The pros and cons of living in downtown Chicago

Making the big move to a cosmopolitan city like Chicago is super exciting and something you do not fully understand until you do it. When we decided that we wanted to live downtown as opposed to further away from the city center, we had a certain set of ideas of how our life would be like. And of course, all our ideas were 100% positive.

Three months down the road we certainly see a lot of advantages but have also come across a few challenges. Whether you are thinking about moving to a big city like Chicago, or are just curious to hear about our experience, I have compiled our list of pros and cons of living downtown.

Here are the pros:  

Stunning views

The views we can enjoy over the city from the coziness of our apartment, or any of the rooftop bars of Hancock Tower, Trump Tower or London House are truly breathtaking. Especially when the sunset casts its glow over Chicago, there is really nothing better than taking a glass of wine (white and not so dry for me, red and very dry for my husband), find a comfortable spot and enjoy this adorable scenery.

Access to everything in walking distance

One of my favorite things about living in downtown Chicago is that despite its size, it is a very walkable city. I cannot remember the last time I took our car to get somewhere. With everything so close in reach (grocery stores, hair dressers, sports studios, shops, etc.), there is really no point in driving. Walking is also a nice way of getting to know the city and something I have come to appreciate rain or shine. And when my feet get tired, there is always a nearby bus or train to jump on.   

Activities and events

The number of things going on in Chicago on a regular day and even more so during weekends is sheer amazing and more than one can digest. I kid you not when I say that we are surrounded by a gazillion of nice restaurants, bars, jazz clubs and cafés. It is literally out the door and into the next cool place or event. We have made it our habit to visit a new restaurant each week (Saturday is our ‘try a new place to eat’ night), so that by the time we move back home, we hopefully have gotten a good grasp of what Chicago has to offer to its foodies. There is a lot, but that is a topic for a separate post.  

Big city feeling

In a city like Chicago, you never feel alone. There are people everywhere and as terrifying this may sound to some of you, as much joy does it bring to us. Artists and musicians are performing on the streets, tourists are exploring the city and people in suit and tie are hurrying to grab their lunch or dinner. Everyone has got their story and sometimes watching folks and imagining what they might be up to is an experience on its own.

The Chicago River

The Chicago River with its 38 movable bridges runs through a big part of the city and is a gorgeous spot to take a stroll, enjoy a dinner or wine, hop on one of the boats to cross over to the other side or join one of the amazing architecture cruises. The coolest thing that is happening to the river, however, is that it is dyed green every year in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. What may look like a major chemical incident is indeed one of the biggest traditions in Chicago. And no, I did not photoshop this picture, the river really turns this green.

Here are the cons:

Lack of nature   

When you find yourself searching for ‘nature sounds’ on Spotify (which I did just recently), you know something is wrong. But in the middle of a concrete heavy city, where you can count the number of trees on one Hand (okay, make it two), there is not a lot of nature going on. Do you hear birds chirping when you open your window at home? Well, we do not. What we hear instead is cars, trucks, sirens and horns, which brings me to my next topic …

The noise levels

This is certainly not unique to Chicago and probably true to any major city, but the level of noise one must put up with in a downtown area is incredible. It does not matter if it is day or night, the roads are always packed with cars, police and fire fighters are racing through the city, horns are constantly honked and because of the poor quality of the roads, you hear everything twice as loud. There goes our sleep …

Opening a window is an illusion

We live on the 17th floor of an apartment building where there are nearly more window fronts than regular walls, however, almost none of the windows can be opened. I get the point, because why would you want to open a window if all you hear is noise? But when the only air you get is coming from a heating or cooling ventilation system, you start to wonder if that is all that healthy.

Running downtown is a challenge

Back in Germany, I was used to putting on my running shoes to start my exercise right in front of our building. I enjoyed running either through a nearby park or to and across the river Rhine, with all of this being possible without hitting a single traffic light that could interrupt my laboriously built up pace. Running in downtown Chicago is a challenge, because unless you want to stop every 100 or so meters – waiting for a light to turn green – you better stick to the treadmill or take the car to the nearby lake (the latter actually being a legitimate alternative, see yourself).

It never gets dark

As much as we enjoy the view we have from our apartment, we sometimes wish the city lights could be turned off. Chicago is so well lit, that even in the darkest hour of the night and with all shades down and inside lights off, it is still bright enough to read a book. Okay, I might be exaggerating just a tiny bit, but dark is not what it used to be.

With all of what we know by now, would we move downtown again if the decision came up one more time? Absolutely! As a couple without children, the pros clearly outweigh the cons. But we must admit that we do miss getting a good night sleep with the window wide open and all you hear is … silence.

2 thoughts on “The pros and cons of living in downtown Chicago

  1. Hi Simone, thank you for your wonderful blogs. I enjoy them reading very much and I am always looking forward to Saturday’s 😃 Wish you still a good and inspirational time in Chicago.

    1. I love it, Mira, thank you so much! How wonderful that you made it a small tradition on your Saturday to read my posts. All the best from Chicago.

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