The 15 Best Places To Live In England

Find the best places to live, work, raise a family and retire in England.

If you are moving to England and thinking about where exactly you should put down roots, you’re spoiled for choice. It’s kind of like being handed a great restaurant menu- there’s plenty to catch your attention.

So, to help you with your decision, we’ve broken down the nicest places to live in England into three categories: the best places for professionals, families, and retirees.

The biggest question you need to answer is, what do you want for your career, family, or retirement?

Is it professional opportunities and the chance to experience life in a large city?

Perhaps it’s top schools and universities to set your children up for success? Or it’s the perfect place to relax and unwind with your partner? 

No matter what you’re looking for, you’ll find the answer in this list. 

The best places to live in England for professionals

The UK has a thriving economy and offers a wealth of opportunities for those looking to take the next step in their career. The question is, where should you take your skills? Keep reading to find out. 

1. London 

London is a city that needs no introduction. This thriving capital has it all – even a beach if you’re willing to brave the shores of the Thames (not that we’d recommend it).

A quiet and leafy street in South Kensington London
Queen’s Gate Mews, South Kensington, South West London.

The sheer size of the city means that there are countless professional opportunities on offer, as well as a great variety of lifestyles too!

From the independent, creative crowd of Camden, the big city life of Canary Wharf, the cafe and park life of Clapham, and everything in between, London is a place where you can start and excel in your dream career.

If your primary focus is career development, you won’t go wrong opting for London. It’s rated as one of the best cities in the world for career-building opportunities. If you have the tenacity and drive to cut it in the capital, a career launched in London could set you up for life.

Professionals can expect typically higher salaries in London than in the rest of the country, but the cost of living is also higher. Also, finding a property to rent in London can be difficult.

Our guide to Living In London will help you find out more about life in the UK capital.  If you’re looking for a good place to start your search, why not try Crystal Palace, which has been selected as the best place to live in London by The Sunday Times.

2. Manchester 

As the self-proclaimed capital of the north, Manchester has so much more to offer than its two famous football clubs.

 Manchester Piccadilly Gardens - a view of a city square and a fountain on a sunny day.
Piccadilly Gardens is a green space in Manchester city centre on the edge of the Northern Quarter.

Like most major cities in England, Manchester is a blend of old and show, captured perfectly by its vibrant evening lights illuminating the Victorian buildings from its past. 

Manchester has been working hard to establish itself as an alternative to London, offering everything you could want from a major city without the expense.

Manchester is a manufacturing and media hub providing rewarding employment and career opportunities for the city’s growing population.

This includes many employment opportunities in various sectors, with manufacturing reigning as one of the largest employers in Manchester. 

3. Birmingham

Birmingham is often overlooked, which is surprising considering that it’s one of the largest cities in the UK (not just England).

Narrow boats moored in Birmingham canal framed by city buildings
Birmingham canal

From a professional perspective, living in Birmingham means good career opportunities. Birmingham is home to the offices of many well-known international companies. It is also still connected to its industrial roots and the rest of the thanks to the international airport. 

Once you’ve finished work, there is plenty to enjoy as well!

Birmingham is crisscrossed by a network of canals filled with charming red brick buildings from its industrial past.

Birmingham is also the home of Balti cooking and several Michelin Star restaurants, so you can expect to eat well during your time here. 

4. Reading

Before we go any further, it’s pronounced red-ing (to help you avoid any accidental embarrassment). Reading is a modern, diverse, vibrant town and borough located in the county of Berkshire with close proximity to London (it’s only 40 miles away) without the same level of bustle. 

Reading town hall
The town hall of Reading

Reading is renowned for its green spaces, beautiful riverside location, and welcoming atmosphere.

The locals are proud of the bars, pubs, and restaurants; we’re sure you’ll share their thoughts.

It’s also home to a highly regarded university and a booming IT sector, making it an excellent place for young professionals looking to launch their careers. 

5. Leeds 

For those looking for something further north, Leeds in West Yorkshire is the place for you. Here you can enjoy some of the best of UK country life with all the metropolitan touches you could ask for.

Leeds town hall and the view of the Millennium Square
View of Leeds Town Hall from the Millennium Square in Leeds.

Leeds is home to not one, not two, but three universities and some of the best retail outside of London. Thanks to its size, there are also many opportunities for employment. 

Outside the city, you’ll find the beautiful surrounding countryside begging to be explored. So, this may be the place for you if you’re looking for work opportunities without committing to an oversized city. 

6. Cambridge

While Cambridge does have one significant negative point being one of the most costly cities for housing in England, we cannot omit the city from our list. It goes without saying that Cambridge is a Mecca for academically minded and ambitious career builders.

Cambridge isn’t your typical university city packed with nightclubs and bars selling cheap vodka in plastic cups. In fact, there aren’t really that many nightclubs at all, and Cambridge’s creative demand means that the ones that are here are quite boutique. 

Don’t interpret the lack of nightclubs as a shortage of entertainment; you couldn’t be further from the truth. When it comes to nightlife, there are many options, from cocktail bars to quaint pubs and roaring live music venues, that absolutely guarantee a cracking night out with your friends. 

One very pleasant thing you will notice in Cambridge is that although you have all the city features and amenities present, it doesn’t feel like a suffocating sprawl.

The secret is the abundance of parks and green spaces where you can enjoy a relaxing stroll, have a picnic, chat with friends, listen to the birds singing and switch off from the hum of the city.

The best places to live in England for families

When relocating your family, you need to find something that fits everyone. This means you need plenty for your kids to do, career opportunities, space, and affordable housing.

Some places offer one or two items off this list, but they don’t have it all.

Here are some of the top places to live for families in England where everyone can find what they need.

1. Southampton

Southhampton is a small port city with the feel of a seaside town. This is the place to go if you want to live in a city without the pace of a big city.

Southampton, Ocean Village Marina and boats
Ocean Village Marina in Southampton

Southampton was once a major seaport and was where the Titanic set off for its journey. 

Today it has plenty of entertainment, a decent job market, good schools, well-known universities, and affordable housing.

Southampton is also a city on the rise, so getting in now means you’ll be able to enjoy everything new that arrives in Southhampton.  

2. Liverpool

Liverpool offers a little bit of everything for families. It’s a city that has enough without being too big.

Liverpool, the Beatles statue
The Beatles statue at the Pier Head on the side of River Mersey in Liverpool.

It’s near the beach for fans of the seaside and has sprawling countryside right on its doorstep.

To top it all off, Liverpool was even voted the European Capital of Culture in 2008. 

It has a number of great schools at all levels and many job opportunities for parents.

Furthermore, the general cost of living is quite low compared to other cities, making the transition easier for some families.

If you’re looking to collect the essence of The Beatles, Liverpool may be the place to call home. 

3. Bristol

Bristol has gone through a number of phases throughout its history.

Bristol - colorful houses and apartment along the waterfront
Bristol Harbourside

Once the home of a vibrant alternative art scene, and the home of world-renowned artist Banksy, today it’s developing in many areas. 

For starters, a booming start-up culture is seeing plenty of new and exciting businesses open up every day.

There are also plenty of established businesses offering employment as well.

Bristol is regarded as one of the most eco-friendly cities in the UK and benefits from top schools, universities, a rich history, and plenty of outdoor areas to explore. 

Our guide to the best places to live in Bristol and nearby will help you find the most suitable neighbourhood in this wonderful city.

4. Oxford

You’ve likely heard of Oxford because of its famed university, but has so much more to offer than this!

Oxford, historic buildings and tourists enjoying a sunny day.
Oxford is known for its outstanding collection of world-famous buildings.

Oxford has a number of great schools at all levels, including top-ranking public primary and secondary schools.

The thriving city has plenty of screen spaces and entertainment on offer that can be enjoyed by the whole family.

There are plenty of employment opportunities and easy connections to London should you ever need an escape to the big city. 

The downside is that Oxford is one of the least affordable UK cities for housing.

5. Brighton

Brighton is one of the UK’s most famous seaside cities, with a picturesque boardwalk, old-fashioned streets, and a thriving cultural scene.

Brighton promenade and famous white buildings along the waterfront
Bustling Brighton promenade

There is plenty of entertainment on offer, including the beach, the classic rides and games on the boardwalk, and the local sports teams.

It’s also close to London should you want a taste of the big city. 

One of the best parts of Brighton is that every neighbourhood has its own distinct feel, so you can find somewhere that better fits you and your family.

An excellent public transport system, great schools, and plenty of employment opportunities exist. You can even take a short commute to London if you wish! 

The best places to live in England for retirees

For retirees, it’s all about finding a great place to relax and enjoy a hard-earned break. There are plenty of great places in England where you can enjoy your golden years, here are our favourites. 

1. Devon

Devon is arguably one of the most picturesque parts of England and one of the favorite counties to live in the UK. Rolling hills, green fields, and the striking Jurassic coast (a stretch of beaches and cliffs that are as historic as they are beautiful.

Clovelly life guard station and boats in the harbour
Clovelly, a pretty fishing village in Devon

It can be popular with tourists, but plenty of smaller towns are ideal for retirees. 

It can be a tad pricier than in other parts of the country, but if you want to retire in a beautiful corner of England, it may be worth every penny.

There are plenty of traditional pubs, two racecourses and great establishments to try traditional Devonshire cream teas. 

2. Norfolk

Norfolk has plenty of variety that retirees will love.

The coast locations of North Norfolk offer warmer climates and breathtaking scenery.

Cromer sandy beach, Norfolk
A promenade and pier in Cromer, a seaside town in Norfolk.

If you fancy a quieter city, Norwich might well be your place. It was voted the best place to live in England in 2021 by The Sunday Times, and we think it deservedly so. 

Norwich is a peaceful city with relatively low crime rates. Being a peaceful city doesn’t equate to being a boring place to live.  You’ll find a bustling high street interlinked with smaller streets and must-explore lanes that deliver a great shopping and discovery experience.

There’s cinema, theatre performances, three museums and plenty of sporting events – enough to keep you busy and entertained while relishing the parks and heritage of this charming city.

Hethersett may be the right place for those with green fingers or longing for lush views. It’s a green village, and the local authorities are constantly looking for ways to be kinder to the planet, so expect clean living and plenty of garden space. 

Alternatively, if you’d like to spend your golden years strolling along white-sand beaches, then perhaps Wells-next-to-the-Sea could be the place for you!

Then there are the rivals Sheringham and Cromer. Both are lovely seaside towns, but Cromer is more touristy and crowded.

These are just some of the many places to discover in Norfolk, but we’re sure you won’t be disappointed whichever you choose. 

3. Lincolnshire

Lincolnshire is an excellent location for retirees looking to save on living expenses.

Wild flowers and greenery of Lincolnshire Wolds
Lincolnshire Wolds

The cost of living and housing is low, and the county is quiet, meaning you can get that peace that you’re looking for without the price tag.

Here there are plenty of nature trails to explore, regular local festivities, and a real sense of community that is warm and welcoming.

It’s a big county with plenty of wonderful towns and villages: from Lincoln, a stunning cathedral city full of life and buzz, to such gems as Stamford and Louth, to numerous little pretty villages in the Wolds.

Should you crave the coast, there are plenty of seaside towns and villages to enjoy.

4. Cornwall

Cornwall beats most other locations in England with ease when it comes to coastal living and is one of the best counties to live in the UK.

A bright harbour in Mousehole, Cornwall
Mousehole, a village and fishing port in Cornwall.

Cornwall is a beautiful corner of the country, popular with tourists and retirees.

Before we go any further, we need to clarify a few things. 

Yes, Cornwall can be expensive, but like many things, you get what you pay for.

It is also very popular with tourists during the summer months, so you can expect an influx of people in the area during this period. This is mainly because the beaches in the area are widely considered some of the best in the UK. 

Cornwall has a few great areas on offer.

St Ives is popular for its white sandy beaches and is widely considered a relaxed town (just for context, the rest of Cornwall shares this atmosphere).

For the young at heart, Newquay is a great place. Pristine beaches, surfy vibes, and a young gathering enjoy everything Newquay offers.

Alternatively, Mount’s Bay is another area to consider. There are quite a few wonderful coastal towns and villages dotted around Mount’s Bay. Penzance is the largest and one of the top places to live in Cornwall.

5. York

When looking for somewhere to retire, people often look to the coast.

York Cathedral at night
Streets of York at night.

This is understandable; sun, sand, and a relaxed lifestyle all lend themselves to making your golden years as comfortable as possible.

Before you go shopping for a new swimsuit, we’ll make a case for the north of England, specifically York. 

A Viking hub and a medieval marvel, York was voted a top place to live in 2018, and it’s easy to understand why. It’s full of history, with plenty of architecture and monuments to explore. There are plenty of shops, and you will love The Shambles, York’s famous shopping street.

There are regular artistic and cultural events, many of which take place in the historic Grand Opera House and York Theatre Royal.

Foodies have plenty to choose from, no matter your taste.

If you are an explorer at heart, it won’t take long to reach some of England’s most beautiful country areas, and if you wander too far, you may find yourself in Scotland! 

If you’re craving a taste of Europe, York’s modern transport connections can easily get you to a nearby airport. 

The best places to live in England – summary

There are dozens more fantastic locations in England to choose from. 

Sevenoaks in Kent and The Chalke Valley in Wiltshire were named the best in the South East of England.

In the North West, Trawden in Lancashire warrants your consideration. Add to the list beautiful and historic locations such as Bath, Lyme Regis in Dorset, Salisbury in Wiltshire, St Albans in Hertfordshire and many other hidden gems dotted throughout England.

We haven’t been so bold as to select the one place for you to live; that’s an adventure and choice for you to make alone; we certainly hope that we’ve helped to narrow down your options and set you on the right path.

We’re sure you’ll love it no matter where you choose. Good luck, and welcome to England!

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Jack Griffiths
Jack Griffiths

Jack is an Australian freelancer now based in London who has been living the expat life for over three years now. While in the UK, Jack has travelled across Europe, Asia and the U.S.A. So far his favourite destination has been Malta.

He writes for Expatra alongside a number of other clients and his own creative pursuits. Hoping to continue living and working abroad, Jack hopes to live and work in Spain, Italy and South America in the future.

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One comment

  1. What on earth makes you think that retirees want peace. I want buzz, people-watching, a certain amount of excitement, not to atrophy. I’m71.

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