Chicago, IL Neighborhood guides

River North is Chicago’s Liveliest Entertainment District

River North is a neighborhood that has undergone the ultimate transformation. The area was once a manufacturing district, full of warehouses and other industrial buildings. It’s since been transformed into one of Chicago’s hottest entertainment districts. New high rises attract a mix of young and established professionals, so if you’re looking for a high-energy neighborhood with plenty of glitz and glam, River North is definitely the place to be.

Where Is River North?

River North Map

River North is just across the Chicago River from the downtown Loop neighborhood, hence its name. It’s bordered by the north branch of the Chicago River to the west, the Streeterville neighborhood to the east, and the Old Town neighborhood to the north. Chicago Avenue serves as the neighborhood’s northern border.


The River North neighborhood really started to develop after the Chicago Fire in 1871. Since most of the buildings that had previously been in the area were destroyed, the city made a concerted effort to rebuild it as an industrial area. For many years, the neighborhood was full of warehouses, shipping facilities, factories and affordable housing for workers. The Merchandise Mart opened in 1930, and it quickly became an important center for commerce and media.

The Merchandise Mart remains today as a center for trade shows and high-end furniture retailers. However, the rest of the neighborhood has changed dramatically. In the mid-20th century, Chicago moved its port, which meant that many warehouses were abandoned. Developers decided to convert these old buildings into luxury housing, restaurants, bars, galleries and boutiques, creating a vibrant entertainment district. Today, River North is one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in Chicago.


What to Do

The city’s Magnificent Mile shopping district is on the east side of River North and provides a mix of affordable and upscale shopping options. The neighborhood also has one of the largest concentrations of art galleries in the United States. In the summer, residents can enjoy the warm weather along the Chicago Riverwalk or even take out a kayak if you’re feeling particularly adventurous. River North is also home to some of the city’s most stunning architecture, including the Wrigley Building, the Tribune Tower and the Historic Water Tower.

Where to Eat and Drink

River North is full of excellent places to eat and drink. Virtually every block has multiple restaurants and bars to choose from, and it’s difficult to narrow them down to just a few top choices. There are plenty of swanky steakhouses here, including RPM Steak, Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf, GT Prime and Mastro’s.

Other trendy dining options here include Ciccio Mio, Frontera Grill and Siena Tavern, just to name a few. Chicago’s Eataly Market is also located in River North. Eataly is a massive gourmet Italian market with multiple restaurants inside.


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A post shared by Siena Tavern (@sienatavern)

River North is known for its nightlife as well. Most of the bars and nightclubs in the neighborhood have an upscale vibe, and many offer DJs and dancing in addition to serving cocktails. Some of the area’s top places to grab a drink include Celeste, Untitled Supper Club and Joy District. All three multi-level spots include a restaurant, cocktail lounge and dance floor.


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A post shared by Joy District (@joydistrictchi)

Those who enjoy high quality tiki drinks will also want to check out Three Dots and a Dash, an underground bar with a tropical theme. If you’re looking for something a bit more relaxed, but still want quality cocktails, The Berkshire Room, Arbella and The Drifter are all excellent choices as well.

Moving to River North

Real Estate Snapshot

Living in River North puts you conveniently at the center of all the action in Chicago. However, this convenient location comes with a higher-than-average cost of living. Much of the available real estate in River North is in luxury high-rise buildings, but there are some older loft buildings available as well. The average amount for apartments for rent in River North is currently $2,308 per month, which is significantly higher than the current citywide average of $1,908 per month.


One of the best things about living in River North is that it is easy to get around. Many residents opt not to have cars because public transportation is so convenient. Both the Brown and Red L train lines have stops in the neighborhood, which connect you directly to downtown as well as other neighborhoods on the north and south sides. It’s also just a quick walk over the bridges into the Loop, where you can access the Blue, Green, Pink and Orange L lines. There are multiple grocery stores located directly in River North as well, so residents don’t have to walk far to pick up their basic necessities.

Schools & Employment

One of the areas where River North is lacking is schools. You won’t find many K-12 options in this area, which is why River North isn’t particularly popular with families. However, both Northwestern and Loyola Universities have outposts in the area.

However, there are plenty of options for employment in River North, which is why it’s become very popular with young professionals. Large companies like Conagra Brands, Salesforce and Whole Foods all have offices in River North, as do many smaller startups. Local shops, art galleries and restaurants also serve as major employers in the neighborhood.

If you’re thinking about moving to River North, be sure to check out RENTCafé to find the hottest new apartment rentals.

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About the author

Florentina Sarac

Florentina Sarac is a creative writer, editor, and researcher for RENTCafé. She covers a variety of topics, from real estate trends, demographic shifts, housing industry news and multifamily construction to homeownership, smart-home technology, personal finance and business. With a 9-year background in the real estate industry, Florentina has also penned articles for publications such as Multi-Housing News, Commercial Property Executive and the National Apartment Association Magazine. You can connect with Florentina via email.

Florentina’s work and expertise have been featured in several major U.S. and international publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Bisnow, The Mercury News, Curbed, The NY Post, CBS News, Business Insider and She holds a B.A. in English and Spanish, as well as an M.A. in Multilingual and Multicultural Communication, which serve as a testament to her love of literature and language.

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