What should I do first in Cities Skylines?

This article is for beginners to show you what to do first in Cities Skylines. And what to do when you start this checklist I play every time when I play. In the end, I have 3 000 $ per week in + so I could easily expand.

After this article I’ve recommended reading these two articles How to make money in Cities Skylines and How do I win Cities Skylines? which will help you with playing.

0. Start on the “easy” map

Before your first play, you need to select a good map. From my perspective, the best are flat maps (maps without mountains or rugged terrain) because you have enough place to build everything. The second thing which I recommend is a map with rivers so you could deal with sewage (it just flows…)

There is the list with flat maps which are available for all:

  • Grand River
  • Green Plains
  • Riverrun
  • Two Rivers

On these maps you don’t need to make compromises – you could build. After some plays on an easy map, you could select some challenging maps which are more complex because you will know what happen and when.

🪄 If you are a beginner chose easy maps – it will help you. 🪄

1. Plan how your city will grow

When you start you have just 60 000 ₡ and you must spend them in the right way. Before you start building roads, infrastructure and zones you need to plan how your city will grow.

I think that the best concept builds is separate industrial zones and the rest of the city. So you will have two parts one is industrial and the second is residential and commercial. Why do I separate them? It’s because industrial in the early game generates a lot of pollution and my citizens don’t want live near pollution because they will be sick and I will have a lot of expenses on healthcare.

So my typical city when I start looking like this picture…

Two separated parts of the city.

… this is my “test city” I will show all screens in this article from this city so you could see how I expanded. As you see I separated industrial and rest and the second thing which I do is centralize commercial zones to the main road.

✅ Planning your city and separate zones is a good thing to start – make this! ✅

2. Build electricity and power

After planning the core of your city you need to prepare the main services. In Cities Skylines are two 🚰 water and 💡 electricity this two you must provide to your citizens otherwise they will leave the city. If you have a map of the river the water is easy.

You need to build a water pump station that guarantees clear water from the river to your citizens and sewage discharge. When you build these two you must be sure you’re building downstream. So sewage water doesn’t be pumped to citizens.

On my map, I build water buildings like this…

… first is the pump and downstream is sewage discharge. These two buildings must be connected by a pipe and after that, you need to connect the pipes to the city.

The second thing that you need to build is power plants. For start, I’ve to build wind turbine which cost just 6 000 ₡ and provides us 8 MW if you place this turbine to a good place. In the picture below, you could see that I build this turbine near the water pump and I connect sewage with power lines…

… after connecting this critical infrastructure I’ve connected a wind turbine with the city. You could build a tower but you need sewage in every case so I build this critical infrastructure at once. When you have DLC you could build a water treatment plant but this isn’t in the vanilla game.

✅ Critical infrastructure first because you will need money ✅

>> More information about power in Cities Skylines <<

3. Make roads

When you have plans and critical infrastructure you could build roads. From the highway, I build a 6-lane road which I call “highway” (green at image) from this road I build 4-lane roads which I call “main” (pink at image), and from this 4-lane road I build 2-lane roads which I call “last mile” (blue at image).

One of my starting template you could see at this picture:

This template is enough for the future growth of the city and I will have good traffic flow. There are main goals of every specific road:

  • “highway” goal is to connect main roads faster
  • “main” goal is to connect the highway and the last mile
  • “last mile” goal is to connect residential/industrial zones with other parts of the city

But for the first, this screenshot is when my city has 260 citizens (now I think that you don’t have enough people and money) so I have it there for you to give you an idea of what I mean.

✅ Build roads systematically from the start ✅

4. First zones

As I have shown in the chapter above. I separate the city into two parts and near “main” roads I’ve to build commercial zones. For the start, I build the “main” road and in the first 4 squares I build commercial zones and after that, I build the “last mile” where I build residential zones.

When you start you need just these two zones. There is mine city in the first minutes when I have some basic roads and basic zones. You could see that the first zones where my citizen building is residential. After that, they will build some commercial and after that, they will need industrial buildings.

My first zones in Cities Skylines

At the start, you could build just these “basic” roads. But in the late game (when your city grows) you will have to build roads with trees. These roads are more expensive and they have bigger unkept but they will reduce noise polution.

✅ Comercial near main roads, residential near last mile ✅

5. Build build build

Now when you have basic we are in part when we will need to build, build, build. In Cities Skylines are three bars these bars show you how big is demand from your citizens on specific zones type. I’ve shown you where these “magic bars” are in this screenshot:

The game will show you what you need to build. I didn’t see zero in all of these bars. So every time is there anything to build. Now you must build to increase citizens to open milestones.

In Cities Skylines are 13 milestones and every unlocks more and more buildings, and services, so you must expand with your city. And you no need to try hard instead be creative.

✅ Watch demand on zones and be creative! ✅

6. Set taxes to 13%

When your city grows to a population of 420 you will get the option to set up taxes. You want to set this to 13% because this is the best setting…

… you get a lot of money and people won’t be afraid of you. If you set more than 13% you will have problems with your citizens because they won’t be happy that you want too much money.

This isn’t a long-term change at the end of this tutorial we will be lowering taxes to 10%. So that you will have wiggle room where you can go when you are low on cash. That way you’ll be well taken care of and always have an insurance policy.

✅ Taxes on 13% are goods but not longterm ✅

>> More information about how to make money in Cities Skylines <<

8. Build landfill site

After setting taxes up and playing some time you will have first problems with garbage. You could deal with this when your city makes the 420 milestone and garbage opens but you could wait.

You must build this building when you see on your residential buildings this icon. That means that the building has a lot of garbage but don’t be afraid this isn’t as bad as if the icon was red…

… so when you see this icon you must build a landfill site. The best place where to build is the industrial zone because landfill sites produce pollution. And you need good transport accessibility because you will get 15 garbage trucks.

✅ When you have problems with garbage deal with it ✅

7. Elementary school, hospital, and fire station

When you have garbage service there is the next step. You must build education – in Cities Skylines are four classes of education which are “uneducated”, “educated”, “well educated” and “high educated”. Every building needs some people from every class.

But be aware, when you build services you must think about when you build them. You want to build services on the main road (in this screen orange) because they can support more buildings. In the picture below you could see where I build the elementary school and hospital…

… you should see that I build them on the main road in the middle of residential distinct. But you could see that the fire station I build was much closer to industrial distinct because there is a bigger chance of fire than injury.

✅ Centralize services on main roads ✅

8. What does your citizen need?

That’s a good question. Now you have everything information but you must care about your citizens. You must discover what to do when there will show up some icons like in step 8. The second thing that you need to watch is this…

… there you could see what your citizen needs. When you point to the first “green” block of scale I see that my citizens need more education to create bigger and wealthier buildings. If you do not do this there is a risk that the residents will leave you and the houses will be abandoned.

✅ Watch what your citizens needs ✅

9. Double your zones

Now when you know what your citizens need and you build all basics. Is there the next challenge to double your zones for expanding your city. As you see I’ve to build a fire station and hospital on the second “main road” from this road you want to expand now.

In the image below, you could see how I double mine town…

… you should see that I’ve followed my rules. Near main streets are commercial zones and between them are residential zone. After this, my town will grow up but the important thing here is that my citizens have space for it and I get to watch them do it for a while.

✅ When you have time expand! ✅

10. Police station

When you have a bigger population => bigger problems with crime. When you created doubled zones is time to build a police station. I’ve recommended build between the hospital and fire station because you need police in the middle of your town and they would come to the industrial zone.

11. Build parks

After all, I must say that we don’t build one important thing and that’s parks and unique buildings. You want to build them for the entertainment and satisfaction of your citizens. Parks aren’t just for citizens they are good for your city treasury because they increase the value of houses and if houses are more valuable, you collect more in taxes.

✅ Parks are best to gain more money from your citizens. ✅

12. Problems with electricity

After parks, you will have problems with electricity. Now you build the coal power plant. It cost more than a wind turbine but in longterm are cheaper. When you could it’s better to build a solar power plant because this doesn’t make pollution.

Or when your city grows to 10 000 citizens you could build a garbage incinerator which makes some electricity. But in my experience, it doesn’t provide enough electricity to power the entire city.

✅ For the start use turbines, after that coal, and in the last solar! ✅

13. Lower taxes to 10%

Now you have everything from basics done. Now you could lower taxes to 10% as I wrote above. Will come a time when you will have problems with the city budget and you will search for more money. And then came your time to set taxes to 13%.

And what to do now?

There is an article about the goals of Cities Skylines and let’s play!

I'm Martin, the main creator of this site. I love city builders, transport, and war strategy games. So I create this site to share my love with others! Let's make Tycoon games great again!