Are you planning on moving to Richmond, Virginia — or just starting to explore the idea of relocating to the city? Virginia’s capital has a tendency to charm newcomers with its historic architecture, beautiful weather, tranquil green spaces, and vibrant cultural scene. But those who dig a bit deeper fall for its affordable cost of living, plentiful jobs, and central geographic location.
Residents will assure you there’s a lot to love about living in Richmond. We’re here to fill you in on some of the top reasons to consider moving to Richmond, VA.
Living in Richmond: The Basics
Let’s get the easy but important stuff out of the way first, like where exactly Richmond is, how big it is, and how to get around. Here are the answers to some questions frequently asked by those moving to Richmond, Virginia.
Where is Richmond?
You’ll find the city in central Virginia, two hours or less from Washington, D.C. to the north, Virginia Beach to the east, the N.C. state line to the South, and the Blue Ridge Mountains to the west. Richmond straddles the James River, which is a significant part of the city’s landscape. The surrounding counties of Chesterfield, Hanover, and Henrico make up the metro Richmond region.
How big is Richmond?
The most recent estimate from the U.S. Census puts the city’s population at just over 230,000 residents, with about 1.3 million in the metro area. It’s the fourth largest city in Virginia.
How do residents get around in Richmond?
Several of Richmond’s neighborhoods are quite walkable or bikeable. The city has been putting increasing emphasis on public transportation and bike lanes. Even so, most residents do rely on their own vehicles to get around. The average commute time for those living in the metro area is 25 minutes, with the major interstates 95 and 64 bringing commuters into the city. Richmond is a hub for Amtrak, with numerous passenger trains stopping through downtown’s 1900s-era train station every day.
Does Richmond have any nicknames?
Many locals lovingly refer to the city as RVA. Some call it the River City in reference to Richmond’s position on the James River.
What is Richmond best known for?
Besides being the current seat of Virginia’s government, Richmond is still best known by some as the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Modern residents have worked hard to move beyond the city’s controversial past. Instead, they trumpet Richmond’s award-winning restaurants, diverse galleries and museums, and exciting music scene.
Money Matters in Richmond
Most Richmond residents know at least a handful of New York, D.C., or other big-city transplants who were drawn to the comparatively cheap cost of living in Richmond. And indeed, the Richmond region’s overall cost of living is more than 6 percent less than the national average. Housing costs are 15 percent lower than the national average. The median sales price for single-family homes has risen slowly but steadily in recent years to around $250,000. They’re expected to remain in that range.
Wondering about the job market in Richmond?
The city is a hub for a diverse set of industry clusters, including finance, healthcare, biotechnology, manufacturing, advertising, and more. In addition to major corporations, Richmond is home to many small businesses and startups, from architecture firms and software companies to apparel companies and publishing houses. Payscale reports that the average salary in Richmond is $61,000. Some of the area’s top employers include:
- Capital One
- Dominion Virginia Power
- Suntrust Bank
- Wells Fargo
- Numerous hospitals and health systems
Richmond Neighborhoods to Know
Richmond’s diverse neighborhoods give the city a close-knit, small-town feel. From downtown lofts and converted warehouses to historic row-houses and suburban McMansions, there are housing options for every type of person moving to Richmond. And that’s just in the city proper! Local realtor Brinkley Taliaferro, a native of Richmond, notes that housing options abound for every type of home buyer or renter.
“No matter where you decide to look for housing, the commute to the city center is still only about 20-30 minutes. This opens up tons of options for buyers in terms of where to live, whether you are looking for a city vibe, specific schools, or a more rural area.”Brinkley Taliaferro, Richmond Realtor
Do schools factor into your home search? Ratings vary widely based on the district, so do your research if that’s something that matters to you. According to GreatSchools’ rankings of public schools in the Richmond region, Henrico County boasts some of the area’s top-rated schools. There are also numerous private schools in the city and surrounding areas. Higher ed is accounted for as well. Universities include Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Richmond, and Virginia Union University.
Ready to find your perfect Richmond neighborhood? These sought-after areas are well known as just a few of the best places to live in Richmond.
1. The Fan and Museum District
Richmond’s most recognizable area is also one of its priciest, and for good reason. The Fan and Museum District are jam-packed with drop-dead gorgeous, historical homes. Here’s where you’ll find wide front porches overlooking tree-lined streets, cozy restaurants tucked across from pocket parks, and cultural hubs like the free Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) and the Virginia Museum of History and Culture. Real estate prices can be astronomical. However, you can also find some affordable rentals sprinkled throughout this picturesque part of town.
2. Jackson Ward
Once called the Harlem of the South because of its strong African-American heritage, Jackson Ward sits on the edge of downtown. It’s home to mostly Greek Revival, Late Victorian, and Italianate row-houses. You’ll also discover great restaurants here, like soul food favorite Mama J’s and Basque-inspired Restaurant Adarra.
With more than a mile of locally-owned restaurants, cafes, and shops, Carytown is one of Richmond’s major retail arteries. Its quirky vibe perfectly encapsulates this creative city. It’s a solid place to meet for happy hour at a sidewalk cafe or catch a $2 movie at the circa 1928 Byrd Theatre.
Looking for more of a city vibe? You’ll find high-rise apartments and industrial lofts downtown, an area in the midst of a dramatic revitalization. The Broad Street corridor is known for its cultural attractions. Galleries, theaters, and Virginia Commonwealth University’s Institute for Contemporary Art are found here. Some excellent eateries are clustered here as well.
5. Church Hill
In Richmond’s East End, the city’s oldest neighborhood is also one of its most charming. With its view of the city and the James River, Libby Hill Park is the perfect place to start exploring Richmond. Church Hill is a popular spot for picnics and sunset yoga meet-ups. Most of the homes in Church Hill predate the Civil War, with photogenic features like ornate ironwork and welcoming front porches. If you know where to look, you can even find a fairy garden here.
6. Scott’s Addition
This former industrial district is now the center of Richmond’s thriving beer scene. You’ll find plenty of breweries along with cideries and a distillery in Scott’s Addition. “Scott’s Addition is very popular with renters because of the multi-family housing boom that’s happened in the last five years or so coupled with the emergence of restaurants, breweries, and game bars,” Taliaferro says.
Another up-and-coming ‘hood is Manchester, just south of the James River. The neighborhood’s retail strip and historical homes are being steadily restored and revitalized. At the same time, ultra-modern condos and apartment buildings are transforming the city’s skyline.
Also south of the river, neighborhoods like Forest Hill and Westover Hills attract families with their diversity of architecture (Colonials, ranches, Victorians, bungalows) and calm, close-knit vibes. Here’s where you’ll find Forest Hill Park, a sprawling green space that hosts the area’s biggest farmer’s market.
This former streetcar community has drawn the attention of investors in recent years. This is all thanks to its prevalence of low-priced, generously-sized, turn-of-the-century homes. Prices are going up in the area. However, you can still find values here if you’re willing to put in some sweat equity.
Things to Do in Richmond
You’ll have to try hard to run out of things to do after moving to Richmond. From museums and outdoor pursuits to concerts, year-round festivals, and events, the city offers a wealth of activities for all interests. “Richmond truly is what you make of it,” Taliaferro says. “While I grew up here, there is so much to the city I am still discovering, and that’s what I love about it. There is always something new to discover, whether it’s a charming neighborhood to wander around, pocket park, river overlook, new brewery/restaurant — the list goes on!”
Ready to get busy in Richmond? Here are just a few of the most popular activities in the area:
In Richmond, we’re proud to boast that this is the only place in the U.S. where you can kayak and raft Class III and IV rapids in an urban setting. But you don’t have to get wet to enjoy the water. The city offers miles of secluded forest trails along the James River park system. You’ll be right in the heart of the city but a world away. Residents use them for hiking, biking, rock-climbing, and sunbathing.
Soak up some culture.
Catch a show at the Altria Theatre. Browse the expansive collection at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Gallery-hop during an art walk on First Fridays downtown. Find out what makes this creative city’s heart beat so strongly.
Grab a brew.
RVA loves its breweries. You’ll find more than a dozen in the city, with different vibes for every type of beer lover. Local favorites include Hardywood, Ardent, The Veil, and Vasen, to name just a few.
Eat your heart out.
There’s Southern food aplenty here (The Roosevelt is one of the best), but there’s a lot more to Richmond’s food scene — from New Zealand-style pie shop Proper Pie Co. and Jewish deli Perly’s to James Beard Award-winning bakery Sub Rosa. It’s no wonder Bon Appetit called Richmond America’s Next Great Restaurant-Obsessed Town.
Bring the kids.
This family-friendly city has a lot to entertain the young and young at heart. The Science Museum of Virginia, housed in a grand old train station, is packed with fascinating exhibits. Next door, the Children’s Museum of Richmond is ideal for the younger set. The children’s farm at Maymont is a sure hit before tucking into a picnic amidst the estate’s sprawling gardens.
Mark your calendar.
Richmond residents keep their calendars packed throughout the year with fun festivals and events, from the Richmond Folk Festival and Dominion Riverrock to the Monument Avenue 10K and Fire, Flour & Fork food festival.
Cheer on a hometown team.
You won’t find any major league teams here, but that doesn’t dampen locals’ passion for our teams. For baseball, there’s the Flying Squirrels. For soccer, the Richmond Kickers. And for basketball? Well, Virginia Commonwealth University happens to have one of the best teams in the NCAA. You’ll also find a NASCAR track on the north end of town, and if your timing’s right, you can catch the Redskins working out at their summer training camp.
Shop ‘til you drop.
Sure, you can head to suburban Short Pump or Stony Point Fashion Park for all the chain stores your heart desires. But Richmond’s real retail scene is made up of locally-owned bookstores, boutiques, record shops, and vintage emporiums. You could spend hours browsing Carytown’s endless offerings (Mongrel, World of Mirth, and Chop Suey Books are a few of our faves), or head to Broad Street for some bespoke men’s shirts at Ledbury or cool kids’ kicks at Little Nomad Shop.
Key Links for Moving to Richmond
So you’ve decided to move to Richmond? We knew it wouldn’t take long for you to come around. Here are some sites to help you get settled:
- The official Richmond city website is where you’ll find everything from Public Works information and school details to crime reports.
- The Department of Motor Vehicles is where you’ll apply for your Virginia driver’s license.
- Register to vote with the Virginia Department of Elections.
- If you’re planning to use public transportation, consult the GRTC for maps and schedules.
- Find out about flights in and out of Richmond through the Richmond International Airport.
- Life Storage offers self storage units in Richmond to help with the moving process.
Discover Your Own Richmond
Every local will tell you their own favorite thing about Richmond, and here’s ours: It’s a city that evolves with its residents. Whether you’re young and single or a parent with a posse of kids, you’ll find your place and your people in Richmond. You’ll discover your own favorite neighborhoods, restaurants, activities, and hidden gems, and you’ll find out how easy it is to become part of this welcoming community.
As Richmond continues to grow and gain national accolades for its progressive development, you’ll also discover the pride that comes with living somewhere that’s putting its residents’ quality of life before anything else.