A Local’s Guide to Living in Birmingham

Sep 7, 2023 / Laura Bolt

If you’re on the hunt for a southern city, then living in Birmingham, Alabama, is likely on your list. Known as “one of the best kept secrets in the south,” living in Birmingham appeals to folks of all ages with ample outdoor space, a growing cultural footprint, and a low cost of living.

A significant landmark of the Civil Rights movement, Birmingham is embracing a bright future with educational and employment opportunities that are drawing in new residents every year.

“It’s a very welcoming, inviting city full of southern hospitality and charm,” said Jennifer Williams, a Public Storage district manager and Birmingham local. “So many new restaurants have come in the past few years, and there are great theaters that have been restored, so it’s a great city to explore with something to do every weekend. It’s a small, quaint southern town, but with a big-city feel.”

If you want to know more about life in the “Magic City,” read on for our guide to living in Birmingham.

Is Birmingham a Good Place to Live?

Home to just over 200,000 people, Birmingham is a small city with a big heart. With several major higher educational institutions and solid job growth, the city attracts a good number of students and young professionals. The fact that it is also friendly to renters helps bolster this youthful population.

Solid amenities and a small-town feel also make the city friendly to families, especially those with young kids.

According to one estimate, Birmingham ranked 72 out of 100 for diversity, with the most diverse neighborhoods located in the south of the city.

If you’re curious about southern cities, check out our expert guide to to moving to Atlanta as well.

What Should I Know About Living in Birmingham?

view of downtown Birmingham Alabama at dusk with an ornate building sculpture in the right foreground of the photo


Birmingham drivers lose an average of 18 hours per year in traffic congestion, and the city is ranked 44th for the worst traffic in the country. While that’s not insignificant, it’s helpful to remember that traffic in other southern cities like Nashville and Atlanta is worse.

The city doesn’t have a subway or rail system, but it does operate an extensive bus system for when you want to get around without a car.


With an average unemployment rate of unemployment rate of 5.7% (just above the national average), Birmingham is a decent place to look for a job or grow your career. Regions and BBVA Compass banks are headquartered here, providing lots of job opportunities.

The city’s (in fact, all of Alabama’s) largest employer is the University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical Center. The average salary is $50,960, which, coupled with a low cost of living, makes it an attractive option for people at all stages of their careers.


Birmingham has the 4th largest school system in the state of Alabama, with more than 40 schools and a graduation rate of 65%.

There are also a slew of higher educational opportunities in Birmingham, including a University of Alabama campus; Samford University; Miles and Birmingham-Southern colleges; and Miles Law School, Cumberland School of Law, and Birmingham School of Law.


Those considering a move to Birmingham should be aware that while the city certainly has its southern charm, it also has a high crime rate. If you’re concerned about crime, be sure to look at the specifics of the neighborhoods you’re interested in, as that can be a major factor when it comes to safety.


Birmingham’s proximity to the Gulf of Mexico makes for long, muggy summers with temperatures that clock in above 95 degrees. Winters are generally short, but can be rainy, and the area is prone to tornadoes.

If you prefer tropical climates, you’ll probably feel right at home here.

If you need to store items between moves, then read more about our climate controlled storage units on our blog.

How Expensive is it to Live in Birmingham?

With a cost of living 14% lower than the rest of the country, you can definitely stretch your dollar in Birmingham.

While house prices vary by neighborhood, the cost of buying a home is also competitive here (43% lower than the national average), making it a great option for families looking to settle down. The average listing for a house in Birmingham is $198K, according to Realtor.com.

Birmingham is also attractive to renters, with an average apartment renting for $1,226.. The city is fairly evenly split between renters and owners, so if you’re renting with the goal of buying your own home, Birmingham might be a good option for you.

Experts have found that the average pre-tax pay needed to live in Birmingham with no children is $35,545, which rises to $64,939 with one child, and $80,129 for two children.

Where Should I Live in Birmingham?

aerial view of upscale birmingham neighborhood

Shoal Creek

One of the most desirable areas of the city due to its safety and amenities, Shoal Creek is a private residential community in the south of the city.


This historic neighborhood has thoroughly modern attractions, including restaurants and breweries, and is popular with renters. If you’re looking for good eats with plenty of green space, Southside may feel like home to you.


Less exclusive than Shoal Creek but still upscale, the planned community of Greystone boasts safety, excellent golfing, outdoor space, and high-end shopping and dining. It’s a must-see for retirees and anyone who enjoys the finer things in life.

Five Points South

With close proximity to the University of Alabama at Birmingham campus, this area is full of students and recent grads who want to be near it all. This area, with its urban feel, is home to plenty of nightlife and excitement for younger residents.

Highland Park

One of the city’s first suburbs, Highland Park has become popular for locals of all ages. With natural beauty and access to Birmingham’s business district, this neighborhood features a diverse array of condos, apartments, and historical homes.


Family-friendly Homewood has great schools, hiking and biking trails, and plenty of restaurants and boutiques to keep you busy.


Trussville is one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in the city—with its solid schools and easy commuting to downtown, it’s easy to see why young families are buying up real estate in this area.

Before you pack your bags, don’t forget to read our guide to moving out of state like a pro.

What is There to do in Birmingham?

view of peavine falls during green season with lots of greenery in the backdrop

For local organizer Lia Brady of Organize With Lia,, being able to stay busy in Birmingham is one of the highlights of the city.

“There’s never a shortage of things to do, whether it’s a play, painting class, salsa dancing, or a cool event downtown,” she says. “It’s very lively, with a lot of stuff going on all the time, so there’s always a way to plug in and get connected to the community.”

When it comes to getting outside, you’ll have your pick of options around and just outside the city. Ruffner Mountain, Red Mountain Park, and Oak Mountain State Park all offer outdoor opportunities that include hiking, canoeing, and swimming.

The Alabama Theatre, Lyric Theatre (both of which Williams recommends) and the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex all host varied cultural events, while film buffs flock to the annual Sidewalk Film Festival. The Birmingham Museum of Art also hosts exhibits and events regularly.

The Pepper Place Farmers Market, which happens to be located in an old Dr. Pepper bottling plant, is a local favorite, as are the craft-cocktail bars and arts scene downtown.

For family fun, the Birmingham Zoo, the McWane Science Center, and the Birmingham Botanical Gardens are delightful for residents of all ages.

Sports fans considering a move will be happy to know Birmingham is headquarters for the NCAA’s Southeastern Conference and Southwestern Athletic Conference. Each year, Alabama State University and Alabama A&M University face off at Legion Field. The venerable stadium got its start in 1927, and is known as the “Football Capital of the South” and “Old Grey Lady,” among other monikers. Baseball fans can also cheer for Birmingham’s Barons, a minor league team.

That’s a wrap on our Magic City guide. If you are looking for a whole new lease on life, Birmingham could be the place with its southern charm and potential. Good luck with your hunt!

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