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Housing in the UK

Best Places to Live in the UK

Making the move to your new life in the UK? Wondering which is the best city for you? Now that you have your new destination in the horizon, you should start looking into the best United Kingdom cities to move to according to your specific needs. The UK has long been a popular destination amongst expats around the world. Despite its reputation for bad weather, it has pristine landscapes that range from historic cobblestoned cities, to narrow alleyways, ancient roman walls, and grassy countryside. And, it still manages to put on a nice day in the summer! The United Kingdom in all of its parts has a little something for everyone. The cost of living is comparable with some European countries, such as Italy and Germany. Plus, with a sociable culture and plenty to see and do, excitement is everywhere.

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In order to compile this list of the most popular expat destinations in the UK, we factored in job opportunities, cost of living in each city, as well as social environment and surroundings. If you are still indecisive about which UK city to relocate to, you will find this read incredibly useful for your decision-making process. Here, we delve into the top UK locations for singles and families, as well as for people starting their career and those who are already established.

At a Glance
  • London: This vibrant and multicultural hotspot has been the leader in various sectors for decades. London is considered an epicenter for quality education, entertainment, finance, fashion, and technology. It is also the base for many of the leading digital start-ups, recognized global conglomerates, established tech giants, and award-winning companies. This is why moving to London is an exciting career move for many ambitious expats. So, why is London the go-to expat destination? Learn more in our section on the UK’s capital.
  • Brighton and Hove: This bustling seaside resort also provides many opportunities for expats who are particularly interested in the fields of trade, hospitality, business, and industry. One of the greatest perks of living in Brighton & Hove is that Gatwick airport (one of the main UK airports), and London are close and easily accessible. Thanks to its small size, this urban haven still has a village-like feel, making it an easy place to feel at home. Newcomers should be able to settle into life in Brighton quickly and smoothly.
  • Manchester: This city in the north of England is ethnically diverse and thriving. A large number of Londoners are flocking to the region—the latest figures show London is losing three people a day to Manchester. The main reasons for this relocation are better employment opportunities and more affordable housing prices available in the Greater Manchester area. This trend is probably important for expats to have in mind! Especially those weighing whether London is the best option for their next move, or if there’s another metropolis that can fill London’s boots. And even have advantages over it!
  • Cardiff: This beautiful Welsh city is quickly becoming one of the most popular cities in the UK to relocate to. Interestingly, it is not only English people who are moving to Cardiff; expats from all over the world are starting to take notice. Why are so many people moving to Cardiff? For starters, it is very well connected. It has its own airport, and Bristol Airport is only 65 km (40 miles) away. London is a three-hour car drive up the M4. Cardiff is also considered one of the UK’s most highly skilled cities. It has a high number of graduates per head of population. So, if you’re moving there with your children, rest assured, as there is access to good education. Moreover, this small city is home to Cardiff University, which has prestigious schools of Architecture, Media Studies, and Psychology, among others. Interested in finding out more? Read our section on Cardiff below.
  • Edinburgh: The Scottish capital has all the essential elements of a major city, within a compact, walkable, easy-to-maneuver space. Edinburgh has a lot going on, always. It’s not only a university city, but it also has incredible cultural attractions. Among its broad list of appealing characteristics is the old town, which is a UNESCO world heritage site. Expats will be interested to know that there are a lot of parks and green spaces throughout the city, public transportation is efficient, and the average house price is estimated to be 50% cheaper than in London.

United Kingdom’s Most Popular Cities

Are you interested in moving to the United Kingdom? Are you struggling to decide where to live? The country has plenty of locations for Expats regardless of whether you enjoy spending time in nature, bustling city streets, or quaint villages. Though there are many incredible places to live throughout the United Kingdom, this InterNations GO! guide will help you find a destination that will tick all your boxes. And, if you are struggling with the complexities of the moving abroad process, our relocation experts have it all mapped out for you. As they’ve experienced this life changing event themselves, our services anticipate everything you will require, should you decide to embark on this journey.

So, among all this offer, how did we narrow down this list to these cities? What makes them the best and most popular destinations for expats in contrast to other places in the United Kingdom? Our experts have chosen cities that offer expats everything they could need: job opportunities, interesting culture, and varied entertainment. We have also included information on the cost of living, so those who are struggling to decide whether to live in London or elsewhere in the UK can make a direct comparison. Taking in to account all these elements, we identified the best places for your next forever home.

London

Great for:

  • Expat families
  • Solo expats

Cultural Life

London stands as one of the world’s most famous cities. And rightly so, with its always lively city streets, diverse community and historic features. This metropolis has something to offer to all its nearly 10 million inhabitants. From a bustling Central Business District (CBD) to historic museums, vibrant parks for the family, and amazing nightlife. Whatever “tickles your fancy” (British for “whatever rocks your world”), London will have it.

If you feel like doing some shopping, head to Oxford Circus where you will find all the stores you can think of. If you are a foodie, London is the city for you. Just take a stroll down China town, which has numerous delicious eateries. The most iconic London neighborhoods (think Soho, Camden, Shoreditch, Notting Hill) will have at least one street filled with restaurants, pubs, and cafes. If you are also interested in crafts, you can venture into Borough Market or Portobello Market to be blown away the wide range of foods, beverages, and arts and crafts on offer.

For the historians and artists around, you will never be bored in London. The city has over 250 registered art institutions and 170 museums with artifacts specializing in everything including natural history, science or the imperial war museum. There’s a museum for every interest.

Size of the City

The physical size of Greater London is 607 square miles (1572 square kilometers), and the population is approximately 8.9 million people. It is the most populated city in the UK. However, expat families moving to London, have the option to live in one of the many quiet neighborhoods hidden away from the noise of the touristy areas, and within an easily travelable distance from the city center. Neighborhoods such Hampstead and Highgate provide calm, serene environments with the beautiful Hampstead Heath Park nearby to take a break from the noise of the city. You will still be within traveling distance to the industrial, financial and cultural hubs, so you can make the most of everything in London. To give you an idea, an underground journey from Hampstead to Oxford Circus takes around 25 minutes.

Work Opportunities

Job opportunities in London are endless as it is the hub for economic growth in the UK. One of the main reasons London is the to-go destination for expats is because of its thriving job market, with businesses constantly looking for new professionals, whether young or more experienced, to help them maintain and grow. But you must bear in mind that, if you are moving to London without a job offer set in stone, the competition for jobs is much higher here.

Some good work sectors to aim for in London are the following:

  • Design & Creative Industries
  • Entertainment Technology
  • Financial Technology
  • Hospitality and Services
  • Education
  • Fashion

Cost of Living

If you are moving to London, then you have to consider the cost of living. It’s not a myth that it’s one of the most expensive cities in the world. To work out if you are willing to take on life in London, you should bear in mind that on average Londoners spend around 45% of their income on rent. And, even though they earn more than residents of other regions, the rent prices are proportionally more expensive than in other areas.

General estimate of the overall cost of living in London for expat families and solo expats:

  • Family of four estimated monthly costs: 4,680 GBP (6,110 USD)
  • Single person estimated monthly costs: 2,900 GBP (3,785 USD)

For more detailed information, read our article What to Know if You’re Moving to London.

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Brighton and Hove

Great for:

  • Expats families
  • Solo expats

Cultural Life

If you love culture you will love the seaside city of Brighton and Hove. The area gathers a great community of artists, musicians, and writers, while the city streets are filled with restaurants, galleries, and performers, for unforgettable days and nights. Under an hour away from London, this city has been voted the happiest place to live in the UK many times. Its historical architecture, its eccentric Royal Pavilion-an iconic Regency Palace-, as well as its traditional Pier and quirky lanes make Brighton and Hove a unique and vibrant place.

Another feature of Brighton and Hove is that it is home of two universities (University of Brighton and University of Sussex), which makes the city bursting with young people looking for a good time. For three weeks every May, Brighton and Hove celebrates the Brighton Festival with dance, music, theatre, a circus, and much more, as well as hosting the biggest Pride event in the UK.

Brighton is also home to the British Airways i360, an observation tower that stands 162m high. Located on the seafront, you can enjoy a 360-degree view of the city, the South Downs, and the English Channel. If you are football fan, Brighton also holds the Albion football club with its own American Express Community Stadium outside the city.

Moreover, the city enjoys several parks and nature in and nearby, such as the Brighton and Lewes Downs is one of the seven UNESCO International Biosphere Reserves.

Size of the City

For British standards, Brighton and Hove is a big city (87.54km2). However, the centre is rather compact, making it very easy to walk everywhere or hop on a bus for a short ride if you are feeling tired. The population is around 290,000.

Work Opportunities

Brighton and Hove is growing in the digital business industries and, considering the proximity to London, it is very easy for residents to commute for higher pay and the variety of jobs that the capital can offer. In Brighton and Hove, active enterprises are mainly small businesses and the most developed economic sectors in the city are:

utilities and waste, visitor economy such as restaurants and cafes, amusement parks, and hotels, ICT and digital, creative and public administration, education—there are two universities and colleges—and healthcare.

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Brighton and Hove is higher than in the rest of the UK. It’s follows very closely behind London and can even compete with it. A one bedroom flat in the centre of the city can cost about 950.00 (1,175 USD) GBP and 800 GBP (990 USD) outside the city centre. A family of four’s estimated monthly cost without rent would be around 2,665 GBP (3,285 USD) and a single person’s monthly costs without rent 770.00 GBP (950 USD).

Integration and Multiculturalism

 Although the population in Brighton and Hove is not as ethnically diverse as Manchester or London, students and artists give a multicultural atmosphere to the city. There are over 35,000 students in both universities many of them international students.

Interestingly, just over 42% of people in Brighton consider themselves Christians, and almost the same amount identifies as non-religious. The city had the highest percentage of residents indicating “Jedi” as their religion. Due to its large LGBT population and has been called the “unofficial gay capital of the UK”.

To find out more, read our article What to Know if You’re Moving to Brighton.

Manchester

Great for:

  • Expat families
  • Solo expats

Cultural Life

Manchester is a diverse and thriving city in the north of England. It is filled with arts, theatre, music, and architecture. In the last decade, these traits have made the City of Manchester grow by a whopping 20%. With all it has to offer, it is no wonder it is the 3rd most visited city in the United Kingdom.

All it takes is one a day in Manchester and you will quickly realize just how much the city has reinvented its industrial past into a modern, trendsetting metropolis. Among its diverse cultural offerings, you will find the Science & Industry Museum, which is world heritage site. The monumental columns of a former trading hall—once an international cotton exchange, and now a grade II listed building—is now the Royal ExchangeTheatre, the largest theater in the UK.

Moreover, Manchester is home to the world-famous football club Manchester United. Originating from Old Trafford in 1878, with a record of 20 league titles, 12 FA cups, five league cups, and a record 21 community shields. This team is one of the best England has to offer. If you’re a fan of football this city is sure to keep your attention.

Size of the City

Manchester is the UK’s third largest city, if you take into the account the entire Greater Manchester region. It has a population of nearly 2 million people. But if you are looking just at the city center, the population is of around 450,000 people. Interestingly, it is home to nearly 200 languages. Given the size of the city, this makes it the most linguistically dense and diverse conurbation in western Europe, if not the world!

Work Opportunities

Manchester is once again a top contender. It is one of the fastest growing regions for work in the UK. This trend is linked to many companies looking to shift out of expensive London to another city. Manchester is becoming a booming global city once again. Take Media city, which has the BBC and ITV in its ranks. If you are interested in work with broadcast media, Manchester is the city for you. It is also home to Barclay’s Wealth and Investment Management office, which offers Banking services, financing options and planning and investment solutions. So, if you are in the finance industry, Manchester should definitely be on your horizon.

Some good work sectors to aim for in Manchester are the following:

  • Broadcast media
  • Hospitality and Tourism
  • Sports
  • Technology

Cost of Living

Manchester is one of the most expensive cities in the UK to live, closely behind London. The bulk of your expenses are usually from rent and utility bills. If you are living in the center of Manchester, instead of on the outskirts in Greater Manchester, you can expect to pay higher prices, especially for rent. This said, housing is still cheaper than the capital. Nothing beats London when it comes to steep housing prices!

Here is a general estimate of the overall cost of living in Manchester for expat families and solo expats:

  • Family of four estimated monthly costs: 3,025 GBP (3,950 USD)
  • Single person estimated monthly costs: 1,535 GBP (2,000 USD)

For more detailed information, read our article What to Know if You’re Moving to Manchester.

Cardiff

Great for:

  • Expats retirees
  • Solo expats
  • Expat families

Cultural Life

Although small in size, Cardiff has a never-ending supply of things to do and places to explore. It is home to St Fagans National Museum of History, one of Europe’s leading open-air museums and Wales’s most popular heritage attraction. If you move to Cardiff, you will definitely end up spending some time in the picturesqueCardiff Bay, lined with shops, boutiques and cafes. Moreover, Cardiff is home to the worlds 2nd largest collection of impressionist art in the world and has museums that host to over 500 years of art history. The museum of Cardiff will take you on a tour through the tale of the city from its origins in 1300 until present day. In the 1900s, the city had a huge impact on a global scale being one of the top exporters of coal to the world. Now, it is home to a vibrant food scene with some of the best food in the UK and to budding young musicians who frequently play local gigs before taking on the world stage.

Size of the City

Cardiff is a small city with a population of around 340,000 people. Despite this, it remains the 11th largest city in the UK. Even though it is nicknamed the 15-minute city due to its compact nature, it is lively and active. There are plenty of things to keep you occupied, and you will need time to find all of the gems hidden in this beautiful city. With the city being so small and many areas being pedestrianized, many people opt to walk, bike or use the public transport to get around. It is possible to drive around the city, but due to the limited space finding parking can be a nightmare.

Work Opportunities

Cardiff was once home to the world busiest coal industry, and until World War I had the highest gross tonnage of coal in the world, even more than London or Liverpool. In the past 50 years the coal industry in the UK has become significantly smaller and almost disappeared, meaning the single largest sector of employment in the area has become the health sector (13.9% of employment). It will come as no surprise for a city known as the “city of arcades” (“city of shopping centers”) that retail takes the second place, with 10.8% of the city’s employment. The area also houses over 100 independently operated cafes and bars.

Cost of Living

The cost of living in this little city is very reasonable when compared with other cities around the world. One of the main factors that decreases the overall cost of living is that rent is much cheaper than the major cities in the UK.

Looking for a house in or out of the city can make a huge difference to how expensive your monthly bills are, if you don’t mind commuting a short distance every day traveling from outside the city center can save you money. Even so, living in the city center will be a lot cheaper than London, Manchester, Brighton or Edinburgh!

Monthly Rental Prices in Cardiff

  • 1 bedroom flat (apartment) in City Centre: 500 GBP (620 USD)
  • 1 bedroom flat outside the City Centre: 400 GBP (495 USD)
  • 3 bedroom flat in City Centre: 800 GBP (990 USD)
  • 3 bedroom flat outside the City Centre: 650 GBP (800 USD)

For more information about this destination, read our article What to Know if You’re Moving to Cardiff.

Edinburgh

Great for:

  • Expat families
  • Solo expats
  • Expat retirees

Cultural Life 

Edinburgh is an ancient Scottish city filled with historic museums, galleries, architecture, and medieval streets. It is not hard to see why it is a UNESCO world heritage site (the first UNESCO city of literature in the world). Edinburgh is the UK’s second most visited site and the nooks and crannies of its medieval streets mean a wealth of cultural opportunities are tucked in every corner. If you’re not into large cities, then cities like London or Manchester might be too much for you, whereas Edinburgh’s compact size might be just what you’re looking for. The city has a huge international population and the locals are incredibly friendly to newcomers. Head on down to the pub and drink some single malt whisky that the Scots are famous for. This is a great way to get to know the locals (gin is also acceptable and is the most commonly drunk spirit in Edinburgh!) The number one thing to see is the Edinburgh castle, which has stood the test of time overlooking the city on Castle rock that goes as far back as the 2nd century AD.

Size of the City

Even though it is the capital city, Edinburgh has a small population of only around 480,000. This makes it the 2nd largest city in Scotland behind Glasgow, and the 7th most populous in the UK. A smaller population means you can have that feeling of a large city without the franticness you will find in places like London. The city is quite compact, which makes getting around easy. You will be able to go for a causal walk (weather permitting) and see the Castle, medieval Old Town and the New Town, as well as its many galleries.

 Work Opportunities

As the leader of the Scottish economy, Edinburgh has consistently ranked as one of the most prosperous parts of the country. The average wage is 28,100 GBP (36,700 USD), making it the 2nd highest wage in the UK and just behind London. Most jobs come from financial services, banking, and recently, more jobs have emerged in the technology sector.

Edinburgh is the home of the Royal Bank of Scotland and the UK’s 2nd largest financial service center, again second only to London. It is also home to Europe’s largest asset fund manager Aberdeen Standard Investment, so if you are in the finance industry Edinburgh could be the place for you.

Some good work sectors to aim for in London are the following:

  • Life Sciences
  • Software Development
  • Energy production
  • Education
  • Finance

Outside of the finance sector, Edinburgh’s key sectors are life sciences, software development, and energy production. There is also the prestigious Edinburgh University, which is often ranked in the top 20 Global Educational facilities. If you’re looking to move to a new field or starting a career, Edinburgh has options for you.

Cost of Living

In terms of what is available in the UK, Edinburgh is quite an expensive city to live in. Though not as expensive as London (of course). The lifestyle, beautiful surroundings, and things to see and do definitely make up for this extra cost in comparison to cheaper cities and towns. In contrast to other cities worldwide, it is reasonably priced; 200% cheaper than New York and 115% cheaper than Los Angeles and Sydney.

Looking for a house in or out of the city can make a huge difference to how expensive your monthly bills will be. If you don’t mind commuting a short distance every day, traveling from outside the city center can save you money on rent. Just be prepared to pay for public transport.

 Monthly Rental Prices in Edinburgh

  • One bedroom flat (apartment) in City Centre: 550+ GBP (680+ USD)
  • Two bedroom flat outside the City Centre:  400+ GBP (495+ USD)
  • Three bedroom flat in City Centre: 1000+ GBP (1,235+ USD)
  • Three bedroom flat outside the City Centre: 780+ GBP (965 + USD)

General estimate of the cost of living in Edinburg:

  • Family of four estimated monthly costs: 3, 300 GBP (4,050 USD)
  • Single person estimated monthly costs:  1,800 GBP (2,210 USD)

For more on this expat favorite, read What to Know if You’re Moving to Edinburgh.

You can also read our Comprehensive Guide on Relocating to the UK, so you are well-prepared to face all the complexities of relocating. It covers all the essential steps for moving to the UK, such as visa types, healthcare, housing, and more.

Updated on: April 23, 2020
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