Did you know Chicago’s river turns green every year for St Patrick’s Day? Literally! And the part about Al Capone making Chi Town’s history for more than 20 years is well-known across the globe. What about the Twinkie? Did you know it was invented by Chicago native Jimmy Dewar during the Depression?

We have one more question to make our trivia game complete: How big is Chicago? Well, it may not be as big as Houston, but it’s actually big enough to fit 5 small countries within its city limits.

Quick Facts about Chicago:
  • Chicago spans 227 mi² and ranks 23th among US cities according to land area
  • Chicago is the third-most populous city in the US, after New York and Los Angeles
  • Worldwide, Chicago ranks 114th based on population

If you’re considering making Chicago your new home, read on to find out how big the Windy City really is and a few more interesting things about what makes it so special.

Which Cities Can Fit Inside Chicago?

As we’re experts in self-storage, we couldn’t help but wonder how many cities Chicago would be able to contain if it were a huuuge storage unit. Using US Census data, we looked at several US cities that are either smaller in size or comparable to Chicago, in order to get a feeling about its true size. Let’s see how the Windy City stacks up against other cities in the US in terms of area surface:

  • Washington, DC (61 mi²), Portland, OR (133 mi²), and Boston, MA (48 mi²) = 242 mi²

If these three cities teamed up, their combined area would add up to 242 mi² – a little over the 227 mi² mark encompassed by Chicago’s city limits.

Chicago vs Portland Boston WashingtonDC

Now we know these three cities can fit within Chicago’s great expanse, imagine seeing Capitol Hill, Portland’s famous rose gardens and Boston’s Paul Revere House all brought together in one city, none other than Chicago. That would make quite a city, don’t you think?

  • Seattle, WA (83 mi²), Baltimore, MD (80 mi²), and Madison, WI (76.7 mi²) = 240 mi²

Taken together, these three cities yield about 240 mi², which is a little more than Chicago’s vast area. Think about Seattle’s famous Space Needle, Baltimore’s Top of the World Observation Level or Wisconsin’s State Capitol in Madison. All these iconic landmarks and more could easily fit within Chicago’s city limits.

  • Las Vegas, NV (135 mi²), San Francisco, CA (46 mi²) and South Bend, IN (41 mi²) = 222 mi²

In this case, you’d have all the Las Vegas’ Strip laden with its incredible sights and San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge under the Chicago sky. Along with these famous cities, South Bend, IN – former mayor Pete Buttigieg’s city – with its National Studebaker Museum and Notre Dame University, could also fit within Chicago’s city limits. If relocating these cities would be a feasible feat, all three could find a place in Chicago’s space as their total area is 222 mi², just a little smaller than the 227 mi² that Chicago encompasses.

  • Atlanta, GA (133 mi²) and Milwaukee, WI (96 mi²) = 229 mi²

How could we bring southern hospitality and midwestern charm together? It’s certainly a lovely idea! It’s quite easy, really. Bring these two cities together and you have the approximate size of Chicago, as the sum of their areas equals 229 mi². Imagine Atlanta’s History Center and Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park Domes gracing the streets of Chicago. It’s never going to happen, but the necessary space is there!

How Many Countries Can Fit inside Chicago?

  • Vatican City (0.17 mi²), Monaco (0.78 mi²), San Marino (24 mi²), Malta (122 mi²), Marshall Islands (70 mi²) = 217 mi²

If you take some of the smallest countries in Europe and even the island country of the Marshall Islands and slot them into Chicago’s area (227 mi²), you’d still have a little free space left.

Size of Chicago vs Countries

Both Vatican City and Monaco are unique in that they are both cities and countries at the same time. While Vatican City is an enclave in Rome, and home to sacred places of Roman Catholicism, Monaco is a sovereign principality in the resort area of the Côte d’Azur. Not unlike Vatican City, San Marino is also situated in Italy and holds the records for being both the smallest and the oldest constitutional republic in world. On the other side of the world, you’d have to pass Hawaii in order to reach the Marshall Islands, a country in the Pacific Ocean consisting of more than 1,000 islands, and which is also an associated state of the USA.

  • Liechtenstein (62 mi²) and Seychelles (175 mi²) = 237 mi²

If you take Liechtenstein, the sixth-smallest country in the world, and the Seychelles together, they would cover the approximate area of the city of Chicago. While Liechtenstein lies in the heart of Alps, and neighbors Austria and Switzerland, the Seychelles is an archipelagic island country in the Indian Ocean with the smallest population of any sovereign African country.

  • Saint Lucia (238 mi²)

All on its own, Saint Lucia is about the size of Chicago in terms of square footage. Imagine bringing this tropical oasis to the shores of Lake Michigan! Located in the West Indies in the eastern Caribbean Sea, the island is the only sovereign nation to bear the name of a woman. With Barbados to the southeast, Martinique to the north and Saint Vincent to the south, the island is most certainly an exotic vacation destination.

And Why Not Dream a Bit: Which Game of Thrones Cities Can Fit Inside Chicago?

  • Volantis (99 mi²), King’s Landing (33 mi²), Oldtown (33 mi²) and Lannisport (16 mi²) = 181 mi²

What if we moved some of the fictional cities of this legendary series to Chicago? Would the Windy City provide sufficient room for all the battles, plotting, and drama that attracted 10 million viewers to HBO in 2019? Game of Thrones fans in Chicago should be pleased to know that the city would be able to house some of the cities in Westeros. Volantis, King’s Landing, Oldtown and Lannisport could all roughly fit within the city limits – and for House of Winterfell fans there’s also room for a little bit of the North.

Game of Thrones cities in Chicago

Imagine Volantis’ old-timey charm bringing the Valyrian spirit alive on the shores of Lake Michigan. Or, perhaps that’s a more fitting spot for the endless intrigues around the Iron Throne that only King’s Landing can inspire. Or you could catch a nugget of wisdom from the Maesters in Oldtown before heading to Lannisport. A word of caution, though: A Lannister always pays his debts.

Where Does Chicago Shine?

  • Housing in Chicago More Affordable Than in New York and Los Angeles

More Americans in Chicago live in multi-family units (70%) than in single-family units (30%). As home ownership hovers nationally at around 65%, Chicago’s is about 45%. While this value is lower than the national average, home ownership in Chicago is still higher than in other large American cities. Take, for instance, New York City and Los Angeles, where homeownership rates are roughly at 32% and 36%, respectively. Boston is the middle child, with 34% of residents claiming home ownership. On the other hand, Washington DC seems to inch closer to Chicago as 42% of residents own a home there.

Additionally, the median value of a home with a mortgage in Chicago is about $245,000, according to Point2Homes data. In other big cities, prices are a lot steeper than here. Take Manhattan, for instance, where buying a home could cost you an arm and a leg, with the median value of a home with a mortgage of about $969,950. San Francisco is not too far behind, as the median value of a home with a mortgage there rises to $943,700. Not unlike the other big cities we’ve looked at, both Los Angeles’ and Boston’s residents pay a premium on mortgaged homes, with averages valued at $555,600 and $453,600.00, respectively. However, it seems that Washington DC’s median value of a home with a mortgage comes close to the Chicago rates, but still a little higher at $289,200.

Renting in Chicago is still an attractive housing option, especially for younger residents, who are less likely to form households at their stage of life. Currently, 55% of Chicago residents are renters, which is pretty high, but compared to other large cities such as New York City and Los Angeles, Chicago’s percentage of renters is a lot lower. A whopping 67% of New Yorkers rent, whereas Los Angeles and San Francisco don’t fall too much behind the Big Apple. While in Los Angeles renters make up 64% of the population, 62% of San Francisco residents put their names on an apartment lease. Meanwhile, Boston closely follows New York, with 66% of residents renting. In Washington DC, however, we see just a few more renters than in Chicago – 58% rent, which makes the two cities similar in this regard.

While the average rent in Chicago ($1,947) is higher than the national rates, it is still more affordable than what other comparable cities offer. When you set Chicago’s average rent side-by-side with Manhattan ($4,211), San Francisco ($3,688) or Los Angeles ($2,546), it becomes obvious that they can’t hold a candle to Chicago. The average rent in Boston ($3,438) is almost as high as San Francisco’s, while Washington, DC is not far behind Los Angeles, with a monthly average rent of $2,236.

  • Legal and Management Jobs Bring Home the Fattest Paychecks in Chicago

As the third most-populous city in the US, Chicago offers a diverse job market, with 1.37 million jobs currently offered, marking a 1.27% increase from the previous year. That is an impressive number, when you consider that it covers more than half of the city’s population. If you live in Chicago or if you are looking to relocate there, it is very likely there is a job opening for you, should you consider an employment change.

The entire Chicago metro area employs about 4,650,000 people, according to the Bureau of Labor Services data. In November 2019, the metro area saw 24,000 new jobs added as compared to the previous year, a 0.6% y-o-y increase.

In terms of job growth, education and health services reported the highest employment gain for the last year, with 15,600 new jobs added.

The largest number of jobs is snagged by office and administrative support occupations with 685,950 employees, representing 14.78% of the total number of employees. Their average earnings are about $40,380. Next in line are sales and related occupations (459,490 employees), making up 9.9% of the metro population in employment. The average income for this occupation is $44,850 per year.

Legal (42,140 employees) and management occupations (364,240 employees) bring home the most substantial paychecks with $125,550 per year and $121,050 per year, respectively. They are followed by computer and mathematical occupations ($89,130 per year) and architecture and engineering occupations ($84,130) employing 147,310 persons and 66,290 persons, respectively.

  • Improved Public Transit Takes the Wheel

Chicago is not half bad if you are considering the commute time, currently at about 43 minutes. In fact, it’s pretty good. Even though driving is the preferred mode of transportation, Chicago boasts a well-rounded infrastructure system. It’s not surprising that public transit has been gaining traction in Chicago, ranking fifth among the 30 most populous US cities using public transit, according to a report we released in 2019 on public transit in major US cities. The Windy City’s high score is due greatly to a difference between car and public transit commutes of about 10 minutes. About 38,900 more people are now using public transit to get to work.

Daily public transportation users account for about 28% of all commuters. With the transit cost representing 3.4% of earnings, ridership has gone up by 12%, while driving went down by 1.1%. Furthermore, Chicago has made great strides towards increasing walkability and developing its transportation system, which has earned the city the 6th spot among big cities in terms of urban sustainability according to a report issued by COMMERCIALCafé, a data provider and listings platform for commercial properties.

What do you think makes Chicago stand out when it comes to the US’s other major urban hubs? We’d love to know what drew you to the Windy City.


Mirela is a real estate writer and lifestyle editor for Yardi. With an academic background in English and translation, Mirela now covers a range of topics including real estate trends, lifestyle and economy. Her previous experience in proofreading academic articles has inspired Mirela to choose a writing career path. In her free time, Mirela enjoys reading, but also hiking and creating art. You can contact Mirela via email.

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