The Top 10 Chicago Neighborhoods to Live in Without a Car

Chicago is one of the most walkable cities in the country. Thanks to the city’s extensive public transportation network, its miles of biking paths, and overall layout, residents of the Windy City can often ditch car ownership and parking hassles in favor of heading to the nearest ‘L’ station, using the city’s bike lanes, or by simply walking. 

There are three generally agreed-upon metrics for determining an area’s walkability: Walk Score, Bike Score, and Transit Score. We took all three scores for each Chicago neighborhood and averaged them to determine which neighborhoods are best for kicking your car to the curb. Here are the 10 best Chicago neighborhoods for people looking to easily move around the city without owning a car. 

1. West Loop

Cars and a bus on a street surrounded by tall buildings in West Loop Chicago
West Loop has many of its own amenities as well as close proximity to Chicago's most popular neighborhoods.

Several neighborhoods with "Loop" in the name appear on this list, but each one has its own distinct identity. The West Loop is known for being home to the city’s Fulton Market district and Restaurant Row, as well as a sizeable collection of boutique shops. It's ideal for avid pedestrians, both for bar- and restaurant-hopping and for getting to work—for people who work in the Loop, your commute could simply be an invigorating walk.

This neighborhood also has easy access to plenty of public transit options. Hop on the Green or Pink Line at the Clinton ‘L’ station, which will take you to the Loop or the West Side. The Washington/Wells stop offers access to the Brown, Orange, Pink, and Purple lines. The Grand Blue Line stop is also within walking distance and will take riders all the way to O’Hare International Airport.

2. River North

People walking down the street in River North Chicago
River North is known for its high-end shopping and nightlife.

A short walk across the Chicago River from the Loop will bring you to the glitzy, Near North neighborhood of River North. Given its proximity to the West Loop, residents of River North also have access to the Clinton, Washington/Wells, and Grand ‘L’ stops. The Green, Pink, Brown, Orange, Purple, and Blue Lines can get you practically anywhere you need to go in the city.

Living in River North also puts you within walking distance of tons of restaurants and entertainment. Stroll over to Magnificent Mile or stay right in River North for a ton of restaurant and nightlife options. The neighborhood is also home to a stretch of bars and nightclubs on Hubbard Street, if you're into bar-hopping

3. Streeterville

A couple hold hands looking at a map outside the Wrigley Building in Streeterville Chicago
Streeterville boasts impressive luxury real estate and plenty of entertainment.

Streeterville offers a chance to live in the heart of the city—for those who can afford it. The neighborhood is home to some of the most impressive luxury real estate in the city, with homes for sale commanding as much as $15 million (although apartments and condos provide a more affordable option).

The neighborhood offers easy access to the Red Line at the Grand Stop, as well as several bus routes passing through the area. Residents can walk to major attractions including Navy Pier, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and Magnificent Mile.  

4. Near North Side

Buildings tower over Gold Coast on the Near North Side in Chicago
The Near North Side gives residents easy access to all of Chicago.

Characterized by towering condo buildings, densely packed commercial corridors, and a bustling energy, Near North Side is ideal for those who want the best of downtown city living. Out of all the neighborhoods on this list, it has the distinction of having the highest Walk Score—99, a "walker's paradise."

There's so much to access on foot here, whether it's the nightlife hub of Rush and Division Streets or the historic buildings that line the Chicago River. But if you don't feel like walking, the neighborhood is also great for public transit—you can hop on the Red Line at the Chicago or Clark/Division stops.  

5. South Loop

People walk through a green park in the heart of the Loop in Chicago's South Loop
South Loop is easily walkable and has tons of real estate on offer.

In the shadow of the skyscrapers of the business-centric Loop is the South Loop, which is more residential and quieter than its downtown counterpart (the high-rise buildings here are more likely to be filled with condos, not offices). 

The South Loop doesn’t have quite the glut of public transit options available in the Loop, but the ease of getting around is still one of the neighborhood’s big attractions. The South Loop is served by the CTA Red and Green Lines, as well as multiple bus routes. Walking around the neighborhood means seeing the area's college campuses (Columbia College and Roosevelt University are located here) and the grand Museum Campus along the lake. 

6. Loop 

A Pink Line train goes through the Loop in Chicago
With real estate at a premium, the Loop offers walkability at the heart of the city.

Chicago’s Loop, which is also known as Downtown, is the very heart of the city. The Loop is perfect for pedestrians—walking is far more convenient than battling your way through this central neighborhood’s near-constant traffic. From the Loop, you can hop on a public transportation line, whether it’s the ‘L’ or a bus, that will take you nearly anywhere in the city—you can take the Blue Line all the way to O’Hare Airport, the Orange Line train to Midway Airport, or you can hop on a bus to the Museum Campus, Lake Michigan, or virtually any neighborhood in the city. Your options are endless. 

The Loop is also Chicago’s business district, which means you have easy access to much of what the city has to offer. Downtown Chicago is full of restaurants, shopping venues, museums, and the world-famous Millennium Park. 

7. Boystown

Rainbow flags and streetlights in the Boystown neighborhood in Chicago
Boystown, or Northalsted, has many transit options in addition to plentiful nightlife.

Boystown is Chicago’s largest—and one of the country’s largest—LGBTQ-friendly communities. It was recently renamed Northalsted, but only time will tell if that name will stick with the locals. 

The CTA’s Addison station and Belmont station serve the neighborhood. You can catch the Red Line from the Addison stop or the Brown, Purple, and Red Lines from the Belmont station. Divvy also has stations at both the Addison and Belmont CTA stops. You can also hop on the No. 36 Broadway bus. Boystown is just four miles from the Loop—the CTA will get you there in about half an hour. 

There is never a dull moment walking through Boystown. Sample food from all over the world; Boystown has an eclectic and delicious collection of eateries. Each summer, you can watch or participate in the neighborhood’s Chicago Pride Weekend and Parade or go to a Cubs game in neighboring Wrigleyville

8. East Village 

Homes and cars in the East Village neighborhood in Chicago
East Village, while small, offers more affordable housing options and good walkability.

Despite allegations that this neighborhood is "straight up fake," the East Village is very much a real Chicago neighborhood and not just a place in New York City. Some of that erasure stems from the fact that the neighborhood is quite small and nestled in between the more well-known Ukrainian Village and West Town neighborhoods. 

The neighborhood has a lower score in the transit department, but it's ideal for walkers and bikers. Main thoroughfares Division Street, Ashland, and Chicago Avenues are filled with bars, restaurants, and boutiques, and the neighborhood's greenspaces and distinct architecture provide lots to take in on foot. 

9. Palmer Square

Nestled into Logan Square, Palmer Square residents enjoy access to many areas of the city. / Photo by David Wilson / CC BY

Palmer Square is a smaller neighborhood that resides within the larger Logan Square neighborhood. Denizens of Palmer Square have access to the CTA’s California and Western Blue Line stops, as well as the No. 52 California, No. 56 Milwaukee, No. 73 Armitage, and No. 74 Fullerton bus routes. Whether you want to get to O’Hare or the Loop, the public transit available in Palmer Square will make your journey an easy one.

Palmer Square takes its name from the large park that sits at the center of the neighborhood. Residents can enjoy the greenspace as well as easy access to local coffee shops, restaurants, and bars.

10. Chinatown

People walking through a square at the heart of Chinatown in Chicago
Chinatown has everything its residents need within the neighborhood, making it great for walking and biking through.

Chinatown is a self-contained community with family-friendly restaurants, shopping, a library, nightlife, a park, and residences all easily within reach, but it's close enough to Downtown Chicago for an easy commute. The neighborhood is conveniently located just steps from the Red Line (the Cermak-Chinatown station), but you can take the scenic route downtown via a water taxi that leaves from Ping Tom Park. The neighborhood is a breeze for bikers, too. 

We've just released an update for neighborhoods.com!  You can click here to refresh and use the latest version.