Berkeley has tons to offer, especially for millennials: It’s walkable and bikeable, a liberal haven, cheaper than most other major cities in the Valley, is quite diverse, and has great schools to boot.
Berkeley has ranked in Livability’s 100 Best Places to Live three years running, and it’s not hard to see why. Winters tend to stay only mildly cold, while summers stay in around the comfortable 70s, meaning you get to enjoy the great outdoors on a nearly everyday basis. Plus, Berkeley is less than a 20-minute drive from both Oakland and San Francisco—although there is more than enough in the city to keep you occupied without having to go elsewhere.
Probably one of the bigger draws of Berkeley is its political atmosphere: It is famously and unabashedly liberal, frequently topping lists for best cities for liberals. Of course, this reputation began in the ’60s when Berkeley served as a major hub for the anti-war movement, but they have continued to work towards the same ideals even into modern times. For instance, Berkeley was one of the first cities in the country to declare a day recognizing bisexuals, and in 2014, the city council mandated that medical marijuana would be provided for free to low-income patients. They even have annual events celebrating a spectrum of cultures, including the Jewish Music Festival and the Himalayan Fair.
Berkeley also has a fairly young, well-educated population. Seventeen percent is of school age, and the majority of residents are between the ages of 10 and 24, adding a good measure of youthful energy to the city. This, paired with about 70 percent having a bachelor’s degree or better, makes it a great place to sit and chat in coffee shops with friends.
Berkeley also has a lot to offer in terms of opportunities for advancement. You can pursue a degree or a new job at the University of California, Berkeley (which is also the top employer for the city); the Graduate Theological Union; Zaytuna College, a relatively new Muslim liberal arts college; and Berkeley City College, a community college.
Aside from local schools and universities, other top employers include Lawrence Berkeley National Library, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, and Bayer.
In terms of getting around, Berkeley is both very bikeable and the most walkable city in this list. Where those options fail, Berkeley also has good public transport, which also helps reduce your carbon footprint if you’re concerned about it. Plus, there are 23 parks and plenty of other nature preserves where you can enjoy the mild weather—like Tilden Nature Area, a 740-acre preserve with more than 10 miles of hiking trails.
Of course, not everyone digs a political scene--so #9 on the list is another fantastic option, especially if you want great schools for your kids and great education opportunities for yourself, too.