Study: Best Cities to Live in New Hampshire

If you're contemplating a move to New England, it won't take long to fall in love with New Hampshire's peaceful atmosphere. Native residents already know what it is that sets the state apart. Whether you're moving from across town or across the country, here's a look at the 10 best places to live according to the CreditDonkey experts.

New Hampshire's official motto, "Live Free or Die," captures the spirit of independence on which the state was founded. While that commitment to individual liberties continues today, it's also balanced by a strong sense of community. A lack of income and sales tax make it desirable from a financial standpoint, but that's just one of several reasons why so many people choose to make their home in the Granite State.

There are seven distinct geographic areas to explore, each with its own personality. The Seacoast and Lakes Region are where vacationers head to enjoy the summer sun while the Great North Woods and the White Mountains see their fair share of winter visitors. In between, you've got the rolling hills of the Monadnock Region, the pristine beauty of Dartmouth-Lake Sunapee, and the Merrimack Valley.

10 Best Cities to Live in New Hampshire

Study Methodology

Each city is ranked based on the following:

  1. Crime Rate
  2. Commute Time
  3. Income
  4. Education
  5. Restaurants Per Capita

New Hampshire is hands down one of the safest states in the country, with a violent crime rate that's roughly 20% lower than the national average. To give you an idea of how safe each city is, we ranked them based on the odds of being the victim of a violent crime.

Although a substantial number of New Hampshire's residents commute to the Boston area each day, we know that not everyone is keen on the idea of traveling so far. If you're worried about dealing with traffic woes, never fear. The cities on our list all offer an average commute of 25 minutes or less.

According to U.S. Census data, New Hampshire has one of the highest median income rates in the country. However, you'll find that every city is different when it comes to worker pay. We looked at the median household income for the 10 locations on our list to see how they compare.

Schools like Dartmouth College and the University of New Hampshire solidify the state's reputation as a leading center for education. To measure how important it is in individual cities, we considered the percentage of residents who hold a bachelor's degree or higher.

Tip: Are you still in college? Read our money tips for college students.

Maple syrup, fresh seafood and apple fritters are just a few staples of New Hampshire cuisine. Locally grown ingredients give regional dishes a distinct fresh flavor that can be sampled at places like Roger's Redliner Diner in Portsmouth. We know that variety is the spice of life so we ranked each city based on the number of restaurants per capita.

10. Rochester

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 399.9
  • Commute Time: 25 minutes
  • Income: $49,366
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 19.4%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 505 inhabitants

One of New Hampshire's larger cities, Rochester snags a spot on our list thanks to its relatively low violent crime rate and higher median income. Located in the southeastern part of the state, it's within an hour to both Portsmouth and Concord as well as western Maine. Rochester has a reputation for being business-friendly, and the historic downtown area is full of funky boutiques, upscale shops and locally owned restaurants like Charlie's pizzeria.

Did You Know: Residents continue to be entertained at the Rochester Opera House, one of Rochester's oldest buildings.

9. Berlin

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 711.7
  • Commute Time: 17 minutes
  • Income: $36,811
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 11.4%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 650 inhabitants

Known as "The City That Trees Built," Berlin sprang up along the Androscoggin River during the 1820s. Once an important hub for New Hampshire's paper industry, healthcare and corrections have since become the focal points of the local economy. Berlin ranks well when it comes to safety and it's one of the most affordable places to live based on home values.

Did You Know: Berlin is less than 10 miles from Jericho Mountain State Park, which features miles of trails that are ideal for hiking, biking and horseback riding.

8. Manchester

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 176.3
  • Commute Time: 22.9 minutes
  • Income: $54,320
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 26.6%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 399 inhabitants

With more than 110,000 residents, Manchester is New Hampshire's most populous city and the state's busiest commercial center. The local economy is highly diversified, with the manufacturing, healthcare, retail and financial services industries employing many of the city's residents. The average commute is slightly longer, at nearly 23 minutes, but it's worth it to score a bigger payday.

Did You Know: In the 19th century, Manchester was home to the largest cotton mill in the world.

7. Laconia

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 266.9
  • Commute Time: 19.8 minutes
  • Income: $47,817
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 23.1%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 243 inhabitants

Laconia is situated between Lake Winnisquam and Lake Winnipesaukee, in New Hampshire's famed Lakes Region. The city's population is an even mix of families and retirees, drawn to the area's reasonably priced homes and high standard of living. In winter, visitors and residents alike hit the slopes at the Gunstock ski resort while the warmer summer weather brings out the boaters and swimmers.

Did You Know: The 1991 comedy film What About Bob? is set in a fictional town located near Lake Winnipesaukee.

6. Nashua

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 425.8
  • Commute Time: 25.2 minutes
  • Income: $65,671
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 35.9%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 404 inhabitants

While Nashua is second after Manchester for size , a lower crime rate and better median wages earned it a high place in our rankings. Located at the spot where the Nashua and Merrimack Rivers join, this city of nearly 87,000 people is one of southern New Hampshire's foremost commercial centers. If you're looking for a job in the healthcare, education or tech industries, Nashua's a smart choice.

Did You Know: Nashua is called "The Gate City" because of its relatively close proximity to the Boston metro area.

5. Concord

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 465.4
  • Commute Time: 22.3 minutes
  • Income: $53,567
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 35.1%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 333 inhabitants

New Hampshire's capital city offers the perfect blend of historic charm and modern convenience, something its nearly 43,000 residents greatly appreciate. Concord is both family and worker-friendly, with safe neighborhoods, generous incomes and an average commute of just over 22 minutes. The downtown area is a hotspot for locals, with an eclectic mix of shops, art galleries and restaurants like The Barley House.

Did You Know: Christa McAuliffe, the only civilian crew member aboard the ill-fated Challenger space shuttle, once taught social studies at Concord High School.

4. Keene

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 383.6
  • Commute Time: 16.3 minutes
  • Income: $50,530
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 37.6%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 323 inhabitants

Part of the Monadnock Region, the charming city of Keene is tucked away in New Hampshire's southwest corner. It has that quintessential college town feel, with Keene State College and Antioch University New England enrolling several thousand students each year. Families and retirees are attracted to the area's rural, folksy atmosphere and an average commute of 16.3 minutes makes it well suited for workers.

Did You Know: The centerpiece of the annual Keene Pumpkin Festival is the jack-o-lantern display, which features tens of thousands of locally grown pumpkins.

3. Dover

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 839.6
  • Commute Time: 23.3 minutes
  • Income: $55,890
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 37.1%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 398 inhabitants

Dover sits just north of Great Bay, roughly halfway between Rochester and Portsmouth. An excellent violent crime rate accounts for the city's higher ranking and contributes to the overall quality of life enjoyed by residents. Manufacturing and industry power the local market, but there's also a vibrant small business community that's welcoming to entrepreneurs. If you want to grab a bite, Newick's Lobster House is one of the best places in town to fill up on traditional New England fare.

Did You Know: According to local historians, Dover is the seventh oldest city in the U.S.

2. Lebanon

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 337.1
  • Commute Time: 15.6 minutes
  • Income: $54,628
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 45.5%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 293 inhabitants

Lebanon lies along the Connecticut River, adjacent to the New Hampshire-Vermont border. Housing prices are much lower compared to nearby Hanover, which is a plus for Dartmouth students who are looking to save money on rent. Lebanon's workers have one of the shortest average commutes, at just 15.6 minutes, and they also bring home a pretty decent paycheck.

Did You Know: The Lebanon Opera House is the largest proscenium theater in the Upper Connecticut River Valley.

1. Portsmouth

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 614.4
  • Commute Time: 19.7 minutes
  • Income: $65,347
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 49.1%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 153 inhabitants

Portsmouth is situated on New Hampshire's eastern coast along the Piscataqua River, just across the water from Maine. Home to more than 21,000 residents, the city earns the top spot in our rankings because of its higher median pay, short commute time and the rarity of violent crime. Historic attractions, top-rated shopping and more than 140 restaurants also add to Portsmouth's appeal.

Did You Know: The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard was the first of its kind to be established in the country.

From quaint small towns like Berlin to the bustling metropolis of Manchester, New Hampshire is nothing if not diverse. Finding a city that suits your lifestyle can be challenging when there are so many unique places to choose from. If a move is in your future, we think you'll be more than happy with any of the 10 cities we've chosen for our study.

Data Sources:

  • U.S. Census Bureau, Population Estimates
  • FBI, Uniform Crime Reports
  • U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey
  • U.S. Census Bureau, Economic Census

The Top 10 Cities to Live in New Hampshire

RankCityViolent Crime OddsAverage Commute TimeMedian Household Income% Bachelor's Degree or HigherPeople per Restaurants and Bars
1Portsmouth1 in 614.419.7$65,34749.1%152.7
2Lebanon1 in 337.115.6$54,62845.5%293.1
3Dover1 in 839.623.3$55,89037.1%397.6
4Keene1 in 383.616.3$50,53037.6%323.2
5Concord1 in 465.422.3$53,56735.1%333.0
6Nashua1 in 425.825.2$65,67135.9%404.3
7Laconia1 in 266.919.8$47,81723.1%243.3
8Manchester1 in 176.322.9$54,32026.6%399.3
9Berlin1 in 711.717$36,81111.4%649.5
10Rochester1 in 399.925$49,36619.4%505.5

Rebecca Lake is a journalist at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and reviews website. Write to Rebecca Lake at Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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