Chicago has iconic sights — “The Bean,” the Skydeck, the Loop — but the lesser-known enclaves show the city’s real character and appeal. These three hottest neighborhoods manifest the most enticing parts of the Windy City.
Named one of Forbes’ coolest neighborhoods around the world, Pilsen doesn’t disappoint. This southwest side neighborhood fosters cutting-edge culture and art, continuing the legacy left behind by its Eastern European and Mexican immigrants as well as artists and students in the ’70s. Pilsen is home to some of the best museums in the city, including the National Museum of Mexican Art, vibrant public art and murals, and performance venues such as Thalia Hall. You’ll easily come across good Mexican street food and trendy bars (check out Punch House).
Near West Side
As the birthplace of Chicago’s most beloved cultural landmarks (Chicago-style hot dog, the deep dish pizza, the blues), the Near West Side maintains a trendy and high-spirited atmosphere. It is home to famed Little Italy, Greek Town, and lively Maxwell Street. Consequently, many refer to the Near West Side as the “premiere culinary strip” of Chicago. Some notable spots include “Top Chef” winner Stephanie Izard’s tapas restaurant, Girl & the Goat, as well as Au Cheval, which touts as the city’s best burger. You can also head to United Center, the largest U.S. arena, or the UIC Pavilion for sports games, musical acts, or cultural events.
Regret not studying abroad in Europe? Live in this West Side neighborhood to make up for it. Though only about half a square mile, Ukrainian Village acts as a shopping center, hipster hub, and cultural heart of Chicago. Many Eastern European families still live here (having taken root at the start of the 20th century), so storefronts all along Chicago Avenue are written in Ukrainian. Grocery stores, churches, delis, all of it. You’ll be fully immersed in the community’s traditions and fall in love. In recent years, modern restaurants and dive bars have been interspersed to diversify the neighborhood even more. The Italian eatery, A Tavola, and the BYOB diner, Bite Café, are some local favorites. If you’re looking for entertainment, a staple venue for music and cheap beer, The Empty Bottle, is still going strong 20 years later.