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Lake Michigan shore, looking north from the John Hancock building

Chicago has the lot: itinerant artists babbling Beat, Polish aunties stuffing sausage, African-American mothers organising the block, blue-collar guys bad-mouthing the Bears, a crooner singing the blues on the South Side. It's a city that wears its American heart proudly on its sleeve.

This diverse mix has built a city with an unrivalled tradition of jazz and blues, an astonishing architecture, an appetite for hearty food, award-winning newspapers, universities full of Nobel laureates and some of the most die-hard sports fans you'll ever meet.

On a cold, brutally windy day in Chicago, when the temperature's subzero and strong gusts keep you from walking down the street, the first question that will come to mind is, 'Who the hell decided to build a city and settle here?' Well, nearly three million hardy souls now call this great city home, and they can thank the mettle and vision of their Irish, Italian, German, Polish, Mexican and Asian immigrant forebears, and others who migrated here from the southern US for creating it.

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