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Five Reasons Chicago Became My Favourite US City

As of lately, if you don’t have a great interest in Chicago, you haven’t had much to read on my blog. Now I still have many posts to write about the „Second City“ of the US, but I don’t want to bore you and instead keep diversion on my blog. Because of this, I am going to mix it up a little again in the future. I have some great posts in store. Nonetheless, I feel like my Chicago-adventures deserve an all-embracing post that rounds it all up for now. So today I will tell you the five reasons why Chicago quickly stole my heart and became my favourite city of all the ones that I have visited in the US.

1. Walkability and Public Transport

The L, Chicago, IllinoisMy most influential US experience, as I have mentioned, has been in El Paso, Texas. In El Paso it is virtually impossible to walk anywhere at all, and I was never allowed to use public transport for my hostmum’s fear of someone mugging me or the likes. In Chicago, not only are the sidewalks, but with the cta, Chicago Transit Authority, there is a magnificent system of metros (called the L, short for ELevated) and busses that will make every part of the city easily accessible. Convenient day-, three-day- and seven-day-passes make it a joy to move about the city. Apart from that, a lot of the stations on the L show the charms of days long past with their wooden platforms and cast-iron banisters.

Banisters at L stop Western (Blue Line), Chicago, Illinois Chicago is easily accessible in the most convenient, healthy and environment friendly ways. What’s not to love.

2. Architecture

Skyline, Chicago, IllinoisMy readers know that I am a fan of the medieval red brick beauty of Northern European Hanseatic cities. But Chicago has shown to me what urban beauty in a large metropolis can truly mean. Skyscrapers don’t have to be glass boxes without creative form or shape. They come in neo gothic, neo classicist, and in round, triangular, and square shapes in all creative combinations. I might not want to live on the 57th floor of any given building, but those skyscrapers are sure impressive. And they can be, I think I have mentioned it before, funnily reminiscent of social realist architecture in Eastern Europe.

Magnificent Mile, Chicago, Illinois

Chicago has opened my eyes to a new artform – modern architecture. Thank you!

3. The Greenery

Lincoln Park Lily Pond, Chicago, IllinoisChicago has a seemingly infinite number of parks. It starts by the great ones downtown, Grant Park and Lincoln Park, that stretch along the entire coastline of Lake Michigan, and continues in uncountable small neighbourhood parks in every part of town. A lot of them have lagoons that add a freshness and wideness to the urbanity you find downtown. They are lively places where people from different communities seem to come together to have a good time, and people watching is a wonderful pastime here.

Humboldt Park, Chicago, IllinoisChicago is not only loud and crazy in its urbanity, but it provides spaces of retreat in its midst.

4. Shopping

Coffee and Tea Exchange, Chicago, IllinoisDon’t get me wrong, I am definitely not the girl who goes abroad to shop. In all honesty, I don’t even like shopping very much at home, and it is beyond me why someone would spend precious time in a foreign place with an activity as tedious as running through shops that look the same in all the Western world anyway. But… when there’s shops like in Chicago, it is different. There are unique places like the above Coffee and Tea Exchange that feels like what in German would be called a Kolonialwarenladen – one of the general shops of yore that would mainly sell items from the colonies. And there is an amazing vintage shop culture for ANYthing – clothes, records, and of course, books!

Myopic Bookstore, Chicago, IllinoisChicago puts the atmosphere, the individuality and the fun back into shopping for me. I haven’t had this much fun browsing through items in a long time.

5. The Lake

Lake Michigan Marina, Wilmette, IllinoisFinally, Chicago’s biggest selling point to a water girl like me is bound to be Lake Michigan. Being from Hamburg, I appreciate water in a city more than anything. Being at the shore of a river, a lake or an ocean clears my head and makes me happy. Usually I wouldn’t have thought that a lake would really do it for me – too static. But Lake Michigan is different because it feels like the sea. Its colours change between a Baltic grey and a Mediterranean bright blue, it has angry big waves and quiet glassy clear days. If you get out of the immediate city, you will come across beaches that are well worth a holiday.

Lake Michigan, Wilmette, IllinoisI appreciate Chicago’s urbanity, its excitement and all the convenience that it has to offer. But the beauty of it is that it doesn’t only offer that, but also the opportunity to easily get away from it all and feel yourself in nature. It seems that the city has it all.

What about you? Have you ever been to Chicago? Does it seem like somewhere you would want to go? Have you got a favourite city in the US?

16 Comments

  1. Glad to hear you enjoyed Chicago’s architecture! They practically invented skyscrapers and their skyline is incredible because of it.

    Chicago is also one of my favorite cities 🙂 And it’s really no comparison to El Paso :-p

    • bridgekeeper

      September 1, 2013 at 6:19 pm

      Haha, no, El Paso doesn’t compare. The architecture was amazing. I never would have thought I could like it so much!

  2. I fell in love with Chicago 31 years ago – for exactly the same reasons. Good to know tht it didn’t change in these aspects. We stayed with a host somewhere in the quite urban north of the city and he had a vegetable garden in some kind of guerilla urban gardening project. There was an empty block and people just moved in and started gardening. I remember his delicious spaghetti squash.

    • bridgekeeper

      September 1, 2013 at 6:22 pm

      🙂 that sounds wonderful, Dorothea! I stayed in the North too. I saw lots of garden places on rooftops from aboard the L, I could imagine that Chicago would be a place that probably has a lot of subversive cool artsy culture like that. I’m sure much has changed in the last 31 years though…

  3. Just a minor point, but in what dimension are you saying that Chicago is the USA’s second city? If it is by size (population), Chicago is just third, as Los Angeles comes ahead of it, but behind New York City.

    And in answer to your question, US cities don’t beguile me as much, with the exception of Boston. I loved it, and perhaps is the only city in the US that I could see myself living in and being proud of that fact. It is walkable, public transportation exists, and there’s plenty of cultural and historical sights that are available. Plus, I like the general openness and liberalism that is evident in its citizens.

    • bridgekeeper

      September 1, 2013 at 6:31 pm

      Hey Jeruen, I had heard Chicago referred to as the Second City many times. I just always assumed it was something to do with the cultural offer by comparison with NYC. Your comment made me look it up and I read on wikipedia that Chicago was referred to as that for a long time when it actually was 2nd in size – before LA had outgrown it. Boston is definitely on my list. I hear it is also quite „European“ 🙂

  4. Chicago is one of the few places that I’ve ever visited and thought „I could live here“ immediately. It’s definitely an amazing city! I need to go back and try some deep dish pizza and check out the art museum!

    • bridgekeeper

      September 1, 2013 at 6:32 pm

      Hey Aryn, yes, I unfortunately missed out on the museums – the weather was just too nice. I only did the Polish Museum of America, but that is due to my very personal interests. Deep Dish Pizza was amazing! 🙂 I might do my first ever foodie post on Chicago.

  5. So glad you had a good time in Chicago! 🙂 You listed some of my favorite things about the city, incl. the lake and architecture. In my experience it’s also sports, food, and coffee isn’t bad either… 😉

    • bridgekeeper

      September 1, 2013 at 6:33 pm

      Oh the coffee is amazing 🙂 I went back to Inteligencja many times after we met up there 😉 so glad you enjoyed my post about YOUR city!

  6. I think I might like Chicago just as much as you. I definitely want to return to the States, having only visited NYC and DC, and Chicago, Miami, California state and Seattle are the four top places I want to see. I love the whole Art Deco vibe of the northern cities.

  7. I know what you mean about public transit and walkability, it’s something I wish we had more of in El Paso. With new leadership it’s coming around. I assure you the likelihood of a mugging is pretty low. Check our the new buses being installed, it’s the closet we can get to a light rail without the massive infrastructure expense. http://www.elpasotimes.com/news/ci_23481917/bus-rapid-transit-system-ready-break-ground

    • bridgekeeper

      September 5, 2013 at 10:10 am

      That is looking good. I am sure lots has changed since 13 years ago down in good old El Paso! I’m sure in due time I will get to go there again and check it out. It was so lovely to see you in Chicago, Jon!! xx

  8. Looks like Chicago is becoming more and more of a tourist city. Glad to see that, although I’m more into New York. It’s been a while since I’ve been to the US but the next time I visit, I’m pretty sure that I’ll be heading to San Francisco 🙂 Oh and nice post, pretty cool pictures too 🙂

    • bridgekeeper

      September 29, 2013 at 8:30 pm

      Thank you Simon! There’s plenty more interesting places to see in the States… I’ve been to SF before, but I was quite young. One day I’m sure I’ll have another chance. After all, the Golden Gate Bridge MUST go into my bridge collection on the blog 🙂

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