Lake Mendota and Lake Monona, along with the downtown Madison Isthmus and Wisconsin State Capitol, are pictured in an early morning aerial taken from a helicopter on Oct. 23, 2018.

Life in Madison


As a Graduate Student at UW, you have the choice to live on or off campus. On campus housing options include Eagle Heights and University Houses, located west of campus on the shores of Lake Mendota. You can also live in Harvey Street Apartments southeast of Eagle Heights just off University Avenue. 

Your off-campus housing options are expansive; we recommend starting your search by learning about several of the neighborhoods below. Check out Campus Area Housing for apartment listings near campus. If you are interested in living in a co-op, check out Madison Community Cooperative.

Human Development & Family Studies PhD student, Aosai Liu, was kind enough to share the housing spreadsheet she used to organize her apartment search. Feel free to make a copy of it and use it for your own purposes as you explore your options.


Searching for housing near campus? Unfamiliar with the Madison area? Check out the briefs below as a starting point for considering where you may want to live.

Note: This is not an exhaustive list of neighborhoods in Madison. We have included neighborhoods that have historically been popular among graduate students and are within biking/walking/bussing distance to campus.

Map of Madison isthmus with featured neighborhoods circled in red

South & West of Campus

The neighborhoods south and west of campus generally have a quieter and more suburban feel due to their distance from downtown. But don’t mistake quiet for boring, as there is a lot to do and love about the West Side!

The Eagle Heights Community Center is pictured at the center of the Eagle Heights residential area in an aerial view of the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus during autumn on Oct. 9, 2013. The photograph was made from a helicopter looking south. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

Things to Do

  • Walk, run, or bike around the Arboretum
  • Rent a paddleboard or kayak on Lake Wingra or Lake Mendota
  • Hang out at Leopold’s Cafe or Pasture & Plenty 
  • Go to a football game at Camp Randall
  • Go to the Henry Vilas Zoo (admission is free!)
  • Window shop on Monroe Street 

Eagle Heights

Eagle Heights is a UW-owned graduate student housing community located west of the UW campus and along Lake Mendota. Eagle Heights features the largest community garden in the country, various playgrounds and picnic areas, and a community center.


  • Affordable
  • Kid-friendly 
  • Great amenities
  • Surrounded by nature


  • Not close to downtown
  • Approximately a 25 minute walk to nearby grocery stores, restaurants, and cafes (easier bike and bus accessibility) 

Greenbush & Vilas

The Greenbush and Vilas neighborhoods, located directly south of campus, are popular areas for UW undergraduate off-campus housing. It’s close to Camp Randall and features a lively bar and cafe scene as well as the beloved Greenbush Bakery. 


  • Walking distance to UW campus
  • Walking distance to Trader Joe’s and Metro Market grocery stores
  • Walking distance to cafes, restaurants, and bars
  • Near Arboretum, Lake Wingra, and Monona Bay


  • Regent street bars can get loud
  • Significant crowds on football gamedays due to proximity to Camp Randall

Grocery Stores

  • Trader Joe’s
  • Metro Market
  • Metcalfe’s Market
  • Fresh Madison Market
  • Regent Market Co-op
  • Lee’s Oriental LLC
  • Russian Market Madison, WI
  • Whole Foods Market
  • Pick ‘n’ Safe


The Dudgeon-Monroe neighborhood is a favorite location among UW and Edgewood College professors, giving the neighborhood a family-friendly and quaint feeling. This neighborhood shares Camp Randall with the Regent neighborhood, borders the UW Arboretum and Lake Wingra, and is home to the Henry Vilas Zoo.


  • Close to campus
  • Variety of restaurants and bars 
  • Arboretum and Lake Wingra nearby and easily accessible
  • Family-friendly 
  • Easy access to public transportation
  • Walking distance to Trader Joe’s grocery store


  • Farther from downtown (approximately 2-3 miles)
  • Significant crowds on football gamedays due to proximity to Camp Randall


The Regent neighborhood stretches along the south side of University Avenue. This residential neighborhood is quiet and family-friendly while maintaining the convenience of being close to campus and featuring the charming old University Avenue.


  • Quiet and family-friendly
  • Close to campus


  • Less walkable than other neighborhoods near campus

East of Campus

Neighborhoods east of campus are closer to downtown and thus tend to have a more bustling feel. These dynamic areas of town have a lot to offer!

Golden tree foliage frames a view of the Wisconsin State Capitol near as people shop for produce and other offerings while walking around the Dane County Farmers’ Market in downtown Madison, Wis., on during a mild autumn morning on Oct. 25, 2014. The weekly market is a favorite of many from the University of Wisconsin-Madison community. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

Things to Do:

  • Window shop on State Street
  • Wander through the many free museums downtown, including the Museum of Contemporary Art and Wisconsin State Historical Museum
  • Enjoy the serenity of Olbrich Botanical Gardens
  • See a show at the Majestic, Sylvee, or the Barrymore


The State-Langdon neighborhood is sandwiched between campus and downtown and is thus a very popular neighborhood for UW students. This neighborhood features State Street, a pedestrian road that stretches from the eastern edge of the UW campus to the Capitol building. This area is full of bars, restaurants, cafes, shops, and other entertainment, making it a lively part of the city to live in.


  • Very walkable and bike-friendly
  • Plentiful food and entertainment


  • This is a popular area for visitors to meander, so be ready for crowds on gamedays and during other events.


The Tenney-Lapham neighborhood is situated on the East Side along the shore of Lake Mendota. It’s an up-and-coming residential neighborhood featuring the picturesque Tenney Park, which is lush in the warm months and becomes a skating rink during the cold months.


  • Lake Views
  • Great restaurants, cafes, and shops within walking distance
  • Walking distance to Festival Foods and Willy Street Co-Op grocery stores
  • Features Breese-Stevens Field, a venue for the Madison Forward professional soccer team and numerous community events during the warm months


  • Johnson Street, Gorham, and East Washington Ave are all large thru-ways, so those who live directly on these streets should be prepared for some traffic noise 

Grocery Stores:

  • Willy Street Co-op
  • Fresh Madison Market
  • Jenifer Street Market
  • Asian Midway Foods
  • Festival Foods
  • Capitol Center Market
  • Oriental Shop
  • Pick ‘n’ Save


The downtown area is constantly humming with activity. Every Saturday from April through November, the Square hosts the country’s largest vendors-only farmer’s market. Every Wednesday during the summer, the Madison Symphony Orchestra performs Concerts on the Square, and each year local artists take over the space for an entire weekend for Art Fair on the Square. Beyond events, the downtown area is home to a wide array of bars and restaurants, cafes, shops, live music venues, and museums.


  • Easily walkable
  • Central location


  • Generally more expensive 
  • No large grocery stores in walking distance (Capitol Center Market has a large selection but is comparatively expensive)

Willy Street

The Willy Street neighborhood has long been known as the hippie haven of Madison. It’s lively, artsy, eco-friendly, and home to some of the best restaurants in the city.


  • Close to downtown and Lake Monona
  • Great and diverse food scene
  • Walkable and historic area
  • Walking distance to Willy Street Co-op grocery store


  • Farther from campus (need to bus or bike)


The Atwood neighborhood on the East Side of Madison is known for its funky vibe, great food, and entertainment. 


  • Walkable area
  • Close to Lake Monona
  • Great restaurants


  • Not within walking distance of UW campus
  • No large grocery stores in walking distance (Woodman’s and Willy Street Co-op within biking and bussing distance)

Interactive Map

This map was created by Mallory VanMeeter (CSCR) and the SoHE GSO. It has been shared with their permission.


Pedestrians walk across an intersection along University Avenue against a backdrop of car lights and rush-hour traffic traveling through the heart of the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus at nightfall on Nov. 14, 2012. In the background at left is a Madison Metro bus. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)


Madison’s bus system is well built-out and reliable. All UW students receive bus passes at no additional cost to them (the cost of these passes are covered by segregated fees each semester). 


Madison frequently ranks among the top ten most bike-friendly cities in the country. Many UW students, faculty, and staff rely on their bike to get them to campus 365 days a year, rain, snow, or shine.


The vast majority of UW students walk to campus. Most neighborhoods surrounding campus are very pedestrian friendly.


While you can choose to drive to campus, parking can be challenging and expensive. See here for more parking information.