Largest cities in Illinois

You’ll get to know everything about Illinois but first things first — please don’t pronounce the ‘S’. Known as the Prairie State because of its rolling farmlands, the state of Illinois is located in the Midwest region of the US. It’s considered the hub of finance and industry and is home to nearly 13 million people. The reason most people know about the state is because of the country’s third-largest city, Chicago. But there’s a lot more to it than the Windy City.

See also: 15 Reasons to Move to the Midwest

No matter what you’re looking for, Illinois has something to offer to all the demographics, from open land, attractive small towns, and big cities to freshwater beaches, rivers, forests, hills, and wetlands. Apart from all of this, you’ll get to enjoy and learn the rich history of the state, a great number of national parks, museums, the amazing music scene, and different sports. The state is also referred to as The Land of Lincoln since this is where the country’s 16th president began his journey in politics. Many landmarks and monuments have been named after Abraham Lincoln in his honor.

The overall cost of living is below the national average and its robust job market along with some top-quality educational institutions makes it a highly desirable place to live in. You’ll experience a continental climate in Illinois which means that the winters will be extremely cold and the summers will be extremely hot. The best times to enjoy the outdoors are the spring and the fall seasons when the weather is at its pleasant best. Here’s a list of the best cities you can think of settling down in Illinois.

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1. Naperville

If you look up the internet for the best cities to live in the US, you’ll definitely find Naperville in the first ten names. It’s a lavish city with a high cost of living which means that most of the residents are really wealthy. If you can afford this kind of luxurious lifestyle, you’re going to love Naperville. There are numerous high-quality education options in the city. In fact, more than 70% of the people hold a bachelor’s degree.

As far as the job market is concerned, you don’t need to worry too much as the opportunities are abundant, particularly in the engineering, electronics, science, and technology sectors. There are many Fortune 500 companies present in the city and some of the major employers are Edward Hospital, Nokia, Western Electric, Calamos, Ineos, and Nicor Gas, In addition, you’ll get to experience amazing nightlife and some fabulous places to eat and drink. The city’s proximity to Chicago can also be counted in its plus points. Ashbury and Acorn Hill Estates are the best neighborhoods in Naperville.

According to NeighborhoodScout, Naperville has violent and property crime rates of 0.66 and 3.52 per 1,000 residents, respectively. The national median for violent crimes is 4 while it’s 19 for property crimes.

Population: 149,526

Median Home Value: $465,516

Monthly Median Rent: $1,733

2. Springfield

Located in the central part of the state, Springfield is the capital city of Illinois. This is where Abraham Lincoln lived and worked as a lawyer and politician for around 24 years before becoming the president and moving to the White House. A few of the historic sites in Lincoln’s honor are Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Lincoln Tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery, and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. All the history enthusiasts are going to have a gala time in Springfield.

You’ll be delighted to know that the city has a low cost of living compared to others in Illinois and you will be saving quite a bit on utilities, food, groceries, housing, etc. The people of the city are known to be kind and welcoming, and everybody is ever ready to help everybody. The government sector has over 17,000 people working for it. Other than that, the major industries in the city are health services and social assistance, food services and hospitality, retail trade, education services, financial services, etc. Some of the notable universities in Springfield include the University of Illinois Springfield, Midwest Technical Institute, St. John’s College Department of Nursing, and Lincoln Land Community College.

With a number of museums, Hoogland Center for the Arts, Springfield Theatre Centre, the gorgeous Washington Park, and an astonishing nightlife, Springfield will surely be on your mind when you make your final decision. The city has violent and property crime rates of 9.42 and 37.03 per 1,000 residents respectively.

Population: 116,500

Median Home Value: $140,771

Monthly Median Rent: $735

3. Rockford

Rockford is located in the northern region of Illinois just below the border of Wisconsin and has the Rock River running right through the city. The river is an approximately 300-mile long tributary of the Mississippi River. Present in Winnebago County, it’s the third-largest city in the state after Chicago and Springfield. Due to its location along a river, there was a large number of industries in the city a long time ago. In the second half of the 19th century, Rockford was famous for manufacturing tools, hardware, and heavy machinery.

Today, the job market in the city is continuously growing as employers are creating more and more opportunities. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Rockford Public School District, Mercy Health, and the Chicago-Rockford International Airport have been among the top employers in the city. Other industries to work in the city are manufacturing, healthcare, retail trade, accommodation and food services, etc. A plan called ‘Transform Rockford’ is also in the works and its aim is to improve the performance of the city on all fronts.

You’ll enjoy quality time with your family and friends at public attractions like the Burpee Museum of Natural History and Anderson Japanese Gardens. Also, the largest music festival in Illinois, On The Waterfront, is held in Rockford. Of course, the Rock River offers you options for boating, fishing, and canoeing too! The city has violent and property crime rates of 14.13 and 27.61 per 1,000 residents respectively.

Population: 147,070

Median Home Value: $117,800

Monthly Median Rent: $1,500

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4. Peoria

Founded at the end of the 17th century by the French explorer Henri de Tonti, the city of Peoria is situated on the banks of the Illinois River. There was a time when the seventh-most populous city in Illinois was not just regarded as the cultural and economic center of the country’s Midwest region but also the ultimate model for an American city. If not the oldest, Peoria is considered to be one of the oldest settlements in the state. You’re set to experience the small-town feel with unbelievably peaceful and clean neighborhoods in the city.

You might think that because of its location on the Illinois River, the city must be expensive to live in. But that’s not the case. Peoria’s cost of living is 2% lower than the national average making it more affordable than most other cities in the country. When it comes to work opportunities, UnityPoint Health, Caterpillar Inc., and OSF St. Francis Hospital are the major job creators in the city. Peoria has violent and property crime rates of 9.58 and 31.04 per 1,000 residents respectively.

Population: 113,532

Median Home Value: $104,672

Monthly Median Rent: $894

5. Elgin

Also known as the City in the Suburbs, Elgin is located around 40 miles to the northwest of Chicago in the Kane and Cook counties. The city was founded and named by Hezekiah Gifford in 1835 and today, it stands as one of the top dairy producers in the Midwest. The cost of living in Elgin (93.1) is below the national average (100) which means the people living in the city have to spend lesser than the average American citizen. Pretty much similar to the rest of the Midwest region, Elgin experiences a humid continental climate with warm summers and cool winters.

The city attracts quite a lot of people every year for various reasons such as its high quality of life, low cost of living, strong job market, excellent education options like the Elgin Academy, the riverboat casino, awesome restaurants and bars, and the surrounding natural habitats like Trout Park and Bluff Spring Fen. The top employers in Elgin are the Grand Victoria Casino (riverboat casino), Elgin School District, and Sherman Hospital. Another major attraction of the city is its low crime rate. Elgin has violent and property crime rates of 2.26 and 10.95 per 1,000 residents respectively.

Population: 112,653

Median Home Value: $260,997

Monthly Median Rent: $1,640

6. Chicago

You were patiently waiting for this, weren’t you? So were we. With an extraordinary metropolitan area, Chicago is the country’s third-largest city after in the US New York and Los Angeles. It’s almost impossible for anyone to not fall in love with the city which has a stunning grid of towering skyscrapers, beaches, rich history, and culture, mesmerizing landscapes, a plethora of waterfront restaurants and cafes. Plus, the locals welcome thousands of newcomers every year with arms wide open. The cost of living in the city is slightly higher than the national average. The reason Chicago attracts so many people is that it’s still more affordable when compared to other big cities in the US.

The job market of the star city is booming and you’re going to find a number of opportunities in whichever field you want to work in. The industries with the highest number of job openings are publishing, manufacturing, financial services, and food processing. What’s more? There are more than thirty Fortune 500 companies present in the city, some of which are the airplane manufacturer Boeing, Allstate Corporation, McDonald’s Corporation, and Kraft Foods Group Inc.

You need not worry about the education of your children as well. There are hundreds of public and private schools all over the city. As far as higher education is concerned, you’ll find numerous universities like The University of Chicago and Northwestern University. Chicago has violent and property crime rates of 9.69 and 24.49 per 1,000 residents, respectively. This goes a little over the national average.

Population: 2,741,994

Median Home Value: $309,268

Monthly Median Rent: $2,091

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FAQs On Largest Cities In Illinois

How Is The Climate In Illinois?

Illinois experiences a humid continental climate throughout the year which means that the summers are hot while the winters are cold. The state receives 40 inches of rainfall, 22 inches of snow, and around 200 days of sunshine annually. January is the coldest month in Illinois with an average low temperature of 17.4°F. July is the hottest month in the state with an average high temperature of 85.6°F.

Is Illinois An Expensive State To Live In?

No. In the cost of living index, Illinois scores 94.5 which is significantly lower than the national average of 100. However, if you’re planning to move to Chicago, you’re going to have to spend a little more. The city has a score of 107 in the cost of living index.

Which Are The Safest Places To Live In Illinois?

Safety is one of the biggest factors in deciding whether you will consider a particular place to move to or not. A few of the safest places in Illinois are Buffalo Grove, Deerfield, Campton Hills, Barrington, Elk Grove Village, Burr Ridge, and Western Springs.

See also: Best Out of State Moving Companies in USA | 12 Best Moving Companies in Illinois | Cheap Places to Live in Illinois 

Written by


Rostislav Shetman is the founder of 9Kilo Moving. He has been in the moving and relocation industry for more than 25 years, making him an expert in his field. Rostislav started as a helper, dispatcher and driver and has worked his way up to owning his own company. He takes great pride in his work and enjoys helping people relocate across the United States of America. When he's not working, Rostislav enjoys spending time with his family and friends. They are the light of his life and bring him happiness every day.