There’s a whole lot to love about living in downtown Chicago. The history, culture, urban parks, entertainment and oh-my-gosh the food. But, it’s the downtown shoreline that has this girl’s heart.
The public access to Lake Michigan’s 26-miles of open shoreline breathes life into a sea of urban development. From the city to the suburbs, locals flock to the lake’s shore to soak it in. And tourists love it too – up to an impressive 30,000 a day during peak season.
Think the downtown lakeshore is just a pretty view? Think again. Chicago’s waterfront has 29 beaches, dozens of parks, playgrounds, dog parks, bird sanctuaries, boat harbors, golf courses, tennis courts, sports fields, skate parks, beach volleyball, picnic groves, gardens, museums and even an amusement park. Plus, 18.5 miles of continuous trail that extends from the Edgewater neighborhood to South Shore.
Downtown Chicago Living by the Lake
It’s no wonder that lots of folks looking to rent in downtown Chicago seek apartments located close to the lake. The City of Chicago has largely kept the immediate shoreline free from commercial development. But, there are plenty of options where you can live right across the street or within a couple of blocks.
In several downtown Chicago neighborhoods, there are even luxury apartment buildings that are so close to the waterfront that you can hear the waves lapping along the shore. And of course those spectacular views – it’s like waking up on vacation every single day.
Wondering where to rent your next apartment near Lake Michigan? Here are my picks for the 10 best Chicago apartments by the lake:
#10: Axis Apartments in Streeterville
In 2016 a new owner nabbed this 60-story apartment tower, which was originally built in 1986. Units and amenities got a makeover, yet the landlord positioned this as more of a value luxury option compared to other new construction apartments in the neighborhood. So, renters can get a great deal at Axis, considering the upscale surroundings and proximity to the lake.
With plenty of amenities including an indoor pool, steam room, sauna and fitness center, your rent goes a long way here. On top of all that, there is the 360° Rooftop Sky Park, with sun loungers for spa-inspired relaxation and cool views of Navy Pier, the lake, and the skyline.
#9: NEMA Apartments in South Loop
Located across from the southern edge of Grant Park, this 76-story skyscraper is the tallest luxury apartment tower on our list, and as of this writing, is the tallest apartment complex in Chicago. It will enjoy that status alone until the One Chicago apartment tower in River North completes construction. That property is also expected to be 76-stories and will share bragging rights with NEMA.
Unlike One Chicago, NEMA does have the distinction of being directly across from Grant Park. This gives the entire north side of the building unobstructed views of the park, skyline and Lake Michigan.
When I say NEMA is a luxury building, I mean luxury. The 70,000 square feet of amenities (yes, you read that right!) and stunning residences make this building a top-notch choice for renters looking for elevated living in South Loop.
Because of efforts to preserve lakeshore in South Loop, NEMA isn’t located as close to the lake as properties in North Side neighborhoods. But with the Museum Campus and Lakefront Trail just a 10-minute stroll away, it’s hard to argue that its location isn’t still picture-perfect.
#8: Essex on the Park in South Loop
This 56-story luxury apartment tower is located on Chicago’s historic Michigan Avenue, right across the street from Grant Park.
Essex on the Park was newly constructed in 2019 and features a beautifully designed garden pool lounge with breathtaking views overlooking Chicago’s premiere downtown park and the lake.
The sister hotel property next door, Essex Inn, is a Chicago Landmark and was also simultaneously renovated while the apartment tower was constructed. With resort-quality amenities and concierge-minded on-site services, renters at the apartment building can enjoy a high-end hospitality vibe right at home.
#7: North Harbor Tower Apartments in Lakeshore East
This classic 55-story apartment tower was built in 1988 and is one of the few residential properties that predates the 2001 Lakeshore East neighborhood master plan. They just knew really good things were headed to the neighborhood!
It’s located on the southeast end of the Lakeshore East and offers up the same stunning views as its fancy-schmancy neighbors.
These apartments feature fantastic large windows that project outward and are angled to maximize views of Lake Michigan, the Chicago skyline, and Chicago’s premier downtown parks.
#6: The Lofts at River East in Streeterville
Among the new modern giants in Streeterville is this historic gem. Converted from a 1900’s shipping warehouse, the 6-stories of unique brick-and-timber loft apartments at The Lofts at River East were renovated in 2015.
While these true lofts aren’t unique to the neighborhood, they helped to usher in the popularity of loft style luxury living throughout Chicago. These days, it’s not uncommon to see exposed brick, vents, beams, concrete and other construction elements in new and renovated apartments throughout the city.
This eastern edge of downtown is also home to Navy Pier, Chicago’s biggest tourist attraction. My favorite hidden gem, Olive Park, and the intimate Ohio Street Beach are also super close to The Lofts at River East.
#5: Cascade Apartments in Lakeshore East
The newest building on the list, Cascade, is a 37-story apartment tower that is wrapping up construction. Pre-leasing started in the spring of 2021 with the first move-ins expected in the summer. It’s just steps to the river and the lakeshore.
Located on the northeast tip of Lakeshore East, the east-facing apartments at Cascade have unobstructed views of Navy Pier and the lake, as does the 32nd floor Lakefront Terrace outdoor deck. The 45,000 square feet of jaw-dropping amenities include an indoor lap pool, outdoor pool with cabanas, hydrotherapy pool, fitness center with lake views, game room with billiards, and a play space just for kids.
A new landscaped public park is also part of this development, which will add even more gorgeous green space to the neighborhood.
#4: The Deco North Lakeshore Apartments in Gold Coast
This vintage luxury apartment building, located in the prestigious Gold Coast neighborhood is steeped in Art Deco history. This 22-story building was constructed in 1927 for the Wrigley family as a hotel. Mid-century, it was converted to condos and more recently made the switch to rentals.
Several apartments were recently renovated, but some retro fixtures were preserved. Wall sconces, Art Deco vanities and restored vintage tile bathroom floors are found in various units, which make them unique.
There are several amenities and conveniences on-site, but the jewel in their crown is the 2,500 square foot landscaped rooftop deck. The views of the lake and downtown skyline are out-of-this-world, and arguably the best of any apartment building in the city.
Dip your toes in the water by simply crossing Lake Shore Drive. Want to go for a swim? North Avenue Beach is just a 10-minute walk away.
#3: 850 Lake Shore Apartments in Gold Coast
Another favorite pick in the Gold Coast is home to 19-stories of renovated luxury apartments. This Beaux-Arts style beauty opened in 1927, originally housing the Lakeshore Athletic Club. The marble-clad lobby, pool and stunning grand ballrooms attracted international attention when it hosted the 1928 Olympic swimming trials.
Today, renters enjoy a mix of luxurious modern renovations with immaculately preserved historic elements. Amenities that stand out are the indoor lap pool, spa, and the former ballroom that is now a spacious lounge overlooking the lake. But, best of all is the spectacular rooftop deck. The lake views are so immersive that it feels like you’re on a cruise ship gazing out into the ocean.
This property is directly across from the lake. Oak Street Beach is just a couple blocks north via Michigan Avenue. Plus, renters at this pet-friendly apartment in the Gold Coast will love being just one block away from Lake Shore Park.
#2: 500 Lake Shore Drive Apartments in Streeterville
This high-end apartment building next to the lake is almost as far east as you can get in Streeterville. The only exception is their neighbor Lake Point Tower Condominium, which is the only residential skyscraper located east of Lake Shore Drive in Chicago.
Built in 2013, this 45-story apartment building at 500 N. Lake Shore Drive is located among a valley of very tall luxury apartment towers. It is among a new class of modern luxury high-rises that came up in the last decade and raised the bar for high-end living in Chicago.
Amazing lake views are in abundance. From the designer pool deck to the state-of-the-art fitness center, a bird’s eye view is yours at every turn.
#1: Coast in Lakeshore East
Water-lovers, rejoice! You’ll enjoy a double perk when you live at Coast Lakeshore East Apartments on Wacker Drive. Not only is it close to Lake Michigan, but it’s also right off the Chicago River. Situated on the northern side of the luxury micro-neighborhood of Lakeshore East, its awesome location is centrally located, making it easy to walk outside and explore the city.
Coast apartments came into the picture in 2013 and are described as a “sleek 51-story urban beach house.” It boasts 19,000 square feet of spa-quality amenities, and many of the north-facing units feature balconies overlooking the Chicago River and Lake Michigan.
Ready to Move to the Lake Shore?
If you dream of living near the shores of Lake Michigan, we’re standing by to help! Our team of talented leasing agents knows the Chicago rental market better than anyone. We’d love to help you find an apartment by the lake in downtown Chicago.