Chicago: a city that’s both beautiful and overwhelming. It’s the third largest in the United States, boasting a rich and diverse history since its founding in the early 1800s. Today, Chicago is a sprawling and bustling metropolis that serves as one of the nation’s major commercial and cultural hubs.

Although Chicago has made headlines in recent years for broader population loss, communities closest to downtown are growing exponentially. According to a new study from the Illinois Department of Employment Security, private-sector employment lunged a stunning 23.9 percent in Downtown Chicago and 16.6 percent for the city as a whole over the past seven years of the recession rebound. Corporations such as McDonald’s, Dyson, Home Chef, First Midwest Bank, and Caterpillar have recently moved headquarters here, bring a new wave of new renters and homebuyers eager to settle down.

Many make their way to the Windy City for the first time with the assumption that living in a neighborhood steps from their new office is a must, mostly due to fear of a long commute. But, Chicago is comprised of over 200 amazing and unique neighborhoods, most of which are situated outside of the city center. Thanks to Chicago’s top-notch public transportation system, living outside of the urban core in favor of a more residential and close-knit community is fairly easy.

Below, we’ll give you a primer on some of Chicago’s most popular “non-downtown” neighborhoods to help expand your Chicago home search. Then, you can accurately determine the best neighborhood for your lifestyle – straight from the get-go.

Wicker Park

Wicker Park holds a somewhat contentious reputation of being Chicago’s first and largest “hipster” neighborhood. The area has undergone quite an adjustment over the years as the social and economic makeup of its residents expanded to include both working class and corporate professionals, along with growing households and retirees. The area’s mounting popularity inspired new restaurants, clubs, breweries, venues and coffee shops for locals to enjoy. Wicker Park is a little over 4 miles from the Loop but is conveniently connected to both the CTA bus system and two Blue Line L train stops – Damen and Division. By car, Wicker Park residents can reach the Loop by I-90/94. Bear in mind, parking in this neighborhood is often dominated by permit-only and private garage spots, so you might opt to sell your car before moving when private parking isn’t an option. The median home in Wicker Park sold for $513,000 ($485,000 for the median condo) in June. The average rent in Wicker Park is $2,378 per month, according to RENTCafé.

Logan Square

Situated slightly northwest from Wicker Park is Logan Square, yet another booming community for Chicago’s newest and most established residents alike. With a population of 73,702 (as of 2015), the area is expansive with a diverse range of both inhabitants and businesses. On the one hand, Logan Square is synonymous with intimate dive bars and gritty rock venues. But on the other, it offers beautiful sunny streets, community gardens, and opulent historic homes. By train, Logan Square has a self-named Blue Line stop at the corner of Milwaukee and Kedzie Avenue. If you prefer to drive, expect to travel about 8 miles to and from the Loop depending on your route, which typically takes around 30 minutes during busy AM hours. Logan Square homes sold for a median price of $499,500 in June, with condos specifically costing $430,000. The average rent for the broader ZIP encompassing both Logan Square and Bucktown is $1,868 per month.


Nestled along the shores of Lake Michigan and less than seven miles north of the Loop sits Lakeview, a large community of almost 100,000 residents. Outside of baseball games, Lakeview and neighbor Wrigleyville combine to form a popular nightlife spot with some of Chicago’s best bars and clubs. The area also holds a rich history with one of the city’s most prominent music and theater scenes. Plus, you can’t beat the proximity to the lake, with Belmont Harbor and the dog beach conveniently located on the area’s eastern edge.  Residents can catch the Red Line to the Loop at the Addison or Wellington stops, or the Southport and Paulina stops for the Brown Line running northwest from the Loop to Kimball. The median home in Lakeview costs $405,000 while Lakeview condos for sale cost a median $430,000, making the area more affordable than adjacent Lincoln Park. Meanwhile, renting in Lakeview costs an average of $1,547 per month.

North Center/Avondale

North Center is yet another picturesque Chicago community that differs immensely from the hustle and bustle downtown. This neighborhood’s charm is evident in its many small bakeries, coffee shops, brick-clad homes and large parks that scatter across a little over two square miles. North Center shares an L stop with Lakeview on its eastern border at Addison for the Red Line, but Brown Line commuters can hop on a train at the Irving Park stop on the northwest corner of town. Commuting by car is quickest via I-90/94 at just about 8 miles to and from the Loop, but the scenic drive down Lake Shore Drive is sometimes worth the extra half-mile trek. Homes for sale in Avondale and North Center (60618) have a median price of $499,500 per month, while condos cost a mid-range price of $430,000. Renting in North Center costs an average of $1,401 per month.

Though it may seem daunting to live farther out from the city center as a new resident, familiarizing yourself with Chicago’s top-notch public transportation and highway systems first helps significantly. If it’s the classic city vibe you seek, check out our post on the best neighborhoods to live near the Chicago Loop.

Relocating to Chicago? Call Z Chicago to launch your home search today. Whether you’re looking to rent or buy, our agents are well-versed in helping new residents learn about Chicago’s many neighborhoods and find the right home with ease.




Featured image: Z Chicago / West Loop row homes