Best Places To Live In North Carolina: Top 5 Cities Most Recommended By Experts

With its beautiful scenery, fantastic economy, and friendly residents, it’s no wonder that North Carolina is consistently ranked among America’s best states to live in. Steeped in Southern charm but thoroughly modern in its amenities, the state is truly summarized by the phrase, “the best of both worlds.” The best places to live in North Carolina offer the perfect stomping ground for anyone.

North Carolinians take Southern hospitality seriously. In fact, a recent StudyFinds round-up of the United States’ friendliest cities named Asheville (our top pick) the fifth friendliest in the country. And of course, community is an incredibly important factor in deciding where to live. Recent research found that getting to know your neighbors may have positive health benefits, even improving life expectancy. Researchers at Rutgers University studied Chinese Americans in the greater Chicago area, finding that those in communities with greater cohesion experienced reduced early death risk. 

One of the best parts of life in North Carolina is the temperate climate, allowing residents to spend more time outdoors enjoying the scenery. Research shows that access to nature has a greater impact on mental health than general health, employment, or income. And speaking of income, a recent survey of 2,000 working adults found that 73 percent believe the weather has an impact on their productivity. 

So, whether you’re pondering a move to North Carolina for business or pleasure, you’ll find no shortage of cities worth considering. But with so many great options, it can be hard to narrow it down to a clear winner. That’s why StudyFinds did the digging for you and rounded up local and expert opinions on the best places to live in North Carolina. Whether you’re looking for a big city or a small-town feel, our list has options for all kinds of preferences. But of course, if we missed one, be sure to let us know in the comments below!

The List: Best Places to Live in North Carolina, According to Locals

1. Asheville

If you love the mountains, Asheville may just be the place for you. “One of the most beautiful places in North Carolina, Asheville is a great town for nature lovers,” says UpNest.

“Living here can give you a new view on life — literally,” adds Bankrate. “The city offers access to the Blue Ridge Mountains, so you’re a short drive away from some beautiful spots along the Appalachian Trail. When you take your hiking boots off, you can raise a glass at one of the nearby wineries, including the famous Biltmore estate.”

But of course, Asheville has more to offer than just its stunning landscape. “There are countless things to do to satisfy the active explorers, the art lovers, music buffs, and the adventurous foodies,” UpHomes claims. “Certainly, an excellent food scene, fed by local farmers and producers, is a huge draw. As for the beer, Asheville has more breweries per capita than any other U.S. city,” US News adds.

Dolly Parton mural in Asheville
Dolly Parton mural in Asheville (Photo by Wes McFee on Unsplash)

2. Raleigh

North Carolina’s capital city makes for an excellent place to call home for all kinds of people. “Raleigh again tops our list of best places to live in North Carolina — and our list of the best places to live anywhere in the U.S., as well,” says Bankrate.

“[The] state’s capital is desirable across all fronts and suitable for people of all ages. The cost of living, educational opportunities, and the hot job market help make the case for this city,” UpHomes claims. 

As the home of many of the state’s best schools, Raleigh is a great place to raise a family. But with a thriving downtown and phenomenal career opportunities, it’s just as fitting for singles and young professionals. “It’s turned itself into a desirable destination for families seeking quality education, professionals seeking further employment opportunities, and those after a lower cost of living without giving up convenience,” says Touropia. “There’s a chance everyone can find their ‘home’ in Raleigh with plenty to do for young and old. Well-maintained parks exist in great numbers, along with museums, local sport, live music and ample outdoor adventures.”

Raleigh downtown at night
Downtown Raleigh at night (Photo by Higgins Spooner on Unsplash)

3. Winston-Salem

Winston-Salem may be a college town, but students are far from the only ones flocking to the city. “With a great location, low cost of living and a strong sense of community, Winston-Salem is a popular choice for many,” says Touropia. “As the home of Wake Forest, those new to town can expect a diversified population from students, to young professionals and families.”

The city is warm and inviting, and is known for embracing the many backgrounds of its residents throughout the year. “Although the city is traditionally Southern in its friendliness, it has an international feel,” notes US News. “The metro area celebrates its diversity during an array of festivals and through a variety of cuisines. You’ll find restaurants serving everything from traditional North Carolina barbecue to Indian curries and Greek pastries.”

UpHomes says this is a great spot for those looking to explore: “The city’s centrally located in the state, making trips to other cities like Charlotte and Greensboro easily accessible and trips to the mountains feel like a breeze.”

powerplant in Winston-Salem NC
Bailey Powerplant in Winston-Salem (Photo by Ian McIlwraith on Unsplash)

4. Durham

As the home of Duke University, Durham is another college town with a lively social scene and a booming economy. Also home to Google, the city is becoming increasingly known as a hub for technology and medicine. “Durham has always been a major hub of attractions,” says Touropia. “This should excite career-minded individuals who wish to escape the big smoke but still enjoy fantastic employment opportunities in a smaller city.”

Outside of its fantastic job market, Durham is also a city that knows how to have fun. “Whether you’re a big sports fan or into performing arts for entertainment, you can soak it all up in this city,” UpHomes states.

“Whether you want to root for the Duke Blue Devils, run or bike the 22-mile American Tobacco Trail (12 miles run through Durham) or head to a gallery crawl that shows off the artists that give Durham a reputation as a creative haven, this city … delivers first-rate ways to enjoy your days and nights,” Bankrate adds.

Duke University chapel in Durham NC
Duke University chapel in Durham (Photo by Chuck Givens on Unsplash)

5. Charlotte

If you’re considering a move to North Carolina from out of state, you’ll find plenty of company in Charlotte. “The extensive range of colleges (there are over 40) and with Charlotte increasingly becoming a destination for those moving from out of state, you’ll uncover a very diverse population,” Touropia says.

It’s easy to see why so many out-of-staters are flocking to the city. “The big city’s offerings certainly match its population,” notes UpHomes. “From expansive shopping options to unique clubs and bars and everything in between, you’ll never be bored living in this city.”

And despite its big-city status, Charlotte remains very much attached to its regional roots. “Although its economy and rapid development make Charlotte a thoroughly 21st century metro area, Southern charm is still very much alive, and making friends with neighbors isn’t the Sisyphean task it can be in other large cities,” says US News

downtown buildings in Charlotte
Downtown Charlotte (Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash)

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This article may contain affiliate links.


  1. Cities? No mention of people leaving those cities in droves to move outside them? How about focus on best places to live besides cities? I live at Ocean Isle Beach! Brunswick County is one of the fastest growing counties in the country. We have people moving here from everywhere and housing can’t keep up with the influx! And yes, some of those moving are from NC cities. We love the excitement but don’t want to be in a city in any way, shape or form!

    1. I don’t know who wrote this but they don’t know anything about N.C. Asheville is expensive and Charlotte is full of gang violence and street crime plus downtown is so hard to navigate that it confuses visitors ; Durham and Winston – Salem have crime problems too ; these cities were on a list of worst places to live based on per median income , housing prices and education along with the crime rate ; best thing about Asheville is that it’s close to Tennessee which in my experience is friendlier and more affordable ; if I had the money I’d be on Sevier County TN. in a hot minute…

    1. As a lifelong 64 year resident of NC, I agree! Someone obviously didn’t do any research! I would title 5hat article the 5 biggest cities instead. Lived in Asheville, moved to Brunswick County and BC is way better!
      Spouse has lived in Raleigh, Durham and Charlotte, not good at all. Smaller cities and towns in NC are much better for a lot of reasons.

    2. Absolutely! I just read where the crime rate in Asheville North Carolina is up 100% over last year.

  2. I live a little more than an hour from Asheville. It is a major craphole with a lot of drug problems and violence. I don’t even go there to go shopping. I’d rather go to Tennessee or Georgia instead. If you’re out shopping in Asheville you have to worry about violence or at the very least panhandlers harassing you. And yes, people are leaving in droves.

  3. Asheville LOL… lived here for near 6 years and looking to leave here quickly.. talk about a cesspool… this is it… crime is so high and homelessness is impossible for the city to get under control… absolutely a joke to have asheville on this list and not to forget to mention the cost of places to live here is astronomical…

  4. There are many locations in North Carolina that offers community settings & lifestyles to fit most anyone who is seeking a Great setting. Many small towns offer this lifestyle.
    Marion NC is one of such towns. It is experiencing rapid growth, with many relocating from the Asheville area. The weather is better, though it’s only 25 miles or so away. The tax base is considerably less expensive. The housing cost is definitely more affordable and again Asheville is only about 25 miles awa, to include Hickory is about the same distance. Boone is located about 45 miles away, with ski slopes and a college town setting.
    Marion is the perfect location for the smaller community setting and still having many of the desired amenities, to include being close enough to commute to surrounding cities.

  5. They are all cities, not the best places to live, areas within 30 miles from the cities seem to be the place to go.

  6. I live in NC….near Charlotte. And people are running from Charlotte into the countryside because of crime and traffic.
    ….just like Linda Melton stated above….I don’t recommend Charlotte to anyone. And Asheville has become almost as bad….a 200% increase in some crimes and a 40% decrease in the police department? No thanks…whoever writes these articles needs to live in these places for a couple of years and they will change their minds….

  7. All five of those cities are ridden with crime and filth. Is that why as a home health nurse I ride the countryside and see all these housing suburbs being built farther and farther away from the cities? Nobody that I’m aware of wants to live in a big city or a city of any kind for that matter. I really can’t believe that Durham is listed as one of the five top cities to live in in North Carolina with the horrendous crime rate they have there.

  8. Wow! How much did Asheville pay for this ranking?? No mention of the fact that Asheville ranks in the top 10% for unsafest cities in America. Homelessness out of control and severely understaffed police department.
    Oh and a few years back people were so proud of the “sanctuary city” title that flooded this once beautiful place with homeless, drug cartels and every thief looking for easy pickings. Business exiting at an astounding rate and home values in the tank due in part to the squatters living in the backyards of once thriving neighborhoods. Literally NO reasonable rental housing in the area.
    I advise a deeper look before you decide Asheville is the #1 spot in NC.

  9. What a joke. Ashville has gone woke and their crime rate is skyrocketing. Durham is dangerous and raleigh is impersonal, overcrowded and expensive. Whoever wrote this is ignorant.

  10. Whomever wrote this article fell and bumped their head, those cities named are the five worst places to live in the state.

  11. Thank you for the reviews of North Carolina!
    Would love to live in a city like Asheville! We’re older retired but would love to work a part-time job..
    Would love find a 2 bedroom single house or a condo with no ” HOA” issues…
    Open to suggestions 😊

    Mercedes & Michael Woods

    1. This list should be named the top 5 worst places to live. These places are AWFUL with very high crime rates

    2. You don’t want to live in Trashville. I live here and the crime rate is sky rocketing!!! Homeless are everywhere and will harrass you downtown especially Pack Place!! Tourists give them money so they expect it. Tourists feed the bears so that’s also a problem. Driving is a nightmare. And Patton has wrecks at least once an hour!! You’ve been warned. Also finding a house with no HOA is impossible! Under 400k also nearly impossible if you want to live somewhere nice not bext to meth dens.

    3. Check out the crime rate. The “woke” city has lost a good deal of its police force and the criminal element is running wild

    4. Please stay out of Asheville. We’re sick of old rich people taking over what was once a nice place to live.

      Keep Asheville weird.

  12. I’ve lived in Charlotte for over 17 years now from Chicago & for people from cities like Chicago, Detroit, New York, California, etc… Charlotte(and its surrounding areas) is a better place to live. BUT I will say this…housing, food, & healthcare cost in Charlotte are currently higher than some of those cities mentioned. So before moving anywhere check those 3 key things along with the “quality” of those 3 key things to compare because those are some of lifes essentials….of course for some schools & family & things to do come next….So these cities appeal to a certain demographic of people depending on their needs.

  13. Really? Well selected demographic set for a survey. Each city named are misrepresented in article. Selective presentation. Crime, property taxes, government regulation, woke policies and cost, coast of living, traffic caused by government interference in best thoroughfare development due to lack of reality planning by looney tune advocacy groups, and this list grows with public policy creations by looney tune leadership. The order is correct from top down. Just for real things for opposite reasons.

  14. Asheville used to be a fun city to visit, but is now a drug haven for homeless, graffiti and trash everywhere, and crime is up 200%
    under the current mayor and city council. Yes, it does have beautiful places to visit OUTSIDE of downtown such as Grove Park Inn, Black Mountain, and the mountain views, trails and waterfall are spectacular! Try smaller stops like Marshall, Kernersville and several others. If you do venture downtown, watch your back.

  15. Some of these comments are totally out of touch. Sure, if you’re 85 years old and are done living, and you don’t mind that weekend entertainment consists of checking out the ol’ jailhouse and the same 4 antique stores, and you’re idea of a “nice meal out” on a Saturday night is Carolina-style BBQ (again!), by all means move to middle-of-nowhere N. Carolina LOL! Enjoy the lack of crime…lack of everything actually. I’m sticking with Asheville or Charlotte. Asheville is expensive because it doesn’t suck and it’s beautiful. You get what you pay for. Folks who are reading this and considering moving to one of these cities, please don’t listen to these other comments unless literally all you want to do every day is sit on your porch and watch cardinals. And education, no matter how “bad” it might be in the cities is not going to be better in some tiny town with very few (i.e. no) resources.

    1. Could not have said it better myself. I live in Charlotte and I love it because I still enjoy living life and I am in my mid 50’s

  16. I have lived in the Raleigh area since 2008. We USED to be a great place to live. The demand of out of staters for property has home prices skyrocketing. It used to be beautiful here before they cut down all the trees for housing developments and left trash littered literally all across what used to be a beautiful state. Now we even have wells drying up because too many developments are going in using community wells that drain all the water from neighboring wells. Traffic is a nightmare around here now. Infrastructure hasn’t kept up with population either. Southern Values are disappearing into the mass exodus that are moving here from other places.

  17. This website is an advertisement not an informative article. They just listed the 5 largest municipalities pretty much. Charlotte is over run with crime and pan handlers are super aggressive. Not to mention the 5 cities are expensive as hell to live in. There are hundreds of other towns and municipalities better than listed here.

  18. I think it was an honest list. I think it doesnt’ of course cover personal desires for reasons that aren’t quantifiable but that’s not what top 5 lists are for lol so Thanks for this!

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