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Best Cities to Live in the UK

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Where are the best cities to live in the UK? While the capital often takes centre-stage, it’s not all about the London bubble. The United Kingdom has a lot to offer, from seaside towns boasting coastal walks to the unspoilt Scottish Highlands. In this guide, we’ve taken a look at average house prices, rents, income, and more, to give you a full picture of what it’s like to live and work in some of the country’s hotspots.

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Best cities in UK 

Here are our top 13 best places to live in the UK (in no particular order):

  1. Brighton
  2. Bristol
  3. Manchester
  4. Edinburgh
  5. London
  6. Liverpool
  7. Glasgow
  8. Cardiff
  9. Oxford
  10. Birmingham
  11. Reading
  12. Belfast
  13. Leeds

#1 – Brighton 

Average house price: £478,450

Average rent: £1,616 pcm 

Average annual salary: £29k

What’s to like?

Nicknamed ‘London by the sea’, Brighton combines a vibrant city and great nightlife with a fantastic beach. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re a student, a young professional, or you have a family. It’s also home to one of the UK’s largest LGBTQ+ communities. The sunsets over the sea shouldn’t disappoint, and this Sussex town even has its own Fringe festival. 

What’s not to like?

If affordability is your main criteria, this might not be the place for you. Much like the capital, Brighton does come with a price tag, whether you’re looking to buy or rent. Even flats sold for an average of £313,533 last year! This prices it out of range for many; it’s not known for its affordability. Also – good luck getting a parking space.

#2 – Bristol

Average house price: £360,065

Average rent: £1,428 pcm

Average annual salary: £33k

What’s to like?

Few come away from a night out in Bristol and have something bad to say about it. It’s quickly becoming one of the UK’s most sought-after cities. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re looking to explore the West Country, surf, or enjoy buzzy city living. 

While the shopping and nightlife are something to boast about, there are many picturesque parts and stunning landmarks too, such as the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge.

What’s not to like?

It’s by no means the cheapest place to rent. Plus, if you’re looking for a remote, quiet location, Bristol might not be the best place to live. It’s popular with tourists and students, and as of 2021, its population was 693,552 – and growing every year. While that’s smaller than many cities on this list, it’s still not for everyone.

Bristol cityscape with coloured houses

#3 – Manchester

Average house price: £245,014

Average rent: £1,191 pcm

Average annual salary: £30k

What’s to like?

Known as ‘the capital of the north’, Manchester is a vibrant city and home to one of the largest universities in the UK. If you need a break from the hustle and bustle, it has places like Alexandra Park on offer too. It’s also a great place to be if you’re a football fan, home to some world-famous teams. 

What’s not to like?

The crime rate in certain parts can be fairly high, such as Bolton. Also, it’s known for having rubbish weather, although much of the UK (particularly up north) is guilty of that! 

#4 – Edinburgh

Average house price: £311,330

Average rent: £1,606 pcm

Average annual salary: £34k

What’s to like?

Scotland’s cosmopolitan capital manages to be picturesque and lively all at once. It’s a seaside town that boasts both beauty and vibrancy, the cultural heart of Scotland, famous for the Edinburgh Fringe festival. It also offers great opportunities both education and career-wise.  

What’s not to like?

If you don’t like cold weather, Edinburgh might not be the place for you. It’s also a popular tourist trap, which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and can mean certain things (like restaurants) are expensive. 

#5 – London

Average house price: £777,177

Average rent: £1,752

Average annual salary: £39k

What’s to like?

We had to mention the capital somewhere on this list! London is one of the most famous cities in the world, and for good reason. There’s no shortage of things to do, whether you’re a history buff, party animal, or simply appreciate good food. It’s a lively and multicultural place to live, also boasting some stunning scenery, such as the views found at Primrose Hill. There’s also no shortage of opportunities in terms of work and education. The transport connections are also second to none.

What’s not to like?

While there are some cheaper places to live in London, it’s the most expensive location in the UK. House prices and rents are high, which can make saving for a deposit extremely difficult. Hefty price tag aside, it’s also highly populated and popular with tourists.

#6 – Liverpool

Average house price: £197,954

Average rent: £816 pcm

Average annual salary: £27k

What’s to like?

Known for more than just the football club, Liverpool is a world-famous city boasting a great atmosphere and friendly locals. The cost of housing is also far less than you would expect from a large city, one of the lowest on this list and affordable for many when compared to places like London. 

What’s not to like?

Liverpool is known for being a bit of a concrete jungle. Although, this label is disputed by some Scousers. Also, certain parts are known for being ‘rough’ and have a high crime rate. 

#7 – Glasgow

Average house price: £197,966

Average rent: £1,069 pcm

Average annual salary: £29k 

What’s to like?

We’re back in Scotland at number 7, this time in its largest city: Glasgow. Home to some architectural gems, friendly locals and a large student population, it’s a great city to live in. Whether you want to shop, dine, enjoy a night out, or appreciate its rich heritage, it ticks all the boxes. It’s a popular place to live for many, but the cost of living remains relatively low. 

What’s not to like?

Again, the weather can be pretty miserable, sunny days are few and far between. The properties do tend to be on the smaller side too, which might be a problem if you’re looking to raise a family. 

Aerial view of Glasgow

#8 – Cardiff

Average house price: £270,571

Average rent: £1,042 pcm

Average annual salary: £28k

What’s to like?

We’re in Wales now! Cardiff is one of the most affordable places on this list, a city that’s growing in popularity. Here you can find modern waterfront flats (in Cardiff Bay) and buzzy nightlife, plus the benefits of living near the great outdoors. There’s plenty of green space, and the Brecon Beacons aren’t far away. It’s the best of both worlds!

What’s not to like?

Certain transport connections are a bit awkward, for example it’s often easier/cheaper to go from Bristol Airport than Cardiff Airport. Plus, the railway line from Queen Street to the Bay was built in a way that splits the city, and fares are extremely high for the length of the journey!

#9 – Oxford

Average house price: £564,699

Average rent: £1,909 pcm

Average annual salary: £32k

What’s to like?

Oxford is known as a great London commuter town, but it’s got a lot more going for it than that. Famous around the world for its exceptional university (the best in the country), Oxford offers plenty of opportunities for its residents. Whether you want cosy cafes, picturesque streets, or stunning architecture, this city has it all. It’s effortlessly and quintessentially English. 

What’s not to like?

You pay for the transport links around here – Oxford is out of price range for many. Its average house price is nearly double that of the UK average of £255,535!

#10 – Birmingham

Average house price: £231,977

Average rent: £1,090 pcm

Average annual salary: £31k

What’s to like?

Birmingham is the second largest city in the UK, but its house prices are less than half than those found in the capital. Fun fact: it also has more kilometres of canals than Venice, home to some great spots for canal-side dining. This West Midlands city boasts a booming economy, great nightlife and leisure activities – without the hefty price tag. 

What’s not to like?

The city centre itself is quite small, but it can get extremely busy. It’s also not known for having the most picturesque cityscape or architecture. 

Birmingham canals

#11 – Reading

Average house price: £388,974

Average rent: £1,213 pcm

Average annual salary: £34k

What’s to like?

Reading is extremely well-connected (just 30 minutes to London Paddington) making it popular with commuters. It’s also a great place to raise a family, with a mix of hectic city living and quiet green spaces. Its nightlife won’t let you down either; the city is popular with students.

What’s not to like?

The great transport links don’t come for free, an annual season ticket will set you back around £4k! There can be a lot of traffic and gridlock in the city centre also. 

#12 – Belfast

Average house price: £159,436

Average rent: £949 pcm

Average annual salary: £28k

What’s to like?

Belfast is the most affordable city on this list, especially for those buying alone. There’s plenty to see and do, including the Giant’s Causeway. There are also some simply excellent pubs!

What’s not to like?

It’s popular with tourists, which isn’t always necessarily a bad thing, but it may get tiresome if you live there. 

#13 – Leeds 

Average house price: £234,045

Average rent: £1,125 pcm

Average annual salary: £29k

What’s to like?

Leeds is the largest city in Yorkshire, and a shopaholic’s dream, home to some of the most extensive retailing outside of the capital. It’s also much more affordable than other cities on this list, such as Brighton. What’s more, it’s home to three universities, so the nightlife can be counted upon. Most things are within walking distance, or well-connected by public transport.

What’s not to like?

Leeds city centre isn’t very big, which can be difficult if you drive, or want to escape the crowds. Also, the weather is known for being drab – it rains a lot.

Want to explore another city? 

Want to find out more about a city that’s not on this list? Check out our area guides – we’ve put the UK under a microscope to bring you detailed information about key locations up and down the country. 

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Last Updated: November 4th, 2021