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Chicago is the place where the skyscraper was born. It is also the city of America's first black president, Barack Obama. Furthermore, Chicago played and plays an important part in the development of several types of music: from blues and jazz, to rock, house and hip-hop. In Chicago there is much to see and to do. Most visitors only go to the center (downtown), but if you have more time, you should explore the city's other districts. Only then you will get to know the "real" Chicago!
The city itself has about three million inhabitants, but in Chicago's urban area live almost 10 million people.
Chicago is the biggest city of what is called the Midwest: the northern, centrally situated American states. It is located on the southwest point of Lake Michigan, one of the four Great Lakes. Chicago River runs through the center of town.
Chicago grew big thanks to its strategic location: the agricultural and mining areas west of the city and the largest consumer market in the US east of the city. This was the reason why the city was the ideal location for the storage and transfer of goods and became a (rail)road hub. Also the construction of a channel between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi contributed to the city's development. Chicago is still an important stop on the east-west connections in the United States. That position as a transport hub is underlined by O'Hare International Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world.
Chicago is a large industrial center, manufacturing agricultural machinery, engines, machinery and furniture, for example. The food industry also plays an important role. The city is the second largest financial center in the United States (after New York). The city also hosts many large conferences and meetings.
O'Hare International Airport is one of the largest airports in the world and is located 29 kilometers northwest of the city. The airport is easily accessible by rental car: From downtown Chicago, follow the Kennedy Expressway, from the north and south the I-294, and from the west of Chicago the I-88. The exits to the airport are clearly indicated. Closer to the city is the smaller Midway International Airport, sixteen kilometers from the CBD. This airport is accessible via the I-55.
The ‘El’ (elevated train, a subway system, which runs mostly above ground) takes you almost everywhere in Chicago. There are seven lines and you can get free maps of this network at the stations (but also from Visitor Information Centers). Furthermore there are many buses in Chicago. It is very useful that the next stop is indicated on an electronic board inside the bus.
Driving in the center of Chicago is definitely not recommended. Downtown Chicago is very busy and parking costs a fortune. Also, the street plan of the city seems simple (a regular rectangular pattern) but appearances are deceiving. Many streets have multiple levels, which does not make it easy to find the right way. The center of town is easy to explore on foot. There is an extensive system of pedestrian tunnels and covered pedestrian bridges.
There is a wide range of hotels in Chicago, but prices are high in the center of town. Most (business) hotels are located in The Loop (the CBD) and near the Magnificent Mile (Chicago's famous shopping street). Midway and North Lincoln have midrange hotels. It is not a bad idea at all to choose a hotel, which is further away from the center, but remember to choose a hotel which is close to an ‘El’ station.
For more information about Chicago we recommend Google and the following sources: