Ideal place to live by population size

Jan 2017
The thread on suburbs made me think of the ideal population size for a place to live in. I know sparsely-populated rural areas can't offer the same amenities as cosmopolitan megacities, while different ages & stages of life will dictate a person's taste; some might enjoy living in a city amongst a million plus people while others may prefer a smaller, quieter town and treat a large city as an occasional dalliance.

I've never lived in a place with a population higher than 350,000, my Dad used to commute into London for work & seeing his stress levels even going into London for leisure just put me off living in a big city. Even as a day tourist I find cities with just under 1 million people overcrowded, much prefer visiting the countryside with barely another soul in sight. At the moment I'm reasonably content living in a place with 200,000 people, I might move to a larger city of around 500,000 if it meets all my necessary conditions. Ideally in the future I'd go for a tiny village with very few people around, only if I've got the skills, knowledge and money to live a lifestyle like that.

This app uses various government data on crime rates, schools, house prices e.t.c. to come up with the best places to live in England, all the poor urban areas scored lower due to the increased crime rates.*53.7974*7

So what's your ideal place to live by population size, and is there a tipping point for population density when an area becomes overcrowded and living standards start to decline?

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
Right now I'd prefer a rural village and forgo the amenities. That might change when I get older and my health declines.


Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
Not sure... I grew up very rural area but the past 15 years lived in; Koln, Tokyo, LA, Austin, Toronto, and Denver. Of all those I probably enjoyed Toronto the most but that is not much to do with due to population size. I find for sanity sake 2-3 times a year I need to find place with fewer people for a couple weeks but there are more advantages to cities than disadvantages by most objective metrics IF you have a good education.

Incomes rising fastest in the largest cities (though housing is expensive and crime is higher the crime disproportionately affects lower income part of the population). Far more diverse activities available, must easier to meet like-minded people, usually better options for schools, commute times are situational (can be bad or good), better medical care and emergency services in cities.
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Feb 2019
Laniakea Supercluster
The limit for me is 1 million. I hate traffic. I don’t leave the house that much so I don’t need lots of amenities and activities. I’ve lived in the same city with less than 100,000 people my entire life. I’d prefer to live somewhere that isn’t densely populated, but not too scarce. I’d want to still have neighbors on the side of me, but I wouldn’t want to be separated by a bunch of forest from other people. I like nature and forests to be close by, which is why I don’t like big cities.


Forum Staff
Aug 2016
I once lived in a town of 35,000. Most services were available at only one business, ie, one supermarket, one carwash, etc. Unless you were willing to drive to another town 20 miles or more away there was no customer choice about where to spend your money. Service was generally bad because in that sized town, everyone was a stranger. Businesses had no incentive to provide good service because they knew you weren't going somewhere else.

Today I live in a much smaller town and customer service is much better. There is still only one outlet per business type, but the people running the businesses are my neighbors. We all know each other.

I find it difficult to categorize cities by size as numerous other variables effect quality of life. I've lived in suburbs where the traffic was worse than in cities because of poor development planning. I've lived a couple of places where I was close enough to urban build up to access services yet far enough away to feel like I was living in the country. That's probably the best way to categorize a community - not by population but by what's nearby and within easy access. I like where I am not - a small town out in the country but close enough to a city if I need one.

I lived in one small town that was so remote you could only pull in four radio stations - each station played a different kind of music and the rock and roll station was the worst radio station I've ever heard. I started listening to other types of music just to avoid the bad station - DJs that couldn't talk, a play list only ten songs long so that if you listened long enough you could hear the same song at least a dozen times in the same day. My current small town is close enough to a major city that I can pull in dozens of radio stations and access other city services if I'm willing to drive 30 or 45 minutes. That other town was so remote that even driving three hours would only get me to a large town, not even a small city.
Mar 2018
For me around 1 million (say, between 250,000 and 2,500,000) is ideal. It's big enough to have everything I might want, and sufficient choice in it. Getting any bigger adds more hassle but no new amenities really. For example, if I want to go the theatre next week, I'll have a choice of what to go see: at the lower end of the spectrum, between 2 places, and at the upper, between 10. There is no need for me to go to another city unless I want to go on a holiday. In cities of that size (at least in Europe) public transport tends to work well so I can quickly get around the city, and can also easily fly/train/coach to other destinations without hassle. Not needing the expense and complication of having a car is a big plus for me; besides, driving after a night out is a big no. A city of that size also has more job opportunities, I can change employer/careers without needing to abandon my social group or friends network.

Lastly, medium size cities are inhabited by a different crowd of people than small towns. It's younger (more 20s-30s), more cosmopolitan, more international and somehow more dynamic and lively. That's the crowd I personally prefer to hang out with. The idea of living in a town of 10,000 people seems positively claustrophobic to me.