The Best Places to Live in Washington in 2022

When someone mentions living in the state of Washington, Seattle is probably the first thing that springs to mind. It makes sense why. Located on the edge of Puget Sound with Mount Hood looming on the horizon, Seattle is Washington's largest and most populous city. For decades, it's been one of the biggest tech hubs in America. But most people know about Seattle thanks to its pop-culture reputation. Romantic comedies like “Sleepless in Seattle" and an anti-establishment grunge and alt music scene painted a beguiling, compelling picture of a moody, edgy city full of emotion, art and long walks in the rain. Known as the Emerald City, it is, indeed, a gem. But it's only one of the best places to live in Washington.

While Seattle's reputation precedes itself, it also overshadows many other quality towns and cities around Washington. Seattle is just one piece of Washington's massive jigsaw puzzle, which extends from the Pacific Ocean across the Cascade mountains to the plains of eastern Washington.

And scattered around Washington's scenic landscapes are top-notch towns just waiting for new renters and homeowners to move in and discover their charms. Whether you're a born-and-bred Washington resident looking for a new place to live or a newbie to the area, these are the best places to live in Washington in 2022. While this list is not ranked, we researched and took into account different factors like affordability, the cost of living and how residents judge the quality of life to determine the best places to live in Washington.


Bellingham, Wash.

  • Population: 92,314
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,250
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,430
  • Median home price: $585,000
  • Median household income: $53,396
  • Walk Score: 57/100

Washington is a great state for lovers of the great outdoors. From hiking in the Cascades to water sports along the coast or on the state's many lakes, rivers and other waterways, nature is never far away. Bellingham is one of the best places to live in Washington if you constantly find yourself heading out for hikes, kayaking and other outdoor activities.

It's close to both the San Juan Islands and the North Cascades, which are popular destinations for outdoor recreation and stunning scenery. But there's also plenty of nature closer to town. Nearby Whatcom Falls Park and Whatcom Lake offer boating, hiking and swimming closer to the city center. Being outdoors is a big part of life here and also drives a thriving tourism industry.

Apart from its reputation as a hub for adventure travel and outdoor recreation, Bellingham is also notable for being the northernmost town in America with over 50,000 residents. The border between the U.S. and Canada is just 18 miles away, making it easy to pop over to Vancouver for access to its superb foodie scene and other cosmopolitan thrills. But Bellingham also has its own lively cultural scene, with local breweries, live music, regional history museums and delicious local eats.

With a close-knit community and a cozy atmosphere that fits living in a small, outdoorsy town, living in Bellingham is also very affordable. Both apartments and homes are available at reasonable rates.


Bellvue, Wash.

  • Population: 148,164
  • 1-BR median rent: $2,515
  • 2-BR median rent: $3,105
  • Median home price: $1,290,000
  • Median household income: $120,456
  • Walk Score: 62/100

It's no secret that the Seattle metropolitan area has a high cost of living. But as Seattle residents started leaving the city center in search of more affordable living, the surrounding suburbs have become even more affluent than Seattle proper. Bellevue is a perfect example of this trend. Located on the eastern side of Lake Washington, it's just a 15-minute car ride from Seattle, making it ideal for commuting. But highly-ranked schools, safe neighborhoods and a more laid-back suburban style of living are also some of the reasons Bellevue has become the affluent satellite city it is today. The median household income is one of the highest on this list.

But access to Seattle isn't the only reason to consider Bellevue. You don't even need to go into Seattle for work or fun. Bellevue has plenty of both. Bellevue is actually one of the big reasons for Seattle's tech hub reputation. Some of the biggest tech companies in the world have headquarters here, including T-Mobile. Amazon was actually founded in Bellevue. Many other large companies have headquarters or offices here, so there is an abundance of jobs and careers.

As such, Bellevue is not only popular among families but young professionals as well. Besides work and comfortable, high-end quality of life, Bellevue also has great access to nature in town at the botanical garden or Downtown Park or in the nearby Cascades or Lake Sammamish. The Arts Museum and annual festivals provide arts and culture. And, of course, Seattle is right there with everything it has to offer.

With such a high median income, living in Bellevue is one of the most costly options on this list. Median home prices are well over $1 million, and a one-bedroom apartment will run you over $2,500.


Issaquah, Wash.

  • Population: 39,509
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,750
  • 2-BR median rent: $2,369
  • Median home price: $925,500
  • Median household income: $109,676
  • Walk Score: 44/100

The small town of Issaquah is one of the farthest suburbs of the Seattle metropolitan area and one of the best places to live in Washington. Located southeast of the city, Issaquah offers convenient access to Seattle and neighboring towns like Bellevue and Redmond. But even though it looks pretty far out there on the map, downtown Seattle is only a 20-minute drive away. This makes Issaquah an ideal home for commuters. It's easy to get to Seattle or Bellevue for work, but you're able to live in a place that feels more small-town and less suburban.

Issaquah prides itself on being a clean and safe community with great schools, dining and attractions like the Cougar Mountain Zoo. The town sits in the shadows of the Cascades and the Issaquah Alps, which is a nickname for the neighboring highland mountains. With so many mountains right on Issaquah's doorstep, locals frequently take part in outdoor activities like hiking. Issaquah has even been nicknamed “Trailhead City" due to the abundance of nearby trails. But tons of urban green areas dot the city, so you don't even need to head out of town for outdoor recreation.

Apart from its mountain views and outdoorsy community, Issaquah is known for its salmon. The town is home to a well-known salmon hatchery and holds an annual Salmon Festival in the fall as the salmon return to their native waters.

As an affluent community with a high median income, it isn't in everyone's budget to live in Issaquah. But it's definitely one of the more affordable options in the Seattle metropolitan area compared to Bellevue.

Mercer Island

Mercer Island, Wash.

  • Population: 25,894
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,650
  • 2-BR median rent: $2,100
  • Median home price: $2,017,500
  • Median household income: $147,566
  • Walk Score: 74/100

Connected to mainland Seattle and Bellevue by Interstate 90, Mercer Island sits in the middle of Lake Washington to the west of Seattle. With either city a short drive away, Mercer Island feels like a homey oasis away from the buzz of city life. All you need to do is glimpse the high-end homes and mansions dotting the island's shores and wooded interior to see why so many wealthy residents and celebrities choose to call it home.

Mercer Island boasts an incredibly high median household income, requiring quite a big budget to afford a home here. But surprisingly, renting an apartment on Mercer Island is less expensive than other nearby suburbs. So, even if you can't afford to be a homeowner here, renting an apartment or condo still gives you access to the affluent lifestyle the island offers.

And what a lifestyle it is. Mercer Island is known for having a stellar school system, plenty of parks and safe neighborhoods that are easy to navigate on foot. The island is popular with families, retirees and young professionals for these reasons. The downtown area is the social hub of the island, with shopping, dining and entertainment. The local community is close-knit and highly involved, hosting family-friendly events like farmers' markets. All this and more is why Business Insider named Mercer Island as one of the 50 best suburbs in the U.S.


Olympia, Wash.

  • Population: 52,882
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,424
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,792
  • Median home price: $483,000
  • Median household income: $59,878
  • Walk Score: 40/100

With a population of just under 53,000, Olympia is at the far southern end of Puget Sound about an hour's drive from Seattle. And it's yet another of the best places to live in Washington. Apart from the amazing views of the Olympic Mountains, there are so many great reasons to make your home in Washington's capital city.

First, it's very affordable for renters and prospective homeowners alike. You can find spacious, family-friendly homes throughout the area in the 200s, 300s and up. For renters, apartments range from ultra-modern, new complexes near the city center or friendly apartment communities in established neighborhoods with plenty of greenery. You can find both one-bedroom and two-bedroom options at reasonable rates, as well.

Secondly, there's a thriving jobs market. As Washington's capital, working in politics is a major industry here. Evergreen College is also a large employer, bringing fresh talent and innovation into the area with its student body. Olympia is a great place for everyone from families to students. Families enjoy safe neighborhoods and family-friendly places and activities like the Hands On Children's Museum, the Olympia Farmers Market and Heritage Park. You can find culture at local museums and in the vibrant art scene.

Olympia also has quite the underappreciated foodie scene, with everything from hearty Bavarian fare to cute oyster bars. And, of course, outdoor enthusiasts have Olympic National Park, Mount Rainier, Capitol Forest and numerous other nature refuges nearby.


Redmond, Wash.

  • Population: 71,929
  • 1-BR median rent: $2,150
  • 2-BR median rent: $2,849
  • Median home price: $1,115,000
  • Median household income: $132,188
  • Walk Score: 54/100

The Seattle metropolitan area is already known as a tech hub. Redmond is a big reason why. Do the names Microsoft and Nintendo of America ring a bell? Both companies have their U.S. headquarters here. Working in tech is a major draw to living here, with high salaries that contribute to the town's high median income. Living in Redmond is one of the most expensive options around Seattle, both for apartments and houses. But the lure of high-paying tech jobs isn't the only benefit to living in Redmond, which also has breweries, great restaurants, festivals and attractions.

Similar to other suburbs on the outskirts of Seattle, Redmond is a very outdoorsy community. Hiking and spending time out in nature is huge here. But Redmond's most popular outdoor activity is cycling. While the city may not have the highest Walk Score, it does have a high Bike Score of 63/100. With tons of bike paths, the only velodrome in Washington and annual races, cycling is very much a part of life here. Redmond is even called the Bicycle Capital of the Northwest. So, if you love hopping on a bike either to commute to work or just for fun, Redmond is the place for you.


Seattle, Wash.

  • Population: 753,675
  • 1-BR median rent: $2,362
  • 2-BR median rent: $3,223
  • Median home price: $785,000
  • Median household income: $92,263
  • Walk Score: 86/100

Seattle is Washington's largest and most well-known city. Living here gives you all the perks of big-city living but with nature close at hand. Residents have the choice between beautiful, historic architecture or trendy, amenity-packed new buildings.

As a close-knit city with great public transportation, everything from groceries to entertainment is easily accessible either via bus, streetcar, Link Light Rail or just by walking. Seattle is a very pedestrian and cyclist-friendly city, with high scores in both areas.

Seattle is home to a booming arts and culture scene, encompassing everything from live music to sculpture to glass blowing. Art can be found everywhere from public spaces to museums like the Seattle Art Museum. Live music is arguably Seattle's biggest artistic export, though. Some of the biggest stars of the music industry are from here, including Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Jimi Hendrix.

Seattle's coffee and food scene are also legendary. This is, after all, the original home of Starbucks. There really is nothing like a great cup of coffee on a rainy day, so Seattle knows how to do coffee right. And when you tire of all these urban delights, head to nearby Mount Rainier or nearby islands in Puget Sound for a nature getaway.

When it comes to careers, Seattle is known for being a hub for technical careers in fields like aerospace, information technology and tech. Working in such specialized areas, the median household income is just shy of $100,000. But that also means that living in Seattle is more on the expensive side, with high rents on one- and two-bedroom apartments. The price of a home is lower than in surrounding suburban areas, though.


Spokane, Wash.

  • Population: 222,081
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,200
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,385
  • Median home price: $365,000
  • Median household income: $50,306
  • Walk Score: 55/100

Think all of Washington's coolest cities are just in the western part of the state? Think again. Spokane oozes hip, outdoorsy small-town vibes. You could even say it's Washington's version of Bend, Oregon. Located on the eastern edge of the state, the city is against a dramatic mountain backdrop. The Spokane River splits the city down the middle, leading to the waterfall that gives Spokane its name.

While it's easy to head out of town for hiking, mountain biking and other recreation in the nearby mountains and forests, you can easily get fresh air and exercise around town. The 100-acre Riverfront Park follows the banks of the river through town, with paths, pedestrian bridges and trails for walking, jogging, cycling and more.

No outdoorsy town is complete without tons of apres-outdoors fun. Spokane has a thriving craft brewing scene, with numerous breweries located throughout the city. Foodies will enjoy the variety of different restaurants and cuisines offered around town, from Vietnamese to Italian and everywhere in between. Spokane also has a noted arts and culture scene, with numerous galleries, museums and performance spaces.

All this, plus great schools, low crime and an affordable cost of living, make living in Spokane an increasingly popular choice. The housing market is red-hot there right now. But luckily, apartments are still available at reasonable rates.


Tacoma, Wash.

  • Population: 217,827
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,775
  • 2-BR median rent: $2,084
  • Median home price: $450,000
  • Median household income: $62,358
  • Walk Score: 59/100

Offering affordable cost of living within half an hour of Seattle, Tacoma appeals to young professionals, students and families seeking both rental options and homeownership. Nestled along the edge of Puget Sound, the city enjoys stellar views of the sound and nearby Mount Rainier. Historic homes or modern apartments offer affordable housing options either in the city center or in family-friendly neighborhoods. You can find ample work opportunities in the local tech, aerospace, military, healthcare and finance fields.

Tacoma's art and culture scene is a major draw to living here, with museums, galleries and artistic functions throughout the year. It's a great city for artists to learn and practice their craft. It's also more financially feasible. While there are ample opportunities to showcase their work around Tacoma at galleries and exhibits, artists also have access to nearby Seattle's more substantial art scene. Glassblowing is especially big here. Legendary glass artist Dale Chihuly hails from Tacoma, and he shows his work at the Museum of Glass. Apart from art, Tacoma also has a thriving food scene, good schools and access to the great outdoors at Point Defiance Park and Wright Park.


Vancouver, Wash.

  • Population: 184,463
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,467
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,772
  • Median home price: $450,000
  • Median household income: $61,714
  • Walk Score: 46/100

You may have heard that lots of people choose to live in Vancouver because it's right across the Columbia River from Portland. Yes, there are definite upsides to choosing Vancouver over Portland. For one, it's far more affordable. Living in Vancouver, you can live in a two-bedroom apartment for less than a one-bedroom in Portland. Housing prices are also lower.

Another upside to living in one of the best places to live in Washington is that you don't pay income tax. But in Portland, there's no sales tax. So, lots of residents do their shopping tax-free across the river and then come home to their personal income tax-free life in Vancouver.

But Vancouver is much more than a satellite city to Portland. Residents love its laid-back pace of life, safe neighborhoods, jam-packed festivals and events calendar and outdoorsy recreation areas like Vancouver Lake. Another plus is that Vancouver takes its coffee and food just as seriously as Portland. So, you can find a terrific cup of joe and a delicious meal without crossing the Columbia.

Walla Walla

Walla Walla, Wash.

  • Population: 32,900
  • 1-BR median rent: $1,195
  • 2-BR median rent: $1,295
  • Median home price: $378,000
  • Median household income: $50,550
  • Walk Score: 56/100

Living surrounded by the rolling hills of Washington's wine country? Sounds like a sweet deal. If you want to live in the picturesque, vineyard-covered Walla Walla Valley in eastern Washington, the town of Walla Walla is your best bet. This small town is the largest in the county and is just 15 minutes away from the Oregon border. Its ideal location in wine country naturally makes it a great place to live for foodies and wine lovers.

More than 100 vineyards call the region home, with ample tasting rooms to visit. To complement all that fine wine, Walla Walla has a thriving culinary scene, as well as arts and culture and outdoor recreation like golf, hiking and cycling. Apart from the winemaking industry, hospitality and tourism, healthcare, agriculture and education are major industries out here. So, you can find quality career opportunities even if you're not in the field of wine or hospitality.

Living in Walla Walla offers residents a taste of charming small-town life. It's safe, quiet and centered around the community, naturally one of the best places to live in Washington. But with a bustling social scene, things never get dull. Walla Walla is also far from the closest major cities. Portland, Oregon is two hours away and Seattle is four and a half hours away. The remoteness does make the cost of living in Walla Walla more affordable. You can snag a one-bedroom or size up to a two-bedroom for just a hundred dollars more. Housing prices are also attractively on the lower side, but the market is competitive.

Find an apartment for rent in one of the best places to live in Washington

Rife with natural beauty, diverse communities and a booming jobs market, Washington has a lot to offer renters and homeowners of every budget and lifestyle. So, if you've had your eye on living in the Pacific Northwest, now's the time to seek out apartments for rent in Washington.

The rent information included in this summary is based on a median calculation of multifamily rental property inventory on Apartment Guide and as of November 2021.
Median home prices are from Redfin as of November 2021.
Population and median household income are from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The information in this article is for illustrative purposes only. This data herein does not constitute a pricing guarantee or financial advice related to the rental market.

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