History, entertainment and midwestern life are all top reasons to live in Chicago. Learn more about the Windy City and its neighborhoods.
Whether you enjoy jaw-dropping architecture, professional sports or great tunes, Chicago has something for you. Overlooking Lake Michigan, America’s third-largest city is a vibrant and diverse community with an appreciation for the finest things in life, including music, food and art. Living in Chicago also means access to world-renowned festivals and entertainment year-round.
Here are some things you should know if you are considering making Windy City your next home.
Living in Chicago: What to expect
Chicago is made up of unique neighborhoods, from the glass towers of the Loop to village-like residential areas. In the summer, the sandy beaches of Lake Michigan provide a welcome respite from the heat. You will also find plenty to do in the winter, with a thriving dining and bar scene and world-class museums.
If you are considering making a move to Chicago, you are probably concerned about what to expect in terms of lifestyle and education. Here are some of the elements to take into consideration when living in Chicago.
Walkable areas in Chicago
If you don’t like driving, you’ll like living in Chicago. The Windy City is the fourth-most walkable major city in the country, with a walk score of 77. You can complete most errands on foot, especially if you live in the city’s northern neighborhoods.
On the days you would rather not walk, you can still easily get around. Chicago is also home to the nation’s second-largest public transportation system. Thanks to the eight L train lines, which serve 145 train stations across the city, and the 129 bus routes, you are never far from public transportation.
With a biking score of 72, you can also ride your bike to run errands or commute to school and work. Thanks to the flat terrain and dense network of bike lanes, it is a breeze.
Best public schools in Chicago
The Chicago Public School system is the third-largest in the United States behind New York and Los Angeles. It serves 330,411 students and has a graduation rate steadily improving, hitting a record high in 2021.
Top three elementary schools
- Disney Elementary Magnet School
- Amundsen High School
- Healy Elementary School
Top three middle schools
- Lane Technical High School
- Taft High School
- Young Magnet High School
Top three high schools
- Payton College Preparatory School
- Northside College Preparatory High School
- Jones College Prep High School
Commute time in Chicago
The average commute time in Chicago is 34.6 minutes, making it slightly longer than the national average of 26.4 minutes. Most commuters drive in their car alone (49.2%), followed by those who take mass transit (28.2%). Because the Windy City is very walkable, 6.4% of Chicagoans walk to work every day, significantly more than the 2.7% national average.
In addition, 1.7% bike to work compared to 0.6% nationwide, giving Chicago the second-highest percentage of commuters riding their bikes to work.
Chicago has a well-earned reputation for having a harsh climate. The summers tend to be hot, muggy and wet. Temperatures hit a daily average high of 73 degrees Fahrenheit, with average maximum highs of 82 and lows of 64. Meanwhile, the winters are long and snowy, with often frigid temperatures. The average daily high sits below 43 degrees during the colder months, with average highs of 33 and lows of 22. Cloudy skies are common year-round.
Chicago crime rate
The crime rate in Chicago is higher than the national average for both property and violent crimes. In 2021, there were 25,532 reported incidences of violent crime and 80,742 property crimes incidences, according to AreaVibes.
Chicago city population
Chicago is the third-most populated city in the United States, behind New York and Los Angeles. It is home to 2,746,388 inhabitants, according to the 2020 Census. It is also one of the most densely populated cities behind New York, San Francisco and Boston. The population has remained relatively stable in the past 20 years.
Cost of living in Chicago
The cost of living in Chicago is 23% above the national average but significantly cheaper than in other major cities such as Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Seattle or Washington.
Housing and transportation (including gas, car insurance, car purchase and maintenance) are significantly above the national average and are 56% and 27% more expensive than the rest of the country, respectively. The average salary in Chicago is $72,208, which is higher than the national average of $64,268.
Median household income in Chicago
According to the US Census Bureau, the median income in Chicago was $62,097 per household or $39,068 per capita. It is slightly below the national median income of $67,521 per household.
Chicago neighborhood map
Top 5 Chicago neighborhoods by population density
Chicago is a city of neighborhoods. Outside of the Loop (downtown area) and its gleaming skyscrapers, most of the city is residential, with smaller buildings of three or fewer stories, townhouses and individual houses. Here is what living in Chicago is like if you opt for some of the most densely populated neighborhoods.
Photo credit: Alanscottwalker via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Sprawling along the shore of Lake Michigan, Edgewater Beach is one of the most sought-after neighborhoods in Chicago. It is a safe and diverse community with easy access to several family-friendly beaches and amenities. You will find high-rise condominium communities closer to the water to enjoy the beautiful lake views and smaller apartment buildings and homes more inland.
Photo credit: Ascot Grand/Shutterstock
Near North Side is a bustling community with an urban feel. High-rise condominiums are the most common type of housing, providing splendid views of the famed Chicago skyline, but you will also find multiple residential pockets and green spaces.
Lake View East
Photo credit: Hendrickson Photography/Shutterstock
Lake View East is a vibrant and diverse neighborhood of low-rise, mixed-use properties. It is home to the iconic Wrigley Field as well as countless boutiques, bars and restaurants. It also includes Boystown, one of the most inclusive LGBTQ+ and oldest recognized gay communities.
Photo credit: Doug Lemke/Shutterstock
Streeterview is home to some of Chicago’s most famous landmarks, including Navy Pier and its Ferris wheel, the luxury stores of the Magnificent Mile and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Most properties are luxurious and rich in amenities, whether they’re striking high-rise condominium communities or elegant brownstones.
Photo credit: IvoShandor via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Albany Park is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Chicago, with restaurants at every corner. Low-rise multifamily and condominium properties are the most common types of housing. Gompers Park and Eugene Field Park provide plenty of entertainment and green space, with playgrounds, sports fields and a nature walk.
Median home price in Chicago
According to Realtor.com, the median listing price for a home in Chicago was $325,000, or $249 per square foot. The median sold home price was $318,500.
Average rent in Chicago
According to the Census Bureau, the median gross rent for an apartment in Chicago is $1,154. It is slightly higher than the national average of $1,096.
Moving to Chicago
Despite the harsh climate, Conde-Nast recognized Chicago as the best big city in the United States. The largest city in the Midwest has been a beacon for arts, culture and architecture for nearly 200 years. Besides, it is probably the best opportunity to enjoy attractions and restaurants comparable to those of New York or San Francisco for a much more affordable price tag.