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20 Cities Near Chicago, IL to Live in, 2021

By: Davina Ward
June 21, 2021

Chicago is a fantastic city by any standards. It's got a diverse population, delicious pizza, and, of course, a unique culture mix of the east coast and midwest.

That said, it can also suffer from high crime rates, expensive housing, and brutal winters that can make Chicago shine a little less brightly to prospective renters.

Luckily, living near Chicago is always an option. There are tons of cities and towns close enough to Chicago that commuting won't be a massive headache, and you can find a home that best suits your needs.

We're here to help. Here's a list of the best cities near Chicago ordered by the closest proximity to Chicago (you're welcome!).

Let's get started.

Cicero

  • Miles away from downtown Chicago: 8.5
  • Commute time to Chicago via Car: 20 minutes
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bus/Train: 49 minutes via the Pink Line Train
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bike: 48 minutes via W Ogden Ave.
  • Median Rent: $940
  • Population: 80,796
  • Median Household Income: $49,367
  • Walk Score: 73
  • Transit Score: 52
  • Bike Score: 57

Cicero boasts some thrilling history, including some stories regarding the famed gangster Al Capone. Today, Cicero is much quieter and less scandalous.

Affordable rent prices and proximity to downtown Chicago make Cicero an excellent place to call home. However, you’ll find pizzerias selling Chicago deep dish pizzas, cute little shops, and a bustling nightlife scene.

Be sure to choose your neighborhood carefully. For example, Morton Park is quite costly, but Grant Works is relatively inexpensive. Beyond that, be sure to check the safety ratings in the area.

Oak Park

  • Miles away from downtown Chicago: 9.3
  • Commute time to Chicago via Car: 20 minutes
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bus/Train: 1 hour and 2 minutes via the Green Line Train
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bike: 57 minutes via W Warren Blvd
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,883
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $2,673
  • Population: 52,381
  • Median Household Income: $94,646
  • Walk Score: 79
  • Transit Score: 63
  • Bike Score: 65

Oak Park's main draws are its location, small-town feel, and rich history. Beyond that, it has a reputation for being difficult to move into, as there are few vacancies throughout the city's neighborhoods.

You'll find that neighborhoods in Oak Park are somewhat divided by class and income, with the Oak Park Ave neighborhoods being among the richest and high-class in the area.

That said, if you're looking to save on rent and live among the more relaxed of Oak Park's residents, the Harlem and Washington neighborhoods are a good fit.

Berwyn

  • Miles away from downtown Chicago: 10.2
  • Commute time to Chicago via Car: 20 minutes
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bus/Train: 1 hour and 8 minutes via the 322 bus, with transfers to the 307 bus and the Blue Line Train
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bike: 57 minutes via W Cermak Rd
  • Median Rent: $969
  • Population: 54,391
  • Median Household Income: $62,758
  • Walk Score: 73
  • Transit Score: 45
  • Bike Score: 58

Love the feel of a small town, but want to stay close to Chicago's city center? Berwyn is the perfect destination for you.

That said, you won't get bored in Berwyn or have to travel far for entertainment. Berwyn’s Cermak Plaza Shopping Center features tons of retail therapy opportunities.

Moreover, Berwyn's diversity, culture, and social events make it an excellent fit for someone trying to find a tribe of close friends with similar interests. So whether you head to the city's many festivals, car shows, or parades — you're sure to have a good time and meet new people.

Forest Park

  • Miles away from downtown Chicago: 10.2
  • Commute time to Chicago via Car: 20 minutes
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bus/Train: 37 minutes via the Blue Line Train
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bike: 1 hour and 8 minutes via W Warren Blvd
  • Median Rent: $1,079
  • Population: 13,704
  • Median Household Income: $62,664
  • Walk Score: 82
  • Transit Score: N/A
  • Bike Score: 47

Forest Park is a small village with a close-knit suburban population. If you're looking for your dream apartment in Forest Park, you'll likely find it in one of the village's apartment complexes or split-level houses.

It's a walker's paradise, and heading to Chicago will take a little over an hour via public transportation.

However, if you want to stay in town, you won't be bored. Restaurants serving delectable meals, shops selling gorgeous wares, and lush parks make Forest Park a pretty delightful little village.

Elmwood Park

  • Miles away from downtown Chicago: 12.8
  • Commute time to Chicago via Car: 30 minutes
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bus/Train: 1 hour and 12 minutes via the 307 bus with a transfer to the Blue Line train
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bike: 1 hour and 13 minutes via N Milwaukee Ave.
  • Median Rent: $1,120
  • Population: 24,098
  • Median Household Income: $59,963
  • Walk Score: 75
  • Transit Score: 55
  • Bike Score: 53

Elmwood Park is another small village just outside of Chicago. In it, you'll find many rentals in split-level homes, rather than apartment complexes. That said, much of the village is single-family houses.

Neighborhoods in Elmwood Park vary from the decidedly urban and hipster to the quiet, tree-lined residential. That said, they are among some of the best neighborhoods in Chicago. If you're unsure where to start, check out Village Center for an abode in an aesthetically pleasing part of town.

Lincolnwood

  • Miles away from downtown Chicago: 13.1 miles
  • Commute time to Chicago via Car: 40 minutes
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bus/Train: 1 hour via the 11 bus with a transfer to the Brown Line Train
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bike: 1 hour and 18 minutes via Lakefront Trail
  • Median Rent: $1,894
  • Population: 12,245
  • Median Household Income: $95,030
  • Walk Score: 74
  • Transit Score: N/A
  • Bike Score: 59

If you settle on Lincolnwood, you'll have your pick of the lot when it comes to your apartment hunt, as the town has a favorable vacancy rate. In addition, it’s got enough variety to entice those considering moving to Chicago.

The town is small but boasts a few unique neighborhoods. If you love the outdoors, check out the N Crawford Avenue/W Pratt neighborhood. This neighborhood is close to the North Shore Channel Trail, so you can get your fill of sunshine and the waterfront.

Evanston

  • Miles away from downtown Chicago: 13.7
  • Commute time to Chicago via Car: 40 minutes
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bus/Train: 1 hour and 5 minutes via the Purple Line Train with a transfer to the Red Line Train
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bike: 1 hour and 20 minutes via Lakefront Trail
  • One-bedroom average rent: $2,044
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $2,990
  • Population: 73,473
  • Median Household Income: $78,904
  • Walk Score: 74
  • Transit Score: 50
  • Bike Score: 88

Why move to Evanston, Illinois? You want an affordable apartment that offers a quick commute to Chicago's Loop. You also prefer the bustling vibe of a big city, despite wanting to live outside of one.

Evanston delivers on all accounts. As the icing on top, Evanston is a green city with tons of public transportation options available to deliver you right in the heart of Chicago on your commute.

With an eclectic collection of vintage apartments and some modern apartment units, you'll find a unique home in the Evanston rental market.

Oak Lawn

  • Miles away from downtown Chicago: 16.6
  • Commute time to Chicago via Car: 40 minutes
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bus/Train: 1 hour and 16 minutes via the 381 bus with a transfer to the Red Line train.
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bike: 1 hour and 24 minutes via S Archer Ave
  • Median Rent: $1,072
  • Population: 55,022
  • Median Household Income: $64,476
  • Walk Score: 57
  • Transit Score: 35
  • Bike Score: 51

Oak Lawn is on the bigger side for a village, considering its population of over fifty thousand. That said, don't expect to feel a city-esque vibe inside Oak Lawn's limits.

You'll likely find several college students frequenting the village's restaurants, bars, and shops. However, the village also hosts many young families.

Within Oak Lawn, you'll be quite close to Centennial Park, one of Chicago's largest and most popular parks. The village also boasts a public pool, library, and a golf course, so there's always something to do.

Orland Park

  • Miles away from downtown Chicago: 27.1
  • Commute time to Chicago via Car: 40 minutes
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bus/Train: 1 hour and 44 minutes via the 379 bus with a transfer to the Orange Line Train
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bike: 2 hours and 29 minutes via S Halsted St
  • Median Rent: $1,233
  • Population: 57,857
  • Median Household Income: $90,345
  • Walk Score: 22
  • Transit Score: N/A
  • Bike Score: 44

You're not likely to find a vacant apartment in Orland Park. The highly-coveted village has few vacancies with many single-family, owner-occupied homes rather than a plethora of apartment complexes.

That said, if you want to live in Orland Park, you'll need determination, persistence, and money to make it happen. It's one of the most expensive places to live in Illinois. If you're having trouble choosing an Orland Park neighborhood, start with Village Center — it's affordable and walkable!

Elmhurst

  • Miles away from downtown Chicago: 17.8
  • Commute time to Chicago via Car: 40 minutes
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bus/Train: 1 hour and 38 minutes via the 313 bus with a transfer to the Green Line train.
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bike: 1 hour and 50 minutes via W Jackson Blvd
  • Median Rent: $1,497
  • Population: 46,746
  • Median Household Income: $118,609
  • Walk Score: 61
  • Transit Score: 27
  • Bike Score: 67

Elmhurst is not an inexpensive place to call home. You'll find that most of the units in this neighborhood rent for $2,000 at minimum, as they are full of luxurious amenities.

If you have the cash, then you're in for a treat. Apartment complexes boast jacuzzis, pools, concierge service, private parking, and more.

Beyond those delightful benefits, Elmhurst is gorgeous. With parks, boutiques, museums, and more, it has a similar vibe to Bucktown, one of Chicago’s most famous neighborhoods.

Downers Grove

  • Miles away from downtown Chicago: 22.9
  • Commute time to Chicago via Car: 40 minutes
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bus/Train: 2 hours and 13 minutes via the 843 bus with transfers to the 322 bus and the Pink Line Train
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bike: 2 hours and 22 minutes via Salt Creek Trail
  • Median Rent: $1,315
  • Population: 49,057
  • Median Household Income: $94,893
  • Walk Score: 44
  • Transit Score: 27
  • Bike Score: 50

Downers Grove may have an odd-sounding name, but it's got a ton of redeeming qualities. For one, Downers Grove is one of the safest places to live near Chicago, with a crime rate that is 7x lower than the city's average.

Better yet, the village is gorgeous. Its streets are lined with still-standing catalog homes, lovely parks, and quaint restaurants. Moreover, you can spend your free time meeting your neighbors and fellow residents at one of the village's many community events.

Des Plaines

  • Miles away from downtown Chicago: 22.1
  • Commute time to Chicago via Car: 45 minutes
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bus/Train: 1 hour and 8 minutes via the UP-NW bus with a transfer to the Blue Line train
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bike: 1 hour and 57 minutes via N Elston Ave.
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,699
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $2,253
  • Population: 58,899
  • Median Household Income: $69,760
  • Walk Score: 53
  • Transit Score: 36
  • Bike Score: 57

Des Plaines hosts many residents in different tax brackets. While you'll find expensive apartment units with tons of luxury amenities, you'll also find units that fall under the affordable (and even, gasp cheap) category.

That said, finding units may be challenging as Des Plaines has a competitive rental market with few openings. It's no surprise that residents want to stay in the town. Its cute shops, thriving bar scene, and great restaurants are prime entertainment destinations.

Cities Near Chicago with Higher Commute Times

With remote work on the rise across the nation (including within Illinois), you may find yourself with a lot more flexibility in your living arrangements.

You can choose a city that meets your needs and isn't as close to Chicago's downtown center.

If you don't plan on commuting every morning or don't mind a longer commute, check out some of these cities near Chicago with longer commute times.

Arlington Heights

  • Miles away from downtown Chicago: 27.2
  • Commute time to Chicago via Car: 50 minutes
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bus/Train: 1 hour and 3 minutes via the UP-NW bus with a transfer to the Blue Line Train
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bike: 2 hours and 41 minutes via N Elston Ave
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,484
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $2,008
  • Population: 74,760
  • Median Household Income: $96,340
  • Walk Score: 46
  • Transit Score: N/A
  • Bike Score: 60

Arlington Heights is a village, but that's misleading. It's got a big-city vibe that betrays its status as a busy metropolis. Okay, maybe not a metropolis, but it's no sleepy little village either.

If you're looking to move to Arlington Heights, be aware that it's not comparable to Chicago's cost of living. Village rent prices are generally 35% higher than Chicago's rent prices.

However, you'll get a lot of bang for your buck. A commute from Arlington Heights to Chicago is under an hour. Residents are diverse, and there's always something to do between the village's parks and urban recreation options.

Wheaton

  • Miles away from downtown Chicago: 27.9
  • Commute time to Chicago via Car: 50 minutes
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bus/Train: 1 hour and 21 minutes via the UP-W bus with a transfer to the Green Line Train
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bike: 2 hours 37 minutes via Illinois Prairie Path
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,667
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,964
  • Population: 52,745
  • Median Household Income: $103,376
  • Walk Score: 40
  • Transit Score: 24
  • Bike Score: 53

Wheaton hosts a large population of college students and young families. As a result, there are many rentals available, though most homes are owner-occupied.

Renting in Wheaton will cost you, as rent prices are a bit on the expensive side. If you've got the money and a taste for luxury, Wheaton boasts many units with lush amenities.

One final thing to know about Wheaton is that it's home to over 75 churches with over 40 denominations represented. Expect Sunday traffic to be insane.

Bolingbrook

  • Miles away from downtown Chicago: 30.2
  • Commute time to Chicago via Car: 50 minutes
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bus/Train: 2 hours and 3 minutes via the 834 bus with a transfer to the BNSF bus and the Pink Line Train
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bike: 2 hours and 58 minutes via Southern DuPage County Regional Trail
  • Median Rent: $1,386
  • Population: 74,545
  • Median Household Income: $91,290
  • Walk Score: 33
  • Transit Score: N/A
  • Bike Score: 48

What does Bolingbrook have to offer the average renter?

You can rent an entire home, a split-level, or an apartment within a complex. Bolingbrook has a variety of options. Experience some of that trademark Midwestern charm and relax within Bolingbrook's tree-lined suburban streets.

Outdoor recreation includes golf, trails, and parks. Indoor recreation options mean that you'll rarely be bored during the cold Illinois winters. Choose a local restaurant, order a piping hot deep-dish pizza, or take a short drive to Chicago for some additional options.

Naperville

  • Miles away from downtown Chicago: 33.1
  • Commute time to Chicago via Car: 50 minutes
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bus/Train: 1 hour and 28 minutes via the BNSF Train Line with a transfer to the 126 bus
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bike: 3 hours and 19 minutes via Salt Creek Trail
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,526
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,933
  • Population: 148,449
  • Median Household Income: $125,926
  • Walk Score: 52
  • Transit Score: 24
  • Bike Score: 58

With hotspots like The Riverwalk, skate parks, and a booming nightlife scene, Naperville is excellent for those who love all the entertainment options that city life offers.

There are only a few apartments available at one time as the city is primarily owner-occupied single-family homes. You'll have to plan well ahead of your preferred move-in date to give yourself enough time to navigate Naperville's competitive market.

Gurnee

  • Miles away from downtown Chicago: 40.5
  • Commute time to Chicago via Car: 1 hour
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bus/Train: 2 hours and 14 minutes via the 565 bus with three additional transfers.
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bike: 3 hours and 40 minutes via Skokie Valley Bike Path
  • Median Rent: $1,210
  • Population: 30,378
  • Median Household Income: $96,104
  • Walk Score: 22
  • Transit Score: 21
  • Bike Score: 37

Illinois is filled with a Midwestern vibe that doesn't always come through if you're living in the heart of Chicago. However, Gurnee boasts an authentic Midwestern culture that will leave new residents feeling charmed and welcome.

Gurnee is a bit of a tourist town, as Six Flags Great America is located within its limits. However, that means local businesses are booming and get a lot of traffic, so you'll see a lot of hometown pride.

The town's location leaves it experiencing lake-effect winds and snow in the winter months. If you choose to rent in one of Gurnee's neighborhoods, start with Northwest Gurnee to pursue its collection of studios at great rates.

Elgin

  • Miles away from downtown Chicago: 40.9
  • Commute time to Chicago via Car: 1 hour
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bus/Train: 1 hour and 38 minutes via the 603 bus with a transfer to the Blue Line Train
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bike: 3 hours and 51 minutes via Great Western Trail
  • Median Rent: $1,069
  • Population: 110,849
  • Median Household Income: $69,041
  • Walk Score: 42
  • Transit Score: 29
  • Bike Score: 53

Elgin is a super affordable city to live in and boasts tons of available apartments on the market. Moreover, there are a ton of different units for rent, from lofts to standard studios.

Expect to use a car in Elgin. However, the city can be navigated by public transportation, especially for commuters. Either way, you'll need to plan your way around town when you're visiting Elgin's Grand Victoria Casino, bars, and other recreation spots.

Geneva

  • Miles away from downtown Chicago: 40.9
  • Commute time to Chicago via Car: 1 hour
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bus/Train: 1 hour and 38 minutes via the UP-W bus with a transfer to the Green Line Train
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bike: 3 hours and 46 minutes via Great Western Trail
  • Median Rent: $1,510
  • Population: 21,809
  • Median Household Income: $111,916
  • Walk Score: 37
  • Transit Score: N/A
  • Bike Score: 57

Geneva is located just west of Chicago and has become an increasingly popular destination for Chicago commuters. So — why Geneva?

Geneva has earned its reputation as a great place to live. Its history center, festivals, excellent restaurants, trails, and other recreation options mean that residents are always doing something fun.

The apartments available in this small town are relatively decent wherever you choose to move. You can choose from apartment complexes, split-level homes, and even rent entire homes at very affordable rates.

Aurora

  • Miles away from downtown Chicago: 41.3
  • Commute time to Chicago via Car: 1 hour
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bus/Train: 1 hour and 41 minutes via the BNSF bus with a transfer to the Pink Line Train
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bike: 3 hours and 52 minutes via the Illinois Prairie Path
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,406
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,725
  • Population: 197,757
  • Median Household Income: $71,759
  • Walk Score: 40
  • Transit Score: 22
  • Bike Score: 54

Living in Aurora is like living in a little piece of paradise, especially if you want to live in a smaller city. Aurora boasts everything that a city does, with tons of entertainment options and various rental options.

Not to mention, the nightlife scene in Aurora isn't exactly lacking. There's always after-hour fun, whether you're headed to the city's bars or grabbing a late meal.

If you're looking for affordability, check out Aurora's East Side neighborhood. If you prefer more luxury options, head toward the city's center.

Joliet

  • Miles away from downtown Chicago: 46.1
  • Commute time to Chicago via Car: 50 minutes
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bus/Train: 1 hour and 18 minutes via the RI bus
  • Commute time to Chicago via Bike: 3 hours and 42 minutes via Centennial Trail
  • Median Rent: $1,033
  • Population: 147,344
  • Median Household Income: $70,509
  • Walk Score: 35
  • Transit Score: 17
  • Bike Score: 46

Joliet apartments are readily available for interested renters. Better yet, you'll have your pick of the lot from a large unit in an apartment complex to townhouses.

If you're interested in moving to Joliet, check out its Downtown neighborhood, as it's currently undergoing revitalization. You may be able to get into a great apartment for cheap while improvements are still ongoing.

Commuting from Joliet isn't too bad. The drive is under an hour, and the RI bus line can get you to the Loop in under an hour and a half.

Finding the Best City for You

Illinois has a wealth of cities, villages, and towns to choose from — so many, that a prospective renter can be easily overwhelmed by their options.

Want to narrow down your Illinois apartment search? Take the quiz to get started.

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AUTHOR
Davina Ward is a contributing author at Apartment List and freelance writer specializing in real estate and digital marketing. She received her B. Read More
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