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Written by
Tim Knighton
Life, health and income protection insurance expert
14 JUNE 2023
6 min read
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The most calming cities in the UK

The world is moving at a rapid pace, and as life gets louder, we often forget to take time out to care for ourselves. Practising mindfulness can be a good way to take a step back from the whirlwind of thoughts, emotions, and stressors that impact our daily lives, and may help us find a sense of calm among the chaos. 

Whether we’re taking a guided meditation class, or finding peace in the great outdoors, there are countless ways in which we can become more mindful. But, where in the UK is best for living a calm, tranquil life?

To find out, we analysed over 40 of the most populated cities in the UK, taking into account factors such as population density, noise pollution, the quality of green spaces, the number of walks, and the amount of spas. We’ve also partnered with a mindfulness expert to share tips on how best to bring a sense of peace into your everyday life.

Where are the most calming locations in the UK?

Taking the crown for the most calming city in the UK is Milton Keynes. For those who find peace in nature, the city boasts the highest quality green spaces out of all locations analysed, with a score of 93.4 out of 100. Those who like to get outside will also find lots of fresh air, as the city’s air quality has an average rating of 86.8 out of 100. Plus, if a massage or facial is what you need for a sense of relaxation, Milton Keynes is home to 76 different spas.

In second place is Preston, which is the best place to find some peace and quiet, as noise levels in the city are rated just 12.5 out of 100, the lowest of all cities analysed. Great for those looking to de-stress outdoors, Preston offers a high air quality (84.4) and boasts almost double (102) the number of walking trails of Milton Keynes.

While the population density in Oxford is quite high at 3,553 people per square kilometre, it ranks as the third most calming location overall. Home to some of the happiest people in the UK, with a satisfaction rating of      7.7 out of 10, the city also offers the most spas of all locations analysed, with 78 to choose from.

Sheffield ranks in fourth place. Thanks to its proximity to the Peak District, the city boasts 181 different walking trails, and the quality of its green spaces and parks is also high, with a score of 87.5. Sheffield isn’t the quietest of places, though, as noise pollution is scored 36.3.

Rounding off the top five is Wigan, which has the best air quality of all cities analysed, with a score of 87.5. However, the number of walking trails is lower here, at just 34.

Completing the list of the UK’s 10 top most calming cities are Swansea, Stoke-on-Trent, Derby, Cambridge, and Reading. Swansea in particular stands out thanks to the quality of its green spaces (91.7) and the cleanliness of the city’s air (80), making it one of the top spots to head to if you’re looking to unwind in nature.

Those of us looking for a sense of tranquillity will often seek out some quiet alone time. With this in mind, our research has also revealed which cities in the UK are the most peaceful, based on population density and noise pollution.

With the lowest noise pollution of all the cities analysed (12.50), Preston ranks as the most peaceful place in the UK. If solitude is what you are after, you should be able to find it here too, as the city is home to just 1,039 people per square kilometre.

Despite being a little noisier with a score of 27.50, you’ll find even less people to disturb you in Milton Keynes, which comes in second place thanks to a population density of just 930.1 people per square kilometre.

Swansea comes in as the third most peaceful city, thanks to having one of the lowest population densities of all cities analysed, with just 631.5 people per square kilometre. In fourth is Wigan, which is a relatively quiet city, with noise pollution scored just 25 points.

Peterborough is in fifth, and if avoiding the crowds is what you need to find your inner calm, it’s one of the best places to head to, with just 628.1 people per square kilometre. The city is quite noisy, though, with a score of 41.7.

Rank City No. of people per square kilometre Noise pollution
(out of 100)
Total score
1 Preston 1,039 12.50 9.68
2 Milton Keynes 930.1 27.50 8.67
3 Swansea 631.5 33.33 8.44
4 Wigan 1,750 25.00 8.31
5 Peterborough 628.1 41.67 7.84
6 Sheffield 1,512.5 36.25 7.66
7 Edinburgh 1,828 36.29 7.45
8 Warrington 1,168 45.00 7.25
9 Sunderland 1,994.6 37.50 7.25
10 Swindon 1,014.4 46.43 7.25

How can I bring a sense of tranquillity into my everyday life?

1. Live in the moment

Being present is a prerequisite for mindfulness. It’s important to spend time focusing on the here and now, rather than dwelling on the past or future.

When you are in a conversation with someone, be fully present and listen with your whole body, or if you’re spending time doing something you love, make sure you are appreciating how you think and feel at that moment.

2. Bring your senses into your habitual activities

Mindfulness doesn’t need to be scheduled and can be integrated into activities that you already do such as showering, brushing your teeth or drinking a coffee. Switch off from distractions, such as your phone or TV, and let yourself be present to have a more pleasurable experience.

3. Become more aware of how you are feeling

Get an understanding of what you are thinking and how this affects your feelings. If you feel unhappy in any way, ask yourself: what else could the situation mean, and notice how you feel. Do this until you find a meaning that makes you feel better.

Why not try keeping a journal to track your thoughts and feelings. This way, you can identify any potential triggers and reflect on experiences in a safe environment.

4. Go for a walk in fresh air

When there is a lot going on, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. Getting outside and filling your lungs with fresh air doesn’t just help us to re-energize, but also clear our minds.

If you have difficulty with seated meditation, walking meditation may be the perfect option for you. Make sure you centre your attention around your breathing and the movement of your body to anchor your mind. Cities with lots of walking trails are perfect for this kind of practice, especially if there is plenty of clean air to take in too.

5. Take a moment to sit and observe

Mindfulness can be easily practised by sitting in a chair and observing your breath for a few minutes, making it ideal for midday relaxation while at work. Becoming aware of your breath can really help to centre and calm yourself, detaching you from your thoughts for a moment. This practice can also be done while commuting, whether on the tube, train, or bus, so even if you do find yourself in a busy city, there are ways in which you can find tranquillity.

Methodology & Sources

We analysed the 44 most populated cities in the UK and compared them against a series of metrics, with each metric graded to create an overall score. These metrics included:

Number of people per square km
Noise levels
Air quality
Quality of green spaces and parks
Happiness ratings
Number of walking trails
Number of spas

Life insurance experts at Compare the Market teamed up with Quantum Leap Transformation Coach, Dina Marais to provide tips on how to bring a sense of tranquillity into everyday life.