When I've asked people "What's your favorite line on the "El"?" most of them have answered the Brown Line! I have to admit- there's a TON to do off of this line. However, because its in the Northside, it typically tends to be a bit more expensive than other places in Chicago (other than the Loop).

The Brown Line runs most of the time (however, NOT 24-hours like the Blue or Red Line- be sure to keep tabs on the time if you're trying to get home on the "El" and out and about at night.) It services the Northside of Chicago- between Albany Park and the Chicago Loop. It's the third busiest rail line, and is the only train to operate counter-clockwise around the Loop. Its average daily ridership is 108,530 and travels a span of 11.4 miles.

During rush hour, the Brown Line grows to eight cars, which caused many of the Brown Line stations to have to be renovated to accommodate the change.

I am separating the Loop stops and the stops distinctive to the Brown Line in two different posts, so stay tuned!

MERCHANDISE MART: The Merchandise Mart station is located on the outskirts of the Loop and services the Merchandise Mart. Previously owned by the Marshall Field family, the Mart centralized Chicago's wholesale goods business by consolidating vendors and trade under a single roof. A retail shopping area, called The Shops at the Mart, includes apparel shops, beauty services, bookstores and newsstands, financial services, telecommunication services, travel services, specialty food and wine stores, photo services, a dry cleaner, shoe shine stand, and a food court. A United States Postal Service office is located on the first floor and a FedEx location is located on the second floor. Several radio and t.v. stations broadcast from the Mart, including WENR, WMAQ, and used to be home to radio programs such as Captain Midnight, Birr Tillstrom's Kukla, Fran and Ollie, and hard rock and alternative rock programs.
A couple blocks away is Blue Chicago, a blues club that is jumping, hopping, skipping and everything in between. Cover charge is $8 Sunday through Thursday, and $10 on Friday and Saturday. Sample some of their live music on Blues Chicago.

CHICAGO: The Chicago stop of the Brown Line is home to many schools and close to shopping areas and restaurants. Moody Bible Institute, Le Cordon Bleu, and Loyola University Chicago are all within walking distance of this stop. A couple blocks away the Marwen Foundation holds free art classes to kids, grades 6-12, who can't afford it on their own.
Demolition of Cabrini-Green homes
Until recently, just west of the Brown Line stop was Cabrini-Green, a poverty-stricken, gang reigned area that centered around the apartment buildings of public housing. The high crime and brokenness of the area called for government to find a solution. The demolition of the public housing began in 1995 and finished recently in mid-to-late 2011.This lead to thousands of displaced residents, many of whom you can see homeless on the streets of Chicago. Every Saturday afternoon, Chicago-ians and college students, some from Moody Bible Institute, DePaul and Loyola, as well as Wheaton, in the suburbs, and even as far as Indiana, come to the Loop to minister and hang out with them, serving lunch and bible study. More information at ChicagosBeloved.org

SEDGWICK: The Sedgwick stop of the Brown Line drops you off in the Chicago Old Town and Near North Side community areas. Restaurants, cafes, bars, clubs, galleries and beautiful architecture surrounds this station. St. Michael's in Old Town, one of the oldest cathedrals in Chicago, resides here- the original wooden church built in 1852, and the brick church built in 1866. When the Chicago fire of 1971 destroyed the city, only the church walls were standing. In 2002, the church celebrated their 150th year. The interior is beautiful and its architecture is magnificent.
A couple blocks away is home to the famous, first on-going improvisational theater troupe in the U.S, The Second City. The Second City opened its doors on a snowy Chicago night in December of 1959. No one could have guessed that this small cabaret theatre would become the most influential and prolific comedy theatre in the world.
Down North Ave, you will pass the historic Moody Church, and come to the Chicago History Museum and North Avenue Beach in Lincoln park.
The homes around this area are beautiful and very expensive.

ARMITAGE: This station drops you off onto Armitage in Lincoln Park, lined with shops and cafes. A bus ride in one direction is St. Mary of the Angels, one of the largest parishes in Chicago (and one of the most beautiful cathedrals I have ever seen), and in the other direction is the completely free Lincoln Park Zoo.

FULLERTON:  Fullerton station is home to DePaul University, the Children's Memorial Hospital, and if you're up to a little walking or a bus ride, the totally free Lincoln Park Zoo!



BELMONT: Belmont station is the Red, Brown and Purple Line stop that services Lakeview and Boystown. This area is full of shops, cafes and colorful, trendy nightlife.

SOUTHPORT: Serving the Lakeview area, the Southport station is just a bit away from Wrigleyville and the Wrigley Stadium.

PAULINA: The Paulina stop of the Brown Line drops you off in Roscoe Village, where people have been living since the 18th century, when the area was inhabited by the Fox Indians. Today the area is home to over 6200 residents. As soon as you get off the train you will be able to see the many shops, cafes, restaurants and salons in this area. Any type of food you crave or fancy can be found off this stop.

Ocean by Bryan Boomershine,abstract, acrylic on canvas
ADDISON: The Addison stop of the Brown Line is surrounded by residential homes and apartment buildings. Bryan Boomershine's Art Gallery and Fire Arts Center of Chicago are both art-centered galleries just a few blocks away from this station. The Fire Arts Center of Chicago holds classes as a non-for-profit school for sculptors. You can learn the arts of furniture design, forging and foundry classes, figure study, metal working and sculpture, and stone work.
Griffin Theatre Company, a non-for-profit professional theatre company, is also located off of this stop. Through artistic collaboration the Griffin Theatre Company produces literary adaptations, original work and classic plays. Throughout the year, Griffin Theatre holds and hosts classes and workshops to the public. For only $30 a month for students, you can enjoy unlimited access at Griffin Theatre, and adds a free guest ticket after three months and then another one every six months after that. (General admission is $24, so if you are planning on attending more times than just once a month, purchasing a membership is the smartest way to do that.)

IRVING PARK: The Irving Park stop of the Brown Line is located in Irving Park and surrounded by shops and cafes. Timber Lanes is a cozy bowling alley with only half-a-dozen lanes. Rates start from 2.50-3.00 a game or $20 an hour per lane. Shoe rental is $3. (Fits the three C's for a great date! Cozy, Cute and Cheap!)
Across the street is Crepes-A-Latte Cafe, a sweet, quirky cafe that makes gorgeous, delicious crepes and coffee.
Cafe 28, just down the block, is a family-owned restaurant serving Mexican-Cuban cuisine. Live music twice a week and tasty dishes make this vibrant cafe a must-taste.

MONTROSE: Montrose station is located in the Ravenswood neighborhood of Chicago, known for its courtyard-style residential buildings. Lincoln Square and Ravenswood combine the Old World charm of German village architecture and plenty of German food with hip, urban boutiques, retailers and shops. Ravenswood is one of Chicago's first planned neighborhoods with Victorian and Prairie School homes, brick row houses and extra-wide lots.
A couple blocks away is famous Spacca Napoli Pizzeria, a beautiful, authentic Italian Pizzeria, with a stone oven and Italian-born-and-bred dough-mixer and chefs.

DAMEN: Damen station of the Brown Line is just blocks away from Amy's Candy Bar, a new candy shop filled to the brim with colorful, handmade candies, caramels and pastries.

WESTERN: Western stop of the Brown Line is the city's connection to Lincoln Square, Little India (just a bus ride away) and the Lincoln Square Farmers Market. (Chicago has more than 70 vendors selling fresh fruits, vegetables, plants and flowers to neighborhoods around the city.) Lincoln Square is known for it's Old German population, architecture and culture. The Conrad Sulzer Regional Library utilizes a German neo-classical style inspired by the prominent German-American local culture and the German-American architect Ludwig Meis van der Rohe. The current building was designed in 1985 by the architectural firm of Hammond Beeby and Babka, now known as Hammond Beeby Rupert Ainge, Inc. The same firm also designed the Harold Washington Library. Sulzer houses custom made furniture in a German mythological theme.

ROCKWELL: Rockwell is first of the last few stops of the Brown Line, all street level. The residential architecture is beautiful and exquisite, as the transition from city to suburban culture is apparent. Surrounding the station are several shops called the Rockwell Street Neighborhood Shops. Among them is Beans & Bagels, a quaint little cafe that serves delicious, gourmet sandwiches and healthy fresh-squeezed juices, yummy warm bagel-and-cream-cheese combinations, and fresh hot coffee.

FRANSISCO: Besides being in a beautiful, cozy neighborhood, the Fransisco stop is just a few steps from a little cafe called First Slice, where the seemingly small space is apart of a huge campaign against hunger in Chicago. After purchasing a yummy, healthy meal for yourself, the money is used to give a similar meal to a homeless and needy person somewhere in Chicago.

KEDZIE: The Kedzie station services the Albany Park neighborhood of Chicago, where the majority of residents are of Latin-American descent and of Mexico and Guatamala. Substantial numbers are also from the Philippines, India, Korea, Cambodia, Somalia, the Former Yugoslavia (Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia), Romania, Pakistan and the Middle East (especially Iraq, Iran, and Lebanon). Over 40 different languages are spoken in its public schools.


What else would you like to see?


  1. If you want to take a bicycle on the train the Brown Line has an elevator or handicap access at all the stops outside the Loop.

    The Red and Blue lines aren't quite so accommodating.

  2. Thanks for your comment! Yeah, I'd agree- and you can check the handicap accessibility of each stop on the CTA's website, as well :)