Is Chicago a Good Place to Live? 10 Pros and Cons to Consider

Updated on June 26th, 2023

Reading Time: 5 minutes

The Windy City is a vibrant and diverse metropolis that has captured the hearts of many with its breathtaking architecture, world-class cuisine, and rich culture. But is Chicago a good place to live? While the city offers endless opportunities for entertainment, career growth, and a bustling urban lifestyle, it also comes with its fair share of challenges. In this Redfin article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of living in Chicago to help you decide if it’s the right place for you. So whether you’re searching for studio apartments in Chicago or homes for sale, read on to find out what life is like living in this bustling city.

Chicago in Early Morning Light

Pros of living in Chicago

1. A vibrant arts and culture scene

From the world-renowned Art Institute of Chicago to the stunning Chicago Theatre, the city has plenty of cultural attractions. Chicago is also home to several art fairs and festivals, including the Chicago Jazz Festival and the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, which bring together musicians worldwide. Whether you’re interested in theater, music, dance, or visual arts, Chicago has something to offer everyone, making it a vibrant and inspiring city.

2. Exciting sports and entertainment options

Whether you enjoy sports, theater, music, or nightlife, there’s always something to do in Chicago. Sports fans can cheer on their favorite teams, such as the Chicago Cubs, White Sox, Bulls, and Blackhawks. The city is also home to world-class theater, with the Steppenwolf Theatre Company and the Goodman Theatre offering outstanding productions. Music lovers can enjoy various genres at famous venues like the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the iconic blues clubs of the city’s South Side. Nightlife in Chicago is also legendary, with bustling neighborhoods like River North and Wicker Park offering an array of bars, clubs, and lounges.

Enjoying a meal in Chicago

3. World-class cuisine and dining options

Chicago is a foodie’s paradise, with abundant world-class cuisine and dining options to satisfy even the most discerning palate. The city is renowned for its deep-dish pizza, a classic dish synonymous with Chicago. Alongside pizza, Chicago boasts a diverse culinary scene, ranging from gourmet farm-to-table restaurants to street food vendors serving savory delicacies. 

The city’s neighborhoods each offer hidden gems, from the authentic Mexican cuisine of Pilsen to the vibrant Asian fusion of Chinatown. And don’t forget to try the famous Chicago-style hot dog, a mouthwatering snack served at countless street-side stands throughout the city. Whether you’re a foodie or enjoy good eats, Chicago’s dining scene will surely leave you satisfied and longing for more.

4. Beautiful lakefront and numerous outdoor spaces

Chicago boasts a beautiful lakefront and numerous outdoor spaces that offer plenty of opportunities for residents and visitors to enjoy the great outdoors. The city is home to 18 miles of public beaches, including North Avenue Beach and Oak Street Beach, where you can relax, swim, or walk along the shoreline. The lakefront also features numerous parks, such as Grant Park and Millennium Park, which offer stunning city skyline views and host various outdoor events and concerts. Additionally, Chicago has over 580 parks and 26 miles of lakefront trails, perfect for biking, running, or taking a stroll. Check out this article for more beautiful places in Chicago to explore.

Subway train in downtown Chicago, IL

5. Easy access to transportation

Chicago has excellent access to transportation, making it an ideal location for those who prefer to live in an urban environment without relying on a car. The city’s extensive public transportation system includes the “L” train and bus system, bike-sharing options, and water taxis. The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) provides reliable and affordable transportation to all parts of the city, including O’Hare International Airport. In addition, Chicago is known for its pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods, with many amenities and attractions within walking distance.

Cons of living in Chicago

1. High sale taxes

Chicago has one of the highest sales tax rates in the country. The combined state and local sales tax rate in Chicago is 10.25%, which includes a 6.25% state sales tax and various local sales taxes. This means that items purchased in the city can have a significant tax burden. While this tax revenue does help support local infrastructure and services, it can also be a factor to consider for those living on a tight budget or those who prefer to keep their expenses low. 

2. Harsh winters

Chicago is known for its notoriously harsh winters. Cold temperatures can drop below freezing from December to February, accompanied by snow, ice, and strong winds. The city often experiences blizzards, which can cause transportation disruptions and make it difficult to get around. However, Chicagoans enjoy the cold weather by enjoying ice skating, skiing, and snowboarding in winter. The city also hosts several winter festivals and events, such as the Christkindlmarket, a traditional German Christmas market, and the Polar Plunge, where participants jump into the freezing Lake Michigan to raise money for charity. 

Traffic jam in Chicago

3. Heavy traffic congestion

The city’s extensive network of highways and major thoroughfares can become clogged with commuters, leading to delays and frustration for drivers. Additionally, Chicago has a high population density and limited parking options, making navigating and finding a parking spot difficult. The city has implemented various transportation options, such as buses, trains, and bike lanes, to alleviate some traffic congestion. However, it is essential to consider the potential for heavy traffic when planning travel in and around the city.

4. Air pollution and environmental concerns

Like many major cities, Chicago faces environmental concerns such as air pollution. The city is home to many industrial and transportation sources, which can contribute to poor air quality. The Chicago metropolitan area has been ranked among the worst in the country for pollution. Additionally, the city needs help with lead contamination in its drinking water and a lack of green spaces in some neighborhoods. However, the city has tried to address these issues through initiatives such as the Chicago Climate Action Plan and the Green Healthy Neighborhoods program, which aim to reduce emissions and increase access to green spaces in underserved areas.

Chicago Bungalows in a Southwest Side Neighborhood

5. High cost of living

Chicago is known for its high cost of living, as it is a central metropolitan area and one of the largest cities in the United States. Housing costs play a significant role, with average apartment rents ranging from $1,300 to $2,284. Additionally, utilities, transportation, and groceries are more expensive in the city compared to other areas. It’s essential to explore different neighborhoods and suburbs to find housing options that suit individual budgets in Chicago.

Is Chicago a good place to live? Final thoughts

Living in Chicago has pros and cons, and it ultimately comes down to personal preference and priorities. On the one hand, Chicago offers world-class cuisine, a vibrant arts and culture scene, easy access to transportation, exciting entertainment options, a beautiful lakefront, and outdoor spaces. On the other hand, the city also has a high cost of living, harsh winters, heavy traffic congestion, air pollution, and increased sales taxes. When considering whether Chicago is a good place to live, weighing the pros and cons and determining what is most important to you in a city is important. And if you decide on moving to Chicago, Our Redfin agents are here to help. Check out this article where Chicago agents share tips for first-time homebuyers.

If you are represented by an agent, this is not a solicitation of your business. This article is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional advice from a medical provider, licensed attorney, financial advisor, or tax professional. Consumers should independently verify any agency or service mentioned will meet their needs. Learn more about our Editorial Guidelines here.
Brett Boudart | Redfin Realtor®

Brett Boudart | Redfin Realtor®

Serving homebuyers and sellers in the Chicago area, Brett Boudart is a top real estate agent at Redfin with the latest market insights and local expertise. With years of experience as a real estate agent in the greater Chicago area, Brett Boudart possesses a wealth of knowledge and expertise in the local market.

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