Willis Tower
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Willis Tower: Tours & Tickets

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5 Architecture Facts About the Willis Tower

For almost 25 years the Willis Tower, more commonly known as Sears Tower, held the title for the tallest building in the U.S. Second place isn’t bad, right? And as the 12th tallest in the world at a height of 1,451 feet, it is Chicago’s most beloved skyscraper.

Commissioning The Building

In order to house their rapidly growing company, Sears commissioned architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in 1969. Architect Bruce Graham and engineer Fazlur Rahman Kahn led.

Advancements in Architecture

The Willis Tower was the first to ever use a bundled tube structure. Kahn’s design was so revolutionary that it was later used for the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.


Graham’s design was inspired by a cigarette ad. He demonstrated the concept to a colleague by pulling cigarettes out of a pack to illustrate the 9 tubes at different heights.

How was it Built

Construction began in April of 1971 and was finished by May 1973. Economically efficient for a building its size, the cost to build was $150 million, about $800 million today.

The Skydeck

Willis Tower’s observation deck is what makes it celebrated. At 1,353 feet, visitors can feel the building sway on a windy day and see over the plains of Illinois on a clear day.

Willis Tower: Our Tips

Where is it

The address of Willis Tower is 233 South Wacker Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60606. Public transportation is easy because it's in such a central location -- off Blue, Brown, Orange, Pink, Purple and Red Lines on the ‘L.

Where to Park

Parking is available at 221 W. Adams, and purchasing a parking card in advance online will get you a discount.

When to Go

Skydeck Chicago is open 365 days a year from 9AM to 10PM April through September and 10AM to 8PM October through March. View at night for the romantic glittering cityscape, by day for the sweeping view of Lake Michigan.


The basic price for adult admission is $19.50. A variety of ticketing bundles with other Chicago attractions, like a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago, are available.

Good to Know

  • When to visit
    April - Sept: 9:00AM - 10:00PM | Oct - March: 10:00AM - 8:00PM
  • What is the price?
  • Will I need a guide?
    Nope, but they are available if you want special insights into the building and its surroundings.
  • How to get there
    Take the L, walk, or drive.
  • Additional tips
    As with other spectacular views, the best times to visit the SkyDeck are in the early morning and around sunset.

What People Are Saying About Willis Tower

Great views of the city and enjoyed all the history

Great tour. Guide informative and knowledgeable. Cheerful and obviously enjoyed her job.
Chicago River Architecture Cruise Reviewed by christine, 10/25/2016

The river cruise was informative and fun, with an excellent docent.

The cruise was timely and orderly, fun and informative. The docent (Keith?) was amazingly informative and entertaining. It was a great time.
Chicago River Architecture Cruise Reviewed by Lynn, 10/24/2016

Our tour guide offered a great insight into the city's architecture

Great experience led by a tour guide who intimately knew the city's history and its architecture. He even gave us some harmonica blues. 10/10.
Chicago River Architecture Cruise Reviewed by Doug, 10/14/2016

Our guide, Racheal,made it a fun, educational tour!

Despite the chilly, rainy weather, the tour was educational and informative. My husband is from Chicago, so we visit a couple times per year and know the ins and outs of the city. Seeing it from the river, though, gave us a completely different viewpoint. Our guide was a energetic, fun young lady (Racheal) who knew what she was talking about. Highly recommend!
Chicago River Architecture Cruise Reviewed by Jill, 10/04/2016

Despite non stop rain, still a wonder--and I have been here 24 years!

Wonderful fun facts about the history of Chitown and the amazing architecture looming above. Seeing the buildings from the river is such a unique way to appreciate the beauty of our fair city
Chicago River Architecture Cruise Reviewed by Stephen, 09/30/2016

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Willis Tower
Based on 66 reviews by GetYourGuide customers