Guide to Chicago’s Hyde Park Neighborhood

Written by Dena Roché

January 24, 2023
Home >> Destinations >> North America >> United States >> Illinois >> Guide to Chicago’s Hyde Park Neighborhood

Chicago consists of 77 neighborhoods. Check out Hyde Park, home to bookstores, museums, architectural finds, and more. Here is your guide to what to do in Chicago’s Hyde Park.

Chicago is the nation’s third largest city, but the Windy City retains its Midwestern feel when you break it down into the 77 neighborhoods that comprise the city. In recent years the Southside community of Hyde Park has grown in popularity partly due to it being the home of former President Barak Obama.

With more Nobel Prizes per square mile than anywhere on Earth, home to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House, many independent bookstores, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the University of Chicago, Hyde Park is the place for an intellectual tour of Chicago.

Stay at the Sophy in Chicago’s Hyde Park Neighborhood

Named one of the top 10 hotels in Chicago by Travel & Leisure Magazine, Sophy Hyde Park welcomes travelers to explore the cultural riches of Hyde Park. Opened in 2018, the 98-room boutique property embraces the history of Hyde Park by curating artwork from contemporary Chicago artists and students at Hyde Park Academy High School throughout the hotel. The hotel celebrates the area’s rich music history with record players and vinyl in each room. Accommodations are spacious and feature beautiful art. The bed is one of the most comfortable hotel beds I’ve slept on recently.

The hotel’s spacious lobby appears to be a popular local spot to gather based on how busy it was both mornings I was there. The design was inspired by Hyde Park’s focus on scientific discoveries and is manifested in metals, geometric motifs, and orbital light fixtures. The hotel’s Mesler restaurant pays homage to Hyde Park’s literary scene with large pictures of book covers, books by local authors, and a restaurant that feels like you’re entering an author’s library.

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The Sophy sits across the street from “Kissing Rock,” the spot where Barak and Michelle Obama shared their first kiss.

Sophy Hyde Park hotel.

The King room at the Sophy Hyde Park hotel. Photo courtesy of the Sophy Hyde Park hotel


Start your day at Valois, the no-frills cafeteria where President Obama would kick off the day. Order POTUS’s favorite: egg whites, turkey sausage, hash browns, wheat toast, and hot tea. Valois does not accept credit cards, so bring cash.

Valois Hyde Park.

The greasy spoon that President Obama loves. Photo courtesy of Choose Chicago

Museum of Science and Industry

Purchase a Chicago CityPASS to see some of the best museums in the country, including The Museum of Science + Industry, Chicago, the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere. The museum is housed in one of the few remaining buildings from the 1893 World’s Fair and is an homage to human ingenuity, creativity, and curiosity. Explore outer space, relive the capture of a German U-boat, learn how a tsunami is made, and step onboard the Zephyr. Be aware that many exhibits inside the museum require an additional fee to experience, so a day at the museum can turn pricey quickly.

U505 sub.

The U505 Submarine at The Museum of Science+Industry, Chicago. Photo courtesy of MSI

University of Chicago 

The University of Chicago is one of the premier research universities in the world. In addition to boasting 97 Noble Prize winners, it counts 51 Rhodes Scholars, 50 MacArthur Genius Grant recipients, and nine Field Medalists. For travelers, the campus provides a who’s who in architecture tour. From Gothic to contemporary, the University of Chicago features buildings by Henry Ives Cobb, Billie Tsien Architects, and more. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fredrick C. Robie House is probably the most famous building on campus. The house is considered the finest example of Prairie School architecture and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1963.

Robie House on the University of Chicago campus.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House on the University of Chicago campus. Photo by Tom Rossiter

Harper Theater

One of Chicago’s most notable architects, Horatio Wilson, designed the historic theater. The Harper Theater’s Prairie style is indicative of the character and history of Hyde Park.

Harper Theater.

Hyde Park’s iconic Harper Theater. Photo courtesy of Choose Chicago.

Powell’s Books

Portland, Oregon, is synonymous with the independent Powell’s Books Chicago, but the original location was in Hyde Park. In 1970 University of Chicago student Michael Powell started the bookstore upon the urging of his friends and professors.

Get lost browsing new and used books at the original Powell Bookstore.

Get lost browsing new and used books at the original Powell Bookstore. Photo courtesy of unsplash

Hyde Park Records

Bring home a great vinyl of an iconic Hyde Park crooner like Kurt Elling or a pop star like Chaka Khan from Hyde Park Records. The store, a favorite of musicians since the 1970s, celebrates old-school vinyl. Two turntables allow you to try before you buy.

Vinyl record at Hyde Park records.

Go old school at Hyde Park records. Photo by Eric Krull

Obama Presidential Library

Get a sneak peek of The Obama Presidential Center, slated to open in Jackson Park in 2024. The center is designed by architects Billie Tsien and Todd Williams and will house a world-class museum and serve as a community gathering space.

The Obama Presidential Center

The vision for The Obama Presidential Center coming to Hyde Park in 2024. Photo courtesy of TWBTA Obama Foundation

Virtue Restaurant

The must-secure dinner reservation during your stay in Hyde Park is at Virtue Restaurant & Bar. Owner/Chef Erick Williams won the 2022 James Beard Best Chef for the Great Lakes Region, and Chef de Cuisine Damar Brown was recently named one of Food & Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs for 2022. The duo is putting out some of the most exciting and elevated American Southern cuisine in the country.

Virtue Restaurant.

Elevated Southern eats dominate the menu at Virtue. Photo courtesy of Virtue

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Located seven miles from the hectic Loop, Hyde Park offers a different, quieter feel of one of America’s greatest cities. Let Wander With Wonder inspire you when planning your next trip to a historic hotel or the Midwest.

Chicago consists of 77 neighborhoods. Check out Hyde Park, home to bookstores, museums, architectural finds, and more. Here is your guide to what to do in Chicago's Hyde Park. 


Guide to Chicago’s Hyde Park Neighborhood


Written by Dena Roché

Dena Roché is an experienced travel journalist who focuses on wine, wellness, and luxury travel. She’s published with BBC, American Way, United Hemispheres, Marriott, Trivago, and more. You can find her on Instagram @denaroche

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