View at the entrance of The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago (Ultimate Visitor’s Guide)

It’s no secret that Chicago is home to world-class attractions for arts and culture, and on the top of that list is the Art Institute of Chicago! This impressive Chicago museum located in Grant Park is one of the largest and oldest art museums in the world, and is also one of the best things to do in Chicago

Famous works like The Bedroom by Vincent van Gogh, American Gothic by Grant Wood, and so many others can be found here. The diverse collection spans centuries, different art periods and styles, and even geography. 

I’m a Windy City local who can attest that the Art Institute of Chicago is definitely worth adding to your Chicago itinerary!

Here’s what this guide covers (click to jump around):

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About the Art Institute of Chicago

Paintings and sculpture inside The Art Institute of Chicago
Left: “Paris Street; Rainy Day” by Gustave Caillebotte, right: “Little Dancer Aged Fourteen” by Edgar Degas

With 1.5 million annual visitors, it’s safe to say that the Art Institute of Chicago is one of the city’s top attractions, as well as its premier art museum. Founded in 1879, the Art Institute was created as both a museum and school for the fine arts. What once began as a modest gallery and academy in the late 19th century has now grown into a world-class art institution.

Today, Chicago’s School of the Art Institute is facing closure. However, the famous museum located in the heart of Chicago’s downtown Loop neighborhood is still going strong. After the MET in New York City, the Art Institute is actually the second-largest art museum in America. It features three floors, 264,000 total square feet, and countless wings of special exhibitions and galleries.

In addition to the museum’s expansive permanent collection, special exhibits are always rotating. Public events take place here often, too. The Art Institute is also home to the Ryerson & Burnham Library, which has a large and impressive collection for research. 

The Collection

The Bedroom painting by Vincent van Gogh displayed in The Art Institute of Chicago
“The Bedroom” by Vincent van Gogh

One of the reasons why the Art Institute of Chicago is such an outstanding museum is how well-rounded its collection is. Nearly 300,000 works of art belong to the museum’s permanent collection, and thousands of other works are on display. Artwork ranges from Impressionist to Renaissance, modern and contemporary, and everything in between. 

Impressionism

The Art Institute has one of the largest collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art. In fact, its size is second only to the Louvre. Famous works include Paris Street; Rainy Day, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, and The Bedroom. The museum features an extensive Monet collection, along with countless other Impressionist artists.

Modern and Contemporary Art

Another incredible wing of the museum is its largest expansion yet — the modern and contemporary art wing. Opened in 2009, it features diverse paintings, photography, and displays on architecture and design. Some highlights include work by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Cindy Sherman, and Willem de Kooning. 

The collection doesn’t stop with these, however. Throughout the permanent collection and rotating exhibits, you’ll find works from every part of the world. This includes American art, Egyptian art, African art, and art from Japan — just to name a few. There are also photo galleries and an extensive collection of ancient artifacts that span centuries.

Famous Works of Art

The American Gothic by Grant Wood displayed inside The Art Institute of Chicago
“American Gothic” by Grant Wood, located in the Arts of the Americas exhibit

There are far too many works of art to include in one article, but here are some notable ones worth mentioning:

  • A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat 
  • American Gothic by Grant Wood
  • The Bedroom by Vincent van Gogh
  • Paris Street; Rainy Day by Gustave Caillebotte 
  • The Old Guitarist by Pablo Picasso
  • Water Lilies by Claude Monet
  • The Child’s Bath by Mary Cassatt
  • Nighthawks by Edward Hopper 
  • Buddha Shakyamuni Seated in Meditation
  • Sky Above Clouds IV by Georgia O’Keeffe 
  • Hartwell Memorial Window by Agnes Northrop 

Getting To & Around the Art Institute of Chicago

People passing by the building of The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago is located in the heart of Grant Park, just south of Millennium Park, and east of Michigan Ave. 

One of the easiest ways to access the Art Institute is by taking the “L” train. For the Brown, Green, Orange, Pink, and Purple lines, stop at Adams/Wabash. For the Red and Blue lines, stop at Monroe. These stations will leave you within a few blocks of the museum. 

If you plan on driving in Chicago, note that Art Institute parking is available below Grant Park as well as through SpotHero. Rideshares are also an easy way to reach the museum. 

To get around this large museum, start your tour on the top floor, and work your way through the exhibits on each floor. This is one of my biggest museum hacks and it’ll help ensure you don’t miss anything important. By the time you make your way to the first floor, you’ll be right by the front doors and gift shop. 

Visiting Hours & Details

People inside the The Art Institute of Chicago
The wing for modern and contemporary art

🎟️ Entrance – $25 for adults; $19 for seniors, students, and teens; free for children ages 13 and under (other discounts are available for Illinois and Chicago residents).

🕛 Hours – 11 am – 5 pm daily, Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays

🚗 Parking – The underground parking garages below Grant Park are the most conveniently located parking areas. Advance parking with SpotHero Parking is also available. 

🚶 Tours – You can easily explore the Art Institute on your own, but if you want a more in-depth experience, I recommend taking a tour like this one:

Art Institute of Chicago Private Guided Tour with Skip-the-Line Ticket

🖥️ Website – The Art Institute Website

📱 Phone – (312) 443-3600

🗺️ Map It – 111 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603

Tips For Visiting the Art Institute

People admiring the gallery in the Painting and Sculpture of Europe section
A gallery in the section for Painting and Sculpture of Europe

Download the Art Institute Chicago app

The Art Institute of Chicago has a great app that’s free to download. On it, you’ll find a number of audio-guided tours as well as information about special exhibits and events. The best feature, however, is that many pieces around the museum have designated audio numbers written on their plaques. Type these numbers into the app for more in-depth information.

Wear good walking shoes

This art museum is huge, and exploring the museum (and Chicago in general) means a lot of walking and standing. To avoid aching legs and feet, add good walking shoes to your Chicago packing list.

Bring a sweater or jacket  

If you’re someone who tends to get cold, I recommend bringing a sweater or jacket.

Chicago CityPass

Use CityPass to get discounted rates to main Chicago attractions, including the Art Institute of Chicago. 

What’s Nearby the Art Institute?

The Grant Park under the clear blue sky
Southern lawn of Grant Park

🌳 Grant Park – The Art Institute of Chicago is technically located within Grant Park, so attractions like Cloud Gate in Millennium Park are located nearby. 

🌊 Lakefront Trail – Entrances to the Lakefront Trail are only a 10-15 minute walk from the Art Institute. 

🏛️ Museum Campus – Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, and the Field Museum of Natural History are all located here.

🏙️ Riverwalk – A 1.25-mile walking trail that goes along the Chicago River and through the heart of the city. Great for sightseeing. 

🛍️ Magnificent Mile – Chicago’s famous shopping district on N. Michigan Ave. Tons of well-known and high-end brands can be found here. 

FAQs About The Chicago Art Institute

Is the Art Institute of Chicago closing?

The Art Institute of Chicago is closing its School of the Art Institute campus. However, this is different from the Art Institute museum, which will remain open.

What is the Art Institute of Chicago famous for?

The Art Institute of Chicago is famous for its impressive permanent collection. Namely, it’s known for its Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artworks.

Is the Art Institute of Chicago worth visiting?

The Art Institute of Chicago is worth visiting. It may not be the best attraction for families with small children, but if you have any interest in art, this museum is a must-see. 

How long do I need to visit the Art Institute of Chicago?

You need at least 2-3 hours to visit the Art Institute of Chicago, although you can easily spend more. The museum itself is huge and has numerous wings and exhibits, so allow yourself ample time to see everything. 

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With so much to see and learn about, The Art Institute of Chicago is easily one of my favorite museums in Chicago. I hope you found this guide helpful and if you do visit, let us know which exhibit or artwork was your favorite!

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