The best cities in the UK to live and work

Discover the best cities in the UK for international students and expats, based on quality of life, job opportunities, and more. From London to Edinburgh, find your perfect place to live and work in the UK.

The best cities in the UK to live and work
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Apr 25, 2023 08:37 AM
The United Kingdom, popularly addressed as the UK, is a sovereign nation located in north-western Europe. The UK comprises the island of Great Britain (which includes England, Wales and Scotland), Northern Ireland and several smaller islands within the British Isles. With an estimated population of 68 million as of December 2021, the United Kingdom ranks among the top 20 nations globally for the quality of life index. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the UK is positioned as one of the top-performing nations for overall quality of life concerning education, skills, health status, job opportunities, earnings, per capita income, the standard of life, personal security, civic engagement, environmental quality, and general subjective well-being. International students studying in the UK thus wish to find jobs here and settle down in this country post-completion of their studies. Let us review the best cities in the UK for international students and other expatriates who wish to live, work and raise their families in this country.

Best Cities in the UK (2021)

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland encompasses England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Among the 69 officially recognised cities in these four constituent countries, we have enlisted the best cities in the UK that offer excellent quality of life. The statistics are derived on vital parameters such as cost of living, jobs, health, safety, purchasing power index, per capita income, climate, pollution, traffic, health, education, and other measures (as of December 2021).
Quality of Life Index
Source: Numbeo
Let us look at the five best cities in the UK from the above list that are popular amongst the global community.

1. London, England

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Image Source: Caribbean News Digital
London is the capital of the UK and is the largest city in the country. With its history spanning more than two millennia till the Roman times, it is also one of the oldest cities in the world. London is the United Kingdom’s political, cultural and economic hub and the most influential metropolis. The city of London is a bustling scene of friendly folks, delicious food, a diverse population of multiple ethnicities, rich culture and heritage, stunning architecture, beautiful landmarks, lively parks, music, art, etc. London has everything under the sun, making the city a wonderful place to put your roots down. If you are looking for a place to enhance your career prospects, London offers many job opportunities in industry, academia and other sectors. People living in London can have a fulfilling career and lead an exciting life basking in the glory of art, music, travel, and architecture. The city is also home to some of the top 10 universities in the world.
Over 75% of the fortune 500 companies have offices in London, with more than 100 of Europe’s top-tier organisations headquartered in central London. As of 2021, an estimated 6 million people are employed in the city of London.

Top Organisations in London

  • Google
  • Accenture
  • Bloomberg
  • Goldman Sachs
  • Waitrose
  • Deloitte
  • IBM
  • JP Morgan
  • Deutsche Bank
  • Morgan Stanley
  • Barclays

2. Edinburgh, Scotland

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Image Source: Unsplash
Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, is located in southeastern Scotland, on the shore of the Firth of Forth. The city is the cultural hub of Scotland, famous for historical and cultural attractions drawing tourists from across the globe. It is the second most popular tourist destination in the UK. The city of Edinburgh is filled with beautiful historical sites, art galleries, tourist spots, delightful restaurants, cinemas, charming cafes, museums, friendly people, making it not only a great tourist location but also a wonderful place to live.
Edinburgh is known as the powerhouse of the Scottish economy. The city offers plenty of job opportunities in banking, technology, finance and other sectors. Fantastic career prospects, relaxed life, great food, incredible nightlife, and an incredible work-life balance make Edinburgh one of the best cities in the UK to live.

Top Employers in Edinburgh

  • NHS Lothian
  • City of Edinburgh Council
  • University of Edinburgh
  • NatWest Group
  • Lloyds Banking Group
  • Standard Life
  • The Scottish Government
  • Lothian and Borders Police
  • Tesco (inc Tesco Bank)
  • Royal Mail
  • BlackRock
  • Sky

3. Manchester, England

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Image Source: Unsplash
Manchester is the third biggest and the fifth largest populated city in the UK. The city has a rich industrial heritage and is the birthplace of the industrial revolution. Manchester stands distinguished for its beautiful architecture, rich culture, media links, science and engineering contributions, musical exports, social influence, artistry, and enthusiasm for sports. Two of the best football clubs in the world, Manchester United and Manchester City, are based in Manchester. It is a tourist-favourite place with architectural marvels, nature reserves, museums, historical sites, art centres, etc. From ancient history to science and industry, Manchester has a lot to offer. Industrial presence, affordability, job market, friendly people, food, arts, music, and sports make Manchester one of the best cities in the UK for people who appreciate the finest things in life.
Manchester is nicknamed the ”economic boomtown” of Europe. With its thriving industrial centre and the fastest-growing job market in the UK, the economy of Manchester is predicted to be worth over 6 billion by 2025.

Top Companies in Manchester

  • Barclays
  • Deloitte
  • John Lewis & Partners
  • Vodafone
  • KPMG
  • Accenture
  • Tesco
  • Marks & Spencer
  • Siemens
  • Kellogg’s
  • Unilever

4. Birmingham

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Image Source: The Guardian
Birmingham, located in the West Midlands, England, is the second-largest city in the United Kingdom and is commonly referred to as the ”second city of the UK.” The estimated population of the city of Birmingham is over 1 million, which is said to increase to 2 million in the coming decade. Birmingham is known to be the ”first manufacturing town” in the world as hundreds of businesses found their footing in this city. It is also the hometown of world-renowned musicians Ozzy Osbourne, Duran Duran and UB40. Europe’s biggest shopping mall ”the Bullring Shopping Centre” is based here. Birmingham’s natural beauty, thriving economy, beautiful attractions, hospitable people, famous theatres, entertainment centres, museums, art centres, passion for music and sports make it the most desirable place to live in the UK.
Birmingham is a global centre for business, industry and commerce. The Manufacturing and Engineering industries are the most significant contributors to the city’s economy. People can also find employment in finance, insurance, law, banking, management consultancy and other sectors.

Top Organisations in Birmingham

  • NPower
  • Deloitte
  • Barclays
  • John Lewis & Partners
  • Rolls-Royce
  • Greggs
  • Deutsche Bank
  • KPMG
  • Jaguar
  • Rolls Royce
  • Mondelez (Cadbury & Trebor)

5. Cambridge

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Image Source: Unsplash
Cambridge is popularly known as the University City, as it is home to the world’s prestigious university, the University of Cambridge. It is located in eastern England, approximately 89 km north of London. Cambridge is a vibrant city full of green spaces, parks, museums, fabulous restaurants, outdoor spaces, play areas and architectural wonders. The city hosts many social and cultural events like the Cambridge Festival, the Folk Festival, Beer Festival and family gatherings like the Big Weekend. Cambridge is a multi-faceted cultural and technological hub that stands true to the ”work hard, play hard” philosophy, making it one of the best cities in the UK, offering a fantastic work-life balance.
Cambridge is popularly referred to as the Silicon Fen (England’s Silicon Valley). The city is home to numerous high-tech companies, businesses and start-ups related to software, electronics and biotechnology. Thousands of intellectuals and creative minds from Cambridge University have created a brilliant technological and dynamic city.

Top Companies in Cambridge

  • AstraZeneca PLC
  • Marshall of Cambridge (Holdings) Limited
  • Hilton Food Group plc
  • BGL (Holdings) Limited
  • G’s Group Holdings Limited
  • Vindis Group Limited
  • Napp Pharmaceutical Holdings Limited
  • Pro Cam Europe Limited
  • Mundipharma Limited
  • Abcam plc
  • Hutchinson Group Limited
  • George Thurlow and Sons (Holdings) Limited


The United Kingdom is one of the desired countries in the world to live and raise a family. The Better Life Index rates the UK as the most developed country for overall quality of life based on factors like healthcare, schooling, housing, per capita income, safety, personal security, pollution level, etc. In general terms, the UK offers excellent quality education, plenty of job opportunities, and a safe place for families to live peacefully and prosperously. In this article, we have reviewed the five best cities in the UK that offer high standard of life and enriching career prospects for international students and expatriates. Other popular cities in the UK are Bristol, Glasgow, Reading, Oxford, Leeds, Southampton, Cardiff, Newcastle, Sheffield, Liverpool, and many more.

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