The Best Cities to Live in the UK... Other than London
The Best UK Cities to Live in Right Now that aren’t London
When you think about living a big city life your mind will probably be going straight to the likes of New York, Chicago, Melbourne, Sidney and the UK’s very own London. Right now, you have or are about to finish up University and are starting to think about where you want to live soon and some of you may be considering moving to a big city and living the city life you have always dreamed of. Moving to a city centre can be a thrilling and transformative experience. City centres are bustling hubs of culture, commerce, and community, offering a unique lifestyle that combines convenience, excitement, and accessibility. There are many advantages to living in a city centre. To name a few;
Proximity to everything. - You can sell your car because one of the primary advantages of living in a city centre is that almost everything you could need is close by. You’ll find restaurants, shops, theatres, museums, parks, gyms, schools and more all either within walking distance or a short public transportation trip away. This would make your daily life very convenient. Forgot to buy eggs? No problem, the shop is 2 minutes away!
Cultural Enrichment - City centres are often cultural hotspots, brimming with museums, galleries, theatres and music venues. Your options for a cultural, entertaining and enriching afternoon are few and far between. Prices can vary within these industries as well, some tickets can be very expensive but if you look hard enough you’ll find free or low-cost events all over your city.
Career Opportunities - Many city centres are home to a concentration of businesses, including major corporations, startups and creative agencies. This can open up a world of job opportunities, particularly in industries like finance, technology and media. Even nowadays with a lot of companies offering hybrid working, it’s still preferable that you can commute to an office location. The world is your oyster for career options in the city centre.
Diverse Dining Options - Foodies will delight in the abundance of dining options available in city centres. From street food vendors to Michelin-starred restaurants, city living offers a culinary adventure for all tastes and budgets. We recommend that you try out as many independent options as you can, don’t just flock to the chain restaurants that you can get anywhere!
Public Transportation - City centres usually have excellent transportation networks, reducing the need for a car. This can lead to significant savings on transportation costs and a reduced carbon footprint. You could also always take it up a notch and get a bike!
Things to Do, People to Meet - If you are someone who considers themselves an extrovert then living in a city centre is definitely for you. In the city centre, you will never find yourself bored or having run out of options for things to do in your spare time. You will be sure to come across new hobbies, social groups and friends, activities and other various ways to kill time. Gone are the days of bingeing Netflix on your sofa!
By now, maybe we have convinced you that moving to a city centre is right up your alley. Your immediate choice would probably be London, for obvious reasons. In this article, we’ll be exploring other city centre options in the UK that, in some aspects, are just as good, if not better.
Is London worth it?
A very common misconception is that London is the be-all and end-all when it comes to city centre living in the UK. This is not the case. Living in London has a lot of attractive qualities. It is a huge hub for endless career possibilities, it’s the home to the nation's Crown, and it’s got thriving communities with never-ending restaurants, bars and activities. But it is also one of the most expensive places to live not just in the UK but in the world. With rental prices skyrocketing in the last few years, on average for a one-bedroom apartment, you can expect to pay somewhere in the region of £1500-3000 a month. Before bills. Did we mention you would have to fight off a sea of other applicants to even potentially secure a viewing? So is London worth it? That’s only something you can decide depending on your financial situation and what kind of living experience you’re after.
What other cities should I consider living in?
If you’re thinking that London is perhaps a little bit out of your price range or even a little too far from wherever you call home then don’t worry, we got you covered. In no particular order, here is a list of our top picks for cities in the UK you should consider moving to;
Manchester is the heart of North West England and is known for its industrial heritage, incredible shopping district, popular music scene, two huge football clubs and its infamous worker bee mascot. Manchester borders the picturesque Peak District so if you are ever feeling slightly claustrophobic in the centre you can easily get a train out for some countryside walks.
Average Monthly Net Salary (after tax): £2230.99 Average Rent Cost (1-bed apartment): £1007.66
Leeds is the unofficial capital of Yorkshire, boasting an array of shops, restaurants, nightlife spots and more, so you won't find yourself bored. Statistically one of the cheaper options for city centre living and supposedly home to the friendliest people. Surrounded by beautiful countryside, once again you are only a short journey away from some gorgeous landscapes.
Average Monthly Net Salary (after tax): £2272.94 Average Rent Cost (1-bed apartment): £837.50
In Bristol you’ll come across Banksy street art, a thriving theatrical community and stunning architectural landmarks. Situated in the southwest of England, Bristol is very close to the coastline, meaning that visits to the beach are a weekend activity potential for sure.
Average Monthly Net Salary (after tax): £2326.87 Average Rent Cost (1-bed apartment): £1199.96
The capital city of Wales. Despite being the UK’s 11th largest city, Cardiff is the smallest capital city in Europe. Coast city Cardiff boasts many unique things including not one, but two castles, the world's oldest record store and a two-time award-winning toilet. It certainly is an interesting place to live, not to mention cheap!
Average Monthly Net Salary (after tax): £2086.35 Average Rent Cost (1-bed apartment): £809.06
This list wouldn’t be fair without some Scottish representation and there’s no better city for that than Edinburgh. Home to the globally renowned Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Edinburgh is full to the brim of cultural experiences, not to mention the famous Edinburgh Castle sits proudly on top of an extinct volcano. It may be far but it’s certainly a favourite amongst UK citizens.
Average Monthly Net Salary (after tax): £2264.41 Average Rent Cost (1-bed apartment): £1166.00
Home of the “Georgies” Newcastle is the bud of the North East of England. With its Hadrian’s Wall remains and sitting on the River Tyne, Newcastle is ideal for a friendly and one-of-a-kind city centre experience. You won’t be short of restaurants, bars, theatres and museums. Make sure to visit the monumental Angel of the North statue.
Average Monthly Net Salary (after tax): £2969.34 Average Rent Cost (1-bed apartment): £1175.51
Sitting on the opposite side of the Peak District to Manchester, Sheffield is one of the greenest cities in the UK and has proudly produced several famous bands including Pulp, Def Leppard and Arctic Monkeys! Sheffield is one of the cheaper options on our list and you won’t be short of hills as Sheffield’s highest point is 550 metres! No need for the stair master.
Average Monthly Net Salary (after tax): £1930.85 Average Rent Cost (1-bed apartment): £745.67
Home to one of the most prestigious Universities and the backdrop to countless famous films including Pirates of the Caribbean, we couldn’t leave Cambridge off our list. It’s full to the brim of history, is where Isaac Newton discovered gravity and is the cycling capital of the UK. Plus, you’re likely to see some free-roaming cattle about the greenery.
Average Monthly Net Salary (after tax): £2930.04 Average Rent Cost (1-bed apartment): £1283.33
Brighton is well-known for many things but most notably it has one of the latest LGBTQIA+ populations in the UK and firmly holds the UK’s most popular Pride Festival. It’s in a picturesque location, with a gorgeous stretch of beach, bordering on the South Downs National Park yet London is only an hour and a half away by train.
Average Monthly Net Salary (after tax): £2301.22 Average Rent Cost (1-bed apartment): £1237.50
It wouldn’t be right to list Nottingham and not mention that it was the home to the infamous Robin Hood, the archer who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. Sitting slap-bang in the middle of the UK, Nottingham is surrounded by countryside and claims to have the oldest Inn in England, dating back to 1189.
Average Monthly Net Salary (after tax): £2062.70 Average Rent Cost (1-bed apartment): £788.33
If you fancy venturing over the Irish Sea then we would say Belfast is the best is your go-to for a city experience. It was the birthplace of the famous Titanic and has 3,000 acres of parks. Any Game of Thrones fans will be interested to know that the TV show studios are located in Belfast, making for a great day out!
Average Monthly Net Salary (after tax): £2054.27 Average Rent Cost (1-bed apartment): £881.54
Tips for an easy move to a big city
You may have decided by now which city you’d like to live in and be thinking to yourself “Where do I even begin?” Here are a few of our top tips to get you started;
Consider your budget - It’s no secret that the costs of living in the city centre are significantly higher than living outside of it. It may be wise to create a budget spreadsheet where you can easily see your monthly incoming and outgoing expenses to see whether living in a city centre is a realistic option for you.
Research the different areas - Before you go apartment hunting, visit all the different areas of the city that you could be potentially living in. Try to find one that aligns with your lifestyle and preferences, not to mention one that looks safe and has friendly neighbours.
Consider shared housing - One way to make city living affordable is to find some other like-minded people to live with. There are a few websites and groups on social media where you can find house share options. Give yourself time to find the one that’s right for you.
Explore public transport - Once you move, getting familiar with how you will transport around the city should be at the top of your priorities. The last thing you want is to find yourself lost in your new area.
Embrace the community - Living in a big city can be a lonely time if you don’t know many people there. You must get out and join in with local events, communities and groups. Take up some new hobbies and meet new people. Make the most of your new home.