London vs. Manchester

Well, you couldn’t come across a more hotly debated subject than whether London or Manchester is the better city to live in the UK.

A few decades ago (heck, even a few years ago…) there was an easier distinction between the two cities, but today, well, the key differences are somewhat less defined.

So let’s take a balanced look at the two cities, taking into account important aspects such as average salaries, cost of living, employment opportunities, social and entertainment, property, and accessibility – all vital aspects when it comes to choosing which city might become your home.

To utilise real time data, we use information from websites Expatistan and Numbeo, who use crowd-sourcing to keep the most up-to-date prices available for all to peruse.

Average Salary

Being as London is the capital city of the UK, it will probably come as no surprise to know that the average salary here is higher. in fact, by around 28%, with the average monthly disposable salary after tax in London being £1,961, versus that in Manchester of £1,411.

However, it’s necessary to take the cost of living in each city as a whole into account, not simply the amount that you see on your pay slip.

Employment Opportunities

Some years ago, it was definitely London that was the place to be if you were looking at furthering your career, but today that view is becoming outdated.

Manchester isn’t being referred to as the UK’s “second city” for nothing. The government is ploughing money and effort into ensuring that London’s northern rival really does give the capital a run for its money…

Employment agencies in Manchester are booming (as are the ones in London), and in the current climate, many of the world’s largest employers look to agencies to fill their vacancies.

Such agencies in Manchester include some of the largest names, including Reed, Connections, and Randstad. Of course, these massive agencies also cover London and all other areas of the UK as well.

For those working in the digital industry, you’ll be interested to know that the government has announced that they are to invest in a Manchester located Tech City, a publically funded space for digital and technological business start ups (and one identical to that already in place in London).

Property Prices

Manchester wins hands down in this respect, with property being around 43% cheaper than in London.

For example, if you were to rent a 1-bedroom apartment in the centre of London, this would set you back around £1,652 per month. A similar property in Manchester would cost around £681 – a massive difference by anyone’s calculations.

And when it comes to purchasing property, you’ll pay around 80% less for a comparable place in Manchester…

Cost of Living

When it comes to paying for the essentials, such as electricity, gas, water etc. Manchester is a little more expensive – by around 8%. And Internet tends to be slightly cheaper in London (again by about 8%). But when it comes to the purchase of groceries, Manchester scores the best, with an average food basket costing 4% less than in the capital.

However, when it comes to individual food items, you’ll find more variables. For example, bread is a whopping 24% cheaper in London, and potatoes cost less by around 26%!

Wherever you choose to live, you can ensure that you’re paying the best price for utilities (and this includes broadband and TV connections) by checking out the best deals for your personal situation on various comparison websites. These include U Switch, Compare The Market and, Money Saving Expert.


Okay, big (huge) differences between the two cities here. London is undoubtedly the more expensive when it comes to public transport. A monthly season ticket to use the trains and buses in London will set you back about £130, against a paltry £54 for Manchester transport (a difference of around 58%).

If you want to use taxis, the cost in either city is fairly similar, with a 5-mile trip on a weekday costing around £17 in London, versus £16 in Manchester.

Social and Entertainment

When it comes to social things such as a gym membership, Manchester wins hands down. An average monthly contract here will set you back around £27-£30 a month, as opposed to a far more costly £50-£60 in London.

However, whichever city you live in, check out some of the low cost gyms that are springing up in cities around the country, such as The Gym Group and Easy Gym, to keep this expense down to a minimum.

When it comes to eating out, once again Manchester tops the leader board. Meals in general are about 12-13% cheaper than in London, and the great thing is that with the popularity of Manchester increasing all the time, the choice of food and restaurants is almost as varied as those you’ll find in London.

Movie tickets are also a little cheaper in Manchester (by around 9%), but you’ll pay a bit more for your daily cappuccino in the city – by around 1%.


Both cities are well served by airports. London has City Airport, London Gatwick, and London Heathrow. There’s also London Stanstead and London Luton – but to be honest, calling these “London” airports is a bit of a stretch, as they’re actually located quite a long way outside of London.

However, there are regular coach services from central London if you need to get there.

Manchester has its own international airport, with flights worldwide. Both cities are well located to get onto the UK motorway network.

Of course, London has a direct train service to the continent – Eurostar, whereby you can jump on the train at St. Pancras and be in Paris a couple of hours later.

But Manchester is not without its own charm, with The Pennine Hills close by, and the Lake District, Peak District, and Snowdonia all within an hours drive. You can even take a ferry from Liverpool to Ireland if you fancy a trip to the Emerald Isle.

As you can see, each city has its own positives and negatives. And as to which is the better, well, it all depends on your personal point of view.

Sure, London’s more expensive, but for sheer size and variety, it can’t be beaten. But for value for money, not to mention a good quality of life, Manchester really does give the capital city a run for its money!