University of Chicago Walking Tour, Chicago

University of Chicago Walking Tour (Self Guided), Chicago

Founded in 1890, the University of Chicago is among the world’s most prestigious educational institutions. As of 2020, the University’s students, faculty and staff have included 100 Nobel laureates, giving it the fourth-most affiliated Nobel laureates of any university.

Set in the heart of Chicago’s famous eclectic neighborhood, Hyde Park, the campus is worth a visit as it offers a wonderful chance to walk amongst impressive buildings that range from Academic Gothic forms to Neoclassical to the latest in contemporary design – all making for an interesting experience as you stroll around, bumping shoulders with students and faculty.

While the Midway Plaisance is a favorite destination for biking, walking, sitting and studying in the summer (or skating in the winter), you will want to stop by several landmarks like the Rockefeller Chapel – the University’s official “church”, glorious as ever with its high ceiling and huge organ inside; the Oriental Museum, housing rare (and huge) Near Eastern artifacts; the architecturally significant, painstakingly restored Robie House; the glass-domed Mansueto Library and the Henry Moore sculpture on the site of the first sustained nuclear reaction (next to the Regenstein Library).

Most of these sites (and more!) are free or by suggested donation, so give yourself time to take in everything at your own pace, guided by our self-guided walking tour.
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University of Chicago Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: University of Chicago Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Chicago (See other walking tours in Chicago)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 14
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 Km or 1.6 Miles
Author: ashley
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • University of Chicago Law School
  • Midway Plaisance
  • Rockefeller Chapel
  • William Rainey Harper Memorial Library
  • Cobb Lecture Hall
  • Main Quadrangle
  • Oriental Institute Museum
  • Robie House
  • Quadrangle Club
  • Tower Group and Hutchinson Commons
  • Regenstein Library and Mansueto Library
  • Snell–Hitchcock Hall
  • Nuclear Energy Sculpture
  • Gerald Ratner Athletics Center
University of Chicago Law School

1) University of Chicago Law School

The University of Chicago Law School has been part of the life of the University since 1902. Until the 1950s, the law school was inside Stuart Hall. The present building was designed by architect Eero Saarinen, who also designed what is now John F. Kennedy International Airport and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

This building saw its completion in 1959 and underwent a renovation in the 1990s. The Arthur Kane Center for Clinical Legal Education was part of this addition, as well as additional classroom and seminar room space. One of the highlights in the area outside the building is a reflecting pool, accented with Antoine Pevsner-designed sculptures.

Public art is also a major highlight inside this building. A-COW-demia, a fiberglass cow, was initially part of a 1999 public art installation. The Law School Series by Judy Ledgerwood consists of four paintings in a signature landscape style.
Midway Plaisance

2) Midway Plaisance

Midway Plaisance, which measures a mile long, connects to Jackson and Washington Park. This park passes through the southern part of the University of Chicago campus, offering an impressive view of the historical buildings. Trees line the whole walking area of the Midway and the park features landscaping that helps enhance the grounds.

This Frederick Law Olmsted-designed park is adjacent to several essential parts of the University of Chicago campus. Important parts of the campus include the Graham School of Liberal and Professional Studies, Harris School of Public Policy, School of Social Service Administration, and University of Chicago Law School.

Some of the art you might find in the park includes a statue of botanist and zoologist Carl Linnaeus, as well as a statue of the Knight of Blanik, from the Czech legend. This park area also hosts ice skating and soccer facilities, using state-of-the-art design.
Rockefeller Chapel

3) Rockefeller Chapel

The Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago is host to regular worship services, including interfaith services, as well as musical and other special programs. This chapel is constructed of stone, was designed by Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, and completed in 1928. The school's founder, John D. Rockefeller, gave the chapel as a gift to the University.

Sculptures representing student life adorn the outside of the chapel, as well as key religious figures. Pastel stained glass windows help take advantage of natural lighting. A focal point of the chapel is its tower, accessed by climbing 271 steps. The tower boasts impressive views and hosts a carillon, which is often used for concerts. Bond Chapel, within the main building, is a popular location for artistic, as well as musical events.

Choral performances are popular at the chapel, often featuring music representing the traditional Church seasons. The choir's section leaders serve as artists in residence, who frequently perform at special events.
William Rainey Harper Memorial Library

4) William Rainey Harper Memorial Library

The William Rainey Harper Memorial Library dates back to 1912 and features impressive Gothic architecture. Some of the inspiration behind the library's design comes from Christ Church College and Magdalen College at Oxford, as well as King's College in Cambridge. Stone carvings featuring the coats of arms from several prominent colleges and universities are important design features.

One of the highlights of this library, due to its size, is the availability of research centers in addition to its regular collections. East and South Asian collections are available for visitors to browse. There is also a collection visitors can research that focuses on maps.

In addition to books and related print materials, the library also hosts a collection of art. Some of the types of exhibits featured include the University's history, Black history and culture, ideological differences between North and South Korea, Soviet children's books, and music from the Gay Nineties to the Depression.
Cobb Lecture Hall

5) Cobb Lecture Hall

Cobb Lecture Hall features the Gothic architecture that makes much of the University of Chicago's campus stand out. This hall is named after Silas Cobb, one of the school's earliest benefactors. The lecture hall has been in use since 1892, offering a chapel and recitation hall in addition to the classrooms and offices that account for much of the space.

The entrance facing the quadrangle offers the most noteworthy Gothic design. Visitors touring the interior will notice the Chicago School influences, which are mostly utilitarian in nature. There are also Gothic influences that you can see in the building's design, mostly dating back to the building's original construction.

Today, the lecture hall's focus is on humanities and the social sciences. The Renaissance Society hosts a contemporary art museum in this building. Visitors can also visit the Center for the Study of Languages during their time visiting the lecture hall, which is an ideal place to learn more about language evolution.
Main Quadrangle

6) Main Quadrangle

The Main Quadrangle at the University of Chicago features Henry Ives Cobb design. Some of the noteworthy buildings that surround this quadrangle include the Kent Chemical Laboratory with its octagonal design and Ryerson Hall, which features an observatory. There are 215 acres of green space that students and visitors will enjoy.

The American Public Garden Association designated the quadrangle as a Botanic Garden in 1997. There are a dozen gardens that help add to the green space, with donor sponsorships helping to keep these areas in top condition. The Dan Hall Garden is one of the most popular gardens in this area, creating a nice place for contemplation and relaxation.

The landscaped areas serve as a contrast to the Gothic buildings, providing beautiful displays all year. During the spring and summer months, the flowers, trees, and shrubs in bloom are always worth seeing. The fall colors are vibrant, and the quadrangle looks impressive with a coating of snow.
Oriental Institute Museum

7) Oriental Institute Museum

Oriental Institute Museum, founded in 1919 is housed by an Art-Deco building. It is a showcase of the history, art and archeology of the ancient Near East. The museum features major collections of antiquities from Egypt, Mesopotamia, Iran, Syria, Palestine, and Anatolia. Visitors can explore such exhibits as the New Egyptian Gallery, the New Persian Gallery, and the New Mesopotamian Gallery.

Why You Should Visit:
While rather small compared to other institutes in Chicago, it is packed with beautiful and unique pieces. Admission is free and tour guides are offered as well.

Located in the Hyde Park area so you'll have a variety of restaurants to choose from.

Opening Hours:
Tue, Thu-Sun: 10am-5pm; Wed: 10am-8pm
Robie House

8) Robie House

Robie House is a Chicago home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. A distinctive fact about this house is that it also enjoys UNESCO World Heritage Site status. This home was built in 1910 and exemplifies Wright's Prairie architectural style. All of the elements, including the furniture, are interconnected in a dynamic design.

The living and dining area make up one room, in an open plan. A chimney divides the living and dining areas. Large windows let in natural light to illuminate the space. The leaded glass on the doors helps provide an extra bit of color that goes nicely with the woods used in the interior design.

Some of the exterior highlights at this house include terraces and balconies that have the effect of blending the interior and exterior spaces. Guided tours are available to show you both the exterior and interior of the house. There are also in-depth tours that delve into particular parts of the house's history.

Operation hours: Thursday - Monday: 10:00 am - 3:00 pm
Quadrangle Club

9) Quadrangle Club

The Quadrangle Club is a membership club at the University of Chicago. It has a full-service dining room, a bar, several lounges, and sleeping quarters for members and/or their guests. It has 17 sleeping rooms, including 5 suites with an extra sitting room. It is one of the few locations in the city of Chicago that has green clay tennis courts.

The Quadrangle Club was created in 1893 as a social club for the faculty of the newly established University of Chicago. It was to be a place to gather for "study, socialization, and especially communication," and from its inception was open to members of the community as well as to faculty. It originally occupied a suite in the Barry Hotel, located at 59th Street between Dorchester and Blackstone.

In 1916, to make way for Rockefeller Chapel, the Quadrangle Club agreed to relocate to the present site. Howard Van Doren Shaw designed the new building, which opened on December 21, 1922. Shaw designed a building resembling an English country house, with large open spaces and—on the second floor, facing the tennis courts—abundant natural light. In the summer of 1929, the old club house was moved (in two pieces) two blocks west to 956–960 East 58th Street, where it was renamed Ingleside Hall.

The Quadrangle Club enjoyed a golden age during the 1920s and 1930s when it functioned as a popular gentleman's club offering billiards, a card room, and stimulating lunchtime conversation. The "Round Table", a lunchtime tradition in which professors from diverse fields gathered to share ideas, flourished.

As World War II came to an end the Quad Club found itself redefined by the changes in the times. There was pressure to admit all faculty, including women professors. It lost many amenities of the gentleman's club as financial pressures forced rooms to be taken over for catering affairs.

The Club has always kept its dues and fees low to accommodate faculty members with modest incomes, and catering helped to make up the inevitable deficits. While the Quadrangle Club is the University of Chicago's faculty club, university staff, parents, and neighbors are welcome to join. Roughly one quarter of the club's membership are not University of Chicago faculty or staff.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Tower Group and Hutchinson Commons

10) Tower Group and Hutchinson Commons

Tower Group and Hutchinson Commons include buildings dating back to 1903 in the quadrangle's northeast corner. These buildings use details also found in Christ Church College in Oxford, England. The Mitchell Tower that makes up part of this grouping is a replica of a 1509 tower from Magdalen College. Another building that is part of this group, Reynolds Clubhouse, is modeled on a building from St. John’s College built during the 15th century.

One building that is part of this group, Mandel Hall, underwent a renovation in 2013. Initially, this building was an assembly hall and chapel, still retaining many of the elements from both of these uses. Today, the hall serves as a location for professional and student performances.

Hutchinson Commons is currently used as a dining hall and lounge for university students and professors. The interiors of all the buildings are spacious, with a distinctly Old World feel. There is also a courtyard outside Hutchinson Commons that is an inviting place to visit. Visitors looking for a place to relax and enjoy what is going on will enjoy this area.
Regenstein Library and Mansueto Library

11) Regenstein Library and Mansueto Library

The Joseph Regenstein Library, commonly known as "The Reg" is the main library of the University of Chicago, named after industrialist and philanthropist Joseph Regenstein. It is one of the largest repositories of books in the world and is noted for its brutalist architecture.

The library stands on the former grounds of Stagg Field. In 1965, the Joseph Regenstein Foundation gave $10 million to the University for construction of the library. It is built out of grooved limestone, which, from a distance, resembles concrete. University tour guides often remark on the resemblance between each of the elements of the building's facade and the fore edge of a book.

Today, the "Reg" is the flagship institution of The University of Chicago Library system, which is considered among the top five in the world for breadth and depth of material, and receives high marks from users. The Regenstein Library is a popular social space for the University of Chicago college students. It is also the location of the Special Collections Research Center, which houses rare book collections, manuscripts, and university archives.

Located next to The Reg is the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library, designed by Chicago-based architect Helmut Jahn, consists of a glass-domed reading room, under which lies an automated storage and retrieval system stretching fifty feet underground. It allows the library to maintain physical copies of materials available online while creating space within the book stacks to accommodate approximately 20 years of new print acquisitions.

Mansueto Library became the recipient of several architectural accolades in the years following its dedication.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Snell–Hitchcock Hall

12) Snell–Hitchcock Hall

Amos Jerome Snell Hall and Charles Hitchcock Hall, more commonly known as Snell–Hitchcock (colloquially Snitchcock), make up a residence hall at the University of Chicago. The dorm is on the northwest corner of the University's main quadrangles at the corner of 57th St. and Ellis Avenue. It is connected via emergency exits to Searle Chemistry Laboratory. Built in 1892 (Snell) and 1901 (Hitchcock), they are the oldest residence halls still in use as such on the university's campus.

Hitchcock was built in 1901, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It is built in a Collegiate Gothic style, like Snell and most of the University of Chicago's campus, but has many Prairie School elements, such as stone corn husks instead of gargoyles and flat-roofed instead of gabled dormers.

Built in 1892, Snell is half the size of Hitchcock, housing approximately 50 residents on four floors. It has the distinction of being one of the first women's dorms on a coeducational campus. In the beginning, it only housed women for two quarters; once the intended women's dorm opened, Snell was turned over to the men. All the rooms are singles, except for a two-room suite on the second floor. Three of the four floors are of mixed sexes, while the third floor is women-only.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Nuclear Energy Sculpture

13) Nuclear Energy Sculpture

Nuclear Energy is a bronze sculpture by Henry Moore on the campus of the University of Chicago at the site of the world's first nuclear reactor, Chicago Pile-1. The first human-made self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction was created here on December 2, 1942.

Nuclear Energy is on Ellis Avenue, between the Max Palevsky West dormitory and the Mansueto Library in the Hyde Park community area of Chicago. It sits on the very spot where the Manhattan Project team built a nuclear reactor to produce the first self-sustaining controlled nuclear reaction, under the now-demolished west stands of the old Stagg Field.

The sculpture was erected for and dedicated at the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the initiation of the first self-sustaining controlled nuclear reaction by Enrico Fermi on December 2, 1942. It was unveiled at precisely 3:36 p.m. on December 2, 1967.

The site of the first nuclear reaction was designated as a National Historic Landmark on February 18, 1965. Along with three other Chicago locations, it was one of the original places included when the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) launched on October 15, 1966. The site was named a Chicago Landmark on October 27, 1971.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Gerald Ratner Athletics Center

14) Gerald Ratner Athletics Center

The Gerald Ratner Athletics Center is a $51 million athletics facility within the University of Chicago campus in the Hyde Park community area on the South Side of Chicago. The building was named after University of Chicago alumnus, Gerald Ratner. The architect of this suspension structure that is supported by masts, cables and counterweights was César Pelli, who is best known as the architect of the Petronas Towers.

The Ratner Athletics Center was approved for use in September 2003. The facility includes, among other things: a competition gymnasium, a multilevel fitness facility, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, a multipurpose dance studio, meeting room space, and athletic department offices. It serves as home to several of the university's athletic teams and has hosted numerous National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III regional and University Athletic Association conference championship events.

The Ratner Center has an award-winning design that substitutes a complex external mast and counterweight system for interior support devices to allow for large open-space areas inside the building. Cesar Pelli & Associates Inc. was credited as the design architect and OWP/P was the architect of record.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.

Walking Tours in Chicago, Illinois

Create Your Own Walk in Chicago

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Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
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Travel Distance: 2.7 Km or 1.7 Miles
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Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.0 Km or 0.6 Miles
Chicago Old Town Walking Tour

Chicago Old Town Walking Tour

Settled in 1850 by German immigrants, Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood is a popular destination for locals and visitors who cater to the entertainment venues, restaurants, pubs, coffee shops and boutiques – all of which have turned an area once referred to as the “Cabbage Patch” into an attraction that rivals Navy Pier, Wrigley Field and the Magnificent Mile.

Start your Old Town walking...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 Km or 1.6 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

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