Moving to Chicago
Are you moving to Chicago? The multicultural city of Chicago is not the capital city of the State of Illinois, Springfield is, but it is the largest city in the state and the third most populous city in the US. Chicago enjoys four distinct seasons, with warm, humid summers, snowy and windy winters. With great public and international schools, Chicago’s universities have educated some 89 Nobel laureates and former President Barack Obama.
Our free, in-depth Moving to Chicago report includes info on:
• The best areas to live
• The good schools
• The average monthly rental prices
• The excellent public transport system in the city
Putting Chicago on the Map
Located in north-eastern Illinois, the city sits on the banks of Lake Michigan, directly above a continental divide connecting the Mississippi River and the watersheds of the Great Lakes. The Chicago River, Des Plaines River and Calumet River all flow through the downtown area. The Chicago River is the only river in the world that flows backwards, due to pioneering public works efforts in 1889 to divert the flow of water from the badly polluted Lake Michigan. Route 66 starts in Chicago and notably, the first ever skyscraper was built here.
The city covers 60,000 hectares – including 3,000 hectares of city parks – and is 578 feet above sea level. It is a leader in reforming public schools, ensuring accessibility for everyone and providing affordable housing in economically sound areas.
The city enjoys an efficient public transport system run by CTA, the Chicago Transit Authority. The “L” is an elevated train system that runs every five to fifteen minutes in the daytime, and every fifteen to twenty minutes throughout the night. The oldest section of this network started operating in 1892, the second oldest of its kind in America. All the lines are colour-coded, denoting routes rather than destinations. Buses run every five to fifteen minutes during rush hours, between eight to twenty minutes the rest of the time and servicemore than 100 routes. Water taxis run on the lake and Divvy is a bike sharing facility. Chicago’s O’Hare Airport is the 4th largest in the world, handling in excess of 76 million passenger a year. It is connected to the city by the L’s Blue Line, which runs 24/7, and takes around 40 minutes. Taxis are plentiful throughout the city. In terms of traffic congestion, motorists spend, on average, 114 hours per annum sitting in traffic.
The city centre, as in much of the rest of the world, is more expensive to live in than the suburbs. But if you’re looking for more space, better value for money, plus a better quality of life overall, then choose the outlying areas. Residents in the centre of Chicago boast about the neighbourliness of the city when comparing it to the other 75 metropolitan districts. The urban area is fabulous for young couples and singles, whereas the suburbs are much more family orientated.
NEAR NORTH SIDE
Known as one of the best areas to live, safer and a little more affordable than downtown Chicago, this suburb-on-the-rise could be the one. Near North Side is the northern-most of the four areas that make-up Chicago city, so it’s pretty close to the best of amenities, and probably a couple of minutes to work on the L.
It is a sea of condos and apartments, so if you need a house or a semi-detached townhouse, then maybe nearby Dearborn Park would work. The Near North Side incorporates a few smaller neighbourhoods and all together they have a great quality of life. They earn more money but spend more on housing. Chicago’s Magnificent Mile is here, along with an abundance of museums. And great pizza.
The residents of Lincoln Park have the highest quality of life, based on rental prices, property prices and income. The tranquillity of the leafy streets and old brick houses comes at a price, as does the vibe of the bars and restaurants on Lincoln Avenue. The zoo, plenty of parks and green spaces and the nature museum make Lincoln Park a great, albeit expensive, place to live.
This is an amazing place for sports fans, especially fans of the Cubs. It is the home of Wrigley Field, Wrigleyville, but even if baseball is not your thing, this area is quiet and geared for families. Single family homes, condominium buildings and two- and three-bedroomed flats, a mix of old and new, is evident with new construction and renovation projects found throughout. The main public park, with tennis and basketball courts, an open-air swimming pool, and the tree-lined Hamlin Park offers residents an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
NEAR SOUTH SIDE
Near South Side is a great alternative for those wanting to live in the Loop – which is the CBD – but can’t afford the high rentals. It’s an easy commute to the city and other areas, a mix of vibrant nightlife and quieter suburbs, with parks, restaurants and museums. Soldier Field, where the Chicago Bears play, exhibits the passion that Chicago has for American football.
Old railyards, abandoned office blocks and warehouses have been converted into new townhouses and high-rise condos around Prairie Avenue and Museum Campus. Quaint restaurants, high-end boutiques and masses of sports bars make a former wasteland into a desirable and affordable inner city neighbourhood. Many of the city’s landmarks are in the Prairie Avenue Historic District. It’s quite a trek for grocery shopping and entertainment but offers a feeling of safety and security.
One of Chicago’s safest areas, this arty area is home to many musicians and artists, but with rentals on the increase it is becoming less alternative and more of a yuppie neighbourhood. Rent controlled accommodation is still available for the time being. For a younger, hipper vibe choose Wicker Park.
One of the fastest growing villages in the Chicago Area, Buffalo Grove is a close-knit community of safe neighbourhoods, beautiful houses and leafy, tree-lined streets. Children play outside safely, there are festivals for each of the holidays and a Farmers Market every week in the summer.
With a higher cost of living than most of the outlying suburbs, this smaller city has an array of restaurants, boutiques, family activities, and is ranked the healthiest of Chicago’s larger suburbs. Its 800-acres of open areas and 52 parks, along with a bustling city centre and a very low crime rate, it also has some really good schools. The library here is one of the best in the US, rated in the top ten.
Both a great suburb for singles and families, Lisle is known for its peaceful environment, open areas and a higher quality of life. Its nickname is the Arboretum Village. From the Morton Arboretum to the beautiful parks and the leafy streets, single family homes, apartments and condominiums are the norm. The movie-set appearance, including the newly renovated prairie streetscape, the picturesque restaurants, quaint and olde-worlde shops and a busy CBD, it has great amenities and is easily walkable.
NEAR WEST SIDE
This area exemplifies the different cultures and lifestyles in Chicago’s melting pot. The University Village area is where you’ll find the University of Illinois, Chicago. Little Italy and Greektown need no explanation, and the amenities per capita are higher here than 99% of other Chicago neighbourhoods. The area is being gentrified, with the lakeside areas safer and up-and-coming, but the more western the areas, the less transition is taking place. Ellen Gates Starr Park has the only Sunday farmers market for miles, and the Near West Side culture is based on deep dish pizza, Chicago-style hot dogs, and the Blues Brothers.
With a suburban feel, this community has part of a forest preserve, two golf courses, and tree-lined streets edging the beautiful homes and gardens. A more affluent area, quiet Edgebrook residents live a peaceful life and like it that way. With ranch houses, brick bungalows, English Tudor and Georgian homes, quaint cottages and some row houses, this manicured area has many residents backing onto the forest, giving them even more space beyond their gardens.
This unique suburb is located on the only hilly part of Chicago city and is quiet and secluded. Higher income residents, nice houses, big plots and plenty of trees make Beverly a good place to live for families and for those who don’t want to travel too far to downtown Chicago.
Who Lives and Works in Chicago?
The city’s population is around 2.7 million, while the entire metropolitan area sits at 9.5 million, the 3rd largest in the USA. The Chicago Metropolitan Area is home to 29 Fortune 500 companies. Major corporations include Citadel, JPMorgan Chase, Northern Trust, Discover, Morningstar and Chicago Mercantile Exchange all reside here.
It has the most diversified economy in America and, based on GDP and employment figures, is an important hub for many industrial clusters such as printing, publishing, manufacturing, food processing, insurance, plastics manufacturing and financial technology, all playing a role in the local economy.
In the years since the founding of Chicago, it has seen many start-ups and small financial institutions which have grown into massive global corporations and it is the emerging leader in fintech development. Financial technologies range from personal finance, retail investment, lending, payment, equity financing, consumer banking, banking infrastructure, remittances, institutional investment and financial research.
The Best Bits
With affordable living costs, 77 city and suburban areas to choose from, good salaries and a sporting fervour second to none, Chicago is a friendly city located on the banks of a massive lake.
- Annual events such as Chicago SummerDance, the Air and Water Show, Blues Festival, Grant Park Music Festival, Taste of Chicago, the Jazz Festival and the World Music Festival, are just a few of many. Some of the top-tier events have no entrance charge.
- The home of the Chicago Bears, Cubs, Bulls, White Sox and many more, Chicago is an extremely passionate sporting city. 16-inch softball was invented here.
- An abundance of museums, 200 theatres, and almost 200 art galleries, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Renaissance Society, Chicago Theatre and Harris Theatre cater to scholars and culture seekers alike.
- The 35-acre Lincoln Park Zoo is one of the last remaining free zoos in the country. It participates in the Grevy’s Zebra Species Survival Plan, a conservation effort shared by many zoo members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. It is the oldest public zoo in the USA, welcoming more than three million visitors every year.
- Brookfield Zoo hosts many events and participates in the Gray Wolf Recovery Programme.
- Its 26 miles of lakefront and 15 miles of swimming-friendly beaches, with 19 miles of bicycle paths along the shore, appeals to the sporty types and families, as do the 552 parks.
Bringing the Kids
Public schools in the area need to be carefully researched before enrolling your children and they range from fantastic to dismal. They operate on a catchment system similar to the UK, so it is vital that you live in the right area to secure a place for your child.
Charter schools are also public schools but are governed by a non-profit board. They have more flexibility in curricula and academic programmes and also work on the catchment system.
Magnet schools focus on specific subjects like engineering, mathematics, fine arts, science and agriculture. They have their own set of admission requirements but are not boundary specific, so are open to kids from all over the city.
There are many private schools in Chicago, offering better education than public schools, but they are expensive. You are not restricted to the neighbourhood when choosing your school. Some of the schools have religious affiliations or focus on specific areas, i.e. arts or science.
International schools following the curriculum of the student’s home country, which is ideal for short-stay students. They are, however, extremely expensive.
Some of the highly-rated private and international schools are very competitive, so an early application would be necessary.
Relocating to Chicago
This scenic and historical city has it all, from good schools to great beaches, entertainment, culture and good salaries. It’s thriving economy shows strengths in many industries, including finance, fintech and manufacturing. With 77 areas to choose from in a variety of different housing options, the difficult part will be finding the right accommodation in the catchment area of your choice of school. A specialist relocation agent knows the local market well, the best areas for right schools on the bus or train route, and will guide you to the best options. Assistance will be offered for rental negotiations, applications to schools, spousal assistance and general form filling, amongst many other things.
Average Monthly Rent - Chicago
|Apartment (1 bedroom) in city centre||$1,743|
|Apartment (1 bedroom) outside of centre||$1,123|
|Apartment (3 bedrooms) in city centre||$3,219|
|Apartment (3 bedrooms) outside of centre||$1,971|