The Loop is downtown Chicago’s business and financial district. In fact, it’s the neighborhood where the modern skyscraper was born. You’ll go right inside this spectacular hub of history on the Loop Interior Architecture Walking Tour from Chicago Detours. This 2-hour, 0.5-mile walking tour brings you into magnificent interior spaces and the Loop’s mysterious underground Pedway.
The tour is offered to the public on Monday at 11am, Tuesday at 10:30am, Wednesday at 11am, Thursday at 10am, Friday at 10am & 3pm, Saturday at 11am & 1:30pm, and Sunday at 1:30pm. You can also book the tour for private groups of nine or more.
Most tours of the Loop, like the famous Chicago river boat cruises, only let you gaze at the outside of buildings. That’s a great first step, but you have to go inside to get a complete understanding of Chicago’s historic architecture. This tour weaves through buildings and secret shortcuts while staying almost entirely indoors, which makes it great for any kind of weather.
A Church Inside a Skyscraper
One of the major highlights of the tour is a church tucked inside a downtown skyscraper. The First United Methodist Church inside the Chicago Temple building is the very definition of a hidden highlight. The congregation actually pre-dates the city of Chicago’s 1837 incorporation. They’ve gone through a succession of buildings since then, including floating their original log cabin sanctum across the Chicago River.
Their current home, the Chicago Temple, is a Neo-Gothic skyscraper built by the congregation nearly a century ago. Based purely on height, its 560-foot-tall spire makes the Chicago Temple the tallest church building in the world. The sanctuary on the ground floor is a beautiful space full of architectural tricks and nods to their diverse history. Stained glass windows and carved Gothic woodwork make it feel like you’re half a world away from the modern office towers of the Loop.
Sparkling Tiffany Mosaics
Later on, you’ll step inside the glorious Gilded Age architecture of the Chicago Cultural Center. This landmark building, which sits directly across from Millennium Park on Michigan Avenue, dates to 1896. It was built to house a memorial hall for the Grand Army of the Republic, the organization for Union army veterans during the Civil War, and the Chicago Public Library. Both institutions moved out decades later and the building is today a sparkling jewel of Chicago’s architectural heritage.
Inside, you’ll explore Preston Bradley Hall, a stunning chamber filled with shimmering mosaics and a soaring stained glass dome designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany. The space was once the checkout desk for the Chicago Public Library. Today you might stumble across a concert, lecture, children’s performance, or a room full of people gaping at the beauty all around them.
Going Underground in the Pedway
The Pedway is the little-known system of tunnels which zigzags below the buildings and plazas of the Loop. Even many locals are surprised to discover its size and scope when they’ve come on the Loop Interior Architecture Walking Tour. These underground passages run to nearly five miles in total length, though the route is not always a straight shot. While the tour doesn’t explore the entirety of the tunnels, you’ll receive a printed map of the Pedway as a gift when the tour concludes.