Updated June 14, 2023
So you're thinking about moving to Atlanta. We get it. Atlanta is hot right now. Some might say that it has it all—a great music scene, an interesting history, professional sports teams, great food, craft beer, and a ton more.
But you also have a lot of questions on your mind. Where is the best place to live in Atlanta? How much does it cost to live there? What kind of pros and cons can I expect out of this decision? Moving to a new city can be overwhelming. And Atlanta's size might not help your anxiety. Atlanta has a population of just under half a million residents, and the greater Atlanta metropolitan region reaches over 4 million.
But here at Bellhops (the best local Atlanta movers, FYI), we don't like it when you're overwhelmed. Not one bit. And that's why we wrote this guide. Consider us your "cool friends." We'll show you around the city and show you our favorites.
If you are looking to move to Atlanta, AptAmigo can help you find the perfect apartment. Like Bellhop, AptAmigo is committed to stress-free moving. With concierge-level service and a deep understanding of the local rental market, AptAmigo makes finding your next apartment easier than ever. Just reach out, tell your dedicated apartment locator what you’re looking for, and they’ll do the rest.
Want to learn more about where people are moving to, and why? Check out our Bellhop report on the state of moving.
Atlanta is not only the capital of Georgia; it's also the cultural and economic center of the Atlanta metropolitan area. The Atlanta metro area is home to more than 6,100,000 people, a 1.55% increase from 2022 - and it's the ninth-largest metropolitan area in the United States. The city itself is located in Fulton County, with a small portion of the city extending to DeKalb County in the east.
The city (nicknamed The Dogwood City, The Big A, Hotlanta, The ATL, and more) was founded in 1937. It also happens to be the only U.S. city to have been burned to the ground as an act of war. This, of course, occurred during the Civil War, thanks to Union Army General William Tecumseh Sherman. So, there’s a reason why the city’s unofficial symbol is a phoenix.
Since then, Atlanta has become a national center of commerce and the unofficial capital of the New South. During the 1960s, it was a major organizing center of the Civil Rights Movement. In 1996, it hosted the Summer Olympics. And now, the state of Georgia has become the number one filming location in the world, thanks in large part to Atlanta. For more on the history that’s shaped the city and its people, here's a helpful article from the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Though not quite on the same level as New York City, it still has a nice mix of diversity, according to Statistical Atlas. The local population is 49.79% Black or African American, 40.42% White, 4.8% Asian, 3.18%, with a median age of 33.3 years. Atlanta ranks 14th in New American Economy’s Cities Index, which rates the American cities most welcoming to immigrants. The metro area scored especially high in the category of Community, which gauges a city’s efforts to build connections between immigrants and American-born citizens. As of 2023, the largest immigrant communities in Atlanta, Georgia are from Mexico (22% of the immigrant population, India (9%), Jamacia (4%) and Korea (4%).
The mayor of Atlanta describes the city as “the LGBTQ capital of the South,” and notes that the city has a comprehensive set of non-discrimination laws, which prohibit sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination by business establishments, by commercial housing agents, and by service providers in Atlanta. Since 2013 Atlanta has had the proud distinction of having a perfect 100% score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index. For the last four years, Atlanta has also achieved MEI “All-Star” status - the first city in Georgia to do so.
The city’s diversity is what makes life here exciting … and delicious.
Instead of us explaining it, we’ll let Atlanta resident Saša Hasanbegović tell you. "I moved here for the culture. Atlanta is the purveyor of the world’s music and film scenes. The food is phenomenal. My mayor is black in a black city. This is of huge importance. It’s a city that in my short time here, places a lot of emphasis on its diversity.
"There are pockets of people from all across the world, which are eager to showcase their own respective cultures. It retains the Southern charm, within all of that. It is the Mecca of civil rights and justice to this day. It also gave us Outkast."
Atlanta is the headquarters for many Fortune 500, 100 and 1000 companies. The top five employers in the metro area are Delta Air Lines, Inc., Emory University and Emory Healthcare, The Home Depot, Northside Hospital, and Piedmont Healthcare.
The Coca-Cola Company originated in the city when the first beverage was served in downtown Atlanta in 1885. While the company is now global, they still employ more than 9,000 people in Georgia, primarily within the Atlanta Metro. CNN's studio headquarters are also just a short drive from downtown.
Atlanta is ranked #3 in the nation for job opportunities in WalletHub’s 2023 best cities for jobs list. The city’s key industries are supply chain, advanced manufacturing, technology particularly cleantech (renewable energy), life sciences and healthcare, and creative industries (film and art, etc.). Georgia's unemployment rate is 3.1%,
According to Zip Recruiter, the average annual salary in Atlanta is $71,117 – about $5,926 a month. Atlanta’s unemployment rate is 3.3%.
Atlanta is a relatively affordable place to live. Not counting housing, a family of four’s estimated monthly costs are $4,209.3, a single person’s is around $1,179.2. This is 14% higher than the state average and 2% higher than the national average. Housing is 8% more expensive than the U.S. average, while utilities are about 14% less costly. The median price of a home is $325,000
If you want to get much more granular, check out Numbero. There you'll find information on rent, groceries, clothing, and pretty much everything else you could think of, and can compare the cost of living in Atlanta to different other major cities around the world. Here’s an overview what you can expect to pay for basic needs in Atlanta:
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The Live music.For live music, Atlanta's offerings are impressive. Here are a few of our favorites. There's The Tabernacle for popular rap, rock, or R&B outfits. Fox Theatre hosts both all sorts of live music and comedy acts. There's Eddie's Attic, a place that describes itself as “cultural blend of Berkeley and Mayberry” and stresses the importance of actually listening to the live music that’s on offer here. Also don’t miss The Masquerade, located in Kenny's Alley of Underground Atlanta, with three standing room only areas named Heaven (concert space), Purgatory (a game room) and Hell (DJ dance party).
The Bar scene in Atlanta is big, diverse, and great. That's a simple way to put it, but it's true. You've got secret speakeasies like Red Phone Booth where you enter by dialing a secret code in an antique London phone booth (seriously, check it out). Head to Joystick Gamebar for arcade game machines all the way from the 1970s, booze and jumbo burgers. Feeling blessed, you should check out Sister Louisa's Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium for church organ karaoke and weekly ping pong tournaments – actually, Saint Louisa’s is worth a trip just to check out the art.
Green spaces.The BeltLine is a new, expansive 22-mile network of walking and biking trails that will ultimately connect 45 of the city’s core neighborhoods. Another great place to enjoy nature is Centennial Olympic Park, which commemorates Atlanta’s hosting of the 1996 Olympic Games. 21 acres of green space provide plenty of places for an ultimate Frisbee game or picnic. Kids can also cool off in the Olympic fountains, designed in the shape of the five Olympic rings.
Friendly folks. Southern hospitality is real.
Pro Sports.Professional baseball (The Braves), football (The Falcons), basketball (The Hawks), football/soccer (Atlanta United), and tennis (Atlanta is home to the BB&T Atlanta Open every summer). Atlantans love their professional sports, too. If you're hoping to move to a new city where you can get invested in the local sports teams, Atlanta will not leave you disappointed.
The Traffic.When we asked Atlanta locals to let us know what they loved and hated about Atlanta, overwhelmingly, people like Tommy Simpson cited traffic as their most-hated aspect of living in the city. "I don't like the traffic for sure! The public transit is mostly a joke, and everything is very spread out and not as condensed as most major cities." Atlanta and its suburbs are spread out, intersected by several interstates.
You Have to Own a Car.Atlanta writer and city planner Hannah Palmer told us, "There's no way not to be car dependent in Atlanta. The trick is to find a balance. I feel very comfortable in Atlanta; I feel like I've kind of hit that sweet spot. I can use public transportation. I can walk some places. But I still do a lot of driving, especially the-running-kids-places kind of driving. I think I'd be miserable if I had to drive more than an hour to work. That's normal for a lot of Atlantans, that 45-minute or hour-long commute." The good news is that Atlanta has committed to building The Beltline, which will increase walking, jogging, and bike paths throughout the entire city. It's one of the largest urbanization projects in the US.
There’s a Reason for the Name Hotlanta.Atlanta isn’t called Hotlanta for no reason. True to the climate in the south (which is technically a humid subtropical climate), the temperatures can get uncomfortably hot in the summer. Most summer days reach the mid-nineties and can often be quite humid. Your allergies may hit previously unknown levels of discomfort, but you’ll have plenty of itchy bug bites to distract you. However, the winters are mild. Snowstorms are quite rare, but when they do hit, they have a knack for shutting down the entire city. Because people in the south don't know how to handle snow, as any of your northern friends will gleefully point out to you.
Geoff Bartlett, who has lived in Atlanta for more than ten years, tells us, "Neighborhood culture in Atlanta is a major factor of life here. The city is a patchwork of areas whose borders often delineate very different cultural and aesthetic sensibilities."
And, in light of our previous discussion of the traffic, here's another piece of advice from our friend John Edmonson: "The key to happy Atlanta Metro living: live as close as you can to work. The traffic is the number one problem. It wastes time. Better to arrange your affairs so that you don’t have to deal with it on the daily." The average one-way commute time in Atlanta is 32.5 minutes for a 19 mile trip.
Atlanta has a lot of neighborhoods. So we are going to limit our list to the downtown area only.
First up on our list of downtown neighborhoods is Castleberry Hill. Located in the southwest corner of downtown, Castleberry Hill is one of the few surviving warehouse districts in the country. It also happens to be a growing Atlanta neighborhood known for the arts and culture. Many of the old warehouses here have been converted into lofts for housing, making for some exciting, if non-conventional, places to call home. The main boundaries are I-20, MLK Jr. Pkwy, and Northside Drive. If warehouse-turned-apartment living is your thing, check out the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau website. There you'll find a thorough list of eateries, festivals, and things to do on the daily.
Next up we have Fairlie Poplar District. The Fairlie Poplar District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The neighborhood blossomed in the 19th and 20th centuries as a business district while Atlanta established itself as one of the major business hubs of the Southeast. Luckie Street Studios and The Balzer Theater anchor the arts and culture scene in the district and they are recognized city-wide. Beautiful architecture is also a hallmark of Fairlie Poplar. The district's crown jewel is the Flatiron building. Opened in 1897 and designated as a world heritage site in 1976, its construction predates the construction of the famous structure in NYC bearing the same name.
If you've done any reading at all about Atlanta neighborhoods, then you have likely heard of Midtown and Buckhead. And, if that's the case, we don't need to tell you that they're popular neighborhoods. (If that's not the case, then let us take the time to say to you right now: they're popular neighborhoods).
First up, a little about Midtown. The main drag in Midtown is the Midtown Mile, a section of Peachtree Street between North Avenue and 15th Street. The mile has loads of shopping, from local boutiques to national stores, as well as several restaurants and unique, local cuisine along the way. Midtown is one of the young and hip neighborhoods, and it's been attracting young professionals since all the way back in the 1980s. The neighborhood sports many luxury high rise buildings among its walkable streets. With an average walk score of 88, Midtown is the 6th most walkable neighborhood in Atlanta. You can do almost all your errands here on foot.
Second, a little about Buckhead. The fancier older sibling of Midtown, Buckhead is another popular neighborhood for Atlanta young professionals. With a central location, a thriving nightlife, and a supremely walkable layout, Buckhead's popularity is no small wonder.
Buckhead is one of the more affluent neighborhoods in Atlanta which lends itself to the obvious pros and cons. You have some of the best amenities in the city, easy access to the Marta and beautiful properties. This also has its downsides. Real estate in Buckhead is pricey, with the average single-family home starting around $500K. Rental prices are more reasonable for young professionals but are still on the more expensive side. For young families, the public school system is solid, although, as with most affluent areas, most kids end up at one of the many local private schools. Apartment hunting can be a little tough here, so check out either rent.com or apartmentguide.com. Both are excellent apartment aggregators with impressive databases.
Originally named Fortified Hills, Grove Park was developed in the 1920s and 1930s by Dr. Edwin Wiley Grove and his Grove Park Development Company. The streets are named after various members of the Grove family. Side streets boast wide, tree-lined avenues with frame cottages, brick Tudors and ranches dating back to the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. There are also plenty of newly constructed homes. The median sale price of a home in Grove Park is $335K, up 52.3% since last year. You can find homes for rent at about $1,500+, 64% of homes in Grove Park are renter-occupied.
Be aware that, while Grove Park is an up-and-coming neighborhood (some would argue it’s already arrived), official statistics still indicate that the violent crime rate and property crime rate here is 21% higher than the national average. As in many urban neighborhoods, you need to pay attention to your surroundings and some areas in Grove Park require more vigilance than others. Check detailed local crime maps to get a better feel for safety in specific areas of Grove Park, and look for areas with a lot of home sale activity too which indicates more desirable sections. Note that the public school system here ranks lower than the greater Atlanta region average.
All that said, there are many things to love about this neighborhood (as evidenced by the rise in home prices) including its green spaces such as the Westside Reservoir Park. Community organizations like the Grove Park Foundation are working in partnership with business leaders to revitalize the neighborhood and improve the quality of life with the aim of sustaining a healthy, equitable, and vibrant community.The neighborhood is convenient to downtown Atlanta and mass transit.
Once again, if you've heard much about Atlanta, then you know that the Eastside is getting hot. Here, let's talk about two prominent neighborhoods: East Atlanta Village and The Historic Old Fourth Ward District.
East Atlanta Village, located between I-20 and Moreland Avenue, has undergone significant revitalization in recent years. This has affected a major shift: what was once considered a dangerous, undesirable part of Atlanta has become one of the most sought-after. And it doesn't hurt that the Eastside also boasts affordable housing and abundant local food options.
The Historic Old Fourth Ward District is located north of downtown, east of I-85, and split by highway 10. The neighborhood is home to beautiful old homes, a budding restaurant scene, and residents of all ages. Further east, Little Five Points is another popular neighborhood. A word of caution, though: the crime rate here is a bit higher than the other neighborhoods we previously mentioned.
The two dominant neighborhoods in west Atlanta are Atlantic Station and West Midtown.
Atlantic Station feels a little paradoxical. Most of the neighborhood is accessible by public transportation, but the majority of the neighborhood is also privately owned. The neighborhood has the convenience of everything you could ever want, including an IKEA, in easy walking distance. However, the neighborhood is popular for tourists and can be crowded in the summer and holidays.
West Midtown is known as the "design district" and is full of warehouses, lofts, art galleries, and shopping. The Westside Provision District within provides unique, minimalist architecture and some of the top restaurants in Atlanta. For example, Antico Pizza, one of our personal favorites, has a location in the neighborhood.
To close, we’ll let Atlanta resident Gary Tanner try to help you make your decision easier. He commented on Facebook, "Move to Atlanta for neighborhood theaters like Dad's Garage. Small towns that still exist inside a giant metro area like downtown Decatur and Marietta Square. Move to Atlanta where you get great pho in tiny family-run joints in your neighborhood, or can get world-class cooking at Staplehouse. The biggest bummer by far is the traffic. The first step to recovery is acceptance and knowing that the longer you live here the more back roads you'll discover."
So there you have it. The Bellhop city guide to Atlanta. If you decide to take the plunge, don't hesitate to reach out to your friends at Bellhop. We are the best local movers in Atlanta****and would love to help. We also coordinate long distance moving services in Atlanta.
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