The Chicago Skyline is one of the most famous in the entire world. It’s filled with some of the tallest buildings in the United States with four of the eight tallest buildings in America. From the Sears (Willis) Tower to the unique Trump Tower, there are several amazing buildings found within the Chicago Skyline.

Along with the current Chicago skyline buildings, many new Chicago skyscrapers will be added to the skyline. Whether you’re seeking a home in Chicago and you want a great view of the skyline or you’re just curious about the skyscrapers found throughout Chicago, this guide will help. Let’s look at some of the Chicago skyline tallest buildings, most famous buildings, and the newest buildings.

Chicago Skyline Tallest Buildings

The tallest buildings in Chicago start with the Willis Tower, which was formerly the Sears Tower. This building measures 1,451 feet tall and has 110 floors. It was completed in 1974 and it’s the second tallest building in the United States.

When the Sears (Willis) Tower was originally created, it was the tallest building in the entire world. Today, it’s the 22nd-tallest building in the world.

Second, on the list of Chicago skyline tallest buildings is the Trump International Hotel and Tower at 1,388 feet tall and 98 floors. This building was completed in 2009 and it’s the 5th tallest building in the United States.

Third on the list is the Aon Center, which measures 1,136 feet tall with 83 floors. It was completed in 1973 and it’s the 7th tallest building in the United States. The Aon Center was formerly known as the Standard Oil Building and was once the tallest building in Chicago before the Willis (Sears) Tower was built.

The rest of the ten Chicago skyline tallest buildings include:

  • 4th – 875 North Michigan Avenue (John Hancock Center)
  • 5th – Franklin Center (formerly the AT&T Corporate Center
  • 6th – Two Prudent311 South Wacker Drive
  • 8th – NEMA Chicago (tallest apartment rental building in Chicago)
  • 9th – 900 North Michigan
  • 10th – Water Tower Place

Many of these buildings are well-known because of their large stature and their place within the Chicago skyline.

Famous Chicago Skyline Buildings

Chicago Skyscraper - Willis Tower

When it comes to famous Chicago skyline buildings, no building is more famous than the Sears (Willis) Tower. Since it was the tallest building in the entire world when it was completed, it became rather famous and still is one of the most famous buildings in the entire world.

While the fame of each building within the Chicago skyline is a bit subjective, next on the list is the John Hancock Center. Many see it as the second-tallest tower, even though it’s not as tall as the Aon Center or the Trump Tower. The design stands out a bit and it was completed back in 1969. In addition, the panoramic views from the skydeck are some of the best in the entire city.

When it was completed, the Chicago Board of Trade Building was the tallest in the city, back in 1930. However, this changed over the years, but the building still remains rather famous today. This building features a 30-foot-tall black and white statue of the Roman goddess Ceres on the roof and it’s found at the epicenter of the Chicago Financial District.

Rounding out the top ten when it comes to the famous Chicago skyline buildings is:

  • 4th – Aon Center
  • 5th – Tribune Tower
  • 6th – The Wrigley Building
  • 7th – Marina City
  • 8th – The Rookery Building
  • 9th – Lake Point Tower
  • 10th – Aqua Tower

While the Aqua Tower is rather young, it still makes the list of the famous Chicago skyline building dues to the wave design, which has already made it rather famous.

Chicago Skyline New Buildings

The older buildings certainly make up the majority of the Chicago skyline, but the skyline is always changing. Some buildings are currently under construction or in the planning phases that will likely add to the skyline of the Windy City.

Vista Tower is a new addition to the Chicago skyline and the Chicago skyscrapers at 1,191 feet tall with 101 floors. The building even includes an outdoor pool on the 47th floor.

While it’s not a new building, the addition to the Tribune Tower will make a difference for the Chicago skyline. This addition will boost the height of the Tribune Tower to 1,422 feet making it the second-tallest building within the skyline. It’s expected to be completed in 2023.

Another pair of tall buildings coming to the Chicago skyline, 400 Lake Shore Drive is expected to be completed in 2023. These new towers will stand 1,100 feet and 850 feet tall with terra cotta cladding and bay windows to pay homage to some of the most historic Chicago skyscrapers.

One Chicago (formerly One Chicago Square) will be another very tall building added to the skyline in 2022. Another two-tower complex, One Chicago will have a tower surpassing 1,000 feet tall and another around 600 feet tall.

NEMA is another addition found at 1200 S. Indiana Ave. and standing 887 feet tall. This building offers 76 total floors with a unique bundled-tube design similar to the Willis Tower.

Another project in the planning phases, Wolf Point South is expected to add a 950-foot tower, along with two other towers to the areas where the three Chicago River branches meet. A completion date for this project has yet to be announced.

A few other Chicago skyline new buildings coming soon include:

  • Bank of America Tower – 817 feet tall expected to open in 2020
  • 1000M – 832 feet tall expected to open in mid-2021
  • Lakeshore East ‘Parcel I’ – 950 feet tall expected to open in five to seven years
  • Salesforce Tower – 813 feet tall expected to open in early 2023
  • BMO Tower – 700 feet tall expected to open in 2022
  • The 78 – 950 feet tall no expected opening date yet

Along with these very tall buildings, there is a concept for a 1,700-foot-tall tower to take the place of the Thompson Center in the Chicago Loop. The design came from Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill design and has not made it past the conception stage. However, some have speculated that the tallest building in Chicago could be in the works and could take over this block-sized parcel.

History Behind Chicago Skyscrapers

Great Chicago Fire

The development of the Chicago skyline and the many skyscrapers found within the city started after the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. The downtown area was gutted and it was time to rebuild.

The 10-story Home Insurance Building from William LeBaron Janney started the rebuilding in 1885. This building was the first to use a steel-frame skeleton for support and it came in at about one-third the weight compared to conventional structures of the times.

Over the next few decades, real estate prices rose and so did the buildings throughout Chicago. Skyscrapers started to become a reality and the Chicago Skyline started to develop.

The 1920s was a huge boom decade for Chicago skyscraper with the Tribune Tower, the Chicago Board of Trade Building, and the Mather Tower all becoming a part of the early skyline. Another wave hit the city during the 1960s and 1970s with several new buildings coming to fruition including the Sears (Willis) Tower, the Aon Center, the John Hancock Center, and many others.

The third wave of buildings had started at the beginning of the 21st century and the market was very hot before the 2007-2008 financial crisis.

Today, the city of Chicago has started to go through the fourth wave of additions to the Chicago Skyline. With many new buildings completed and others under construction, the skyline is evolving once again.