In the heartland of the United States, two great cities stand tall: St. Louis and Chicago. From the gleaming towers of Chicago’s Loop to the Gateway Arch soaring over the Mississippi River in St. Louis, these cities offer a unique blend of history, culture, and opportunity. While both cities share a rich past and a vibrant present, they each have their own distinct character and appeal.

So, whether you’re a Midwesterner looking to relocate or just curious about what these cities have to offer, this article is for you. We’ll explore the history of St. Louis and Chicago, delve into their differences and similarities, and highlight the benefits of living in each city. By the end of this article, you’ll have a better understanding of what makes St. Louis and Chicago such special places to call home. So, let’s take a journey through the heart of America and discover what these two cities have to offer!

Historical Background

St. Louis and Chicago have rich histories that date back to the 18th century.

St. Louis, located on the western bank of the Mississippi River, was founded by French fur traders in 1764. The city was named after King Louis IX of France and became a major hub for trade, commerce, and transportation in the region. In the early 19th century, St. Louis was the gateway to the West, as explorers and settlers used the city as a starting point for their journeys.

During the Civil War, St. Louis was a strategic location for the Union Army, as it was a major source of supplies and troops. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, St. Louis experienced a boom in industry, with factories producing beer, shoes, and other goods. The iconic Gateway Arch was built in the 1960s as a symbol of the city’s role as the “Gateway to the West.”

Chicago, located on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan, was founded in 1837. The city was initially a small trading post, but it quickly grew into a major center of commerce and transportation. Chicago became a vital transportation hub in the mid-19th century, with railroads and canals connecting the city to the rest of the country.

During the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, much of the city was destroyed, but it was rebuilt with modern architecture and infrastructure. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Chicago became a center of industry, with factories producing steel, meat, and other goods. The city also played a major role in the development of the modern skyscraper, with buildings like the Chicago Board of Trade Building and the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) becoming iconic symbols of the city.

While St. Louis and Chicago have some similarities in their histories, such as their roles as transportation hubs and centers of industry, they each have their own unique stories and identities. These histories have shaped the current state of each city, influencing everything from the architecture to the economy to the culture. In the next section, we’ll delve deeper into the differences between St. Louis and Chicago.

City Differences

St. Louis and Chicago are two distinct cities with their own unique characteristics. Here are some of the differences that set them apart:

Size: Chicago is much larger than St. Louis in terms of both population and geographic size. According to the United States Census Bureau, Chicago had a population of 2.7 million in 2020, while St. Louis had a population of 300,576. Chicago also covers a much larger area, with a land area of 227.34 square miles compared to St. Louis’s 62.06 square miles.

Architecture: While both cities have impressive architecture, they have different styles. Chicago is known for its modern skyscrapers and innovative architecture, while St. Louis has a mix of historic buildings and more modern structures. The Gateway Arch, designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen, is a standout example of St. Louis’s modern architecture.

Sports: Sports are a big part of both cities’ cultures, but they have different teams and allegiances. Chicago has two Major League Baseball teams, the Cubs and the White Sox, as well as an NFL team (the Bears), an NBA team (the Bulls), and an NHL team (the Blackhawks). St. Louis, on the other hand, has one Major League Baseball team, the Cardinals, as well as an NHL team (the Blues).

Food: Both cities are known for their unique cuisine, but they have different specialties. Chicago is famous for its deep-dish pizza, Italian beef sandwiches, and hot dogs with all the fixings, while St. Louis is known for its toasted ravioli, gooey butter cake, and St. Louis-style pizza (a thin, crispy crust topped with Provel cheese).

Cost of living: While Chicago has more job opportunities and higher salaries, it also has a higher cost of living. According to Numbeo, a cost of living database, the cost of living in Chicago is about 28% higher than in St. Louis.

Despite these differences, both cities have their own unique charm and appeal. In the next section, we’ll explore the benefits of living in St. Louis and Chicago.

Comparing the Benefits

St. Louis and Chicago are both great cities to live in, each offering its own set of benefits. Here are some of the advantages of living in each city:

Benefits of Living in St. Louis

Cost of Living: As mentioned earlier, the cost of living in St. Louis is lower than in Chicago. This means that residents can enjoy a high quality of life without breaking the bank. Housing, food, and entertainment are all more affordable in St. Louis.

Cultural Attractions: St. Louis has a rich cultural scene, with numerous museums, theaters, and art galleries. The city is home to the Missouri History Museum, the St. Louis Art Museum, and the Fox Theater, among others. The Gateway Arch is also a must-see attraction, offering stunning views of the city and the Mississippi River.

Outdoor Recreation: St. Louis is surrounded by parks and green spaces, providing ample opportunities for outdoor recreation. Forest Park, one of the largest urban parks in the country, offers miles of walking and biking trails, as well as a golf course, tennis courts, and a boathouse.

Benefits of Living in Chicago

Job Opportunities: Chicago is a major center of business and industry, with a diverse range of job opportunities. The city is home to numerous Fortune 500 companies, including McDonald’s, Boeing, and Allstate, as well as startups and tech firms.

Cultural Attractions: Like St. Louis, Chicago has a vibrant cultural scene, with world-class museums, theaters, and music venues. The Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra are just a few of the cultural attractions that the city has to offer.

Food Scene: Chicago is known for its unique cuisine, with a wide range of options to suit every palate. In addition to deep-dish pizza and hot dogs, the city has a thriving culinary scene, with innovative chefs and diverse ethnic cuisines.


In conclusion, St. Louis and Chicago are two great cities with their own distinct personalities and advantages. While they may have their differences, both cities offer plenty of reasons to call them home. Whether you prefer the affordability and outdoor recreation of St. Louis or the job opportunities and cultural attractions of Chicago, you’re sure to find something to love in either city.

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