Time To Hit the Books! 10 Places To Study in Chicago

Chicago offers a wealth of places for students to study off campus. Learn about the 10 best study spots in Chicago.

portrait of Marisa Upson
by Marisa Upson

Published August 8, 2022

Edited by Kristina Beek
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Time To Hit the Books! 10 Places To Study in Chicago
Image Credit: Galina Zhigalova / EyeEm / Getty Images


The Best Study Spots for Chicago Students

Botanical Cafe

If you enjoy lush plants, delicious tea, and fair-trade coffee, this may be the spot to check out. You can buy plants and coffee at the Botanical Cafe or dive into your books at one of their two-top tables or couch area.

You'll need to make a purchase to get their Wi-Fi password. Fortunately, there's quite a selection of goodies to choose from, including teas from Rare Tea Cellar and coffee from Conscious Cup Coffee Roasters. This North Center cafe also offers paninis, salads, and other sandwiches.

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Ready to start your journey?

Winter Garden

On the top floor of the Harold Washington Library Center, you'll find the Winter Garden. It offers a beautiful space with trees, a glass ceiling that fills the large room with natural light, and a marble terrazzo floor. You can even bring your own drink, as long as it's covered.

When you get tired of the open blue sky, or if there's a special event happening, you can retreat to the library and hunker down in one of the many study areas. This architecturally impressive, block-long library is located in Chicago's South Loop.

Bourgeois Pig Cafe

This vintage cafe offers the perfect spot to study while enjoying a smoothie or a sandwich named after famous literary works. It provides a warm and inviting space in two historic Victorian row houses in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. You'll have many rooms to settle down in, as well as an outside patio.

Students and remote workers find this the perfect hideaway for work and study in an environment with a unique collection of weathered books and ornate chandeliers.

Chinatown Public Library

The Chinatown Public Library was recognized for excellence in architectural design when it received the 2016 AIA/ALA library building award, followed by the 2018 AIA interior architecture award. Located on the South Side of Chicago, the 16,000-square-foot, glass-enclosed building offers views of the urban surroundings.

The building's feng shui-inspired design includes a central atrium room and a green roof. Should you get hungry, it's a short walk to Chinatown Square. Hopefully, this environment can help you get into the study flow.

Chicago Athletic Association

On the second floor of the downtown Chicago Athletic Association — a boutique hotel — you'll find the Drawing Room. This expansive lobby features fireplaces, cafe tables, couches, and a communal library table with power outlets.

This may not be the best place to go when finals are closing in, but it's a great location to immerse yourself in old-world charm while getting some reading done. At the end of the day, you can enjoy the oyster and wine happy hour or a Chicago-style hot dog.

Froth

This coffee house is the place to go when you feel like hitting the books in a spacious setting with beautiful brick walls and high ceilings. You can listen to soft music drift around you as you work in one of the many soft chairs and couches.

Froth is in the lobby of the luxury Duncan apartments in Chicago's West Loop and provides plenty of outlets for laptops needing a recharge. It also offers a large dog-friendly patio and a food menu.

The Wormhole Coffee

Located in the heart of Wicker Park, this 1980s-themed coffee shop welcomes you to sit for a spell with your laptop and books on oversized couches, lounge chairs, and four-top tables. The Wormhole Coffee has developed a reputation for high-quality coffee and specialty lattes, as well as a good place to enjoy a bowl of Cocoa Puffs or Fruity Pebbles.

You'll find students and working adults settling in to study and work at this eclectic establishment.

Grant Park

Grant Park is a great place to spend a summer afternoon with a good book or required course reading and a highlighter. The park's 300-plus acres travel through the city's central business district and along Lake Michigan and offer some of the best views in the city. Don't forget a blanket, some snacks, and a water bottle.

When you need a break, you can clear your mind with a walk or jog on the 18-mile Lakefront Trail or a quick misting at the Clarence Buckingham Memorial Fountain.

Robust Coffee Lounge

The Robust Coffee Lounge in the South Side's Woodland neighborhood is close to the University of Chicago. It's a popular spot for students and freelancers and offers an inexpensive full breakfast and lunch menu.

Lots of tables, an industrial atmosphere, and coffee drinks like the mocha diablo and the popular honey nut latte may help you keep your head down and focused. It's open from 7 a.m. - 3 p.m., making it a great place for those who want to get going early.

Sip of Hope

Sometimes, supporting those helping others can help us feel a little better, too. Dark Matter Coffee and Hope for the Day, a nonprofit organization, joined forces to create Sip of Hope. This coffee shop donates 100% of its proceeds to mental health education and suicide prevention.

It's a quiet place in the Logan Square neighborhood where you can grab a table by the wall or a counter seat looking out the window. Enjoy a kombucha, honey and turmeric latte, or nectar of the Gods while completing your assignments.

Study Tips for College Students in the City

Everyone has the best study method that works for them. Some thrive in a quiet library surrounded by a countless number of books. Others bring their laptop to welcoming cafes with unlimited coffee supplies.

Find your niche where you can focus without distraction, and then make it a habit. Regularly scheduled studying builds a consistent practice that can lead to the realization of your academic goals. Cramming sessions may get you through a test, but they'll do little in the way of helping your long-term retention.

Make sure you leave your dorm or apartment with the needed study tools and consider the following college study tips to help maximize your study time. If you're an online college student, take advantage of these unique study tips for online students.

  • Keep a Checklist in Your Backpack: This checklist contains the necessary study tools while out and about, like a laptop, chargers, pens, pencils, highlighters, notepads, and required books.
  • Write: Don't limit your study habits to typing notes. One study conducted in 2020 found that students who took handwritten notes performed better on quizzes.
  • Choose the Right Study Space: Pick the appropriate space based on the task. The park may be perfect for extensive reading, while a Chicago public library may cater to research and assignments.
  • Stick to Your Study Plan: Create a study plan that includes the dates for quizzes, tests, and assignment deadlines. Then, set aside time daily to study and prepare the required material.
  • Book Study Rooms in Advance: When you need to sequester yourself for an upcoming test, consider booking a study room at one of Chicago's public libraries.
  • Schedule Group Sessions: Chicago libraries also offer study rooms for groups. Group study can help you gain new insights, compare notes, and counter procrastination tendencies.
  • Create Flashcards: Sitting in a coffeehouse offers the perfect setting to make flashcards that can help retain information. Use them to test yourself as if taking an exam.
  • Live Well: A successful life is about balancing work and play. For example, you can take time out for a round of frisbee golf while still sticking to your study schedule.
  • Cultivate Good Time Management: Eating well, exercising, attending class, studying, playing, and sleeping makes quite a list of to-dos. Develop a schedule that encompasses the many facets of life, and stick to it.

Frequently Asked Questions About Studying in Chicago

Where is the best place for someone to study?

The best place to study depends on your personality type and how you learn. Most people need a distraction-free zone to let all the facts and figures settle in. Others, however, thrive in an immersive group experience. Learn what works best for you and then integrate it into your study time.

Similarly, some students retain the most information and complete their academic assignments when they stick to a routine. This routine includes a set place to study day after day. Other students do better when they switch up their environment, compelling the brain to make multiple associations with the material.

What are good late-night study spots in Chicago?

Some students consider the best late-night study spots where they can grab some dinner and stay late studying. Others are looking for a long-term caffeine fix into the wee hours.

In the Albany Park neighborhood, Nighthawk offers a little bit of both. While it's a bar that serves up drinks, it also offers a selection of coffee drinks and is open until 2 a.m.

Pilot Project Brewing is a brewing incubator, a tasting room, and a good study spot until 10 p.m. on weekdays. Other late-night options include the Drawing Room and the Java & Mug Cafe.

What study materials are worth buying?

There are some essential study materials that a college student can't do without. These include pencils, pens, highlighters, markers, note cards, notebooks, and planners. Organization apps can do double duty, helping you stay focused while keeping track of your many deadlines.

The best apps include built-in planners, a space for course details and instructor contact information, and a place to organize your homework and assignments. Note-taking apps may also help students that prefer typewritten lectures.

Getting an extra-long charging cable is useful if you find yourself in places with a long reach to the power outlet. Many students also swear by noise-canceling headphones to reduce distractions.

How many public libraries are in Chicago?

The Chicago Public Library system consists of 81 locations. The city offers a list of library locations, as well as a detailed map. Opened in 1873, it offers some of the nation's most beautiful and historical libraries. In 2014, a study conducted by a German University ranked the Chicago Public Library system the third best in the world and the first in the nation.

Some popular branches for studying include the Harold Washington Library Center, Chinatown Branch, and the Sulzer Regional Library. While most offer a rich collection of books, audiobooks, study rooms, and free Wi-Fi, don't forget the benefits of the university library.

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