The Best Places to Live in Your 20s, Based on Your Priorities

Evelyn Long

Aug 15, 2019


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You have a lot to look forward to in your 20s, and one of the most exciting prospects for young people is figuring out where they’re going to live. After you’ve ventured beyond your parent’s house or college dorm, you have to make an enormous decision. Where are the best places to live in your 20s?

Of course, making that decision can feel difficult when you don’t have any specific plans. If you’ve found yourself at a crossroads, it’s best to think through your priorities and consider what’s truly important to your future. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of some great places for young people to live — based on your priorities.

Read on or jump to what’s important to you:

  1. Do You Want a High-Paying Job?
  2. Are You Looking for Adventure?
  3. Do You Like to Go Out on Weekends?
  4. Do You Want to Grow Your Career?
  5. Are You Looking to Start a Family?
  6. Do You Want to See the World?

Priority #1: Do You Want a High-Paying Job?

Starting your career is an exciting milestone. Your first full-time job will determine the types of opportunities you get down the line as you gain experience and pick up new skills. That’s why so many young people look for a place to live based on the area’s job market. It’s a practical way to approach your future move, a smart choice for many young professionals. What are some places that support fast career growth?

boston wharf real estate sign as the best places to live in boston

Boston, Massachusetts

As you mull over your decision, consider what career you’d like to pursue. A traditional career in nursing might land you in Boston, where you could make close to $100,000 per year. Look up job opportunities in major cities to compare the median pay and weigh your options. Meanwhile, don’t forget to peruse cost of living factors to find out whether the salary bump will be offset by sky-high rent.

While Boston is one of the most expensive cities to live in, it’s a hub of economic activity. Ambitious young people can find opportunities in education — Boston is home to some of the most prestigious U.S. institutions, after all — finance, biotechnology and more. If you’re on a career path and want to start high, then this city provides ample opportunity and the company of a lot of like-minded 20-somethings.

seattle spaceneedle

Seattle, Washington

Young professionals can of course seek out high-paying roles in New York, D.C. and other traditional business centers, but did you know Seattle often tops the list, too? The annual average salary in Seattle is $63,120, with plenty of opportunities to shoot past this in technology, engineering and international trade fields, among others.

Seattle has been a popular destination for 20-somethings for years now. But ambitious professionals with a laser focus on the east coast should consider it among their top options for moving after graduation. On top of career opportunities, the city is known for its food and drink, arts scene and other great perks for residents and tourists alike.

Priority #2: Are You Looking for Adventure?

When you’re in your 20s, you don’t have as many responsibilities. Once you get married, have kids and work a demanding, high-level job, it’ll be difficult to travel. Because of these restrictions, a lot of younger people seek out adventure when choosing a place to live. New York City is a popular starting point, full of new opportunities to pursue and things to try.

NYC city streets

New York, New York

Okay, New York isn’t for everyone, and the salary bump will certainly be offset by its scary cost of living statistics. But there’s a reason New York has graced our TV screens in almost every show about young people finding their way — we wouldn’t have an honest list of best places to live in your 20s without introducing the Big Apple.

Adventure-seekers have always been drawn to New York’s quirky character and constant buzz, and if you’re dead-set on living to the max, this is a great place to do it.

san francisco streets with trolley

San Francisco, California

San Francisco is another fun city — if you have the means. Home to companies like Apple, Tesla, Netflix, Google and more, it’s the hub of the tech world. It’s also expensive for young people, but if you rent outside the city, things are far more affordable. San Francisco’s mild weather and endless cultural opportunities make it more than worthwhile for many 20-somethings. If you’re looking for new experiences, this may be the case for you, too.

Before you make the leap, make sure you dig into the ins and outs of living in San Francisco. Adventure-seekers will likely find it a breath of fresh air, but there’s a lot of history to learn and congestion to contend with while you explore the bustling arts scene.

Priority #3: Do You Like to Go Out on Weekends?

Relaxation is important to your health. Wherever you end up, you should have plenty of fun things to do on the weekend — a common priority for younger people who are looking to socialize. If you’re looking for fun nights out, great social circles and a great music scene, then these picks should be great for your dream lifestyle.

portland at night with ferris wheel

Portland, Oregon

All of the above cities will serve you well if you’re looking for a good time. But Portland, Oregon is one of top cities in the United States for social and cultural amenities. You can check out a witch’s castle, see the roller derby or even ride in a naked bike race to save the environment.

It’s almost impossible to be bored in Portland, especially since there are so many seasonal festivals and events. If a laid-back city is more your speed, consider making the move. It’s one of the best places to live in your 20s if you’re looking for a place with a unique sense of character.

blue buildings and gates in austin

Austin, Texas

In 2016, Austin was ranked as the third fastest growing city in the U.S. It’s celebrated for its cultural diversity, fast growth and relative affordability, at least compared to other tech centers on this list. If you’re a fan of good vibes, however, the real draws will be Austin’s amazing food, outdoor activities and live music scene.

The city’s Austin Music Census, published in 2015, indicates that local musicians represent at least 27 different genres of music. There’s likely a venue and music group for every resident, whether you’re a fan of rock, blues, jazz or innovative combos. You can easily fill your weekends with festivals, coffee shop performances and club nights.

Priority #4: Do You Want to Grow Your Career?

Maybe you’re in your 20s and you’ve already started your career, but you’re looking to start a new job. That’s when you’ll need a city with lots of job growth, which is why so many millennials are moving to more mid-sized cities with rapidly growing career opportunities. These places allow young professionals to plant their roots and grow in place, rather than chasing the highest salaries and even higher rents.

the city of nashville

Nashville, Tennessee

The job market in Nashville has seen consistent growth for years, attracting young people from all over the country. There are plenty of jobs for young people who know they’re not entry level, but aren’t ready for a VP job title. Another great bonus about working in Nashville are the diverse opportunities. Music, TV, book publishing companies and more are always looking to hire.

While Nashville has certainly earned its reputation as a music hub, potential residents should pay attention to other booming fields, too. Health care, technology and business services are all growing in the city, offering plenty of opportunity for career-minded individuals.

minneapolis bridge near beer sign

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis doesn’t always catch a young graduate’s eye. Its presence in the popular conscience has mostly been cemented by Fargo, after all, where plenty of niceties and a boatload of snow stand out as its main characteristics. But don’t sleep on this growing city, where job opportunities abound in banking and finance, technology, biosciences and manufacturing.

Minnesota’s affordable cost of living and variety of career opportunities allow a headstart for young people looking to excel in their field and put down roots in a great place. Beyond the job outlook, Minnesota offers a bustling public arts scene, well-renowned dining and outdoor sporting opportunities for those who embrace winter weather. It’s a great alternative to spending your 20s counting every dollar in a flashier metro center.

Priority #5: Are You Looking to Start a Family?

It may be common for people to wait until their early 30s to start having kids, but it doesn’t have to be. Young people in their 20s are already starting families, a huge factor in their eventual move. The best places to live in your 20s may just be those that align with your dreams of starting a family. If that’s the case, consider putting down roots in these hip — but family-friendly — locales.

denver park in the fall

Denver, Colorado

You might be considering a family of your own, and if that’s the case, you should check out Denver, Colorado. It’s a city with many young families, which is why it has 635 high ranking schools. There’s also so much for kids to do there while they learn, like go to the children’s museum or the natural history and science museum. And if you’re a sporting family, Denver is well-known for its soaring peaks and beautiful scenery.

Denver isn’t the cheapest city, but it does offer living rates far below those in New York, Chicago and other major hubs. Luckily, career-minded individuals have plenty of opportunities to secure a good career in energy, IT, technology and other booming fields.

ann arbor church arch

Ann Arbor, Michigan

This is another great place for young families given its abundance of kid-friendly activities. Livability ranks Ann Arbor number one for families based on its numerous parks, museums and excellent schools. This college-centered city is well-suited for career-minded parents who are also looking for a tight-knit community for their children to grow up in.

You don’t have to spend your 20s in a major metro area to enjoy yourself. Ann Arbor offers plenty of cultural opportunity and great events without a shocking price tag, and it’s a great place to settle down for the long haul.

Priority #6: Do You Want to See the World?

You may want to see the world before picking a long-term living solution, and that’s totally possible when you’re young and in your 20s. Why limit yourself to the U.S.? Some of the best places to live in your 20s in the world can and should include these amazing international centers.

a woman biking in montreal by a river

Montreal, Canada

Many young people are moving to Montreal because it’s a big city in a new country that’s also super affordable. Compared to most North American cities, Montreal’s rent prices are very low without compromising on space and quality. With the money you’d save on rent, you could travel Canada to your heart’s content.

Montreal is famous for its blend of French Canadian language and culture, making this an excellent place to practice your French. While you have to survive cold winters, the history, beauty and arts found in this historic city more than make up for the windchill. Plus, Montreal has become an international center, allowing you to meet people from all walks of life.

a river in amsterdam

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Amsterdam is also becoming a favorite city among millennials. It ranked as the sixth safest city in the world to live in during 2017, so it’s a good place to settle down for the short- or long-term. You also won’t need to worry about learning a different language to live there. English is just as common as Dutch in the Netherlands, and it’s often the preferred language among locals.

Just be mindful that Amsterdam is perhaps becoming too popular. For a city of one million, it’s estimated to receive 20 million visitors each year. If you’re looking to live in a European city, be prepared to come across more visitors than actual residents. Fortunately, Amsterdam has easy access to other Dutch cities and European countries when you need a short escape.

seoul city streets at night

Seoul, South Korea

You can’t get better than Seoul for an exciting, culturally rich living opportunity. Seoul is one of the best places to live in your 20s because it features affordable living, an abundance of international experiences and some of the most fun you could ever have. Plenty of young people pursue teaching opportunities in this city, where they can secure solid short-term employment in exchange for a new experience.

where to live in your 20s

Exploring the Best Places for Young Adults to Live in the World

It’s a big decision to uproot your life and move to a new city. Spending your time doing lots of research and evaluating your priorities is a great way to narrow down where you should go, but it’s also important to get a feel for the area. If possible, take a trip to the cities you’re interested in. Spend a night or two exploring the place, getting a sense of the city’s vibe.

When you find the right city, you’ll know. Do a little more research into some of the best places to live in your 20s and make the decision when you’re ready. Soon enough, you’ll have settled comfortably into your new home.

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