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Chicago chic

The name triggers black and white images of gangsters, or an imposing city skyline dominated by skyscrapers, but the Chicago of the twenty-first century is bright and vibrant, with green spaces and bustling shopping malls, and its high class restaurants are a gastronome's delight.

Even those who don't know Chicago recognise its nickname 'The Windy City'. They picture it in black and white, with vintage cars driven by gangsters toting machine guns, but America's third most populous city has more to offer than a reputation based on Prohibition and the likes of Al Capone. Lying between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River, Chicago boasts the second busiest airport in the world and is a major centre for industry, telecomms, business and finance that attracts well over a million overseas visitors each year.

The modern cityscape owes a lot to the great fire of 1871, which destroyed much of the city, including the entire central business district, and set in motion a huge reconstruction project. In 1885, the very first skyscraper rose to dominate Chicago's skyline, which today remains one of the world's tallest and densest and includes America's two tallest buildings. Featuring spectacular gardens along a tree-lined boulevard with some of the world’s most distinctive buildings, both old and new, Michigan Avenue's Magnificent Mile boasts restaurants, spas, hotels, monuments and hundreds of shops, ranging from designer boutiques to American mainstream. This year celebs and designers will be joining in the fun at the first Magnificent Mile Shopping Festival, from August 26th to September 8th.

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Chicago skyline
The modern cityscape owes a lot to the great fire of 1871, which destroyed much of the city, including the entire central business district, setting in motion a huge reconstruction project / © City of Chicago / GRC 

Chicago skyline
Not simply home to the deep-pan pizza, Chicago is possibly the world's best kept culinary secret. It is one of the few cities to have a Michelin Guide and caters for everyone with its variety and choice / © City of Chicago / GRC 

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The Buckingham Fountain, located in Grant Park, is one of the largest fountains in the world and a popular attraction in the city, particularly at night when music and coloured lights make the display even more spectacular / © City of Chicago / GRC 

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The 'L' or 'El' is Chicago's rapid transit system and connects some of the suburbs with the centre; its name is an abbreviation of the word 'elevated', but there are underground track sections, too / © City of Chicago / GRC 

Chicago skyline
Chicago is on the shores of Lake Michigan, the only one of the Great Lakes to lie entirely within the United States; in the nineteenth century, the direction of the Chicago river was reversed so that it now flows out of the Lake towards the Mississippi Valley / © City of Chicago / GRC 

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Faces are projected on the surface of the Crown Fountain in Millennium Park, designed by the Spaniard Jaume Plensa / photo by Patrick Pyszka / © City of Chicago / GRC 

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Designed by architect Rem Koolhaas, this Chicago Transit Authority tunnel is part of the McCormick Tribune Campus Center on the Illinois Institute of Technology Campus / © City of Chicago / GRC 

Chicago
The sandy shore of Lake Michigan acts as a beach for Chicago, making the city a great getaway destination: you can surf and sunbathe on the lake shore in the day, and hop into town for a theatre trip in the evening 

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Cloud Gate - known by locals as 'the Bean' - is a huge public sculpture in Millennium Park; one of its attractions is the funfair mirror effect of the reflections in its highly polished surface / © City of Chicago / GRC 

Chicago
Although removed from the US highway system in the mid Eighties, Route 66 lives on in legend, and Chicago is the eastern gateway to the ultimate road trip / The scenic view at Mississippi Palisades, off the Great River Road, which runs through Illinois as it follows the Mississippi River from the northwoods of Minnesota south to the Gulf of Mexico 

Chicago
Since the year 2000, Chicago’s City Hall has had a rooftop garden planted with mostly local prairie plants that can survive in the windy, arid and sunny conditions; Chicago now has more roof gardens than any other American city / © City of Chicago / GRC 

Chicago skyline
Chicago was home to the world's first skyscraper, and even today the city skyline includes two of America's tallest buildings 

Chicago skyline
Dating from the Twenties, the Wrigley Building –  headquarters of the Wrigley chewing gum company – and the Tribune Tower – home to the Chicago Daily Tribune – are just two of the city's famous buildings located on Michigan Avenue's Magnificent Mile 

Chicago
The Chicago river is criss-crossed with bridges as it flows through the city centre / Not all Chicago buildings are modern skyscrapers, of course: the city has its share of other architectural monuments including the Old Water Tower and Pumping Station 

Chicago
Museums, world-class theatre, designer shopping, fine dining and luxury spas, America's third city has something for everyone 

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