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20 Best Places to Live in Illinois in 2023

July 31, 2023
Are you looking for the best places to live in Illinois? From bustling city living to charming historic towns, learn which parts of Illinois are ideal for you.

If you're interested in finding the best places to live in Illinois, you’ll discover vibrant cities, charming historic towns, wetlands, rolling hills, forests, and farmland. With so many unique areas to choose from, it’s easy to get overwhelmed as you begin apartment hunting.

Thankfully, we're here to help you begin your Illinois apartment search by helping you narrow down your options and choosing your ideal city. We've created this guide to help you learn more about living in Illinois and pick the best location for you!

1. Chicago

chicago-best-places-to-live-in-illinois.png

  • Population: 2,665,039
  • Median Two-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,454
  • Median Household Income: $65,781
  • Walk Score: 100
  • Transit Score: 100
  • Bike Score: 81

Chicago is among the biggest cities in Illinois and is the most populated city in the state. Despite its nickname, the Windy City is about as windy as any average state. Some of the best neighborhoods in Chicago include Bucktown, Logan Square, and Lincoln Park. If you're looking to commute into the city to save money, check out other cities near Chicago. If you're considering calling this city your new home, you'll first want to find out a few things to know before moving to Chicago, including the cost of living in Chicago and the average rent and rent price trends in Chicago. Once you have a better idea of the region, you can explore the thousands of apartments available for rent.

2. Aurora

Aurora Town riverside view in Aurora Town of Illinois

  • Population: 179,866
  • Median Two-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,871
  • Median Household Income: $79,642
  • Walk Score: 85
  • Transit Score: 40
  • Bike Score: 82

Located in Will, Kendall, Kane, and DuPage counties, Aurora is the second-largest city in Illinois and is divided into three main regions: the Far East Side/Fox Valley, the East Side, and the West Side. Originally a midsize manufacturing city in Kane County, it has undergone significant expansion since the 1960s. Located on Stolp Island, Aurora's historic district features the notable Paramount Theatre and the Hollywood Casino, the latter of which offers gaming facilities and three restaurants in 53,000 square feet along the Fox River.

3. Naperville

Downtown Naperville Riverwalk

  • Population: 149,936
  • Median Two-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,896
  • Median Household Income: $135,772
  • Walk Score: 58
  • Transit Score: 24
  • Bike Score: 58

Naperville, which was once a small town known for its mill, is now a desirable suburb often recognized as one of the safest places to live in Illinois. This suburb serves as a commuter hotspot and houses more than 30 Fortune 500 companies, including Nokia, Nicor Gas, and Edward Hospital. With the highest median rent for a two-bedroom apartment, Naperville showcases its well-established status with notable neighborhoods like Ashbury, spanning 514 acres with 1,000 homes, and Acorn Hill Estates, which was developed in the 1980s and 1990s.

4. Joliet

 Joliet Town street view in Joliet Town of Illinois

  • Population: 150,033
  • Starting Two-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,200
  • Median Household Income: $77,373
  • Walk Score: 86
  • Transit Score: 46
  • Bike Score: 65

Located fewer than 40 miles southwest of Chicago, Joliet, also known as J-Town, is a rapidly growing city filled with 1920s Beaux-Arts and Sullivanesque architecture. Joliet offers a range of attractions for residents and visitors alike, such as the Rialto Square Theatre, Chicagoland Speedway, and the Old Joliet Prison, which was featured in the iconic film "The Blues Brothers." Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy four golf courses, two miniature golf courses, and several miles of bike trails throughout the city. The Illinois and Michigan (I&M) Canal State Trail, which stretches 60 miles up to Peru, Illinois, provides an extended adventure for cyclists.

5. Rockford

  • Population: 146,713
  • Starting Two-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $800
  • Median Household Income: $47,002
  • Walk Score: 45
  • Transit Score: N/A
  • Bike Score: 57

Situated along the Rock River, the manufacturing city of Rockford boasts the highest population among cities in Illinois outside of the Chicago metropolitan area. The largest employers in Rockford include Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the Rockford Public School District, and Mercyhealth. Rockford also boasts numerous historically and culturally significant venues, including the Anderson Japanese Gardens and the Burpee Museum of Natural History, which houses the well-preserved fossil of Jane the juvenile T-Rex.

6. Springfield

 Springfield is the Urban Capitol of Illinois

  • Population: 113,273
  • Starting Rent for a Two-Bedroom Apartment: $800
  • Median Household Income: $57,596
  • Walk Score: 64
  • Transit Score: 38
  • Bike Score: 57

Springfield, the state capital of Illinois and former home of Abraham Lincoln, is the second-largest city outside of the Chicago metropolitan area. The city's capitol buildings, including the Old State Capitol and the Illinois State Capitol, offer glimpses into its political history, as Abraham Lincoln himself tried cases in the latter. For outdoor exploration, Washington Park provides 150 acres of natural landscapes, featuring attractions like the botanical gardens and the Angel of Hope memorial.

7. Bannockburn

Bannockburn-IL

  • Population: 1,315
  • Starting Rent for a Two-Bedroom Apartment: $1,550
  • Median Household Income: $147,500
  • Walk Score: 31
  • Transit Score: N/A
  • Bike Score: 38

Bannockburn is a tranquil Chicago suburb conveniently located beside Interstate 94 and the Milwaukee District North Metra line for commuters. You'll find a range of renting options, including apartments, townhouses, and some single-family properties nestled in an area known for its green space. Bannockburn also enjoys a reputation as one of the safest Chicago suburbs where kids and adults alike can enjoy parks, trails, and outdoor spaces. This Illinois town is just a five-minute drive from Deerfield, a great place for shopping, restaurants, and weekend entertainment, giving renters the quiet they want with access to urban amenities.

8. Buffalo Grove

buffalo-grove-il

  • Population: 42,569
  • Starting Rent for a Two-Bedroom Apartment: $2,200
  • Median Household Income: $121,212
  • Walk Score: 40
  • Transit Score: N/A
  • Bike Score: 52

Situated in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, Buffalo Grove provides quick and easy access to the city with major highways nearby. But you don't have to go too far to take advantage of shopping at the Buffalo Grove Town Center and the nearby Arboretum of South Barrington. Beyond shopping, dining, and easy access to Chicago, Buffalo Grove also boasts a family-friendly atmosphere with summer concerts, movies in the park, and art fairs for year-round fun in a laid-back setting.

9. Wheaton

wheaton-il

  • Population: 52,984
  • Starting Rent for a Two-Bedroom Apartment: $1,800
  • Median Household Income: $108,737
  • Walk Score: 94
  • Transit Score: 39
  • Bike Score: 83

Wheaton is a convenient alternative to Chicago with access to I-355 and the Union Pacific West Metra line. The town’s charming downtown offers boutiques, restaurants, and entertainment in a walkable community with a small-town feel. College students flock to attend Wheaton College with plenty of options for remote studying at cafes or hitting the bars on weekends. The annual Summer Wine Walk, summer concerts, and holiday festivities keep locals busy in a city filled with well-preserved historic buildings and neighborhoods.

10. Long Grove

  • Population: 8,271
  • Starting Rent for a Two-Bedroom Apartment: $1,499
  • Median Household Income: $207,275
  • Walk Score: 3
  • Transit Score: N/A
  • Bike Score: 33

The village of Long Grove boasts historic buildings along tree-lined streets and a cozy downtown with restaurants and shops. Like many Illinois suburbs, you'll find scenic parks and woodlands here, but Long Grove also fosters a strong equestrian community with horse-friendly trails and events. Other festivities include the Long Grove Strawberry Fest, Chocolate Fest, and Apple Fest. Long Grove is close to major transportation routes to Chicago for those who work there or want a night out in the city.

11. Crystal Lake

crystal-grove-best-places-to-live-in-illinois.png

  • Population: 40,661
  • Starting Rent for a Two-Bedroom Apartment: $1,095
  • Median Household Income: $96,274
  • Walk Score: 80
  • Transit Score: N/A
  • Bike Score: 72

Crystal Lake gives a nod to its namesake lake, where residents can boat and fish or hike in Lippold Park. Locally owned shops and restaurants line its downtown streets, along with the Raue Center for the Arts, known for its concerts and cultural events. Crystal Lake is also family-friendly with top-rated schools and year-round parades and celebrations. You can shop and dine at Crystal Lake Plaza and Crystal Point Mall or get to the city with a direct commuter rail link to the Loop.

12. Glenview

Glenview-best-places-to-live-in-illinois.png

  • Population: 47,258
  • Starting Rent for a Two-Bedroom Apartment: $1,795
  • Median Household Income: $123,771
  • Walk Score: 34
  • Transit Score: 26
  • Bike Score: 34

Glenview, Illinois, is just 20 miles north of downtown Chicago with quick access via the Metra commuter line and major highways. Schools are well-regarded in Glenview, attracting families looking for convenience and a quiet lifestyle. This area is home to the Glen Town Center, which is an outdoor shopping and dining district with national retailers, restaurants, and entertainment. If you’re looking for local culture, you can find it at the Summer Art Fair, the Glenview Farmers Market, and annual festivals.

13. Clarendon Hills

  • Population: 8,571
  • Starting Rent for a Two-Bedroom Apartment: $1,636
  • Median Household Income: $107,375
  • Walk Score: 66
  • Transit Score: N/A
  • Bike Score: 47

Clarendon Hills is a tightknit community located about 20 miles west of downtown Chicago for a quick commute on the BNSF Metra line. You still have shopping and dining options readily available in Clarendon Hills with upscale eateries and family-friendly restaurants. Locals can enjoy the Daisy Days Festival, the Fourth of July fireworks, and the annual Holiday Walk or embrace outdoor fun at Prospect Park. Clarendon Hills ranks highly for schools, safety, and quality of life. It’s a place where you can enjoy a laid-back vibe within a short distance of Chicago.

14. Schaumburg

  • Population: 76,225
  • Starting Rent for a Two-Bedroom Apartment: $1,695
  • Median Household Income: $85,147
  • Walk Score: 43
  • Transit Score: N/A
  • Bike Score: 66

Life in Schaumburg brings employment and entertainment within reach. It's a major business and employment hub in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and home to the Motorola headquarters and the Schaumburg campus of Harper College. Schaumburg is known for its shopping and entertainment at stops like Woodfield Mall and Streets of Woodfield. With over 1,000 acres of open space, residents enjoy the outdoors at Busse Woods and the Spring Valley Nature Center. You can soak up the culture at the Al Larson Prairie Center for the Arts and the Trickster Cultural Center. Annual community events include Septemberfest and the Prairie Arts Festival.

15. Park Ridge

  • Population: 38,278
  • Starting Rent for a Two-Bedroom Apartment: $1,850
  • Median Household Income: $124,535
  • Walk Score: 84
  • Transit Score: 43
  • Bike Score: 60

Park Ridge lies 15 miles northwest of downtown Chicago with access to Metra train service. This charming suburb hosts the Park Ridge Farmers Market and the annual Taste of Park Ridge food celebration. You can head uptown along Main Street to find boutiques, shops, and restaurants that offer a mix of cuisines. Hodges Park and Centennial Park provide walking paths, picnic areas, and sports fields to unwind on weekends.

16. Inverness

  • Population: 7,362
  • Starting Rent for a Two-Bedroom Apartment: $1,660
  • Median Household Income: $190,458
  • Walk Score: 15
  • Transit Score: N/A
  • Bike Score: 21

Inverness offers a tranquil setting with wooded areas and rolling hills alongside residential homes. Unique to the greater Chicago area, Inverness offers oversized lots and estates for more space. This Chicago suburb attracts families for its highly rated schools and upscale properties. Residents enjoy proximity to the Inverness Golf Club and Palatine Plaza and are a short drive to the Village Green Shopping Center. While Inverness is not known for its nightlife, Chicago is a reasonable 30 miles away.

17. Galena

Galena-Best-Places-to-live-in-illnois.png

  • Population: 3,212
  • Starting Rent for a Two-Bedroom Apartment: $1,800
  • Median Household Income: $57,632
  • Walk Score: 78
  • Transit Score: N/A
  • Bike Score: 41

Galena is known for this historic charm with beautifully restored 19th-century buildings and Victorian-era homes. You're never far from a brick storefront or a bed and breakfast. The town's rolling hills attract thinkers, and the Galena River provides fishing and boating activities. For culture, residents enjoy live music performances and cultural festivals featuring local artists. You'll find everything from antique shops to jewelry stores among upscale restaurants and cozy cafes.

18. Oak Park

oak-park-best-places-to-live-in-illinois

  • Population: 52,553
  • Starting Rent for a Two-Bedroom Apartment: $1,485
  • Median Household Income: $98,081
  • Walk Score: 81
  • Transit Score: 60
  • Bike Score: 65

Situated west of Chicago, Oak Park is a suburb known for its architectural history, which includes buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, for a charming backdrop. This walkable community also boasts a focus on diversity and inclusion. The area offers its own dining and shopping options, though you'll need to commute into Chicago on the Green line to get a taste of the nightlife. But there is a strong artistic scene in Oak Park, which is home to the Oak Park Festival Theatre and the Oak Park Art League for art exhibitions, classes, and workshops.

19. Hinsdale

Hinsdale-best-places-to-live-in-illinois.png

  • Population: 17,235
  • Starting Rent for a Two-Bedroom Apartment: $1,636
  • Median Household Income: $224,185
  • Walk Score: 43
  • Transit Score: 21
  • Bike Score: 41

Hinsdale is filled with well-preserved historic lawns and tree-lined streets. You'll find some apartments and single-family properties for rent that sit about 20 miles west of downtown Chicago. But you can stay put in Hinsdale and enjoy upscale restaurants, shops, and eateries. Hinsdale is also the place to pick if you're looking for a high quality of life, low crime rates, and a top-voted Illinois community. For hiking and biking, spend the afternoon at the Salt Creek Woods or play a round of golf at the Meadowlark Golf Club.

20. Peoria

Peoria-best-places-to-live-in-illinois

  • Population: 111,021
  • Starting Rent for a Two-Bedroom Apartment: $500
  • Median Household Income: $53,568
  • Walk Score: 81
  • Transit Score: 52
  • Bike Score: 52

As one of the best cities in Illinois, Peoria offers a reasonable cost of living compared to similarly sized cities in the state. Cultural attractions are clustered around the Peoria Civic Center, which hosts year-round concerts, Broadway shows, and sporting events. Outdoor enthusiasts hike the trails to the waterfalls at Starved Rock State Park and head over to the Quad Cities area for more dining and entertainment options. Peoria is also a college town where students attend Bradley University and the University of Illinois College of Medicine.

Make Your Move: Start Apartment Hunting

No matter what you are looking for in Illinois, from the suburbs of Aurora to the hustle and bustle of the Chicago Loop, there's something for everyone. Thankfully, some of the best places to live in Illinois still have reasonable rents compared to similar metropolitan areas.

If you’re interested in moving to Illinois, sign up with Apartment List today and start checking out the thousands of available apartments to rent in Illinois! With us, you’ll spend 5 minutes and save 50 hours searching.

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Tristian Brown
SENIOR CONTENT ASSOCIATE
Tristian Brown is a Senior Content Marketing Associate at Apartment List, where he manages high-quality content that helps modern renters find the perfect home. He brings an immense wealth of knowledge to the team, having earned a Bachelor of Arts in Marketing and European Management from the University of San Diego and EM Strasbourg Business School. Read More
Emily Kho
EMILY KHO
Emily is a professionally trained writer who covers a wide range of topics associated with the rental market and real estate industry. With over a decade of professional writing experience, Emily comes from a strong background in the field backed with a Bachelor of Science from the world-renowned William F. Read More

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