Exploring Chicago's Magnificent Mile

Every major city in the world has one: that area, street or neighbourhood locals and tourists alike automatically head to when looking for upmarket shops, exclusive nightlife and 5-star hotels. London's Oxford Street and Bond Street, New York's Fifth Avenue and Los Angeles' Rodeo Drive are some of the best known, but if you happen to be visiting Chicago, you can find one there, too.

In the Windy City, this area is known as the Magnificent Mile (or the Mag Mile, for short) and stretches between the Chicago River and Oak Street, on the North Side of town. Most of the city's main upmarket retailers are situated here. Museums, landmarks and nightspots, as well as some of the best hotels in Chicago, are located in the Mag Mile, making it a mandatory stop on any tour of the Illinois state capital.

The nickname 'Magnificent Mile' itself was devised by real estate developer Arthur Rubloff, in the 1940s. At the time, the region was already one of the busiest shopping thoroughfares in the city, after the advances in transportation in the early 20th century had allowed for an expansion of the original Loop Retail historic district. Over the following decades it lived up to its name, growing and thriving along with the fortunes of the city itself. Nowadays, the area includes some of the best hotels in Chicago and most of its important and notable landmarks - such as the Trump Building, the John Hancock Center, the Chicago Water Tower, the Wrigley Building and Tribune Tower. Some of these buildings also rank among the tallest in the United States, making the cityscape of the Magnificent Mile an impressive sight to see.

Visitors to the Windy City during the final week of November will be presented with an additional treat when visiting the Magnificent Mile: every year, the area lights up for the Lights Festival, complete with a parade and giant Christmas tree lighting. Whether from street level or from the balconies of the best hotels in Chicago, this dazzling display of light and colour will brighten up any visitor's night.

In short, just like Oxford Street or Fifth Avenue, the Magnificent Mile is one of those spots that cannot be passed over when visiting the city in question. If you are visiting or planning to visit the Windy City, make sure you head for this hustling, bustling area to indulge in shopping, clubbing and sightseeing to your heart's content. You'll be glad you did.