Cities Skylines Guide and Tips

Cities Skylines Guide

Cities Skylines is out today and although many of you will have watched numerous videos of the gameplay over the past few days I’ve put together this guide which should help you get off to a good start when it arrives on your PC.

Covered in this guide is everything from building placement/roads, zoning and zone density, utilities, industry, districts, transport, pollution and more. Read on…

The Start

When starting your city you need to find a balance between speed of zoning and cashflow.  Go too slow and progression will be snail pace. Go too fast and the chances are road networks will end up a bit of a mess. Keep your cool and enjoy it.

Use the game speed toggle to slow things down or even pause the game when you’re thinking about layouts. Speed the game up only when you are happy that the city can function and there are no impending issues that need to be dealt with.

Building Placement and Roads

When placing an important building such as a hospital, fire station or police station next to a single small two way road, remember that in the future you are likely to want to upgrade that road. You can’t upgrade a road if one of these types of structures are present. However, you can move the whole building for a fee. With that in mind, leave space next to or near the building so you can move it later prior to clicking the upgrade road button. One method is as follows:

  1. Upgrade the road section next to the building.
  2. Move the building from next to the small single road
  3. Upgrade the road where the building was.


Moving a building any distance will cost the same amount no matter where you move it to on the map.

Increase land value to boost happiness. Place parks and recreational buildings next to areas that need a boost. Again, check the sphere of influence of each of these buildings before placing them down.

Cemeteries are vital city service to remove the dead. They do however fill up. They can be emptied and bodies are moved to either another cemetery or a crematorium.

Landfill sites will also become full. These can be emptied and waste moved to another fill site or to an incinerator.

When emptying a landfill site or cemetery, it can take a long time so be careful where you place these. You may want to make use of the land they are on later for something else. They have to be completely emptied before you can remove them from their location. You can alternatively move these buildings as above.

Don’t forget you can elevate roads with PAGE-UP and PAGE-DOWN keys. This is really useful if you want to get traffic to the other side of highway without creating another junction which may have the potential to clog up with traffic.

Be creative! The freeform road tool is excellent. Sure a grid city is nice, but have some fun with the road network.


Zoning and Zone Density

Zoning is quite straightforward, select the zone type you want and paint the squares next to the road. Late in the game you can change zones to high density but you have de-zone selected zone first before applying the high density. You can’t simply apply a high density colour on top of a low density colour. De-zone it first.

When you de-zone an area, all the buildings on the zone will deconstruct and be lost. They will be replaced when a new zone type is applied.


Water and Electricity

Pay attention to your water pipe system. You want to supply water as cheaply as possible so cut down on the cost of laying pipes by checking their sphere of influence when placing. Run pipe in parallel with roads and assume you will create more roads adjacently so run pipes between the two parallel pipes for maximum coverage of an area.

Pylons are only used to transfer electricity over long distances or where buildings are not touching each other. You do not need to place pylons down to link up every building. As long as one building is powered, the buildings next to it and each other will also be powered.

Hydro dams are expensive to build but they are also quite expensive to run. If you do build one, keep an eye on how much money it’s sucking away from the balance. You can always turn it off from time to time if you have enough power from other sources.

Wind farms are great for clean energy but make sure you place then in area where there’s strong winds. Check the wind information overlay before placing wind farms down so they are placed in an optimal location.

Be very careful where you place dams. You can flood your city!


Industrial and Commercial Zones

Keep taxes as low as possible which will keep residents, commercial and industrial zones happy. If you do increase taxes, keep an eye on happiness levels, especially on industry.

Make sure industrial and commercial zones have enough workers. Keep an eye on the residential demand bar.

Make sure industrial  zones can be supplied with goods easily. This is achieved by good transport access to those zones. This can make or break your cashflow.

Excess goods manufactured in your city will be exported so make sure you’re industry is healthy to boost funds.

Fertile land industries give off no pollution and can import the resources required to function if none are available on the map.

Forestry industries utilse a renewable resource and give off a small amount of pollution.

Oil industries provide high tax but are emit high pollution and are electricity hungry.

Ore industries produce high ground pollution but less so than oil. They require more electricity than other industries.



Districts can be viewed as subsections of zones. These specialise in a particular industry and can also have their own policies. To get the most out of districts, place specific industry districts on top of a particular resource. This means that industries in this district can utilise the local natural resources.

Apply specific district policies to these districts to make them more efficient. Remember though, policies cost money to keep running.


When placing a sewage plant, make sure the output flows away from your water supply. Place it downstream and check the arrows on the water to see which way it is flowing. Don’t poison the people!

Noise pollution will affect residential zones so make sure inhabitants are not affected by this, keep them away from industrial areas.

Reduce noise pollution by placing trees and parks, placing roads with trees and placing Highways with sound barriers.

Wind farms also cause noise pollution and upset residents so keep them away from housing.

Nasty toxic pollution doesn’t travel by air in Cities: Skylines which is one less thing to worry about. It is only transferred to surrounding areas via the ground



Good traffic flow is essential so avoid four way junctions and traffic lights.

Use roundabouts to keep traffic flowing and you can always tweak the standard templates by adding or removing junctions on a roundabout with the road tools. The Steam Workshop also includes some pre-made junctions if you’re looking for something a little more elaborate.

Use one way streets when possible, it can stop traffic clogging. It’s not always easy to do this at the start but think about it later in the game by changing some of the roads.

Connect your cities to roads that were already on the map when you started the game. This can provide extra access and exit points to your city and improve traffic flow, especially into industrial zones where goods are imported an exported.

Industrial Zone


As a city get bigger public transport will be required. If you place a train station, metro or bus station make sure you have set a start and end point for the route. This can be a little fiddly but persevere and make sure it’s connected up so a route is formed.

For ferries and freight you need to make sure the water level next to the dock is high enough for a ship to dock. If the water level is too low no ships will turn up and the building will be a waste as far as I can tell.



Use the WASD hotkeys to move around, PAGE-UP/ PAGE-DOWN for elevating roads, B for bulldozing. it makes life to much easier and you can always tweak all the hotkeys via the game menu.

Master the hotkeys!

Mods and Maps

It’s a good idea to get the game basics down before experimenting with other people’s mods. Once you have mastered the game fundamentals try the mods to enhance the experience.

A mod definitely worth your while is the increase map size mod which will open up more than the nine squares available as standard on each map.

If Chirpy is getting annoying. Use this mod to remove him from your game.

Check the Steam Workshop for updates and look for new maps, buildings and game enhancements.

Don’t be scared to mess with mods.


Have fun and enjoy the game. If you have any further tips you want to share, you can post them in forum “share your tips thread” and I’ll make sure they come to everyone’s attention in future site updates.

Update: Part 2 of this guide has now been posted with more tips.

Tagged As: , | Categories: Featured, Guides


  • altoburgo

    PageUp PageDown? What about Mac users? Tks 🙂

    • Arazmus

      I have no idea for Mac, but I guess you can change it to whatever you want in the options.

      • altoburgo

        yeah I would think so, let’s see in 12 hours 🙂

        • Arazmus


    • Hogzor

      Throw it away and by a PC like a normal person who wants to play video games on a computer. 🙂

      • Hafgandil

        I guess my customised Mac is as powerful as a Mid-End PC (and better than a standard Apple). Got a i5 and a GTX 770 running in it. So, yeah…

    • DerFalscheHase

      You can change the key bindings in the game options.

    • http://www.nordwoelfe.eu/ Yan Paiha

      FN + Arrow Up/Down works for me 🙂

    • Jeongbun XVII

      tweak around hotkeys.

    • Hafgandil

      If you’ve got a MAC-Keyboard, there should be PageUp and PageDown Keys.

    • David Lippincott

      I changed it in my controls to “[” and “]”. Try it.

  • Gimmle

    when is the release??? I can’t wait to play this game!!! already have it on steam, ready to download….

    • Markus

      ME TOO ! cant wait

  • Kyle Carmean

    My coal keeps running out of my power plant. How am I supposed to get more coal?

    • EowynCarter

      I’m trying to figure out that as well !

      • Arazmus

        Check the resource overlay. Get an industrial zone set up over coal deposits otherwise it has to be imported which means you will need good connections to your coal plant to get the resources. I would set up a coal industrial specific district.

        Also use wind farms if you get stuck to keep you going.

        • Kyle Carmean

          You can’t unlock districts right away. I found that wind farms provide enough energy until you can make coal districts.

    • David Lippincott

      If you have the natural resource ore, you can set up an ore specialty and that will get coal for the plant. The same goes with oil specialty and the oil plant. If you don’t I would recommend having good highway connections, as the plant will try to import coal.

  • Colin Smith

    i keep running out of workers but they say they dont need any more residential but they want more industrial and commercial

    • Gimmle

      you need to make sure to put down schools, they are probably looking for educated workers.

    • David Lippincott

      Offices fulfill industrial needs, but need educated workers.

    • David Lippincott

      They also might not have good connections to your industrial and commercial areas if you keep getting the “not enough workers” icon.

  • Jonas rasmussen

    Ehm my industrial says too few services? 🙂

    • Marty_twsn

      Found out which service by any chance? I’m at a similair point.. I only have 1 lvl2 industrial building so far, but as a lot of them are about to level up I’m afraid they all require that service.

    • Snownova

      From my experience it doesn’t matter which services. Plop down a dozen fire stations and they’ll upgrade.

      Or more practical would be a couple of parks, subway stations, fire coverage and a crematorium. (darn those workplace accidents)

  • megan

    ummm i can barely play my game cause its so damn laggy

    • DecafTable

      It’s pretty CPU intensive. Do you meet the recommended specs?

    • webusermy

      Playing on your laptop? Make sure it’s using your dedicated graphics card and not the integrated Intel nonsense.

    • Master of Intelligence

      Laggy? I think you mean choppy. Lag is related to online latency. Your problem is clearly related to your computer lacking recommended specs for City Skylines. Time to upgrade.

    • Landstander

      I have a 3 year old gaming PC and I am shocked at how remarkably well this game runs. Perfectly smooth, even with 80k people and 8 plots purchased.

  • dumfuq

    Is it possible to run it smoothly? Lowering the settings doesn’t improve anything
    I5 1.8GHZ
    8gb ram
    24gb ssd
    enough space

    • Jeongbun XVII

      not sure about the processor, the rest is ok.

    • David Lippincott

      Your main problem is the processor. On the Steam page it says for it to run smoothly you need an Intel Core i5-3470, 3.2 GHz.
      Pretty much everything else is fine.

  • Jeongbun XVII

    it might be not really a big deal, and i don’t really meant want to be a Grammar nazi, but.

    -“Excess goods manufactured in your city will be exported so make sure you

  • David Lippincott

    I know that I do not have the recommended specs, but I’m wondering which part of my computer is causing biggest part of the problem.
    Macbook Air – mid 2012
    2 GHz Intel Core i7
    4 GB 1600 MHz DDR3
    Intel HD Graphics 4000 1024 MB

    • Gregory Kennedy

      It’s your integrated graphics, I heard that cities skylines requires a dedicated GPU to run. Maybe ram too? But that shouldn’t be the main problem