What Are The Best UK Cities To Live In?

What Are The Best UK Cities To Live In?

The UK is known for its fabulous cities. From historical cities like Oxford and Cambridge to up-and-coming culture hotspots like Coventry and Bradford, there’s so much choice when it comes to finding the best cities to live in the UK.

Whether you’re a potential student looking for your university city, or you’re moving to the UK from another country, you’ll want to find the right UK city for you.

In this article, we’ll explore the top ten UK cities to live in, based on key liveability criteria.

What makes a good city to live in?

When deciding which UK city to live in, you need to consider what’s most important to you from your adopted hometown. The following criteria may feature in your list of must-haves:

  • Population and community — Knowing other people from your community or background may be a key factor in deciding which UK city to live in.
  • Affordability — Certain cities, such as London, have a higher cost of living than others.
  • Housing — Housing availability and affordability may have an impact on where you choose to live.
  • Job opportunities — Smaller cities may have fewer job opportunities in your chosen sector than larger cities, though some specialise in certain industries.
  • Public transport — If you don’t drive, walkability and public transport links may be essential for getting around.
  • Schools and universities — Whether you’re looking for your own university town or schools for your kids, it’s important to consider education opportunities in the area.
  • Safety — Crime rates and health services are often important considerations for choosing the best UK cities to live in.
  • Things to do — If your hobbies and interests play an important role in your life, it’s important to find a city with the right facilities and locations.

Top ten best cities to live in the UK

Considering the criteria above, here’s our list of the top ten best cities to live in the UK.

1. London

Great for: Community, job opportunities, public transport, things to do
Downsides: High cost of living

As the UK’s capital, London is one of the most desirable cities to live in the UK. This sprawling multicultural metropolis consists of dozens of neighbourhoods, so it’s a great place to find a community you relate and belong to.

While London has the highest cost of living in the UK, this may be balanced out by its ample job market, excellent public transport links, and range of education opportunities. Jobs in London are often better paid than elsewhere in the country to account for higher costs — learn more about minimum wage vs living wage.

Plus, London has something for everyone. Into history? Head to the huge range of free museums. Love sports? London is littered with famous football and cricket grounds. Looking for live music? From Camden’s Roundhouse to Brixton Academy, see all your favourite bands live.

2. Manchester

Great for: Affordability, community, public transport
Downsides: Less safe than other cities

One of the largest UK cities outside London, Manchester is also home to dozens of different communities. Manchester is home to one of the largest Asian communities in the UK, making this a particularly popular destination for multigenerational Asian people from the UK and abroad.

It’s cheaper to live in Manchester than London, but recent renovations and gentrification around the city have made certain areas more expensive. Buying a home is generally more affordable in outer suburbs like Tameside, Bury, and Oldham.

Manchester is famous for its music scene, world-class football, and fantastic nightlife. That’s why it’s one of the UK’s most popular student cities. However, it has higher crime rates than some other cities, so if you’re safety-conscious, you’ll need to weigh up the pros and cons of moving to Manchester.

3. Brighton and Hove

Great for: Location, LGBT+ friendly, safety
Downsides: Expensive, limited diversity

Based on the south coast of England, Brighton is just an hour from London on the train. So it’s a popular destination for those who want to reap London job opportunities and salary, without the hustle, bustle, and expense of living in the capital.

That’s not to say Brighton is cheap. It’s still much more expensive than many northern cities: rents are currently 27% higher in Brighton than in Manchester.

However, Brighton is among the safest cities in the UK. It’s also known as the LGBT+ capital of the UK, so many gay, lesbian, non-binary and trans people settle in Brighton, and you’ll see this influence throughout the city.

4. Birmingham

Great for: Community, affordability, location, public transport
Downsides: Less safe than other cities

Like Manchester and London, Birmingham has a hugely multicultural population. As the UK’s second largest city, Birmingham attracts expats, students, and citizens from all over the world, making it one of the most diverse cities in Europe.

Located in the heart of England, it’s easy to reach many other cities from Birmingham. So if you have family and friends in other parts of the UK, you’ll easily be able to travel by train in the UK and visit them. Additionally, Birmingham is a more affordable city to live in than others, particularly in the south of England.

Birmingham has higher crime rates than many other UK cities, which may deter those who are worried about safety. But its great shopping, multicultural identity, and diverse range of attractions can still make this city an attractive prospect.

5. Liverpool

Great for: Things to do, affordability, public transport, housing
Downsides: Location

Liverpool is a great moving destination for first-time home buyers. With lower than average house prices, you may find you can get more for your money in Liverpool than in many other cities, especially in the south of England.

Like many UK cities, Liverpool has a unique identity (and a distinctive accent to match). The birthplace of the Beatles is now famous for its thriving arts scene, historic docks, and Premier League football teams. So there’s plenty to do, no matter what you’re into.

Liverpool’s unique harbourside location can make it tricky to travel directly to other cities outside the north west. However, if you’re based in Manchester or Chester and don’t want to travel too far afield, Liverpool may be the perfect UK city to move to.

6. Cardiff

Great for: Affordability, housing, job opportunities
Downsides: Community

The Welsh capital of Cardiff is one of the cheaper southern UK cities to live in. Rent prices are almost 60% lower than London, and 27% lower than Bristol, which is just over the River Severn (about 45 minutes by train).

Its low cost of living is one of the reasons Cardiff is a popular student city. But this also makes it attractive for non-students. In addition, Cardiff is often cited as one of the UK’s best emerging cities for jobs, with creative industries, manufacturing, and financial services some of the biggest growing sectors.

That said, Cardiff isn’t the most diverse city on this list. So if community is important to you, you might prefer a larger city with a greater emphasis on multiculturalism.

7. Edinburgh

Great for: Things to do, safety
Downsides: Limited diversity

The Scottish capital, Edinburgh, is one of the most beautiful and historic UK cities. One of the UK’s most popular tourist destinations thanks to its huge range of attractions and activities (including the annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival), this also makes Edinburgh a very desirable place to live.

Edinburgh is less diverse than other large UK cities, including London, Manchester, and Birmingham. It’s also slightly less diverse than Glasgow, the other Scottish city to make our list.

However, Edinburgh’s multicultural shortfall may be balanced by its high safety profile. Crime rates tend to be lower than other UK cities.

8. Bristol

Great for: Things to do, safety
Downsides: Expensive, limited diversity

The harbour city of Bristol is one of the most popular cities to live in southern England. The only major metropolitan area in the south west, it has relatively high house prices, and a lack of diversity among its residents.

However, Bristol is a hive of activity, and is home to plenty of great schools and colleges. It’s also known as one of the safer UK cities. So if you’re looking for a safe city with lots to do — and money is no object — Bristol is one of the best cities to live in the UK.

9. Nottingham

Great for: Community, location, public transport
Downsides: Job opportunities

Often overlooked as a city to move to, Nottingham makes our list for a few reasons. It’s a multicultural city, with greater diversity than Edinburgh and Bristol (though less than London and Birmingham). But the welcoming locals make Nottingham a super friendly city for people from all backgrounds.

Plus, with good transport links around the country, it’s easy to get to other cities including London (1.5 hrs by train), Leicester (30 minutes), and Sheffield (50 minutes) from Nottingham.

That means that, while job opportunities in niche industries might be rarer than in larger cities, it’s possible to commute from Nottingham to other parts of the country.

10. Glasgow

Great for: Community, affordability
Downsides: Location, less safe than other cities

Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland. With a modern vibe, more diversity, and cheaper housing than neighbouring Edinburgh, it’s a popular destination for those in rural Scotland, as well as people from elsewhere in the UK and around the world.

Glasgow has good transport links to other parts of Scotland and many northern English cities, as well as the beautiful Scottish countryside. However, its location means it can take a few hours to travel to other major cities, which may be a downside if you have family or friends elsewhere in the UK.

Glasgow is known as one of the world’s friendliest cities. But some areas have higher crime rates than others, so do your research before choosing an area to move to. It’s also known for its strong local accent, so brace yourself if you’re not a UK native.

10 things to know before moving to the UK

Considering moving to the UK? There’s a lot to learn before you make the move. Here are ten things you should know before moving to the UK.

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