The 12 Best Cities in Pennsylvania to Live and Visit


Finding Your Perfect Pennsylvania City

Pennsylvania is a diverse state with many great cities and towns to call home or visit. From historic Philadelphia to the rolling hills of Lancaster, the Keystone State has something for everyone. Here are the 12 best cities in Pennsylvania to live in or visit.

1. Philadelphia

The largest city in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia is known for its significant role in American history. This cosmopolitan city has over 1.5 million residents and offers plenty to see and do.

Attractions and Things to Do

Some of the top attractions in Philadelphia include:

  • Independence National Historical Park – See the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were signed.
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art – Admire works by Renoir, Matisse, Picasso and more at this world-class art museum. Don’t miss the iconic “Rocky steps.”
  • Eastern State Penitentiary – Take a self-guided tour of this former prison, known for its wagon-wheel design.
  • Philadelphia Zoo – America’s oldest zoo is home to over 1,300 animals on 42 acres.
  • Reading Terminal Market – Indulge in delicious foods from Amish farmers, local producers, bakeries, and restaurants at this indoor public market.
  • Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens – Explore the immersive mosaic art labyrinth created by Isaiah Zagar.

Neighborhoods to Explore

Philadelphia has many unique neighborhoods worth exploring:

  • Old City – Cobblestone streets and historical attractions define this neighborhood near Independence Hall. Boutiques, art galleries and restaurants abound.
  • Rittenhouse Square – Upscale shops, restaurants and cultural sites surround this picturesque park in the heart of Center City.
  • Manayunk – Stroll along Main Street in this charming neighborhood along the Schuylkill River known for its shops, bars and arts scene.
  • South Street – Shop vintage stores, dive bars and restaurants along South Street in this funky neighborhood with Bohemian flair.
  • Northern Liberties – Hip industrial vibe with converted warehouses housing lofts, boutiques, eateries and breweries.

Cost of Living

Philadelphia has a relatively low cost of living compared to other major U.S. cities. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is around $1,200 per month, while the median home price is $240,000. Groceries, utilities and transportation costs are below the national average.

2. Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh offers an appealing blend of modern amenities and old-world charm. Home to over 300,000 residents, the Steel City provides a high quality of life and vibrant cultural scene.

Attractions and Things to Do

Top things to see and do in Pittsburgh:

  • The Andy Warhol Museum – See the largest collection of pop artist Andy Warhol’s works and archives.
  • Carnegie Museums – Enjoy the art and natural history museums housed in magnificent buildings.
  • Phipps Conservatory – Tour the beautiful Victorian glasshouse and botanic gardens.
  • Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium – See over 9,000 animals including dolphins, penguins, elephants and more.
  • Kennywood – Ride classic wooden rollercoasters and other thrills at this family amusement park.
  • Gateway Clipper Fleet – Take a riverboat cruise on Pittsburgh’s three rivers for stunning city views.
  • Senator John Heinz History Center – Immerse yourself in Pittsburgh’s past at this Smithsonian-affiliated museum.

Neighborhoods to Explore

Some interesting neighborhoods in Pittsburgh include:

  • Downtown – Striking architecture and cultural attractions define the city center.
  • Lawrenceville – Trendy area with boutiques, eateries and lively nightlife.
  • Shadyside – Upscale shops and restaurants along Walnut Street.
  • South Side – Lively area with bars, restaurants and nightclubs.
  • Squirrel Hill – Quaint neighborhood with a multicultural flair.
  • Strip District – Bustling industrial area with street markets, food halls and nightlife.

Cost of Living

Pittsburgh boasts a very affordable cost of living compared to other metro areas. Median home prices hover around $150,000, while average rent for a one-bedroom is $1,000 per month. Groceries, utilities and transportation are lower than the U.S. average.

3. Allentown

The third largest city in Pennsylvania, Allentown has undergone revitalization in recent years. With a population over 121,000, Allentown offers historic charm and modern amenities.

Attractions and Things to Do

Top attractions and activities in Allentown include:

  • Allentown Art Museum – Admire works by Rembrandt, Picasso and other renowned artists.
  • America On Wheels – See antique cars, firetrucks, bicycles and more at this transport museum.
  • Da Vinci Science Center – Hands-on exhibits make science fun for kids and adults alike.
  • Lehigh Valley Zoo – See tigers, lemurs, birds and reptiles up close at this small zoo.
  • Coca-Cola Park – Catch a minor league IronPigs baseball game at this modern stadium.
  • Allentown Farmers Market – Shop locally grown produce, meats, cheeses and baked goods.
  • ArtsWalk – Stroll through outdoor sculpture displays downtown.

Neighborhoods to Explore

Notable Allentown neighborhoods include:

  • Downtown – See historic buildings, PPL Center arena, restaurants and art galleries around Center Square.
  • West End – Tree-lined streets with charming Victorian homes. Close to Cedar Beach Park.
  • Old Allentown – Historic brick row homes and businesses near the birthplace of famed painter Maxfield Parrish.

Cost of Living

Allentown has affordable real estate. A typical one bedroom apartment rents for around $900 per month, while median home prices are about $175,000. The overall cost of living is slightly below the Pennsylvania average.

4. Lancaster

Lancaster is located in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Brimming with Amish farmland and steeped in history, Lancaster has about 60,000 residents.

Attractions and Things to Do

Top sights and activities in Lancaster include:

  • Amish Farmlands – Take a buggy ride through bucolic farmlands and learn about Amish culture and crafts.
  • Central Market – Shop for meats, produce, baked goods and crafts at this 120-year-old public market.
  • Rock Ford Plantation – Tour the elegant Georgian-style home of Declaration of Independence signer Edward Hand.
  • Dutch Wonderland – Ride rollercoasters and enjoy kids’ rides at this family-friendly amusement park.
  • Hands-on House Children’s Museum – Interactive exhibits inspire creativity and learning for kids.
  • Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania – See elaborate model train displays and learn railroad history.

Neighborhoods to Explore

Quaint neighborhoods and areas in Lancaster include:

  • Downtown Lancaster – Browse shops and eateries on King and Queen Streets flanking Binns Park.
  • Gallery Row – Boutique shops, cafes and antiques define this neighborhood along Prince and West Lemon Streets.
  • Amish Countryside – Drive through picturesque rural areas like Bird-in-Hand and Intercourse.

Cost of Living

Lancaster is very reasonably priced. Typical rent runs around $800 for a one-bedroom apartment. Median home prices are about $180,000. Overall cost of living is lower than the state and national averages.

5. Harrisburg

As Pennsylvania’s state capital and a major metro area, Harrisburg offers the benefits of city living with a small town vibe. The population is around 50,000.

Attractions and Things to Do

Top sites and activities in Harrisburg include:

  • Pennsylvania State Capitol – Tour the palatial state capitol building with sparkling murals and stained glass.
  • Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts – See movies on the big screen at this center with exhibits and programs.
  • Broad Street Market – Shop locally grown produce, meats, baked goods and more at this historic market since 1860.
  • Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center – Enjoy concerts, plays, films and art exhibits at these two performing arts theaters.
  • Harsco Science Center – Kids can enjoy interactive science exhibits at this hands-on museum.
  • City Island – Walk or bike this mile-long island on the Susquehanna River with a stadium, restaurants and trails.

Neighborhoods to Explore

Top neighborhoods in Harrisburg include:

  • Downtown – Historic brick buildings, restaurants, art galleries and the riverfront.
  • Midtown – Variety of local eateries, shops, bars and entertainment venues.
  • Uptown – Home to the Broad Street Market, restaurants, shops and Susquehanna Art Museum.
  • Shipoke – Charming neighborhood on the river with Victorian homes.

Cost of Living

Harrisburg is very affordable, with one-bedroom apartment rent averaging $800 per month. Median home prices run about $115,000 in the city, below state and national averages.

6. Reading

Once a major railroad and manufacturing hub, Reading still retains a historic small city charm along with urban amenities. The population is approximately 88,000.

Attractions and Things to Do

Top attractions and activities in Reading include:

  • Reading Public Museum – Explore art, archaeology, science and local history exhibits.
  • Mid-Atlantic Air Museum – See vintage aircrafts and WWII memorabilia.
  • Reading Railroad Heritage Museum – Learn about Reading’s railroading history through photos, artifacts and more.
  • FirstEnergy Stadium – Catch a minor league Reading Fightin Phils baseball game.
  • Reading Pagoda – Climb this iconic 1907 pagoda for amazing views of the city and beyond.
  • Reading Area Firefighters Museum – Check out antique fire engines and educational exhibits on fire safety.

Neighborhoods to Explore

Notable neighborhoods and areas to check out in Reading:

  • Downtown Reading – Compact area with dining, art and entertainment along Penn Street.
  • Centre Park Historic District – See Victorian architecture, shops and ethnic eateries.
  • Wyomissing– Suburb with a charming small town feel, shops and restaurants.

Cost of Living

Reading is very budget-friendly. One bedroom apartments rent for around $700 per month on average. Median home prices are quite affordable at $80,000. Overall cost of living is lower than state and national averages.

7. Scranton

Formerly a thriving coal mining and textile production center, today Scranton is filled with rich history, culture and charm. The population of Scranton is about 77,000 residents.

Attractions and Things to Do

Top attractions and activities in Scranton include:

  • Steamtown National Historic Site – See immaculately restored steam locomotives and learn railroad history.
  • Electric City Trolley Museum – Ride vintage trolleys from the early 1900s at this museum.
  • Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour – Descend 300 feet underground to learn about coal mining history.
  • Everhart Museum – View art, science and regional history exhibits at this free museum.
  • Nay Aug Park – Stroll through 147 acres of this gorge park with waterfalls, walking trails and a zoo.
  • Scranton Iron Furnaces – Tour the remains of 19th century iron furnaces.

Neighborhoods to Explore

Interesting neighborhoods in Scranton include:

  • Downtown – Striking stone buildings, shops and restaurants around Courthouse Square.
  • Hill Section – Charming Victorian homes and vibrant ethnic culture.
  • Green Ridge – Tree-lined streets with historic mansions and architectural charm.

Cost of Living

Scranton is very affordable. Typical one bedroom apartment rent is around $700 per month. Median home prices are roughly $100,000, well below state and national averages. Overall cost of living is low.

8. Erie

As a major Great Lakes port city, Erie provides modern city amenities with natural beauty. It has a population of about 95,000 residents.

Attractions and Things to Do

Top sites and activities in Erie include:

  • Presque Isle State Park – Enjoy swimming, boating, hiking and biking at this scenic park on a sandy peninsula in Lake Erie.
  • Bicentennial Tower – Ride the elevator up this 319-foot tower for panoramic lake views.
  • Erie Maritime Museum – Learn about Great Lakes shipping history at this interactive museum.
  • Erie Zoo – See over 400 animals, from snow leopards to rhinos, at this small zoo.
  • Splash Lagoon – Kids love this large indoor water park with slides and games.
  • Penn Shore Winery – Sample and buy wine at this Lake Erie winery housed in a Tudor mansion.

Neighborhoods to Explore

Notable neighborhoods in Erie include:

  • Downtown Erie – Striking Victorian architecture, restaurants, art galleries and museums around Perry Square.
  • Frontier Neighborhood – Historic homes and tree-lined streets near the bayfront.
  • Little Italy Neighborhood – Italian eateries and shops reflect Erie’s immigrant history.

Cost of Living

Erie offers an affordable cost of living. One bedroom apartments typically rent for around $600 per month, while median home prices are about $95,000. Overall cost of living is lower than state and national averages.

9. Bethlehem

History and modern revitalization collide in the vibrant city of Bethlehem, home to around 75,000 people.

Attractions and Things to Do

Top sites and activities in Bethlehem include:

  • Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites – Learn about Bethlehem’s origins and tour historic buildings.
  • ArtsQuest – Listen to live music and peruse galleries at SteelStacks and other venues.
  • National Museum of Industrial History – Examine America’s industrial history at this Smithsonian affiliate.
  • SteelStacks – See concerts and movies outdoors at the Levitt Pavilion on the former steel plant grounds.
  • Moravian Book Shop – Browse one of America’s oldest bookshops, open since 1745.
  • Easton Farmers’ Market – Shop fresh baked goods, produce, meat and cheese on Saturdays.

Neighborhoods to Explore

Notable neighborhoods and areas include:

  • Downtown Bethlehem – Shop and dine at historic buildings along Main Street.
  • Southside – Trendy arts district with studios, galleries, bars and eateries.
  • Historic District – See original Moravian buildings from the 1700s.

Cost of Living

Bethlehem boasts reasonably priced real estate. Typical rent for a 1-bedroom unit averages $1,100 per month. Median home prices are around $175,000. The overall cost of living is only slightly above the Pennsylvania average.

10. State College

Home to Pennsylvania State University’s main campus, State College offers a quintessential college town vibe paired with outdoor adventures. It has around 42,000 residents.

Attractions and Things to Do

Popular attractions and activities in State College include:

  • Penn State University Park – Tour the 600-acre campus with gardens, sculptures and historic buildings.
  • Palmer Museum of Art – See diverse art spanning centuries and cultures at this Penn State gallery.
  • Tussey Mountain Ski Area – Ski and snowboard at this mountain near State College in winter.
  • Millbrook Marsh Nature Center – Spot birds, turtles and plants as you walk the wetland trails.
  • Downtown State College – Shop unique boutiques, pubs, cafes and bookstores. Don’t miss the iconic Creamery ice cream shop.

Neighborhoods to Explore

Notable neighborhoods and areas include:

  • Downtown State College – Shops, restaurants and nightlife along College and Beaver Avenues.
  • Nittany Village – A village with craftsman cottages and a farm-to-table restaurant.
  • Boalsburg – Historic village with museums, restaurants and Pennsylvania Military Museum.

Cost of Living

State College has relatively high costs due to its small size and student population. Typical one bedroom rent runs around $1,150 per month. Median home prices are about $315,000. But parks, museums and campus events are often free to enjoy.

11. York

History comes alive in York, known for its role in the American Revolution. With around 44,000 residents, York still retains its small town charm.

Attractions and Things to Do

Popular sites and activities in York include:

  • York Heritage Rail Trail – Bike or walk along the trail converted from an 1800s railroad corridor.
  • York County Heritage Rail Trail – Pedal to parks, markets and museums along the scenic trail.
  • York Factory Whistle – Hear the famous 1906 whistle blow at noon daily.
  • York Revolution Baseball – Watch a minor league baseball game at PeoplesBank Park.
  • Martin Library – See the ornate “Children’s Dream Garden” and rare books at this historic library.
  • York Barbell Weightlifting Museum – View muscle-building equipment and photos at the Olympic training center.

Neighborhoods to Explore

Top neighborhoods and areas in York include:

  • Downtown York – Explore restaurants, Colonial history and architecture.
  • Royal Square – Charming neighborhood with brick homes, cafes and boutiques.
  • WeCo – Arts district with breweries, shops and cultural sites.

Cost of Living

York has affordable real estate. Typical one bedroom apartment rents for around $800 per month. Median home prices are about $134,000, well below state and national averages. Overall cost of living is lower than Pennsylvania averages.

12. Altoona

Surrounded by the Allegheny Mountains, Altoona provides small city convenience with plentiful outdoor recreation. Home to about 43,000 people, it’s a top place for train lovers.

Attractions and Things to Do

Top attractions and activities in Altoona include:

  • Horseshoe Curve National Historic Landmark – See trainspotters watch from overlooks as Norfolk Southern engines round this iconic curve.
  • Railroaders Memorial Museum – Learn about railroad history and view model train layouts.
  • Lakemont Park – Ride rollercoasters, including the oldest operating wooden coaster, plus a trolley, carousel and arcade.
  • Altoona Curve Baseball – Cheer for the minor league Altoona Curve at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
  • Martins Gap Farmers Market – Shop fresh produce, cheeses, baked goods and crafts.

Neighborhoods to Explore

Top neighborhoods in Altoona include:

  • Downtown Altoona – Explore shops, restaurants and museums around the central railroad district.
  • Juniata – Charming neighborhood by the Juniata River known as “Little Italy.”
  • Bellwood-Antis – Small town neighborhood north of downtown Altoona.

Cost of Living

Altoona is very affordable, with median home prices around $93,000. Average rent is around $650 for a one-bedroom apartment. Overall cost of living is lower than the Pennsylvania average.

So whether you’re looking to live in or just visit a great Pennsylvania city, these diverse destinations offer natural beauty, urban amenities, history, culture, activities and affordability. Their common traits? Small town warmth and endless things to explore.


Pennsylvania offers a wide variety of excellent cities and towns to call home or visit. From the vibrant cultural hubs of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to smaller cities steeped in history like Lancaster and Bethlehem, the Keystone State has something for all lifestyles and budgets.

Those looking for an affordable cost of living can find great value in cities like Reading, Scranton, Altoona and Erie. Median home prices in these cities tend to run below $100,000, with rents for a one-bedroom apartment around $600-800 per month. That allows your dollar to stretch further while still enjoying cultural attractions, outdoor recreation, charming neighborhoods and Pennsylvania’s natural beauty.

Outdoor enthusiasts will love cities like Erie with its Lake Erie access, State College nestled in mountain scenery, and York with pristine cycling trails. State parks and rivers provide plenty of opportunities for swimming, boating, hiking and more. The four seasons bring stunning foliage and abundant snow for winter sports.

History buffs will delight in the role that many Pennsylvanian cities played in colonial America, the Industrial Revolution, and the founding of the nation. Walk the streets of Philadelphia where the Founding Fathers met, view Altoona’s pivotal railroad landmarks, and tour Scranton’s mining history. Families can absorb history lessons in engaging museums and sites.

Foodies can indulge at restaurants, breweries, markets, and eateries in cities like Harrisburg, Allentown, Reading, and Bethlehem. Try Amish home cooking in Lancaster, savor Italian flavors in the Little Italys of Erie and Altoona, and explore diverse cuisines in Philadelphia’s many neighborhoods.

Whether you seek modern conveniences or small town charm, outdoor escapes or cultural sophistication, Pennsylvania’s cities offer welcoming communities with an authentic local vibe. Housing costs remain reasonable compared to the national average while letting residents enjoy abundant amenities.

PA’s blend of historic and modern attractions provides plenty to see and do for singles, couples, families and retirees. You’re sure to find websites tout the low cost of living, job opportunities, and benefits that make Pennsylvania cities ideal places to put down roots or spend an extended visit.

With world-class healthcare, quality education options, four-season recreation, diverse communities and affordability, Pennsylvania cities like Pittsburgh, Allentown, Bethlehem, Reading, Scranton and more offer unbeatable value for your housing dollar. Visit or move to PA to experience the many perks of living in these great Keystone cities for yourself!

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