This post was updated in September 2022 to reflect current trends.
In this moving guide:
- Chicago At-A-Glance
- What it’s like to live in Chicago
- Economy and job outlook in Chicago
- Real estate, cost of living in Chicago
- The top neighborhoods in Chicago
- How to get around in Chicago
- School and education snapshot
- Weather and climate in Chicago
- 10 can’t-miss things to do in Chicago
Well, we can’t blame you. The nation’s third-largest city boasts some of the country’s finest museums, theater, restaurants, bars and so much more. Nestled along the shores of the stunning Lake Michigan and home to iconic architecture, Chicago serves as a picturesque backdrop for life in the city.
The Windy City is also a city made up of many distinct neighborhoods and enclaves, each of them home to a slightly different flavor of Chicago life. Whether it’s the taquerias and art galleries of Pilsen or the sports bars and boutiques of Lakeview, the city has a little something for everyone. Our guide to Chicago’s top neighborhoods will help you find the right match for you, and our list of Chicago’s best realtors will help you find the home of your dreams.
A World-Class City with Midwest Charm
In Chicago, you’ll find more than just Michelin-starred restaurants, nationally-recognized business sectors and pockets of neighborhoods that all have a distinct vibe and character.
Drawing on a legacy of many waves of immigration from Europe, the American South and Mexico over the past several centuries, Chicago is a true melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities today, including significant German and Polish populations. It’s also oozing in Midwestern values.
That rich heritage is also what makes the Chicago food scene especially noteworthy. Home to more than 7,300 restaurants, Chicago offers a wide range of cuisines that reflects its diverse population. Whether it’s the city’s iconic fare like deep-dish pizza, hot dogs or Italian beef sandwiches or more adventurous fare like the Puerto Rican jibarito fried-plantain sandwich, Greek saganaki or Vietnamese pho, it will be tough to choose which craving you’ll want to satisfy on any given night.
And if you’re ready to see what else the city has to offer, the festival season kicks off just after Memorial Day every summer with each weekend packed with sometimes a dozen or more offerings of events focused on art, music, food and more. Some of the more popular annual offerings include Blues Fest, the Taste of Chicago, the Pitchfork Music Festival, Lollapalooza, Northalsted Market Days and the Air and Water Show.
Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t touch on how big of a professional sports town Chicago is. The classic “Bill Swerski’s Superfans” SNL sketch isn’t based totally on stereotypes. Home to the Sox and the Cubs, plus the Blackhawks, Bulls and Bears (oh my!), the major professional sports are well-represented around town
What Kind of Jobs are in Chicago?
Because Chicago is a large city, it has become a regional leader in a number of different industries. Finance and business giants JPMorgan Chase and Deloitte have offices there. Boeing and United Airlines are headquartered in Chicago while residents also work for Exelon, Jones Lang LaSalle, Motorola Solutions, Ford Motor Company and Nestle. Engineering, health care, government, pharmaceuticals and transportation are other significant employment sectors. Chicago also has a flourishing entrepreneur scene with several coworking facilities in downtown neighborhoods. You can comfortably work remotely if you want to expand your network and benefit from a trendy office space that isn’t your home.
Chicago Unemployment rate: 4.2% (as of May 2022)
Average weekly wages for all industries: $1,198 (August 2022)
A Bustling City With Affordable Living
While the cost of living is 23 percent higher than the national average, people flock to Chicago for a big-city feel that won’t break the bank compared with more expensive cities (we’re looking at you San Francisco and New York City). At $62,097, in 2020 the average annual income in Chicago is slightly higher than the national average of $60,996, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (updated April, 2021).
Chicago is a bustling city that also has budget-friendly options for living. You’ll pay an average of $2,200 for a 750 square foot apartment. The most affordable neighborhoods for renting are The Island, Avalon Park and Burnside and you’ll pay the most in River North, East Side Chicago and Streeterville. Other popular neighborhoods include Lakeview, Ravenswood, Rogers Park and Bucktown.
Chicago is also an ideal spot for first-time home buyers and families looking to upgrade to a new space. On average, homes are selling for a median price of $325K. These are the best neighborhoods for buying a home:
- Edison Park
- Lincoln Park
- Mount Greenwood