10 Amazing Masterpieces at the Art Institute of Chicago

Be prepared to be wowed by 10 amazing masterpieces at the Art Institiute of Chicago!

Are you visiting Chicago and want to know the best things to view at this museum? I have visited the Art Institute of Chicago dozens of times to see amazing artwork and exhibitions and it never disappoints. This guide was prepared to reveal the most famous masterpieces so that you don’t miss a thing.

Welcome to our travel attraction spotlight on the Chicago Art Institute where you’ll find

  • The top 10 things to see in the museum galleries
  • Free days at the Art Institute of Chicago
  • The hours of operation
  • Where to stay near the museum
  • Things to do near the Art Institute of Chicago
  • Where to park near the museum

There are several famous works of art that you must see because the museum is most famous for these curated works of art.

The Top Things to See at the Art Institute of Chicago

The Thorne Miniature Rooms

The Art Institute of Chicago’s Thorne Miniature Rooms is a collection of model rooms with themed furnishings.

As you gaze into the miniature-themed rooms, you can also imagine what it is like to walk the floors and live inside the home.

Each room is exquisitely detailed from the rugs to the chandeliers. The interior design and architecture of England, France, and America make it difficult to decide on a favorite.

This exhibit features 68 miniature rooms created by a Chicago socialite in the early 1930s. The rooms are built to scale and are an incredible display of her imagination.

Location: Lower Level

Arts of the Americas

Nighthawks, by Edward Hopper

One wonders if this painting is of a real coffee shop, but it is not. The streets are clean, and the generous space in the art pulls your eyes to the characters.

Did you know the woman is the artist’s wife and was used many times in his works?

Location: Gallery 262

American Gothic, by Grant Wood

The art depicts farmers believed to be married. But did you know the artist meant to show a father and daughter?

Even more interesting is that the characters in the painting are the artist’s sister and his dentist.

The coolest thing is the house is still standing, and you can visit it in Eldon, Iowa.

Location: Gallery 263

Painting and Sculpture of Europe

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, by Georges Seurat

This famous work depicts a relaxed afternoon walk along the Seine River in Paris. There is also a small oil sketch of “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte — 1884″.

Location: Gallery 240

Two Sisters (On the Terrace), by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

This is one of the most beloved paintings of impressionism. The colors are vibrant and the facial expressions are a lovely portrayal.

Location: Gallery 240

art institute of chicago - The Basket of Apples

The Basket of Apples, by Paul Cézanne

If you haven’t seen the exhibit of Cezanne at the museum, hurry because it ends in September.

The collection is amazing and there is something different to be noticed in everything you view the artwork.

Location: Regenstein Hall

The Bedroom, by Vincent van Gogh

Location: Gallery 241

At the Moulin Rouge, by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Location: Gallery 242

Modern Art

The Old Guitarist, by Pablo Picasso

At first glance, you can feel sadness, pain, and despair. Pablos had an uncanny way of evoking emotion in this artwork.

It was created to express his sympathy for those who are facing adversity.

Location: Gallery 391

Chicago Stock Exchange Arch

Chicago is home to some of the most famous buildings, including this one. It is a remnant of a demolished Chicago Stock Exchange that you can see for free.

Location: Southeast Intersection of Monroe St. and S. Columbus Dr.

Free Admission at the Art Institute of Chicago

The museum offers free days to Illinois residents on select days of the year and proof of residence, like a driver’s license or state ID, is required.

Entry to the Art Institute of Chicago is also free to children under 14, Chicago teens under 18, Link and WIC cardholders, Illinois educators, and active duty military.  

In addition, admission for Illinois residents is on certain days throughout the year. In 2023, free entry is available Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays from January 9th through March 24th but you will still need to reserve the ticket. The following areas are available for viewing:

  • The Ryan Learning Center in the Modern Wing
  • The North and South Gardens (accessible from Michigan Avenue)
  • The Nichols Bridgeway connecting the museum to Millennium Park
  • The Bluhm Family Terrace on the 3rd floor of the west pavilion of the Modern Wing

General admission for out-of-state visitors is $25 (adults) and $19 (seniors, students, teens). Discounts are given to Illinois residents (about $3 per ticket).

However, if you are not a city or state resident, there is an opportunity for you to enter for free!  

Visitors may also enter for free with 1 (or up to 3) additional guests, depending on your place of employment.

Employees of corporate partners, like JPMorgan Chase, BMO Harris, and many others are eligible to visit the museum with no admission fee.  

If you don’t have business cards, take a printout of your directory profile, or bring your corporate credit card.

If your employer is not a partner, you’ll be surprised at the savings with a Chicago city pass.

When is the Art Institute of Chicago Open

The museum is open to the public on the following days.

  • Monday: 11:00 AM –5:00 PM
  • Tuesday – Wednesday: Closed
  • Thursday: 11:00 AM –8:00 PM
  • Friday – Sunday: 11:00 AM –5:00 PM

As a perk to members only, the museum is open from 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM for viewing.

The Art Institute of Chicago is closed on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and certain holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day).

The Best Restaurants Near the Art Institute of Chicago

You’ll find even more table service and quick service restaurants on Michigan Ave in the northern direction of the museum.

You can also have a nice dining experience at top restaurants on the Chicago Riverwalk.

If you are looking for places to eat near the Art Institute, there are cafes and a dining room at the museum but the hours of operation may be limited (check ahead of time).

You may find a few food trucks on Monroe St just east of Michigan Ave. However, for a nice Chicago neighborhood dining experience, we recommend these restaurants.  

Pizano’s Pizza | 61 E Madison St

Do you like a tasty thin-crust pizza? Then you will love Pizano’s Pizza. The pizza is outstanding (and is also Oprah’s favorite).

The food is delivered piping hot and in generous portions. Outdoor seating is available to enjoy city sights and sounds from the sidewalk.

Try the Calamari with marinara, it’s very tasty.

The Roanoke | 135 W. Madison

The Roanoke is an upscale tavern worth visiting. The decor has high-end finishes and is dimly lit.

The mood is calm from the moment you enter. Try the macaroni & cheese which has a delicious made-from-scratch cheddar sauce.

You’ll also love the perfectly cooked seared scallops with mushroom & spinach risotto. Several flavors are infused into the dishes.

Key lime pie and panna cotta are great dessert choices. They also have creative mixed drinks like the Old Fashioned that taste like Cracker Jacks.

Cindy’s Roof Top | 12 S. Michigan

This is a very popular Chicago restaurant known for its great views of the Bean, Lake Michigan, and Grant Park.

Stop at the bar for drinks and head to the balcony for the sights. The food is just as amazing.

Make reservations in advance (at least one month) because Cindy’s draws a huge crowd and wait times can be long, but you won’t be disappointed.

The open-air, clear glass ceiling and spacious interior will also catch your eye.

Exchequer Restaurant & Pub | 226 S. Wabash

Enjoy classic American foods like an award-winning Chicago-style deep dish pizza, baby back ribs, steaks, chops, fresh seafood, and a variety of super salads and sandwiches at Exchequer Restaurant & Pub.

The interior has an old Chicago ambiance. Rumor has it that the restaurant was a “speak-easy” patronized by Al Capone.

There is also a good beer list to choose from.

Best Hotels Near the Art Institute of Chicago

No matter the time of year, staying near the Art Institute will not disappoint because you’ll be within walking distance of shops, sights, and restaurants. And because you’ll be within a 15 minute walk to the lakefront, it will be easy to enjoy Lake Michigan.

Silversmith Hotel Chicago Downtown

Hampton Inn Majestic Chicago Theatre District

The Palmer House, a Hilton Hotel

The Congress Plaza Hotel

Things to do Near the Art Institute of Chicago

Things to Know Before You Go

  • The museum is privately owned and no videos are allowed. Many visitors are not aware of this rule and thus, the unintended does happen. Photographs are allowed, but tripods, selfie sticks, and flash photography are discouraged. And some works of art are not allowed to be photographed.
  • Parking at the Palmer House garage is reasonable. They have early morning specials for $17 with tax included. You must enter between 4:00 AM and 8:00 AM and exit by 7:00 PM from Monday through Friday. There is a four-hour minimum stay and the address is 55 E. Monroe St. You can have breakfast in Chicago, take a stroll on Michigan Ave, then circle back to visit the museum!
  • Another good parking option is the Grant Park South garage. Their early bird option is $17. You must enter between 7:00 AM and 10:00 AM and exit by 7:00 PM from Monday through Friday. The address is 325 S. Michigan Ave.
  • No on-site restaurants are available. They have been closed since the start of Covid and will not reopen until 2023.
  • Admission includes entry to the Modern Wing – Renzo Piano
  • Virtual tours and events hosted by the museum can be viewed online. 

Final Thoughts on The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the most highly regarded art museums in the world. It is home to an impressive collection of art from many different periods and cultures, as well as European paintings, Impressionism, Japanese art, and sculptures.

We’ve compiled a few more resources that will help you plan an awesome stay in Chicago.

If you are planning a trip to Chicago, be sure to include a visit to the Art Institute on your itinerary. You’ll be glad you did!

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  1. Lisa | Waves and Cobblestones says:

    I do love Impressionist art — these are some lovely examples. And I wish I’d had the pizza restaurant recommendation before my last trip to Chicago!

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      I am a huge fan of impressionism as well and love visiting the museums. If you have any questions before your next trip, please let me know and I’d be happy to assist!

  2. Love this post. I try to visit Chicago a couple of times per year and the Art Institute is ALWAYS a stop for me. I love all the paintings you recommended. I also would recommend Chagall’s stained glass wall and the sculpture gallery. The AIC’s temporary exhibitions are also always outstanding. Thanks for the awesome restaurant suggestions nearby. I will definitely try Pizano’s Pizza on my next visit.

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      Oh yes, I love Chagall’s windows too, and Paris Street; Rainy Day, by Gustave Caillebotte. Maybe I should change it to top 20 and add a few more 🙂 Thanks for reading. I think you will REALLY like Pizano’s or Cindy’s Rooftop.

  3. I have been to Chicago a few times, but have not yet visited the Art gallery. I do enjoy this time period of artwork and Chagall would be top of the list to see his work.