Chicago is home to the Chicago Cubs, deep-dish pizza, Chicago Blues music and 2.7 million people. As the third-largest city in the United States, there is no shortage of things to do, see, taste or experience throughout the best neighborhoods in Chicago.
The city divides into 77 community areas, loosely called “neighborhoods" since there are several “neighborhoods" within a community area. For our purposes, each of the top 20 best neighborhoods in Chicago listed below is a neighborhood of its own except Near South Side, comprised of the South Loop and Printers Row (some argue Printers Row is part of the Loop). About 55 percent of Chicago residents rent, making it easy to find a place in a community you love.
Whether you're seeking a neighborhood with easy access to dining and public transportation or a quieter family-oriented community, you easily can find the perfect spot and call Chicago home and find an affordable Chicago neighborhood.
Here are the 20 best neighborhoods in Chicago.
Those who live in Lincoln Park share a home with penguins, monkeys and animals from around the world. This popular north side Chicago neighborhood is also home to the Lincoln Park Zoo. DePaul University has a campus here as well. Plus, it's easy to get to the lakefront trail, public transportation, restaurants and shops.
Lakeview, especially East Lakeview, is dense and busy. Locals know to walk or take public transportation if they want to get anywhere when the Chicago Cubs are playing at Wrigley Field because thousands descend upon their neighborhood to watch the game or hit up the bars in the area.
Boystown recently renamed Northalsted Chicago, is a welcoming community that hosts an annual LGBTQ Pride Parade, music festivals, Halloween parties and more.
West Lakeview is a bit more relaxed with families often parking baby strollers along Southport to catch brunch with friends on weekends or shopping right off the Southport Brown Line.
As the name of the neighborhood suggests, the West Loop is due west of the Loop. In what was once a meatpacking and warehouse district, industrial buildings have since been converted into trendy lofts or demolished to make room for luxury high-rise apartment and condo buildings.
This dense and trendy neighborhood has tons of restaurants and bars that often grace the top 10 listicles of places to eat or see and be seen. Chef Stephanie Izard's Girl & the Goat is still popular a decade after it opened and plenty of restaurants along or near Restaurant Row sport Michelin stars.
South of Bucktown and north of West Town is the artsy enclave called Wicker Park which also happens to have a triangular park in the center of this trendy and bustling neighborhood.
Also, Milwaukee Avenue runs through it and the street features unique independent boutiques, restaurants and coffee shops.
Since Bucktown is so close to Wicker Park, the neighborhoods often do things together. It is a little calmer than its artsy neighbors like Wicker Park and Logan Square and more affordable than its neighbor to the east, Lincoln Park. It's near the Kennedy Expressway, train and bus stops and downtown Chicago.
The Gold Coast, known for its money thanks to Astor Street, a charming six-block tree-lined street from Division Street to North Avenue filled with history, brownstones and mansions named after John Jacob Astor, one of the richest men of his time in the 1800s.
This area is still known for its affluent residents, great restaurants and upscale boutiques. It doesn't hurt that many apartment buildings have Lake Michigan views since the neighborhood borders the lake and offers easy access to the beach and lakefront trail.
Logan Square has undergone a lot of transformation over the past few years. Large apartment buildings line busy Milwaukee Avenue, bringing even more density to a pretty dense neighborhood on the city's northwest side. Young professionals and artists live alongside a dwindling working-class Latino population.
Trendy restaurants are replacing closed storefronts here. Also, residents love the Logan Square Farmers Market on Sundays. It is a popular open-air food market and community gathering place.
Expect to see strollers parked outside Café Selmarie as the bakery and café are in the heart of Lincoln Square and gets busy when families take their morning strolls. This family-friendly community is active with organizing farmers markets, summer concerts, wine strolls and more throughout the year.
Most of the activity happens along Lincoln Avenue. There are independent boutiques, restaurants and a folk-focused music school. Additionally, there is a 15-acre park that offers an indoor swimming pool and grounds to play baseball.
Old Town includes some new development but it's also loaded with history and the area even has its own historic district, making this a shoo-in for one of the best neighborhoods in Chicago. It's next to Lincoln Park and the Gold Coast, near Lake Michigan and the lakefront path. It has a community feel thanks to shorter high rises and single-family homes.
Also, the world-renowned The Second City, which introduced us to talent including Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell, among hundreds of other famous comedians, puts on some of the best improv performances in the city.
The Loop got its name because the cable-car lines circled the business district in the 1880s and the name stuck as the CTA's “el" formed a loop as well. The 35-block downtown area includes the business area. LaSalle Street is home to many large financial institutions including the Chicago Stock Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade.
Residents in The Loop's high rises simply have to walk a few blocks to access cultural attractions like The Art Institute of Chicago, Broadway in Chicago performances or enjoy opera and classical music at the Lyric Opera or Chicago Symphony Orchestra. While the famed Marshall Field's is no longer on State Street, there is plenty of shopping to do.
West Town, west of River North and north of the West Loop, is a lively neighborhood. Chicago Avenue is where most of the commercial activity resides with restaurants, bars and cafes.
Along a nondescript alley between Noble and Bishop streets, many residents on Ohio and Erie streets have transformed their garages and buildings into works of art.
The Near South Side is mostly the South Loop but it also includes Printers Row (some consider Printers Row part of the Loop). Townhouses dot the area which is mostly high rises thanks to its proximity to the Loop and Lake Michigan.
The area is also home to the Museum Campus which includes the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium. Many can enjoy live music playing at Soldier Field whenever the Chicago Bears football team isn't playing in the stadium even if they're not in attendance since it's in their backyard.
A'ville, as the locals like to call Andersonville, is a welcoming community and its residents are staunch advocates of local businesses. You'll often find the sidewalks and businesses along Clark Avenue busy on weekends as that's where most of the independent businesses, restaurants and bars are.
Within the neighborhood, located on the north side of the city and close to Lake Michigan, are a mix of three-flat apartment buildings, larger apartment buildings and single-family homes. It's a great community for those who want easy access to the Loop without the hassle of busier neighborhoods closer to the Loop.
Since the University of Chicago campus is in Hyde Park, many students, faculty and staff live here. The area has great independent shops and restaurants as well as cultural institutions.
The annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival attracts residents from throughout the city and beyond as do the Museum of Science and Industry, the Smart Museum of Art and architect Frank Lloyd Wright's Frederick C. Robie House, among other cultural attractions.
Located on the city's south side, Bronzeville is historically known as the city's “Black Metropolis." The Monument of the Great Northern Migration honors the more than half a million African Americans who traveled from the south to Chicago from 1910 to 1970.
Walking along Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, you'll come across the home of civil rights activist Ida B. Wells. Considered the center of African American life and culture in Chicago, it's a 15-minute drive to downtown Chicago or 20 to 25 minutes using public transportation.
Argyle Street has some of the best Vietnamese and Thai in the city but within Uptown you'll also find restaurants serving great Chinese, Ethiopian and Mexican fare.
Located along Lake Michigan on the city's north side and about five miles from the Loop, Uptown bustles with a very active live music and nightlife scene.
Music and entertainment venues include the Riviera Theatre (also known among locals as “the Riv") which puts on concerts almost daily, the Green Mill cocktail lounge featuring live jazz and the Aragon Ballroom which features pop and rocks bands in its 5,000-capacity venue.
Three miles southwest from the Loop, Pilsen is one of Chicago's most colorful neighborhoods.
A heavily Latino community supports a thriving art and music scene, active nightlife and delicious food, whether it's from a tamale or corn street vendor, a bakery or one of the many restaurants. Colorful building murals are found throughout and the National Museum of Mexican Art attracts locals and visitors to its free museum daily (except Mondays, when it's closed).
Artists live in lofts mostly around 18th Street and Halsted. Its nearby proximity to the University of Illinois at Chicago campus as well as the Loop make this neighborhood popular among students and young professionals.
Avondale is becoming more popular as residents move out of trendier neighboring communities like Logan Square. As a result, younger residents are moving into what was primarily a Polish community filled with restaurants and businesses catering to Polish residents.
Since the Kennedy Expressway runs right through the Chicago northwest side neighborhood and takes up such a large chunk, it doesn't have as many public parks as other areas throughout the city. Still, it's a close-knit community with easy access to public transportation.
The farthest north neighborhood along Lake Michigan, Rogers Park is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city. More than 80 languages are spoken in the community which also translates to a richness in its cuisine offerings. Many students call this area home since Loyola University has a campus here on the northern end of the neighborhood.
Many celebrities have been to the South Shore Cultural Center in the South Shore neighborhood. It's also where President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama married. The neighborhood along Lake Michigan is nine miles south of the Loop.
Also, Rainbow Beach on East 77th Street is one of the city's largest beaches. It features a gym, fitness center and community garden as well as a beach house with showers and a pier for boats to use.
The best Chicago neighborhood is the one that checks all the marks on your checklist. Each of these unique Chicago neighborhoods has a personality and depending on what you're seeking, you're sure to find the right home for your interests and needs.