Illinois is not just Chicago. Yes, the Windy City is perhaps the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of the state, but it accounts for less than a quarter of Illinois’ population of 12.7 million. The Land of Lincoln has a multitude of other cities that are great, and even exciting, places to hang your hat. Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at our picks for Illinois’ five best cities to live in.

1. Chicago

Yes, Chicago is Illinois’ best city to live in, but not without reason, as the Windy City has a lot going for it: a beautiful skyline, distinct neighborhoods with their own character that suit every taste, a great food scene, miles of salt-free beaches, and a cost of living that won’t ruin you— unlike New York or San Francisco. No matter what your lifestyle, you’ll be sure to find your sweet spot in Chicago.

2. Urbana

You’ll have to head 140 miles south from Chicago to reach our #2 city, Urbana, located amidst the cornfields of central Illinois. Along with its sister city Champaign, Urbana is the home of the prestigious University of Illinois, which breathes life into the city’s art & culture scene, in addition to being Urbana’s biggest employer.

3. Wheaton

Suburban Chicago, with its small-town character and big city access, is one of the best areas to raise a family in America, and #3 Wheaton is a great example of the region. With an excellent school district and a great downtown area with shops and restaurants, Wheaton is an in-demand city to settle down in.

4. Schaumburg

Schaumburg, another suburb of Chicago, is Illinois’ #4 best city to live in. The quintessential suburb is home to four university campuses and Woodfield Mall, one of the largest malls in the county.

5. Lisle

Lisle, home of the wonderful Morton Arboretum, is #5 on the list.

Best Cities to Live in Illinois, 2019

RankCity
1Chicago
2Urbana
3Wheaton
4Schaumburg
5Lisle
6Downers Grove
7Glen Ellyn
8Elmhurst
9Lombard
10Woodridge
11Bloomington
12Batavia
13Buffalo Grove
14Normal
15Libertyville
16Champaign
17Naperville
18Galesburg
19Villa Park
20Geneva
21Arlington Heights
22Northbrook
23Hoffman Estates
24Jacksonville
25Wheeling
26Palatine
27Carol Stream
28Aurora
29Gurnee
30Willowbrook
31Vernon Hills
32Bartlett
33Deerfield
34Moline
35La Grange
36Wilmette
37Glendale Heights
38Oak Park
39Elk Grove Village
40Springfield
41Park Ridge
42East Peoria
43Crystal Lake
44O Fallon
45Bourbonnais
46Edwardsville
47Pekin
48Grayslake
49Mount Prospect
50Midlothian
51Des Plaines
52Tinley Park
53Marion
54Rock Island
55Cary
56Skokie
57Niles
58Algonquin
59Mundelein
60Hanover Park
61Saint Charles
62Lake Villa
63Streamwood
64Oak Forest
65Lansing
66Orland Park
67Highland Park
68Evanston
69Huntley
70Addison
71Plainfield
72Collinsville
73Lake Zurich
74Glenview
75Dekalb
76West Chicago
77New Lenox
78Frankfort
79Bolingbrook
80Freeport
81Oak Lawn
82Lake In The Hills
83Carbondale
84Mokena
85Elgin
86Barrington
87Romeoville
88Alton
89Granite City
90Lockport
91Belleville
92Quincy
93Mchenry
94Woodstock
95Chicago Heights
96Kankakee
97Carpentersville
98Berwyn
99Rockford
100Burbank

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Methodology

We ranked a total of 2,509 qualified cities (those with populations above 25,000 and enough data for analysis) by five factors: employment (number of establishments, median earnings); housing (owner-occupied housing with a mortgage, monthly housing costs); quality of life (work commute, poverty levels); education (percentage with a bachelor’s degree or higher); and health (obesity ratios).