Gate d'anish Kapoor au Millenium Park - © Luxe Magazine
The Ice Rink in Millenium Park - © Luxe Magazine
"The Crown Fountain » by Jaume Plensa - © Luxe Magazine

Then, like an irresistible call, your steps lead you to Millennium Park, an open-air art gallery designed by Richard M. Daley. You will discover the famous Cloud Gate, also called "Bean" by Anish Kapoor, a kind of bean where its mirror-like polished surface reflects the skyline in echo or the "Jay Pritzker" pavilion by architect Frank Gehry. This immense sculptural form hosts numerous concerts throughout the year and serves as an auditorium facing an immense lawn. A stone's throw away, two giant plasma screens, "the Crown Fountain" by Jaume Plensa, where faces scroll by, spitting water in summer, giving you the impression of being spotted.

The Art Institute of Chicago, the largest museum after the Met

Art Institute of Chicago - © Luxe Magazine

Not far away, you can't miss the Art Institute of Chicago. Second largest museum in the US, after the Met in New York, housing one of the most important art collections in the country, covering a period from 5000 BC to the present (300,000 art works). From the impressionists (one of the most important collections after Paris) to American and Asian art, not to mention contemporary and modern art, housed in a bright and spacious building, there is something for everyone. It is the equivalent of the Louvre in Paris.

The Royal Sonesta a very well-located hotel

Royal Sonesta Chicago - © Sonesta International Hotels Corp
Royal Sonesta Chicago - © Sonesta International Hotels Corp
View from the hotel room on the river between the buildings - © Luxe Magazine

After this day full of discoveries, it is good to settle down at the Royal Sonesta. The hotel is ideally located between the Millenium Park, Lake Michigan and the Chicago river where we took the Odyssey boat for the cruise. It also faces Trump Tower, impressive by its height it must be said!

Trump Tower - © Luxe Magazine

The Royal Sonesta is a contemporary hotel, with very spacious rooms equipped with large bay windows, overlooking the river and the skyscrapers, notably the neo-Gothic Tribune Tower. The comfortable lobby, with its Swedish atmosphere, furniture and light wood, its various lounge areas, face a cosy fireplace, allowing a welcome break before setting off again to explore this multicultural playground.

Strong emotions

View from the 360 Observation Chicago - © Luxe Magazine

Before heading to the Michelin restaurant, the Moody Tongue, in the South Loop district, visit the 360 Observation Chicago on North Michigan Avenue. There, the TILT experience awaits you: in front of glass walls surrounded by handrails to hold on to, you will be tilted into the void 300 meters above the avenue. If you are afraid of heights, don't go! Another view, another thrill: like the Willis Tower, at The Ledge, where a glass overhang located at the Skydeck, allows you to walk with a clear view of the void below you! Emotions guaranteed!

A 2 star experience at the Moody Tongue

Moody Tongue Restaurant 2* Michelin - © luxemagazine

After these strong emotions, it's time to regain strength at the Moody Tongue, a two Michelin star restaurant, in a minimalist setting, run by chef Jader Wentworth who regales you with creative and original dishes of reasonable proportions, with innovative beer pairings by Jader Rouben (beer brewer). Original.

Hyde Park and Franck Lloyd Wright, an outsider who refuses the diktats

Rob House by Franck Lloyd Wright - © Luxe Magazine
A room designed by Franck Lloyd Wright - © Luxe Magazine
Chicago University - © Luxe Magazine
Rookery Building in Chicago - © Luxe Magazine

After a restful night and a breakfast at the Hoyt, a restaurant next to the Royal Sonesta Hotel, we are eager to discover one of the works of Franck Lloyd Wright. This architect, who lived from 1876 to 1959, was an outsider, but an emblematic figure of Chicago. His style is related to the Prairie School movement. He liked the horizontality, inspired by the landscapes and plains of the Midwest. In his eyes, a house must be in harmony with its environment and express itself as organic architecture focused on the close connection between the exterior and the interior. Each house has its own grammar, and one of its singularities remains the entrance, which is never apparent and must be discovered. One of his last creations is called Robie House (1909) in the Hyde Park district, with its 176 windows and doors, marked by its horizontal lines, bricks and flat roofs. It now belongs to the renowned University of Chicago, which adjoins it with its Oxfordian style buildings. Wright’s work can also be admired at The Rookery, a state-of-the-art restored building that is a historical landmark.

The Street Art district

The Street Art District - © Luxe Magazine
Street Art District - © Luxe Magazine
Street Art District and the EL Line - © Luxe Magazine

In the afternoon, head for the Street Art District, most of the open-air art works are concentrated on Wabash Street on the Wabash Art Corridor (WAC) between Wabash/Jackson and Wabash/Roosevelt. Started in 2013, you'll discover over 40 murals on its walls. Every street corner or some facades of decrepit buildings, parking lots, pillars of the subway system, showcase truly artistic creations, either directly commissioned or following competitions won by artists from all over the world, known or unknown and university students.

From Doom to Bloom by the Dutchman Collin van der Sluijs - © Luxe Magazine

Swinging Chicago

Buddy Guy Jazz Club - © Luxe Magazine
Buddy Guy - © Luxe Magazine

The evening in Chicago, city of the prohibition but also of music, in particular of the blues and the jazz, would not be complete without an incursion in a club and our choice is Buddy Guy's, a blues club opened in 1989, eponymous musician of his bar and still active. He takes the microphone from time to time in his club to sing and it was the case this evening. Great atmosphere!
Janvier 2022

My opinion

A vibrant city, interesting on many levels, it is also fascinating for its artistic bias with its many galleries and artworks blooming everywhere. A veritable architectural encyclopedia. It has countless discoveries, not to mention its location on the banks of Lake Michigan, which gives it a considerable attraction, especially in summer, with its 26 beaches, its attractions, its Millennium Park, its wide avenues that let in light and sun, its countless museums, its incredible architecture, its jazz and blues clubs ... You can't get bored in a city like Chicago, which is well worth a 5-day tour.

The hotel is very well located and allows you to discover some of its treasures on foot. Notably the Millennium Park, the cruise that starts just below the hotel, some of its attractions such as the Willis Tower, The Rookery (Franck Lloyd Wright) its restaurants and notably the Tzuco, a Michelin-rated bib gourmand restaurant. Take the aerial tramway to the Loop, the centre of the city where it all began. Don't forget to visit the Art Institute of Chicago Museum, which is well worth a visit, and go swinging in the jazz and blues clubs. Buddy Guy's is worth a visit.

Royal Sonesta Hotel
71 E Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL 60601, United States
T°: +1 (312) 346-7100


Moody Tongue the 2 Michelin stars restaurant
A Michelin-starred restaurant with delicate and creative food of normal proportions, run by chef Jared Wentworth and featuring beer pairings, Moody Tongue being a beer brewer. Nice atmosphere but nothing like a European 2-star. Here it's casual and relaxed. Try the Maine Diver Scallops, which are very tender, as a starter and the Maple Leaf Duck Breast as a main. Affordable prices from $16 to $18 for starters and from $24 to $39 for a main course. Located in the up-and-coming neighbourhood, The South Loop.

Moody Tongue**
2515 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60616
T°: +1 (312) 600-5111

The Dearborn
A trendy brasserie restaurant, where you can eat well, 10 to 15 minutes from the hotel, and which can satisfy all palates. Beware that the portions here, they are copious!

The Dearborn
145 N. Dearborn, Chicago, IL 60602
Mon-Thursday. 11:00am-11:00pm
Friday 11:00am-12:00am
Saturday 10:00am-12:00am
Sunday 10:00am-11:00pm
T°: +1 (312) 384-1242

Tuzco Restaurant - © Luxe Magazine

A restaurant run by Mexican chef Carlos Gaytan, offering a range of Mexican dishes, some of them a little too spicy for us Europeans. Modern decoration with open bookcases designed in steel. Be careful, don't expect a warm atmosphere, this is the USA, with its noisy rooms, its service certainly nice but not of a European level. You will even find in the 2 stars, like the Moody Tongue, a central bar with a flat screen to follow the sport and people sitting at the bar to enjoy a beer.

Tzuco (Michelin bib gourmand)
720 N State Street, Chicago
T°: +1 (312)374- 8995

Brunch at AVEC - © Luxe Magazine

Brunch at Avec
Nice, cheerful and bright place, recently opened and offering quite copious dishes. I fell for the French toast with red fruits and a burrata!

615 W. Randolph St., Chicago, 60661, Etats-Unis
T°: +1 (312) 377 2002

Lunch Cruise on the Odyssey
A 2-hour cruise that gives you a good view of Chicago's architecture along the river while enjoying lunch. A guide describes the history of the most emblematic buildings. The Odyssey is a glass boat for a 360 view. Comfortable and modern.

455N Cityfront Plaza Drive, Chicago

Chicago at a glance:

77 colourful neighbourhoods
42 miles of lakefront with 26 beaches and 580 parks and green spaces
7,300 restaurants and over 65 breweries
46 museums
200 theatres

Located in Illinois, southwest of Lake Michigan, Chicago is the third largest metropolitan area in the United States, behind New York and Los Angeles, with a population of 9,498,716 in 2018 (2,705,994 in the central city). Taking advantage of a passage between the Mississippi and the Great Lakes, the city, which was still only a village in 1850, has taken full advantage of this strategic location and has continued to grow at the pace of its flourishing industry and commerce.