Chicago Cultural Center

chicago cultural center
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The Chicago Cultural Center has one of the most stunning interiors of any Chicago building, yet it can be easily missed or forgotten about by residents and visitors alike. For residents, it often can be overlooked by inviting Millennium Park across the street, yet can be an wonderful respite from the crowds swarming Michigan Avenue outside. Just stroll through, grab a coffee at the building’s charming cafe, admire the beautiful architecture, and maybe even see what (free!) events are going on this month. If you’re a Chicago visitor you can view the location of the first Chicago Public Library and learn more about Chicago history, as well as view some fascinating art exhibitions.

Many people don’t realize that the building was first constructed in 1897 as the city’s first public library and Grand Army of the Republic Memorial to Civil War veterans. The Grand Army and the Chicago Public Library seals can be seen in various rooms throughout the building. The neoclassical building is actually designed as two separate wings — one to the North, one to the South. The Preston Bradley room boasts the world’s largest Tiffany dome at 38 feet with 30,000 pieces of glass. If entering on the Washington Street side, walk up the Grand Staircase made of white Carrara marble and turn midway to view the building’s replica of the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, designed to feel as if you were in the Italian city. This building is truly an architectural masterpiece, so keep your eyes open for beauty in every corner.

By 1984, the structure was simply no longer large enough to continue as the city’s main public library. That same year, under then Mayor Harold Washington, the administration created the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, which would coordinate free arts and cultural events for Chicagoans to be hosted at the Cultural Center. By 1991, then Mayor Daley decided that would become the buildings sole purpose and the Chicago Cultural Center as we know it today was born.

Today the Center hosts countless events to appeal to any cultural interest, such as free music, theater, film, dance, art, and family events. The space is a sought-after place for artists and musicians of all genres, as well as a popular spot for weddings and monumental events. Visit the Cultural Center website for a full listing of the building’s current list of events and exhibitions.

Whether you’re visiting Millennium Park across the street for the first time or are a lifelong Chicagoan looking to rediscover your city, take a visit to the Chicago Cultural Center. You’ll be surprised by how much time you spend there.

Basic Info:
Address: 78 E. Washington Street
Phone: (312) 744-6630

Getting There:
L: Brown Line (Randolph & Wabash)
Bus: #60
Metra: Randolph Street Metra
Driving: From Lake Shore Drive (South), exit at Randolph Street. From Lake Shore Drive (North), exit at Balbo & take a right at Michigan Avenue.

Admission Hours & Prices:
Group tours are offered Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 1:15pm
Monday-Thursday 8am-7pm
Friday 8am-6pm
Saturday 9am-6pm
Sunday 10am-6pm
Closed on all Chicago public holidays
Free every day!!


Tessa McLean

About Tessa McLean

There is just something about that feeling when you have been away — maybe for a weekend, a month, 6 months — and you’re driving into Chicago and that first glimpse of the city skyline appears. It just always makes me smile.

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