Philadelphia Vs. Pittsburgh: Which is the Best City in Pennsylvania to Live in?

Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are two major cities in Pennsylvania. They are undeniably two of the best and most livable cities in the United States. But which city reigns supreme in the battle of Pennsylvania? Rent prices, things to do, safety, education and transportation are among the top moving considerations, especially when comparing two nearby cities in the same state. ApartmentLove likes to make the search for your next apartment rental as simple as possible. So, we've made a list comparing all the things that are important to you, whether you're looking for apartments for rent in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh.

A Tale of Two Cities

Before we weigh out the pros and cons of both cities, let's delve into a bit of the history and similarities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Both are Eastern cities in Pennsylvania and are ranked in the top 100 most livable cities for young people in the United States. Both cities have rich foundational and immigrant histories, especially among German, Italian and Polish communities. And finally, both cities are known for their beer and sports cultures, especially hockey and football!

Now, let's talk about the things that matter most to renters when looking for apartments for rent in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh. ApartmentLove will compare rent prices, things to do, safety, education and transportation.

Rent Prices and Cost of living

Renting is the most popular housing option in both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Additionally, the monthly rent cost in both cities is below the national average. However, there is a slight difference in the monthly cost of apartments for rent in Philadelphia versus Pittsburgh. Philadelphia's average rent is $1,531 per month, while Pittsburgh's average monthly rent comes out to about $1,201. These numbers do vary based on the number of bedrooms desired. It is worth noting that studio and one-bedroom apartments for rent in Philadelphia often range below the city's average rent cost. In fact, studio and one-bedroom apartment rentals usually cost less than $1,000 per month in Philadelphia. This is especially great for students and young professionals looking to attend college or work in the city. For even more information, click this link to see a comparison chart rent averages in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

As for the overall cost of living, Philadelphia is slightly more expensive than Pittsburgh as well. Food and transportation have the biggest price gaps, though the difference truly only works out to about a $10 average difference per grocery trip, and less than a dollar difference per day on public transit.

Things to Do

Everyone needs a little fun in their life. Luckily, there is no shortage of fun stuff to check out in either city. Beer and sports are a big deal in both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, so it's no surprise that both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have a variety of popular, locally loved and acclaimed breweries to visit.

In Philadelphia, Human Robot is a unique and locally beloved brewery worth making your new hangout spot. In Pittsburgh, Southern Tier Brewery and Allegheny City Brewery are the top go-to spots. If beer is not your thing, don't worry. There is still plenty to do in both cities.

Philadelphia is big on arts and culture, as well as being very student-friendly. So, it does not come as a surprise that there are lots of museums, galleries and cultural centers with apartment rentals nearby. Favorites include the Penn Museum , which offers a variety of exhibits with artifacts from ancient societies across the globe including Mesopotamia, Greece and Egypt.The Paul Robeson House Museum is also a bit of interesting fun that explores Philadelphia's history.

Then there is the Institute of Contemporary Art and the historic Clark Park, which is a great place to go for a scenic walk and some fresh air. Many locations have student discounts too, making fun affordable to everyone. And let's not forget about grabbing a good bite of food. Landmark Americana, Smokey Joe's and Copacabana University City are the top three most popular restaurants in Philadelphia, especially for young people.

Pittsburgh also has a lot of fun activities if you are not into the beer and sports scene. Although, many of Pittsburgh's entertainment options do tend to be somewhat more family-oriented. The Andy Warhol Museum, Rivers of Steel Boat Tours, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Kennywood Park, and the Senator John Heinz History Center are all child-friendly, with kids-only interactive exhibits and family discounts.

Jam on Walnut is an annual summer concert series and block party with a plethora of family and children events, games and food. While apartments for rent on Walnut Street are generally geared toward young people, Chesterfield Street and Butler Street are close by and have family sized two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments for rent. This way, it's always easy for families to find something to do.

The Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Science Center and Carnegie Museum of Natural History offer fun and learning opportunities for everyone. For those looking to find inner peace and get back in touch with nature, Mellon Spray Park, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden as well as the Rodef Shalom Biblical Botanical Garden are worth exploring. Finally, the Willis F. McCook Historic House is a fun history activity for the whole family.


Admittedly, neither Philadelphia or Pittsburgh is known for their safety. However, both cities are relatively safe. Philadelphia's crime rates are on par with national averages. It is are also actively trying to decrease crime rates with the implementation of social supports, more accessible and affordable healthcare and student resources.

In Pittsburgh, the crime rate is below national averages. The feeling of community and the rise in community-based grassroots initiatives create a sense of safety and trust. Safety measures were also updated in 2015 to address “problem corridors”. As a result, Pittsburgh is considered to be very safe, with crime rates sitting ten to fifteen percent below national averages. Shadyside is a particularly safe and family-friendly residential neighborhood. The crime rate in this particular neighborhood is almost half of what the US index reports as normal. Family-style two-bedroom, three-bedroom and even four-bedroom apartments for rent are highly sought after in this area.


Education is the heart and soul of both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. In both cities, more than half of the population holds a bachelor's degree, and they both host world class educational institutions. However, Philadelphia's education hub focuses on postsecondary education, whereas Pittsburgh is centered on the value of youth education.

University is such an important part of Philadelphia's culture that there is an entire neighborhood dedicated to postsecondary education. University City is a neighborhood in the west end of Philadelphia that gets its name from having several schools, including the two major universities located in the area. Both Drexel University and the University of Philadelphia are headquartered there.

Several smaller institutions like La Salle, Thomas Jefferson and Temple University also have campuses in Philadelphia. Subsequently, there is a high demand for apartments for rent in the University City neighborhood of Philadelphia. The demand makes rent prices in this area a bit more expensive; $1,200 - $1,500 is the average monthly rent range for University City, but it's still possible to find apartments for rent for $1000 or less.

As for Pittsburgh, the historic Carnegie Mellon University is based in the city. While apartments for rent near this university are cheap by comparison to Philadelphia's University City, they still tend to be a little more expensive than Pittsburgh's average rental price. Still, it is possible to find apartment rentals for $1000 or less near Carnegie Mellon.

Youth education is where the city shines, though. Pittsburgh has a variety of options for both public and private education. Some highly-rated examples include the Ellis School, which is a private, all-girls prep school. The University School and the Winchester Thurston School are two other co-ed private prep schools. All these institutions take students from K – 12.

Pittsburgh also has one of the best deaf and hard-of-hearing specialty schools in the country. The DePaul School for Hearing and Speech is an elementary school for deaf, hearing-impaired and severely speech-delayed children. It comes recommended that students and their families live nearby the school so children can get the most from this specialty education. Finding a two-bedroom or three-bedroom apartment for rent in Pittsburgh is usually easy for most families.


Public transport can be a divisive subject. Some people love it, some people hate it. Either way, reliable public transit is a marker of any major city deemed livable. In the battle of Pennsylvania, one city is a clear winner though.

Aside from education, transportation is truly Philadelphia's best asset. Although the city is drivable or walkable, Philadelphia's strong public transit system eliminates the hassles of traffic and winter weather. Local public transit is reliable and fast, with multiple bus routes, trolleys and subway lines running across the city.

However, Philadelphia also offers a variety of options for regional transit. University City has its own transport system. The Loop Through University City shuttle, or LUCY for short, stops at every campus and major building location. Lucy is free to students, educational and city staff and connects to regular transit as well. AMTRAK is another regional transit option available to residents. With a stop in the heart of the University City neighborhood, Philadelphians can easily and affordably travel as far as Miami or St. Louis!

By contrast, Pittsburgh is a driver's city, with the majority of residents preferring to use the city's highly-developed highways. However, that does not mean that public transit is nonexistent. Pittsburgh still offers decent transit options including busses, light rail, recreational incline trams and paratransit. These options just happen to be a little less frequent and connected when compared to Philadelphia's transit system. Many Pittsburgh residents using public transit may want to seek out an apartment for rent that is close to a bus stop or other form of transit hub.

So which city is best, Philadelphia or Pittsburgh? At ApartmentLove, we would say it's a tie. Both cities can be similar in their offerings, but the small differences come down to your needs and wants as a renter. Philadelphia is well-loved by students, and many families will prefer Pittsburgh, but it is ultimately up to you to decide where you want to look for an apartment rental. And even though we have left the battle of Pennsylvania at a stalemate, ApartmentLove will help you find your ideal apartment for rent in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, or wherever else you choose. What can we say? We don't like to pick sides. We just want to help everyone find the feeling of home, wherever they want home to be.

ApartmentLove | Apartments for Rent in Pennsylvania 

ApartmentLove has thousands of listings across the United States and Canada. Whether you are on the hunt for a student-friendly apartment or bachelor pad in Philadelphia, or you are looking for your next family rental in Pittsburgh, ApartmentLove has a listing for you.

Published: December 28, 2022