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Written by
Anna McEntee
Insurance comparison expert
23 FEBRUARY 2023
5 min read
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The UK's top cities for young adults

Deciding where you want to live can be a tough choice at any life stage, but it can be especially difficult for young adults. With so many factors to consider, such as job prospects, nightlife, and affordable rent, figuring out which city is right for you can become quite overwhelming.

To provide some guidance, we’ve ranked the UK’s 40 most populated cities to reveal the top locations for young adults. Our ranking considers essential aspects such as how much of the population is aged 18-30, cost of living, job opportunities, the number of pubs and bars hosting events, and the overall happiness of each city's inhabitants.

The top 20 cities in the UK for young adults

Nottingham ranks as the UK’s top city for young adults. With affordable public transport (£60 for a monthly public transport pass), and relatively inexpensive rent (£765 per month on average for a one bed apartment in the city centre), it’s not much of a surprise that Nottingham appeals to so many young people. In fact, more than a quarter (28%) of Nottingham’s population are aged between 18 and 30, meaning this city has the highest demographic in this age range out of all the cities analysed in our study.

Southampton comes in second place, with 24% of its population aged 18-30 and affordable costs, the city has many opportunities available to young people. This coastal city currently has 1,038 job listings on offer, making it a great place to explore career options. There are also 95 pubs and bars hosting events in Southampton, so there’s plenty of opportunity to relax and unwind at the weekend, too. 

Coming in third place is Coventry, scoring particularly well for its low transport costs. A monthly public transport pass costs just £50 on average here, which is cheaper than what’s on offer in any other UK city. Coventry is also home to inexpensive dining options, with a restaurant meal costing just £10 a head on average. 

Newcastle-upon-Tyne ranks fourth, and is a particularly attractive option for young people looking to let loose with 120 bars and pubs to enjoy in the city. It also has a happiness score of 7.49, which is on the higher side. Bradford rounds out the top five, with a month’s rent in the city centre costing just £537.50 – making it by far the best of the bunch for anyone seeking cheap accommodation.

Plymouth and Luton tie for sixth place, followed by Kingston-upon-Hull, Birmingham, Sheffield and Middlesborough. Birmingham in particular stands out for both its job opportunities and nightlife, offering 3,205 job listings and 200 pubs and bars to explore.

Where are most affordable cities for renting in the UK?

The cost of living can be a huge deciding factor for young adults choosing where to live. Our research revealed Kingston-upon-Hull to be the most affordable city in the UK for renters, with a 1-bedroom city centre flat costing £452.50 per month on average. Middlesbrough follows closely at £475, while Peterborough comes in third with rent prices averaging £536.67.

Rank Location Average cost of a 1-bedroom city centre apartment
1 Kingston-upon-Hull £452.50
2 Middlesbrough £475.00
3 Peterborough £536.67
4 Bradford £537.50
=5 Stoke-on-Trent £550.00
=5 Derby £550.00
=5 Bolton £550.00
6 Aberdeen £552.43
7 Swansea £617.50
8 Warrington £700.00
9 Sheffield £702.78
10 Swindon £725.00

Which is the most affordable city for dining out the UK?

It’s no secret that young adults love to dine out. In fact, research has shown that young people are more likely to dine out than older people, with couples and under 35 eating out as often as once per week.

Our research points to Peterborough for the most inexpensive restaurants to dine out, with a meal at a restaurant here costing just £9 per person on average. Meanwhile, Coventry, Bradford, Middlesbrough, Plymouth, and Bolton all take joint second place, with affordable meals in each of these cities costing £10 on average.

Young people who relocate to new cities will also be keen to see the sights, explore new areas, and find hidden gems – so getting around the city at an affordable price is key.

Choosing where to live as a young adult can be an important decision - and there are a lot of different aspects to consider. Being happy with your living situation, as well as being able to form strong friendships and social ties, and maintain a healthful diet is key to establishing a good overall level of personal well-being.

It's great to see there are many cities in the UK that offer good living options for young adults, from affordable public transport, to plentiful job opportunities.

Sources and methodology:

Starting with a seedlist of the UK’s 40 most populated cities, the following data points were researched and compiled into a weighted ranking to produce an overall ranking of the top cities for young adults.

The cost of a meal at an inexpensive restaurant
Data collected on 19/01.

Population of residents in the UK aged 18-30
Data for mid-2021. Total population is also pulled from this source. Percentage of population aged 18-30 is calculated by dividing this age group by total population.
*For Bournemouth, the figure for Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole is used
*For Brighton, the figure for Brighton and Hove is used"

Average rent per month (£) - 1 bed
City centre figure is used. Data collected 19/01/23.

Cost of a monthly pass for public transportation (£)
Data collected 19/01/23.

Number of job roles
Total number of jobs listed per city is used. Data collected 19/01/23.

Number of pubs and bars
Filter of within 10 miles selected. Please note that this source focuses on the number of bars and pubs that have had, or will have, live events hosted at them. Data collected on 08/02/23.

Happiness score
Happiness score for the UK taken, data from April 2021 to March 2022 was used. For London, an average of all boroughs was calculated.
*For Bournemouth, the figure for Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole is used
*For Brighton, the figure for Brighton and Hove is used
*For Swansea, the figure for Swansea / Abertawe is used

The index is based on the average across all ranked scores. Northampton and Huddersfield have been removed due to missing data.