City Guide / Birmingham

The 13 Pros and Cons of Living in Birmingham, Alabama

By Sarra Sedghi | Dec 21, 2022
Cityscape of downtown Birmingham, Alabama.

Moving to Birmingham, Alabama, gives you all the perks of city life while maintaining the charm and proximity to nature that you’d find in a smaller town. With 1.1 million people living in the metro area, Birmingham is one of Alabama’s largest cities, offering significant benefits to those looking for higher education, culture, or a thriving job market.

If you’re thinking about moving to Birmingham, you’ll want to consider the pros and cons of living in Birmingham before you make your decision. To help, we’ve rounded up the best and worst attributes that come with living in the Magic City, including:

The pros of living in Birmingham, AL

  1. Low cost of living
  2. Amazing food and top-tier breweries
  3. Plenty of teams to root for
  4. Fantastic healthcare
  5. Lots to do!
  6. Decent public transportation
  7. Great live music scene

The cons of living in Birmingham, AL

  1. Intense weather
  2. Crime
  3. Sunday closures
  4. Painful parking
  5. Birmingham is still overlooked

Let’s get started!

Pro: Low cost of living

Birmingham, Alabama, USA downtown city skyline.

According to Forbes, Alabama is the third least-expensive state to live in, with Birmingham’s particular cost of living netting out about 6% lower than the national average. When compared to other cities in Alabama, however, this area is slightly more expensive, at 6% higher than the state average.

The average home price in Birmingham is $361,348, with an average mortgage rate of around 6%, depending on the home loan amount. Meanwhile, the average rental cost for an apartment is $995 a month.

Of course, rent and mortgage prices vary across Birmingham’s neighborhoods, which is why it’s important to research the best neighborhoods in Birmingham and find out what suits your needs before deciding on a place to live and committing to a housing setup.

Con: Intense weather

Rain clouds background.Clouds become dark gray like a big smoke before rainfall.Thunderstorm is a storm with lightning and thunder. Air pilots know that they must never fly through a thunder cloud.

Like other states in the Deep South, Alabama is known for high temperatures and even higher humidity. Summer weather can last well into the fall, and winters are typically rainy (although Birmingham can experience light snow a handful of times a year). In addition to higher temperatures, Alabama springs and summers bring severe thunderstorms and tornadic weather. It’s not an exaggeration to say that early summertime features a tornado watch or a dramatic southern storm on a weekly basis.

Birmingham can also have long periods of rain or experience a drought in October or November. Because the city is located in the Cahaba River watershed, intense rain may flood some areas, like downtown. Although hurricanes usually only affect the lower half of the state, tornadoes can be found all over Alabama—so don’t move here without a severe weather plan.

The weather in Alabama isn’t necessarily unpredictable, but it is volatile. Local weatherman James Spann will soon become an authority if you decide to join the Birmingham community!

Pro: Amazing food and top-tier breweries

Even though it’s a smaller city, Birmingham is a major destination for foodies. Finding a bad restaurant in Birmingham is actually quite difficult! Whether you are looking for highly regarded New American restaurants, French-style pastries, food trucks, or a meet-and-three that will guarantee your grandma’s approval, you won’t have to search for long. Even in the suburbs, you can easily find culinary gems like Masaman Thai Kitchen in Vestavia Hills or The Anvil Pub & Grill in Hoover.

If you’re looking for an ice-cold local craft beer to pair with your meal, you’re in the right place. This community is awash with craft breweries that offer far more than a spot to grab a drink. Avondale Brewing Company encompasses a large outdoor area that’s perfect for concerts, hosting artists like The War on Drugs, Phoebe Bridgers, and Beach House. Trim Tab Brewing Company hosts smaller shows, dance parties, and weekly bingo nights, while Cahaba Brewing Company features several “Cahabazaar” markets featuring local artists and makers. If you’re looking for the best burgers in the Magic City, be sure to hit up Back Forty Beer Company.

There are also plenty of options in the Birmingham suburbs, such as The Grocery Brewpub in Homewood and Oversoul Brewing in Helena.

Con: Crime

Metropolitan Skyline of downtown Birmingham, Alabama, USA.

According to Neighborhood Scout, Birmingham has a crime index of 1, making it safer than 1% of U.S. cities. Individuals have a 1 in 60 percent chance of becoming a victim of a violent crime, compared to 1 in 225 in Alabama, and a 1 in 20 percent chance of becoming a victim of a property crime compared to 1 in 48 in Alabama. However, most crime in Birmingham tends to stick to select neighborhoods and does not reflect the city as a whole.

Pro: Plenty of teams to root for

In the South, college football is more of a religion than a sport, and this dogma rings especially true in Alabama. The Yellowhammer state is home to two SEC schools: The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and Auburn University in Auburn.

However, there are plenty of other teams to cheer for in addition to the Crimson Tide or Tigers. Local colleges including the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and Samford have robust sports teams, and Birmingham itself boasts a minor league baseball team and a USFL team. The Magic City was also home to the 2022 World Games and has many active intramural teams and groups for residents to participate in.

It’s complicated: Education

Although you may not think so at first, this community is a college town, and many of its residents are pursuing higher education. Downtown Birmingham is home to one of UAB’s main campuses, while Greater Birmingham hosts colleges such as Samford University, Miles College, Birmingham-Southern College, and the University of Montevallo. The Birmingham area is also home to the Birmingham School of Law, Samford’s Cumberland School of Law, Miles Law School, and two community colleges.

Lower-level education, however, isn’t as strong, especially in areas affected by income inequality, and Alabama is one of the lowest-ranked states for education. If you have children, you’ll want to research the best school systems in Birmingham before taking the leap and moving.

Pro: Fantastic healthcare network

Long hospital bright corridor with rooms and seats 3D rendering

Birmingham is home to one of the best medical schools in the country, and the Magic City boasts ample hospitals, doctors, and other medical practitioners. While UAB dominates Birmingham’s medical scene, prospective patients can also choose from Ascension St. Vincent’s, Brookwood Baptist, Grandview, and plenty of local practices. If you do get sick or injured, you’ll have plenty of places to choose from with excellent treatment.

Con: Sunday closures

Cathedral of St. Paul amongst the skyline of downtown Birmingham, Alabama, USA.

Even if Birmingham is a progressive city, it’s still in the South, which means businesses and restaurants open later on Sundays—and many don’t open at all. The businesses that do operate on Sundays tend to lead toward opening at noon or even 1 p.m. Since many restaurants are closed on Sundays, there’s a limited choice for brunch and lunch spots, so you’ll need to arrive early to guarantee a table. You’ll also want to take the church crowd into consideration: Popular neighborhoods all over metro Birmingham are especially difficult to navigate on Sundays.

Pro: Lots to do!

For a smaller city, Birmingham more than makes up with fun ways to spend your free time—especially when it comes to culture and the outdoors. The arts, particularly music, visual art, culinary art, the performing arts, and film all enjoy a sizeable community following. Birmingham also offers a wealth of outdoor activities thanks to its location at the southern end of the Appalachian Mountains. State parks, nature preserves, and the Cahaba River Watershed offer ample space for hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and even tubing down the river.

Birmingham’s city center is loaded with attractions as well, and many are kid- or pet-friendly. On Saturday mornings, the Market at Pepper Place brims with local farmers, makers, artists, and shoppers. Downtown Birmingham is home to many parks, museums, and historic spots, including Railroad Park, the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Rotary Trail, McWane Science Center, and the Pizitz Food Hall. At night, residents can enjoy Birmingham’s restaurants and bars as well as events like Barons games, live music, and gallery openings.

The city is also home to festivals and events, ranging from the weekly vintage market at Mom’s Basement and artist markets to the annual Dia de Los Muertos festival. Other celebrations include the Sidewalk Film Festival, Birmingham Restaurant Week, and the Moss Rock Festival. Birmingham also isn’t too far from other events, like Mardi Gras in Mobile, large concerts in Huntsville, or Rock the South in Cullman.

Con: Painful parking

Birmingham, Alabama, USA downtown city skyline.

Birmingham’s historic areas (think places like downtown, Avondale, Highland Park, or Mountain Brook) haven’t exactly caught up with the number of city transplants when it comes to parking. Finding a spot to park on weekends is especially frustrating, and Birmingham’s multitude of events often restricts driving space. Save yourself some of the hassle by leaving early to factor in time for parking or walking from a spot that’s farther out, carpooling, or taking Uber, Lyft, or public transportation.

Pro: Decent public transportation

Rainbow lit bridge in Birmingham, Alabama

Birmingham’s mayor, Randall Woodfin, has heavily invested in public transportation, so Birmingham’s public transportation is substantially better than most cities of its size. MAX Transit is an express bus system that runs every day of the week with routes all throughout Jefferson County.

Traveling outside of Birmingham is easy as well. The city has Megabus, a low-fare bus offering city-to-city transit from downtown Birmingham to all over the South for as little as $1 a ride, and a Greyhound Bus station. There are shuttle services, like Groome Transportation, that offer rides to Pell City and Oxford, or out of state to the Atlanta airport.

Birmingham is also home to a modest airport and an Amtrak facility that offers routes to major cities like Atlanta, Houston, New Orleans, New York, and even West Coast cities like Los Angeles.

Con: Birmingham is still overlooked

While life in Birmingham does come with most of the perks of living in a larger city, there are a few snags. Many musicians and events bypass Birmingham when they go on tour because it’s not a stop on the most direct route between Atlanta and Nashville. Music lovers may find themselves driving out of state to catch their favorite acts.

Air travel from Birmingham can also be a nuisance. Even though Birmingham’s airport is much easier to navigate than airports in other major cities, travelers may not be able to find direct flights to certain destinations. This isn’t a huge issue, since Birmingham is less than an hour’s flight from Hartsfield-Jackson, but you will have to factor in extra travel time.

Pro: Great live music scene

It may not be Nashville, but the Magic City is no stranger to good music. Many artists, including Emmylou Harris, Maria Taylor, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Gucci Mane, and Waxahatchee, were born and raised in Birmingham. There’s a lot of live music to enjoy, from smaller bands at The Nick to popular acts at the Alabama Theatre downtown.

Birmingham offers both intimate and large venues, including Saturn, Iron City Bham, and Lyric Theatre. When the weather is warmer, you can also enjoy live music at Railroad Park, Oak Mountain Amphitheatre, and even Sloss Furnaces.

Moving to Birmingham, AL?

There’s a lot to love about this city, so if you’re thinking about moving to Birmingham, consider renting from Landing, which offers fully furnished apartments in Birmingham, along with flexible leases that make it easy to move on your terms. Explore the city’s many neighborhoods to get a feel for which is right for you, or stay put—the choice is yours!

Landing is a new way to live—and a new way to move. Browse our apartments in Birmingham today!

Sarra Sedghi

Sarra Sedghi is a Birmingham-based writer and editor specializing in food, travel, and history. Her work has appeared in Allrecipes, Atlas Obscura, Bon Appetit, Eater, MyRecipes, Polygon, and Tasting Table. She excels at narrative writing, and received her MFA in Narrative Nonfiction from the University of Georgia in 2017.