If I’m Moving to Chicago, Which Neighborhoods Should I Explore?
First, congrats on moving to Chicago! Many renters are known to stay up late trying to crack the puzzle of “Which are the best neighborhoods in Chicago?” Heated debates have broken out in taverns, on street corners, in the national press, and even within some renters’ living rooms. But here’s the thing: renters should NOT lose sleep over this supposed conundrum -- the truth is that all Chicago neighborhoods have something to offer renters...it largely depends on what they’re looking for in a neighborhood.
Some neighborhoods are more densely populated than others, and here is the quick and easy breakdown to how many people live in Chicago and within a given neighborhood: South side Chicago neighborhoods are usually less crowded than neighborhoods on the north side of Chicago. More than half of Chicago’s geographic footprint is south and west of downtown, aka the origin point of Chicago’s street grid system, so there’s a lot of land in the south side. There are more people on the north side and less land, so if renters want a place that allows them more space to go for walks, have a peaceful picnic or spend a day in the park, then the south side neighborhoods may be a good place to start browsing for apartments. If density is the desired characteristic for a Chicago neighborhood, check out neighborhoods on the north side. You can always view the Chicago neighborhood map to get started.
How Many Neighborhoods are in Chicago?
There are 77 Chicago neighborhoods. And renters in each of the distinct neighborhoods in Chicago can start their search for apartments here. The number of official neighborhoods has grown over time, and it may be poised to grow again in the near future. Discussion about developing underutilized land and formerly industrial zones has picked up in recent years so the number of Chicago neighborhoods could soon add up to 78 in total.
Not to confuse matters more, but some neighborhoods in Chicago are actually located within other neighborhoods. This can be confusing to newcomers, but there’s an important distinction between Chicago's regions and its neighborhoods -- if renters look at the directory of Chicago neighborhoods on this page, they’ll see that each one is located within a region. The regions are designated by geographical names like North Side, South Side, Far North, Far South, Northwest, Southwest, and so on.
Where Do Nicknames for Chicago Neighborhoods Come From?
A fair number of Chicago neighborhoods are named for their location, e.g. River North, the West Loop, Lakeshore East, South Loop, Uptown, etc. Other nicknames point to a central gathering place, like Fulton Market, Logan Square, Lincoln Square, McKinley Park, and so on.
Then what about interesting names like Streeterville, Pilsen and Bronzeville? Unique names for Chicago community areas frequently denote the history, ethnic makeup or population of those neighborhoods. Names like Little Italy, Greektown and Chinatown leap to mind here. The more idiosyncratic names for Chicago neighborhoods, though, often refer to the home region of immigrants who settled in the area many decades ago but no longer represent the predominant demographic for that community. Andersonville and Pilsen are two examples in this regard. Learn more about Chicago neighborhood history by clicking through to one of the comprehensive neighborhood guides on Domu.