With a population of just over 2.7 million, Chicago is the largest city in Illinois by a significant margin and also the 3rd largest city in the United States after New York and Los Angeles. Around 8.6 million people live in the broader Chicago metropolitan area, making it the largest MSA in the Midwest. It's also the seat of Cook County, the 2nd most populated county in the United States. Chicago is a major center for finance, technology, art, media, and transportation, attracting residents from all over the world who are drawn by its many parks, cultural institutions, and sports teams. Due to its size and pace of life, Chicago is unique from the rest of Illinois and offers big city amenities, world-class cuisine, and a wide range of employment opportunities.
Aurora is a Chicago suburb and the second most populated city in the state, with a population of 180,542. Aurora is considered part of the greater Chicago metro area and the 144th largest city in the US. Between 2000 and 2009, the US Census Bureau named it the 46th fastest-growing city in the country with a population over 10,000. However, the population decreased by about 8.7% between 2010 and 2020. Aurora is a safe, middle-class suburb that ranked as among the best places to live the American Dream in a study by Smart Asset.
Joliet is the third largest city in Illinois, with a population of just over 150,000 people. Located about 35 miles southwest of Chicago, Joliet is considered a far suburb with a unique vibe and culture. Joliet also ranks among Illinois's fastest-growing cities, and the population has nearly doubled since 1990. It also offers affordable living and a slow pace of life with easy access to amenities in Chicago, making it one of the best places to live in Illinois.
Naperville is another popular Chicago suburb and the fourth largest city in Illinois, with a population of slightly under 150,000. Naperville is an affluent community that consistently ranks among the best places to live in the United States due to its fantastic schools, low crime, and access to Chicago. However, it isn't the most affordable, and the median listing price for a home in Naperville is $595,000, which is 47% higher than the statewide average. But it's also a great place to raise a family, with beautiful neighborhoods and an easy commute.
Located in Winnebago County in the far northern part of the state, Rockford is the 5th largest city in Illinois and the largest outside of the Chicago metro area. It's also the 171st most populated city in the United States, with the 155th largest metro area that has a total of 338,798 residents. Intersected by the Rock River, the city was a strategic hub for industrial manufacturing throughout the 19th Century. Today, Rockford is a great place to live, with a small-town ambiance and affordable real estate.
Located 35 miles northwest of Chicago, Elgin is a city in Cook and Kane Counties with a population of 114,797. Elgin is a pleasant suburb of Chicago located along the Fox River. It's famous for its historic architecture and many notable landmarks. Like many Chicago suburbs, the population has been growing rapidly since the 1990s, and between 2010 and 2020, the number of residents increased by 5.76%.
Springfield is the 7th largest city in Illinois, with a population of 114,394. It's also the second-largest city outside the Chicago metro area and the largest in Central Illinois. An estimated 208,000 people also live in the broader Springfield metro area. Famous for being the home of Abraham Lincoln, there are many historic sites and tourist attractions in town dedicated to the 16th President. With a median home listing price of $172,000, Springfield is very affordable for a medium-sized city and offers plenty of parks and outdoor activities on Lake Springfield.
Peoria is the eighth largest city in the state and the 2nd largest in Central Illinois, after Springfield, with a population of 113,150 as of 2020. It's also the primary city in the Peoria metropolitan area, encompassing Fulton, Marshall, Peoria, Stark, Tazewell, and Woodford Counties, and features just over 400,000 total residents. Located on the Illinois River, Peoria is a major port city with a well-diversified economy supported by shipping and manufacturing. In 2022, US News and World Report ranked Peoria the 50th best place to live in the country for its affordable living and burgeoning entertainment district.
Waukegan is the 9th largest city in Illinois, with a population of just under 90,000. Considered an industrial suburb of Chicago, Waukegan is 26 miles north of the city limits. It's also the county seat and largest city in Lake County, Illinois. Waukegan is primarily a working and middle-class community with an affordable cost of living and a prime location on Lake Michigan. It's also very affordable for its proximity to Chicago, and the median listing price of a home is $238,000.
Champaign is the largest city in Illinois, with a population of 88,302. It's a crucial part of the Champagne Urbana metro area, which has a total population of 222,538. It's also home to the main campus of the University of Illinois and Parkland College, which attracts students and professors from all over the country. It's also known as the hub for technology startups, and several Fortune 500 Companies have offices in Champagne.