Which are the best cities to live in the UK for young adults?

Moving to a new city is a high priority for many young people once they have finished their education. Choosing the right one to head for can be a tough decision, as there are so many different factors to consider such as the availability of jobs, rental prices, and social and leisure activities. So, if you’re looking to find the best city to relocate to, you’re in the right place!

First things to consider

It’s important to have good accommodation options and plenty of social activities to help you form friendships, along with sporting facilities and gyms to keep you healthy and look after your well-being. Living expenses are a key consideration in any bustling modern city, and you’ll want to explore and try out bars and cool restaurants, so getting around the city affordably is important.

The top 20 best cities in the UK for young professionals have been assessed in a study by the life insurance team at Comparethemarket which takes into account the cost of living, employment opportunities, the proportion of the population that’s aged between 18-30, the quality of the nightlife, and the overall happiness of residents.

The table below shows the top 20 best cities to live in the UK for young adults. 

Image credit: Compare the Market.

The best places to live in the UK

Nottingham takes top spot, having a clear appeal to young adults, recording the highest demographic of people aged between 18-30 of all cities in the study, at 28.23%. It has two universities making for a huge student population and a centre with great pubs, exciting bars and plenty of attractions. Rents here are relatively affordable: the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is £765 per month. It also benefits from reasonably priced public transport (£60 per month), and the average price for a meal at an inexpensive restaurant is £12. The number of jobs listed here at the time of the study was 2,719.

Nottingham is a beautiful city with a thriving culture and a youthful energy, making it an exciting place to live in. It’s home to two football clubs, a test match cricket ground, and national ice and water sports centres. Nottingham is one of the UK’s greenest cities, with a host of parks and gardens and beautiful scenery nearby; it’s also one of our most eco-friendly cities.

This fantastic city offers excellent employment prospects and this combined with its varied attractions makes it one of the UK’s best cities to live in. It has a total of 119 pubs and bars and notches up a happiness score of  7.20.

City Hall in the Old Market Square, Nottingham, one of the best cities in the UK according to the study.

Southampton on the English south coast comes in second place, with 24% of its population aged 18-30. It’s an affordable place to live, and being a coastal city with a rich maritime history is an additional attraction. A healthy jobs market in the marine, retail, and hospitality sectors provides good career opportunities, while a selection of 95 pubs and bars ensures varied nightlife options.

Southampton has one of the world’s largest natural harbours: famous for transatlantic passenger travel, the ill-fated Titanic set sail from here, and it’s a busy port city today. Attractions include medieval streets and city walls, Tudor, and medieval houses, parks and gardens, and for days out, it’s close to the New Forest. An annual treat is the Southampton Mayflower Maritime Festival, a three-day event featuring historic ships, vehicles and vintage aircraft. Princess Alexandra Dock has been transformed into Ocean Village, a leisure and shopping centre, with designer boutiques, restaurants and cinemas, alongside luxury yachts moored in the harbour. There are sailing facilities and boat trips can be taken from here. The Hythe Ferry service runs regularly across the Solent to the Isle of Wight.

In third place, Coventry scored highly for its low transport costs. A monthly public transport pass costs £50, less than any other UK city. Eating out is relatively cheap here with an inexpensive meal costing £10 on average. Attractions include the ruins of the medieval cathedral, the new cathedral, and the Coventry Transport Museum, where visitors can learn about the city’s history in the auto industry. This city boasts many museums including Coventry Music Museum, shopping districts, and the FarGo Village, a repurposed industrial space that’s home to over 40 independent businesses, from artwork to food outlets. Coventry is handily located half an hour from Birmingham and two hours train journey from London.

Newcastle-upon-Tyne comes in fourth place, with its 120 bars and pubs making it a great choice for those wanting plenty of action on a night out. One of the UK’s internationally famous cities, it’s renowned for its welcoming atmosphere and bustling vibrancy. It has a thriving arts and music scene and a high happiness score of 7.49 in the study. Known as one of the best major cities to live in in the north of the country, it’s also close to green spaces and rolling hills. It has a stunning castle, the iconic Tyne Bridge, the beautiful Millennium Bridge, and desirable places such as Whitley Bay and Bamburgh Beach are close by.

This big city boasts many great restaurants, along with concert halls, art galleries, shopping districts, and colourful nightlife. Newcastle United football team makes its home at St James Park, and for days out, visits to Beamish the Living Museum of the North are popular with local residents, along with the Quayside Sunday market, which is full of independent traders, and the vast indoor Grainger Market for food and clothes.

In fifth place is Bradford, which is one of the best cities for those seeking somewhere with realistic rent options below the national average – the average monthly rent here is £537.50. This vibrant melting pot of a city is a great place to live and work in. A hub for modern British culture, Bradford’s attractions include the National Science and Media Museum, a haven for pop culture love and media fans; Bradford cathedral, its city park and event space, and the world heritage site of Saltaire, for a taste of Victorian Bradford, home to the Salts Mill art gallery and entertainment complex which features works by David Hockney. Bradford is considered to be Britain’s `curry capital’ with over 200 Asian restaurants. It’s a great location if you are keen on combining city life with easy access to the great outdoors as the stunning Yorkshire countryside is on its doorstep. The Bronte Parsonage Museum can be found in nearby Haworth, home of the Bronte sisters.

Plymouth and Luton tie for sixth place, followed by Kingston-Upon-Hull, Birmingham in the West Midlands, Sheffield and Middlesborough. Birmingham stands out for its job opportunities, thriving culture and nightlife, offering 3,205 job listings and 200 pubs and bars.

Key points from the study into our best cities

Affordable rent

Rent is a key factor in most young people’s decision about where to live. The study found Kingston-Upon-Hull to be the most affordable city for renters: one-bedroom apartments here average £452.50 per month. Middlesborough comes second; here, the average monthly rent is £475. Peterborough is in third place with an average rent of £536.67 per month, closely followed by Bradford at £537.50. Tying in fifth place with a rent of £550.00 per month are Stoke-on-Trent, Derby, and Bolton. Unsurprisingly, due to its sky-high property prices, flats to rent in London stand out in stark contrast at an average cost of £2,004 per month.

Job opportunities

Being the capital city, the highest number of jobs are found in London; at the time of the study, 21,507 jobs were listed here. The vibrant and multicultural city of Manchester, renowned for being home to tech giants and for its careers in digital media, biotechnology, and finance, listed 3,433 jobs. Birmingham also has great job opportunities coming from its strong commercial sector, and it listed 3,205 jobs at the time of the study.

Eating out

Young people love to eat out and if this is a priority, Peterborough is the cheapest place for restaurant meals, which average £9. In joint second place are Coventry, Bradford, Middlesborough, Plymouth and Bolton: affordable meals in each of these cities cost an average of £10.

Public transport

The cheapest monthly public transport pass can be found in Coventry, costing £50. The equivalent pass can be found in the Welsh capital Cardiff for £53 and in Leicester for £54 per month, while the price in the city of London is £150.


London encapsulates British culture and not surprisingly, tops the chart for having the best range of nightlife offerings with 1,206 bars and pubs hosting live events across the city. The Scottish capital Edinburgh with its rich history and cultural attractions, comes in second place, followed by the vibrant city of Glasgow, although both cities narrowly missed the top 20, coming in at numbers 21 and 25 respectively.

Number of young people

Nottingham has the highest proportion of young people, 28.23%, followed by Manchester in the North West at 26.35%, which is not surprising as it is home to many prestigious universities and has a huge student population. Bolton has the lowest number of people aged between 18-30 (15.19%) followed by Peterborough (16.08%).

Happiness in UK locations

The study’s happiness rating is topped by Luton which scored 7.74, followed by Stoke-on-Trent, 7.59; Plymouth, 7.53; Bolton, 7.52 and Swansea, 7.51.

Over to you

Hopefully, the information above will help you to work out what you want most from a city, and where the best places to live may be for you. You might find that you are attracted to a major city with all the amenities, or a small city that’s popular with young professionals. After that, you should be able to narrow down your options. It may be helpful to visit some of your favourites before making a decision about which of these amazing cities you want to live and work in.

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