It has been estimated that there are more than 6,000 restaurants in Chicago, representing just about every cuisine across every price range imaginable. Visitors can experience eating an authentic Ethiopian meal or a true south Goan curry under the shadow of the Willis Tower.
While the city offers everything from haute cuisine to hotdogs with all the trimmings, its true specialty is the world-famous deep-dish pizza, invented at Pizzeria Uno in 1943, and now available throughout the city (though still served at its birthplace).
Chicago has been steadily earning a reputation as one of the cuisine capitals of America, with its concentration of award-winning chefs and highly acclaimed fine dining establishments. Around 25 restaurants in Chicago have earned Michelin stars, proving just how much fodder is available for discerning foodies. Top areas for dining include trendy Lincoln Park, Chinatown, Little Italy and Pilsen, a Mexican neighbourhood.
The Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue lies along an eight-block stretch, and has more than 460 stores that offer luxury items and fashion bargains to suit most budgets. There are also lovely restaurants and cafes aplenty to provide exhausted shoppers with refreshment. Another area worth exploring is Oak Street, which provides a renowned concentration of designers and salons.
Chicago is equally famous for its art and antiques dealers, which are congregated around the River North Gallery District. There are also good markets, some of which sell antiques. Visitors who head out on Sunday mornings shouldn't miss the Maxwell Street Market, which boasts more than 500 stalls selling everything under the sun. It's best to get there early and to bargain.
Malls and department stores in Chicago are generally open from 10am to 9pm Monday to Saturday; and 12pm to 6pm on Sundays. A sales tax of about 10 percent (the highest sales tax of any large city in the US) is levied on most products and is added at point of purchase, not on the price tag.
Chicago's unassuming nightlife scene comes as a refreshing change to some other big US cities. Most locals prefer to stay close to what they know and hang out at their local watering hole. However, Chicago still has its fair share of trendy bars, clubs, and cocktail lounges.
Popular areas for nightclubs, bars, and music venues include Lincoln Park, Wicker Park, and Lakeview, where revellers can find music clubs devoted to just about every genre, from R&B and jazz to alternative rock and indie. The city's waterfront nightlife is popular with residents and tourists alike, while the piano bar at The Drake Hotel is a local favourite.
Wells Street in the Old Town offers some great restaurants and bars as well as the popular Zanies Comedy Club. Chicago's gay scene is concentrated on a stretch of North Halsted Street in Lakeview, where men's bars dominate the strip.
The birthplace of house music in the 1980s, Chicago has plenty of clubs full of 20-somethings dancing to the latest offerings of the resident DJ. Many of these types of clubs pop up and disappear at a dizzying rate, while others have been around for decades.
The culture scene in Chicago is bustling with shows and plays running throughout the year at renowned Chicago theatre companies, such as the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, the Goodman Theatre, and the Victory Gardens Theater.
Broadway-style entertainment can be found at the CIBC Theatre and the Cadillac Palace Theater. For lovers of classical music, a visit to Symphony Center to hear the Chicago Symphony Orchestra perform is an absolute must.