Pilsen Travel Guide

Explore the vibrant and culturally rich neighborhood of Pilsen in Chicago, Illinois with our comprehensive tour guide. Discover the must-visit places, the best things to do, the food and drink scene, where to stay, and more.

Introduction to Pilsen

Pilsen is an eclectic and vibrant neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois, known for its rich history, diverse community, and lively arts scene. Located on the Lower West Side of the city, this culturally significant neighborhood boasts a unique mix of Mexican-American heritage, artistic flair, and contemporary urbanization.

Once an industrial hub for Chicago, Pilsen has now transformed itself into a haven for artists, musicians, and creatives, with galleries, studios, and theaters dotting its streets. Despite its massive redevelopment, Pilsen has retained its old-world charm, evident from its colorful buildings, street art, and cobblestone streets.

If you’re planning to visit Pilsen, this comprehensive tour guide will take you through the best places to visit, things to do, food to eat, and more.

List of Places to Visit in Pilsen

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

  • National Museum of Mexican Art: Established in 1987, the National Museum of Mexican Art is the only museum in the United States dedicated entirely to Mexican art. The museum showcases a diverse range of artworks, including paintings, sculptures, textiles, and multimedia installations.

  • Pilsen Community Books: This independent bookstore is a hidden gem in Pilsen, offering a curated selection of used and new books related to social justice, diversity, and activism. The shop also hosts author readings, book clubs, and community events.

  • The Rudy Lozano Library: The Rudy Lozano Library is a public library that honors the legacy of Rudy Lozano, a Latino community activist in Pilsen. The library offers a vast collection of books and resources focused on Latino culture and history.

Natural Attractions of Pilsen: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

  • The Pilsen Community Garden: This community garden is a peaceful green oasis in the heart of Pilsen, offering visitors the opportunity to explore rows of lush herbs and vegetables, admire street art, and relax in the company of like-minded individuals.

  • The Chicago Riverwalk: The Chicago Riverwalk is a picturesque esplanade that runs along the Chicago River, featuring stunning views of the city skyline, as well as a variety of dining and recreational options.

Hiking/Biking Routes of Pilsen

  • The Pilsen Mural Bike Route: A self-guided bike tour that takes visitors through Pilsen’s vibrant street art scene, showcasing works by famous muralists such as Hector Duarte and Jeff Zimmerman. The route stretches from 16th Street to Cermak Road and comprises over 40 murals.

  • The Chicago Lakefront Trail: A 19-mile stretch that runs along Lake Michigan, offering breathtaking views of the lake and the city’s skyline. The trail is a popular route for biking, walking, running, and rollerblading.

Best Things to Do in Pilsen: Activities and Tours

  • Pilsen Art Walk: This annual event takes place in the fall and is an excellent way to explore Pilsen’s thriving arts scene. The event features live music, open galleries, and performances by local artists.

  • Pilsen Food Tour: A guided walking tour that takes visitors through the best restaurants, cafes, and pastry shops in Pilsen, showcasing the neighborhood’s rich culinary heritage.

Week-Long Itinerary for Pilsen

Day Activity
Day 1 Visit the National Museum of Mexican Art
Day 2 Explore the Pilsen Community Garden
Day 3 Take a bike tour of Pilsen’s murals
Day 4 Spend the day on the Chicago Riverwalk
Day 5 Join a Pilsen Food Tour
Day 6 Visit The Rudy Lozano Library
Day 7 Attend a live performance at The Thalia Hall

Food and Drink Scene of Pilsen

Must-Try Dishes

  • Tamales: An authentic Mexican dish that is a popular street food in Pilsen. Tamales are made from corn masa dough and filled with a variety of savory or sweet ingredients such as chicken, pork, cheese, or pineapple.

  • Churros: Churros are a traditional Spanish dessert, deep-fried dough, coated in cinnamon and sugar. Pilsen food vendors found an ideal market for this tasty snack.

Local Beverages

  • Michelada: A popular Mexican drink made with beer, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and spices. Michelada is typically served in a salt-rimmed glass and garnished with a lime wedge.

  • Agua Fresca: A refreshing drink made from fresh fruit, water, and sugar. Agua fresca is the perfect drink to cool down on a hot summer day.

Where to Stay in Pilsen: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

  • Thalia Hall: This landmark of Pilsen culture was built in 1892 and was recently renovated into a boutique hotel, music venue, and restaurant. Thalia Hall offers luxury rooms and suites, as well as dining and entertainment options.

  • Chicago Parthenon Hostel: This centrally located hostel offers affordable dorm-style rooms, private rooms, and communal spaces. The hostel is clean, comfortable, and a great option for budget travelers.

What to Buy in Pilsen: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

  • Pilsen Street Art Prints: Pilsen is known for its vibrant street art scene, and many local artists sell prints of their works that can be a great addition to your home decor.

  • Mexican-Style Clothing and Accessories: Pilsen has many boutiques and shops that sell traditional Mexican clothing and accessories such as ponchos, sombreros, and huipiles.

Local Culture and Customs of Pilsen

Pilsen has a rich cultural heritage. It has been home to Mexican immigrants for decades, which has led to a unique blend of Mexican and American culture. One of the things that Pilsen is famous for is street art, which covers the walls of buildings, alleyways, and the majority of the public space in this community.

Best Time to Visit Pilsen

The best time to visit Pilsen is from May to September, when the weather is warm, and there are many outdoor events and festivals to attend. However, any season is an excellent time to visit Pilsen, with its picturesque buildings and lively atmosphere appealing to visitors throughout the year.

Do’s and Don’ts of Pilsen


  • Explore the street art scene: Pilsen is known for its vibrant street art scene, and visitors should not miss the chance to explore the murals and artworks that decorate the neighborhood.

  • Attend a live performance: Pilsen is home to many theaters and performance venues that offer a wide variety of shows, concerts, and events.


  • Don’t be disrespectful: Pilsen has a rich cultural heritage, and visitors should be respectful of local customs and traditions.

  • Don’t ignore the public art: Pilsen’s street art scene is a significant part of the neighborhood’s identity, and visitors should take the time to appreciate the murals and artworks.

Safety and Health

Safety in Pilsen

Pilsen is a relatively safe neighborhood to visit, with a vibrant community and a heavy police presence. Visitors should exercise basic safety precautions such as not flashing valuables and staying aware of their surroundings.

Health in Pilsen

Visitors should be aware of the health risks of excessive exposure to outdoor pollution, especially during the summer months, when air quality can be poor in Chicago. It’s advisable to check air quality before planning outdoor activities.

Getting to Pilsen: Transportation Options and Logistics

Airports Near Pilsen

  • O’Hare International Airport: Located 17 miles to the northwest of Pilsen, Chicago’s largest airport connects to destinations in North America, Europe, and Asia.

  • Midway International Airport: Located 8 miles to the south of Pilsen, Midway is a smaller airport that mostly serves domestic destinations.

Bus Stations Near Pilsen

  • Greyhound Bus Station: Located 2.5 miles east of Pilsen, this bus station offers connections to more than 3,800 destinations throughout North America.

Other Options

  • CTA “L” Trains and Buses: Chicago’s public transportation system offers buses and trains that connect the city’s neighborhoods. Pilsen is served by the Pink Line and the 18th Street bus.

How to Get Around in Pilsen

Pilsen is a walkable neighborhood, and visitors can explore the area on foot. Alternatively, bicycling can be a great way to see the many murals and artworks that adorn the streets.

Where to Go Next from Pilsen: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

  • Chinatown: Located just south of Pilsen, Chinatown is a vibrant neighborhood with a rich cultural heritage. Visitors can enjoy authentic Chinese cuisine, explore the shops and markets, and admire the colorful monuments and architecture.

  • The Loop: The Loop is the central business district of Chicago and is home to many of the city’s most famous landmarks, including the Willis Tower, the Art Institute of Chicago, and Millennium Park.


Pilsen is a vibrant and culturally rich neighborhood that offers visitors a unique blend of Mexican-American heritage, artistic flair, and contemporary urbanization. From exploring the street art scene to enjoying authentic Mexican cuisine, there’s something for everyone in Pilsen. This tour guide provides an excellent starting point for planning your visit to Pilsen and discovering all that this dynamic neighborhood has to offer.