Living in Salem, Oregon (The Complete guide)

Living in Salem

If you’re the type of individual that prefers the hectic rush and suffocating density of mainstream metro cities, you can just move on to a city like Denver. Why? Because the city we’re going to be talking about today isn’t like those cities. There’s not much that immediately comes to mind when you think of Salem (for those who know it exists) and to some people, that’s a good thing. So what should you expect when living in Salem?

It’s not a very vibrant or hectic city, but it makes up for that with character and culture. As the capital of the most “wild-west” state, most people can think of, it’s not surprising that the people that decide on living in Salem have a strong attachment to their city and its history.

A Name that means Peace. Probably.

There are many speculations as to how the name that this city eventually settled on came about. One thing is for sure. The city lives up to its name, at least to the extent to which cities are safe and peaceful today.

PROS of living in Salem

1.      One of the biggest cities in Oregon

Salem is home to a growing population of 150,000 people. This makes it one of the most popular destinations for people hoping to live in Oregon, or even just to visit. If you have plans to take up residence in this quirky state, you might want to consider living in Salem.

2.      Job Opportunities

The city’s economy is rapidly recovering from the pandemic, with unemployment rates falling steadily in 2021. The most recent percentage of unemployed people in the city was placed at 4.6% in 2021 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is lower than the nationwide rate.

A lot of the employment opportunities in the city are provided by the government. However, that’s unsurprising when you remember that Salem is the capital city. You’d want to keep this in mind if your skills are applicable in an administrative setting.

3.      Beautiful Natural views

Untouched areas of nature are abundant within and around Salem. A division of the city’s community service department is responsible for maintaining a park system spanning almost 2000 acres. Open fields, gardens, and orchards are common in some parts of the city e.g. Bush’s Pasture Park.

Walking and biking trails are relatively abundant, providing an opportunity to soak in the natural charm of the area. Such simple but rare beauty might be a refreshing departure from the grayscale of the dull urban areas many people call home.

4.      The Cheesiest… cheese?

Williamette Valley Cheese Company in Salem makes some of the highest quality cheese in the country. Whether it’s Gouda, Cheddar, or Mozzarella, you can’t go wrong with Williamette cheese.

The family-like business focuses on natural practices and environmental sustainability, with their cows living free and happy on a farm, producing high-quality dairy. This sort of respect for tradition is a hallmark of many parts of Salem, as well as some of the companies that do business there.

5.      Salem Wine Trail

Made up of about a dozen major stops, this is one of the most popular destinations for people in Salem. Great wine and scenic views are all some people need for a perfect afternoon. Honeywood Winery, the oldest producing Winery within the state is on this trail.

You’ll get to see the wine in all stages throughout its life, from the grapes hanging from the vines to the wine that makes its way into your glass, while learning a lot about what it takes to make each bottle. You’ll probably try more wines than you can remember though!

Ciders are popular too. Maybe get a bottle to go.

6.      The Grand Hotel

So far, some of what we’ve mentioned sounds like the itinerary for a romantic getaway. If that was the case, The Grand Hotel would be the main stop; probably, the best place to spend the night in the city. The hotel arranges several packages for its residents, depending on their situation.

If a romantic getaway IS what you’re planning, then you’d want to go with the Grand Romance package. Overnight accommodation for two, complete with champagne, flowers, complimentary breakfast, and late checkout, in case you just so happen to stay up late.

For others living in Salem, the Grand Hotel is a great way to relax and spend time off.

7.      The Williamette Region

The valley is a 150-mile area that cuts across some of the most populated areas of Oregon. The Williamette River flows throughout the entire length and provides one of the places to visit most peculiar to Oregon.

CONS of living in Salem

As far as small cozy cities go, Salem is a great choice of residence. But it isn’t without its downsides. First and most noticeably;

·        It’s a small, cozy city.

You can’t get around it at the end of the day. There’s only so much to see or do in Salem. That small city charm that some people love so much is a deal-breaker for others. For those who can’t do without a bustling nightlife, you might want to find somewhere else.

The city is growing no doubt, after all, it is the state capital. But it’s still a far cry away from your typical metro area. This might mean less traffic and fewer queues but some people would rather have those.

·        Relatively high housing costs

According to Best Places, house prices in Salem have been rising for the last 10 years, up by 114% to be exact. Houses in the city cost around $350,000, higher than the nationwide average of just over $290,000. Property taxes are high too.

This is good news (except for the taxes, of course) if you’ve owned a home in Salem since 2010, not so good if you’re just relocating and looking for a place to stay or a home to buy.

·        This small city is growing.

If you’ve made it this far down this guide, you might just fancy the idea of a simple, small-town life. Well, times are changing, and Salem is too. The population of the city is growing. That probably means even higher house prices. It also means more things to do as time goes on, but also more hustle and bustle.

If you’re planning to live in Salem only because of its small-town reputation, you might end up surprised when you eventually visit.

That’s why we encourage focusing on the important stuff, living standards and jobs for example. Speaking of which, it’s time to discuss how much living in the capital city of Oregon would cost.

Cost of Living in Salem


The relatively high house prices in Salem don’t extremely raise the rent in the city, although it is more expensive in Salem than in other similarly placed cities. The rent prices are doable. According to Numbeo, a one-bedroom apartment outside the city center costs just over $900 a month.

A similar apartment within the city center isn’t too far from that, $1070 to be precise. A family that needs a 3 bedroom apartment would have to pay about $1600 outside the city center and a little over $1900 for a place to stay within the city center.


There’s not much to worry about in this department. The city has adequate public transport provisions, nothing over the top. There’s an Amtrak train station in the city. However, buses are the main form of transportation within the city. Cherriots, as they’re called, serve the majority of the city’s needs.

A one-way Cherriot ticket costs about $1.60 and a day pass will set you back about $3.25. A monthly pass goes for $45, but if you’re going to be living in Salem, you might want to consider the annual pass that costs $540. There are reduced prices for young people if that applies.

If you’d rather drive around, a liter of gasoline costs 71 cents.


Costs about $389 for a Western-style food basket. For an Asian-style grocery list, the price tag drops to about $302. For a detailed list of what all that money will get you, click here.


Electricity, heating, cooling, water, and garbage disposal all combine at a price of about $215. An adequate internet connection goes for just under $80, while 1 minute of prepaid mobile access is set at about 23 cents.

How much would you need to live in Salem?

A single person living in Salem would be fine with about $2500, and will probably even have a little extra. A family of four, on the other hand, would need about $6000.

Places to visit while in Salem

The Williamette River

Enjoy a Sunday brunch with picture-worthy views on a riverboat called the Williamette Queen. The staff is courteous, there’s nice music, and the food is great.

Salem Carousel

It’s a very important part of the city’s heritage, one that brings residents of the city together. It’s not just about the wooden horses and distinct music. Salem Corousel is something more than that.

Salem’s Art Fair and Festival

It’s a festival. Who wants to miss a festival?

Living in Salem is surely going to be quite the experience. So check it out if it meets your preferences.