5 British Cities that are cheap to live in & offer a high Quality of Life

Living in Manchester, UK

It’s widely agreed that London is an extremely expensive city to visit and live in, but what about the rest of the UK? Well, the cost of living is considerably cheaper in literally every other city in the country, and usually by a considerable margin. In this post we’ll look at the cheapest cities to live in the UK and consider which are the best options for remote workers or students hoping to balance a high quality of life with affordable living.

At the bottom of the page, you can also see an updated cost of living comparison focused on British cities. Figures were last updated in 2023, taking into account the cost of living crisis in the UK that has seen prices soar.

Table of Contents

5 of the Best & Cheapest Cities to Live in the UK


best cities to live in Wales

The Welsh capital is a good starting point with living costs only around 60% of those in London. The biggest savings come in terms of accommodation with rental prices in London at least double what they are in Cardiff for comparable properties.

Like many of the cities on this countdown, Cardiff has shed its industrial reputation in recent years and reinvented itself as a place that has plenty to offer both visitors and residents alike, even ranking as one of the best destinations during the summer in the UK. The city of castles, set around a famous bay, is the perfect place for anyone looking to live somewhere with a genuine identity that sets it apart from many UK towns and cities that can be a bit ‘samey’.

As well as the opportunity to learn about Welsh culture and traditions, anyone looking to live on a tight budget will enjoy the fact that it’s also a popular student city. There are plenty of restaurants, bars and entertainment options that are geared more towards those with less cash to splash, meaning of the major cities, it’s certainly one of the cheapest places to live in the UK.

Living Cost Index – £1300/month


British cities to live in - Birmingham

If you’re a fan of big city living but can’t afford to reside in London, then Birmingham is perhaps your next best bet. The UK’s second city has around 2.5 million people living in its metropolitan area and is home to a more diverse and more multicultural population than somewhere like Manchester or Liverpool.

From its famous Balti Triangle to the alternative bars and clubs of Digbeth and the up and coming Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham is certainly a city on the up and whoever you are, you should be able to find a little piece of it that suits you fine.

Birmingham’s location in the very heart of England and at the centre of the UK’s rail and bus networks is also a major advantage. It’s only around 90 minutes by train to London (with high speed lines currently being built that will slash that travel time to under an hour) and fares are very affordable if booked in advance, while you can get to most of the major northern cities in around two hours. That all makes it a good central base for anyone looking to travel a lot and explore the UK.

Living Cost Index – £1350/month


Norwich, UK cities

If you prefer the pace of life a bit slower, and your cities a bit smaller and quieter, then you’ll struggle to find many better places in the UK than Norwich. While not quite on the coast, nestled in picturesque Norfolk there are all kinds of opportunities for getting out of town and into the beautiful countryside and nearby coastline.

Norwich itself has plenty of history and charm to it, having existed for more than 800 years. It was one of the most important cities in England during medieval times but these days it has been overtaken in terms of size and stature by a large number of midland and northern towns which boomed during the industrial revolution.

The main disadvantage is that Norwich is quite isolated and it’s a bit cut off from other parts of the country with no motorway and relatively slow transport links. For some, that’s part of its charm. If it’s a concern, then it is worth remembering that England is only a small country and if you’re used to living in the US for example where you always need to travel large distances to get from A to B, it shouldn’t be a major issue.

Living Cost Index – £1350/month


Living in Manchester, UK

Manchester is perhaps marginally the most expensive of the five cities featured here, but is still considerably cheaper to live in than London. It’s also more affordable than the likes of Bristol, Brighton and Oxford, and overall you’d have to say it has much more going on.

The Northern powerhouse continues to grow in popularity with young Brits and people from abroad looking to live in a lively city with a strong identity that is closely linked to its music heritage and football scene. The sense that Manchester really is going places is palpable, with new high rise buildings popping up all over the place to accommodate the city’s businesses and new residents looking to be part of the action. 

Prices are rising in Manchester but for now living costs remain affordable and are only slightly more than the equivalent in other major cities in Northern England. For many people, that’s certainly a price worth paying given all the advantages that come with living in such a vibrant place, although you may want to consider living in one of the surrounding towns in Greater Manchester if you really want to cut living costs as much as possible.

Living Cost Index – £1450/month


Chester - Living in Britain

If you’d rather live somewhere a bit smaller, consider Chester. It’s conveniently located only around 40 miles southwest of Manchester and just 15 miles south of Liverpool and is a popular destination for people from both cities looking for somewhere a bit quieter and arguably nicer to live.

Indeed some people relocated here during the pandemic to escape the bigger Northern cities with remote working now possible in many UK workplaces. Living costs have increased a fair bit here in the past couple of years as a result, at an even greater pace than in most other British cities.

With an extensive history that dates back to its foundation by the Romans, Chester boasts many ancient buildings and its infrastructure has been well-preserved. Today there’s a nice blend of old and new with fashionable bars, shops and restaurants found within the old walled city which has one of the most charming centres in the country.

Living Cost Index – £1450/month

UK Cost of Living Calculation Explained

For the information above and table below, we’ve used numbeo’s cost calculator as a guide to work out an estimated cost of living index for cities in the United Kingdom. However the exact cost of living will clearly vary from person to person and figures are mostly designed as a guide and a means of comparison. They are aimed to represent a possible figure for all living expenses for a single person, including the cost of renting accommodation.

Students and anyone willing to live in a flatshare or really watch what they spend, should be able to get by on a bit less. Those with more lavish lifestyles will most likely spend a lot more. Anyone planning on living alone and renting their own private apartment in some of the more expensive cities to rent such as London, may also need to increase the budget significantly.

It’s also worth noting that none of these budgets for living in the UK take into consideration the cost of health or travel insurance. These costs will vary considerably according to your individual circumstances and whether you will have access to the NHS. Get a quote in less than a minute from SafetyWing for an idea of how much this may cost if you require travel medical insurance.

Cost of Living in the UK – Cities Compared

CityCost of Living Index (Monthly in £)
At the time for writing, £1 = $1.24 and €1.16.

As you can clearly see, there is a huge spike in costs when it comes to London and in truth the southeast of England in general. The rest of the country is much more affordable, although still far more costly than the cheapest places to live in Europe.

If you’re planning to find a job or have one lined up, you should factor in the much increased earnings potential in the capital. Students, remote workers and digital nomads may be wise to consider cities at the lower end of the list. There’s not much difference in living costs between cities in the other regions of the UK although you can squeeze out a bit more value in Northern Ireland and parts of Wales.

British cities to live in
London (pictured here in 2024 from Greenwich park) is the most expensive place in the UK.

This list consists of almost every major city in the UK and a selection of smaller ones which feature because they tend to rank well in quality of life rankings or are generally viewed as more popular destinations to visit and live in. We’ve also tried to feature cities from all the main English regions with two Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish cities also included to give as diverse a picture as possible.

Overall, it’s fair to say that the UK is an expensive country and living costs are rising! However there are more expensive countries in the world and many of these cities compare favourably to even the cheapest places to live in Canada for example.

If you’re able to work remotely and earn in US Dollars for example, you may benefit from a weaker Pound than was the case before the pandemic or Brexit decision. Therefore you may not necessarily find British cities outside of London too expensive but everything is relative of course and the UK remains a wealthy country.

This post on the cheapest cities to live in the UK was last updated in May 2023. Comments and questions are welcome. However please note we are not experts on UK immigration laws. It’s also quite hard to answer questions on local job markets/study options. You may have more luck on other forums or groups specific to moving to the UK from abroad.


5 British Cities that are cheap to live in & offer a high Quality of Life

38 thoughts on “5 British Cities that are cheap to live in & offer a high Quality of Life

  1. Thanks a bunch for sharing this with all of us you actually know what you are talking about! Bookmarked.

  2. Hi. my name is Mohammad. I’m a nurse with 18 years job experience. I’ve a job offer for England. I’ll come with my wife and my son(8-year-old). which city is the best choice for me regarding the least cost, weather, educational, health and ,generally about facilities? which one you prefer to me? briton, Sunderland, Leeds, Newcastle, Sheffield act.
    I would appreciate it if you could guide me.

    1. Hi Mohammad,

      In terms of weather, it gets slightly warmer the further south you go, so Brighton would be the best of the cities you mentioned. England is a small country though, so there’s not a huge difference between different cities in terms of the climate. There will be very little difference between Sunderland, Leeds, Newcastle or Sheffield weatherwise.

      In terms of costs, I think Sunderland would be the cheapest and Brighton the most expensive. There’s not much difference between Newcastle,Leeds and Sheffield as you can see in the table above.

      In terms of health facilities etc and nursing jobs, you’d probably need to speak with somebody in that line of work. Education-wise for your son, there will be good and bad schools in all of these places so it’s more a case of doing research within the cities. You would probably have more choice in a bigger city like Leeds though.

      Hope this helps and good luck with your move!

  3. My wife is B.Com and B.ed with 5+years of experience in Indian International schools. We are planning for her master is Education in Uk so she can pursue her career as a teacher. We are looking for scenario where we can live in a reasonable city/town and study in good university nearby which in turn has good job opportunities and living index. Kindly suggest some places and if near london then well and good. Thank you

    1. Hi Faiz, sorry but it’s hard to give advice for yours and your wife’s specific circumstances. Maybe look for an education forum or reddit page where you can find people who are in the education sector and have a better current knowledge of where the best places are to study and find jobs. There are universities (or at least campuses) in a number of towns and cities close to London such as Reading, Luton, Hatfield & Guildford that would be more affordable than living in the city but unsure if they would be good places for a master in education or finding work in schools.

    2. Hi,
      I’m bita. I live in Iran. I’m a midwife. I’m married and I have a son. He’s 2. I have a job offer in England that a company protect me. My son and I want to imagrate but I don’t know, which city is better than the other ones. Can you help me, introduce a small city that is near in Manchester and it has quality of Healthy, education with big hospitals that I can work.

      1. Hi Bita,
        Not an expert on job opportunities or hospitals I’m afraid. In terms of smaller towns and cities near Manchester, there are a lot of options. If you want close proximity to Manchester (where I am imagine the most job opportunities would exist) consider towns in the Greater Manchester area with good transport links such as Bury, Oldham & Stockport. If you want a genuine city a bit further away, you could maybe consider somewhere like Lancaster or Preston. Another option might be to look for somewhere with good access to both Liverpool and Manchester and that would widen your work possibilities.

  4. Hi im an architect from Nigeria also a dual citizen of England coming for my masters I would like to know where would be cheap for living and education and give me a manageable job for an undergraduate architect

    1. Hi Joseph, there are a few suggestions here for architecture universities but not an expert on that particular line of work. Of the cities mentioned in the article, the likes of Cardiff, Sheffield, Newcastle, Nottingham and Loughborough might be good options in terms of keeping living costs down while you study. For future jobs, it’d be a good idea to speak with someone knowledgeable about life in the UK as an architect when deciding your options as the more expensive cities tend to have higher paying jobs.

  5. Hello MFT!

    I am nearing retirement and am looking for a safe, quieter bungalow with space to garden. I would like to be not too far from the River Thames as I am enthralled with mudlarking, history and exploring. My maximum comfort is 300,000USD or approx 218,000GBP. Your suggestions would be most appreciated- Thank you in advance!

    1. Hi Mary, in general, further away from London should be more affordable so if you follow the Thames, anywhere west of Reading may offer the best value. When you say maximum comfort, are you referring to your budget to buy a property or something else? Thanks

  6. I hold an Associate Degree in Specialized Technology (Medical Assisting) from the U.S.A…. Which city or towns in England would be best for me???

    1. Hi Myesha,

      Not familiar with this course title but I would imagine there is a need for medical workers across England. Not sure if there are specific towns/cities that have greater demand.

  7. Hello, I am a US citizen looking to relocate to England, I would say the UK in general however I really would like to stay within the country of England rather than Ireland or Scotland. I am looking for a employment opportunity, perhaps employment exchange program or similar. I do have a international diploma in Beauty Therapy (i.e. CIBTAC and CIDESCO certificate & diploma in Swedish facials and body massage, including electric and mechanical. I also can preform makeup, eyelash extensions & brow shaping and tinting, essential oil therapy, hot stone massage, and more), which allows me to work in approximately 33 different countries.
    If anyone has helpful information for affordable cities with work opportunities I would love to hear from you. Thank you very much.

  8. Hi, I’m a nurse working toward relocating to UK. Which part would you suggest I should sort for jobs.

      1. Hello…
        I hold a degree in Microbiology and currently looking at relocating to the UK, what city can you advise me to move in to?

        1. Hello Donnie, sorry but not an expert in microbiology or the relevant job market so very hard to say! Maybe try to find microbiologists in the UK on social media and ask their advice?

    1. Hi
      You haven’t included my city in here. Hull is the cheapest place to live. I can afford to live here on just over £800 a month, which is much lower than any of the cities you have described here. It’s like we do not exist.

      1. Thanks for your comment. According to the methods used to work out the figures in the article, Hull would be around £850 per month if included in the table which would put it alongside Derry and yes very cheap for England. There are even cheaper places but there isn’t really space to including every single small town and city in the UK. We also haven’t included places like Stoke, Coventry or Leicester – all of which are larger than Hull so it’s nothing personal!

  9. Hi,
    I’m a US citizen who took early retirement at 50 y/o. I have passive income through rental property and want to move throughout UK with my Beagle (senior dog), staying at AirBnBs as various home bases to visit most of UK, Ireland, Scotland and then over to EU countries. [Moving from one airbnb to others.] Can you recommend an affordable location in UK that has a relaxed environment, but is convenient to transportation to the destinations I’ve listed above? Much appreciated!!!!!

    1. Hi Lorraine,

      If you’re looking for a general base then perhaps you want to find somewhere central with good train links. Examples might be Lichfield which is a small, relaxed city close to Birmingham with excellent rail links to London and the northwest of England too. Chester (featured in the post) might be one to look at too. You can easily get to the big cities in the north and are close to Liverpool and Manchester Airports which have plenty of links with Ireland and Europe.

      Hope this helps a bit 🙂

      1. I’m going to UK very soon, I have 2 job offers in different cities, Bath and Buckinghamshire. Which one is better and cheaper to live for an Arabic big family

        1. Hi,

          Bath would most likely be more expensive, certainly compared to Milton Keynes – the largest town in Buckinghamshire.

          In terms of which is better, it really depends what you want from life. Bath is a very nice city and ranks quite well for quality of life etc. Buckinghamshire is closer to London but it’s a relatively big county so it depends where in Buckinghamshire you are looking at. Wycombe for example is very close to London and relatively affordable given the proximity.

  10. Please I am young couple I want to move into UK from Nigeria, I am looking for the cheapest City to live in and that’s good for Migrant and where we can get a good paying Job.
    I’ll really appreciate if you can suggest any for me or any article.

    1. Hi Oyindamola,

      Generally avoiding the south, and particularly southeast of England, you should find comparatively low costs of living just about anywhere – although salaries won’t be as great. The pandemic has hit the UK hard though and a lot of people have lost jobs, so it’s likely to be a very competitive job market for some time. What kind of work are you looking for?

      1. Hi,
        My name is Eden I’m 27 and single mummy of a little boy 4 years old. I’m used to live in London, Brighton, Liverpool and Leicester. I would like to take a fresh start somewhere new by the sea possibly and cheaper for rent a flat. Not too far from London in train and where is safe !! Can you help me please to see more clear when it could be ? Many thanks,

        1. Hi Eden,

          In terms of places by the sea and an hour to an hour & a half from London by train, the cheapest options might be Southampton or Portsmouth, or something in that area. Alternatively you could look at Suffolk. Ipswich has good rail links to London, is cheaper to live and quite close to the sea. Otherwise the Southeast of England is just quite expensive and you’ll struggle to find a good place by the sea with good rail links to London and affordable rents.

    2. Hi dear,
      I got an offer from Bath . Could you please tell me about this place . Planning to come with family . I am a nurse . Is this place expensive to live ?is easy to get other jobs for dependent. Kindly reply

      1. Hi, Bath is a really nice city – small but with a lot of history and a famous centre so it attracts a lot of tourists and people from outside the UK. It is an expensive place to live and would be near the top of the table above if included, perhaps alongside Brighton or slightly above but it is cheaper than London. In terms of the current local job market, it’s hard to say. These aren’t great times for the economy in the UK and the cost of living is rising in all these cities but it would depend on what kind of work you’re talking about.

  11. Wait, are they really suggested that you can live in london on 16,000 or oxford on 1,250? I have never looked at london but the cheapest flats I have seen in oxford are 700-900

    1. Hello Bryan, In a flatshare, it should be pretty easy to stick to those kind of budgets in both London and Oxford. If you’re a single person looking to rent your own apartment, then it would be difficult. The figures are more designed to show a comparison between the cities and the actual amount will clearly depend on the circumstances of each person.

  12. Hello,
    I am looking for a 1bhk,nearby London, kindly please suggest good and reasonable house for a family of three(including a toddler of 3yrs old).

    1. Hi Pradnya,

      Not an estate agent so can’t really help you find a specific house!

      You may find this article useful though. It lists some of the cheaper areas near to London and what rent you can expect to pay for a one bedroom house. Maybe if you can choose an area or two to target first before you start looking for specific properties that would be a good idea as Greater London is huge.

  13. I am an Australian Citizen living in Perth Western Australia now.
    I want to move and live in a Cheap City in the UK.
    ALL what I need is a room with bath shower and Toilet.
    I used to live in Sunderland and was graduated from Sunderland University 1986,so my English is very good.
    I need a peaceful place to live and work from.
    Please advice?


    1. Hi Aiyed,

      There’s an article here on the cities with the cheapest room rental rates in the UK. It’s from 2019 but things won’t have changed too much since in terms of the cheapest cities, although the actual prices may be a bit different now and in the future depending on how things go with the pandemic.

      The Northeast of England and Northern Ireland dominate the list, so they are probably good starting places to research. You might also find some good rents and a peaceful way of life in one of the smaller towns in North Wales or other parts of Northern England such as Yorkshire or Cumbria.

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