5 Amazing Places to Live in Connecticut

These beautiful Connecticut towns are attractive for all kinds of people.

Senior couple walking along the Connecticut coastline
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Ask someone what they picture when you say “Connecticut,” and you’re likely to get a lot of people rhapsodizing about a scene out of Gilmore Girls: charming small towns and suburbs with not a lot else going on. And while there is some truth to that statement — Connecticut is home to several very charming small towns! — you’ll find a wide range of living options if you choose to settle in Connecticut. 

There are good reasons to live in the state: you’re near both the beach and the forest; Boston and New York City, two of the biggest cities in the Northeast, are within easy driving distance; the public school system is great; poverty levels are low; and in general, it consistently ranks high for quality of life. Yes, the cost of living is very high across the state, but the benefits are numerous. You get what you pay for!

But where in Connecticut is the right place for you? Well, it really all depends on what you’re looking for. Whether you want the fast pace of the city or easy proximity to hikes, Connecticut has you covered.

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If you want to be in a city environment (and near New York City), try Stamford

The reality is, you won’t really find a big city in CT. This is a state of small towns, not bustling metropolises. But Stamford is the real deal when it comes to city living. Not only is it lively and dense, but you can hop on the train and reach Grand Central in New York City in under an hour.

That ease of access to NYC is undeniably a major bonus and a reason why so many commuters flock to Stamford. But Stamford itself has a lot going on, too! You’ll find a variety of restaurants and bars here (we particularly enjoy Sign of the Whale, which has a great rooftop and waterfront views), a wide range of stores (Stamford has a lively antiquing scene), and local art galleries. Stamford is also on the water, and you can definitely take advantage of that: many people go fishing, boating, or swimming at the public beaches.

If you live in Stamford, you’ll find things to do within walking distance — but you can also hop on the charming trolley line to reach downtown.

If you want affordable living near nature and the outdoors, try Weatogue

  • Population: 2,179
  • Cost of living (national avg. = 100): 104.8
  • Median single-family home price: $401,019
  • Median rent: $1,635

Weatogue is near Talcott Mountain State Park, so living here means you’ll always have access to beautiful nature and quality hikes. It’s nice to wander around the fields and forests in this 575-acre state park, and it’s worth it to scale the Heublein Tower, a 165-foot-high mountaintop lookout, for the incredible views of the state. You can also visit Stratton Brook State Park where you can swim and hike to get your nature fix in around this area.

And while Weatogue is a great town for outdoors enthusiasts (seriously, wait until you see the fall foliage here), it has a lot more to offer. Because it’s a small town, you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits of a tight-knit community and a peaceful atmosphere. Everybody knows each other — it’s basically Gilmore Girls. It’s also a little more affordable than other popular spots in Connecticut, a major bonus.

Oh, and make sure to  visit Drake Hill Flower Bridge when you’re here. This historic footbridge is one of the prettiest photo spots in the state

If you want the feel of a beach town, but the benefits of a city, try Branford

CT is a coastal state, which makes it a great option for people who prioritize living by the water. Branford in particular is great for avid ocean lovers. Located directly on the shoreline, you’ll find many beautiful beaches here, perfect for swimming, picnicking, or watching the sun set. The Thimble Islands are nearby, too, and you can take a boat tour to check them out during the summer. It’s a beautiful town with plenty of awe-inducing sights on the water.

But while Branford boasts delicious seafood restaurants, a lively boating scene, and a beach town vibe, it’s also attractive because it’s close to New Haven. Just a quick drive away, you’ll easily find the stores, restaurants, and attractions you may not have in Branford. Metro-North is there, too, so you can take a train and get to NYC in only two hours. Branford is also more affordable than other towns serviced by Metro-North, which makes it an appealing option for commuters.

If you want good restaurants and nightlife in a small town, try Mystic

  • Population: 4,348
  • Cost of living (national avg. = 100): 106.8
  • Median single-family home price: $551,000
  • Median rent: $2,679

Mystic, Connecticut is probably one of the most famous towns in Connecticut: It was immortalized in the hit Julia Roberts movie Mystic Pizza. We’re pleased to report, yes, this town is just as quaint and charming as it seems in the movie, and you can visit the real-life Mystic Pizza and have a slice.

If pizza doesn’t speak to you, don’t worry. Mystic is known for its restaurant scene, and also has an active nightlife scene (Port of Call, a cocktail bar, was named one of the best bars in America in 2022 by Esquire). You’ll find plenty of amazing eateries in this seaport town. If you want more than food and drink, you’re in luck: Mystic is a top destination for school trips across the state for a reason. There’s just so much to do in this historic community!

Mystic is home to the Mystic Aquarium, one of the top aquariums in New England. If history is more your speed than animals, swing by the Mystic Seaport to see workers recreate what life was like hundreds of years ago in this town. Olde Mistick Village is the place to shop at to maintain the old-timey atmosphere.

Mystic is certainly a town you won’t get bored in — but it’s still a small town, one with a population of under 5,000 people. That means you still get to enjoy the benefits of a small community — everyone knows each other, low crime rates, a general sense of investment in keeping the town flourishing — when you live here.

If you want an affordable town that’s been ranked the best place to live in CT, try West Hartford

For six straight years, West Hartford has been named the top place to live in the state by Niche.com. That’s high praise, considering all the worthy competition! But West Hartford just has a special charm that’s kept it consistently getting raves from people in the state.

Not only is West Hartford fairly affordable in comparison to other CT cities, it boasts great public schools, making it a good option for people looking to raise a family. It’s a pretty, picturesque town that feels like a suburb, but offers many of the conveniences of a city: it’s walkable in many areas; there are many incredible bars and restaurants; and it’s a shopping mecca in the state (Westfarms Mall is home to all the top stores). 

Young people and retirees alike enjoy what West Hartford has to offer, Niche.com notes. It’s rare for a place to bring people of all generations together, but West Hartford does exactly that.

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Becca van Sambeck
Contributing Writer

Becca van Sambeck is a writer and editor with experience in many fields, including travel, entertainment, business, education, and lifestyle. Her work has appeared in outlets like NBC, Oxygen, Bravo, the University of Southern California, Elite Daily, CafeMom, Travel For Teens, and more. She currently resides in New York City.