We care about you and because we care, we’re going to point you to the 12 best places in Britain for men to live. A dozen paradises for those of us with external genitalia, playgrounds for the hairy sex, the towns where Y chromosomes can run free.
This is no pin-in-the-map list by blinkered London journalists. Nor is it all based on the price of beer and where you can get a good curry (though it is partly). We asked you, our precious, beloved readers, what was important to you when it came to choosing somewhere to live. And our survey said… Well, lots of things.
There’s the very practical, sensible stuff. You’re big fans of low crime and a low cost of living, which is unsurprising (not that we’re judging anyone who loves crime and being broke). You’re also really big fans of a good phone reception; a sign of the times, but one we wholeheartedly support.
Then there’s the fun side of life. A good local pub and local restaurants, plus being close to good food shops all scored highly, showing a healthy appetite. But being balanced individuals, you counter that by being keen on good exercise facilities, and being close to the great outdoors (well, a park at least).
So where can you find all this? It turns out, in a few places. We took your wants and desires, then scoured the globe (mainly the internet) for statistics to find out which towns and cities in the UK fit the bill and, more importantly, which ones are the very best.
Will your town be there? There are, we think, a few surprises in the mix. And if you don’t agree with our findings, we’d love to hear from you, so please tweet @ShortList with the hashtag #shortlistbestplaces or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now: read, absorb and start packing your bags.
Let’s get the bad bit out of the way first. In a 2012 survey by The Idler, Birmingham was voted the fifth ugliest town in the country. While the UK’s second city was once a sow’s ear of a place, it’s been making an effort recently, architecturally speaking. There’s the big Selfridges, like a wobbly UFO, and the spiffy public library. It still has unattractive areas, but don’t we all? Aesthetically pleasing architecture was ranked as important by 67 per cent of you – if you’re fixated on that maybe look elsewhere, but otherwise there’s lots to love about Birmingham.
While it’s the most densely populated city after London, Birmingham is the third cheapest major city, the ninth safest (41 per cent say they feel safe there) and has the seventh lowest crime rate. And when you’re not in your big, unburgled house, there’s plenty to do.
Birmingham has three major live gig venues, putting it joint second in the UK, and acts who come from Birmingham include The Moody Blues, ELO, Duran Duran, The Streets, Ozzy Osbourne and every housewife’s favourite, Napalm Death. It is considered one of the UK’s best places to find new acts. It’s also, according to one Telegraph poll, the fourth most successful footballing city.
You can decide whether this is good or bad, but Birmingham topped a poll to be named the UK’s booziest student city. Incidentally, it’s also sixth worst for STIs and eighth most promiscuous, so maybe avoid Monday or Wednesday nights.
OK, we know we said the “best places to live in Britain” and Belfast is technically part of the United Kingdom, not Britain, but calm down, Captain Geography. Think of this as bonus information. We’re including Belfast for good reason. ShortList readers named low cost of living and housing as, respectively, the fifth and fourth most important considerations when choosing a place to live. The capital city of Northern Ireland is the least expensive major UK city to live in, and one of the cheapest places to buy your own home, with an average house-price-to-earnings ratio of 4.12. That might still sound a lot, but when you consider in some areas of London the ratio is more than 26, it’s a comparative bargain.
After a troubled history, Belfast is a city on the up, with impressive architecture popping up next to historical buildings and the likes of Game Of Thrones, which shoots a lot of its interiors in the city’s Titanic Studios, bringing money into the area. It made National Geographic’s top 10 destinations in the world in 2012, and the Financial Times thinks it’s in the top 10 places to hold a conference or event (might be the £3.10 average pint price). Also, if eight is your lucky number (hello China), it’s ranked eighth in the country for nightlife and happiness and low crime. But ninth for kebabs.
Not everything is perfect. Belfast is apparently the worst place in the UK for traffic jams, with journeys taking 32.1 per cent longer than the average, according to data from the Congestion index. It’s also better for those in a steady relationship, as it’s quite low down the rankings when it comes to percentage of single people, with only 46.6 per cent of inhabitants on the dating market. As a completely unrelated stat, Belfast has the second fastest broadband speed in the UK, at 20.82Mbps. We don’t know what that means practically, but it’s quick, whatever you’re downloading. So if you’re married, want a massive house, play a lot of online FIFA and are excited by the possibility of passing a Lannister on the high street then Belfast might be ideal.
Glasgow’s reputation as one of the fightier parts of Britain is out of date and unfair. Frankly, if you’re young, single and looking to go out a lot, there are few better places in the country to settle. Good restaurants, pubs and live music/clubbing were all ranked as highly important by readers, and Glasgow scores excellently on all fronts. It has five major music venues – more than almost any other city in the UK – and more smaller ones.
TripAdvisor rates it as the fourth best city for nightlife in the UK and, again according to TripAdvisor, it has 29 restaurants serving cuisines considered obscure – i.e. not Indian, Chinese, Italian or Burger King – meaning it’s strongly multicultural, too. That total is second only to Manchester. It has 45 cinemas, the most of any city in the UK. As host of the 2014 Commonwealth Games, it also has excellent sporting facilities. If you live in Glasgow we can’t imagine why you’d ever stay home.
On the downside, all this going out may contribute to the fact that residents of Glasgow take more sick days than anyone else (four days per year), plus men live for less time than the rest of the population too, a very low 69.3 years. But let’s not dwell. On the more practical front, Glasgow is affordable, with the average house costing 4.51 times the average wage, and is eighth on the low cost of living index. It’s cycle-friendly, and the eighth safest major city in the UK. If you’re single, a fellow 49.2 per cent of residents are also unattached. Not to draw sordid parallels, but it’s also the sixth most promiscuous city, with six per cent of people regularly enjoying one-night stands. No judgement.
Let’s see if we can get through this without mentioning The Beatles. Aside from its most famous export, Liverpool has plenty to recommend it. The fifth most visited city in the UK makes it into the top five in a whole heap of categories, almost all of them good. It’s the fifth happiest city; it’s the fifth best place for restaurants specialising in unusual cuisines (Liverpool is one of the most culturally diverse places in the country); it’s the fifth safest place to live; it’s one of the best for culture, with three film festivals, 21 cinemas including three independents, and two major live music venues; it’s a great city in which to be single, with just under 50 per cent of residents on the market (Knowsley is one of only two places in the UK where single women outnumber single men); it has, according to the British Kebab Awards, the best kebab outside London – from Botan Kebab House, since you ask; its nightlife has been voted the best in the UK; it has the fourth highest incidence of STIs… Hang on, let’s scrap that one.
Liverpudlians are an active lot, considered the seventh fittest city in the UK. It’s third best at football, though we suspect locals might beg to differ. They show up – and we’re just delivering the facts – in a lot of sex-based polls, with 49.7 per cent being single and 13 per cent admitting to one-night stands. It has the fourth highest incidence of STIs. Sorry, we’re supposed to be forgetting that, aren’t we?
With a strong quality of life, Liverpool is also one of the more affordable of the major cities, with only Belfast edging it off the top spot for least expensive. But it is the fourth toughest place to find work. The average property costs around £140,000; good news to the 60-odd per cent of you with cost as a primary concern when choosing your home.
So, plenty to be smug about. And yes, you have The Beatles too. You don’t have to remind us.
Sheffield has a lot to be happy about. It has a rich musical history, as the home town of Arctic Monkeys, Def Leppard and Cockers Joe and Jarvis. It has The Crucible, the best snooker venue in the world. Jessica Ennis Hill is from there, and everybody loves her. So are Bassetts Liquorice Allsorts and some people like them. In 2013, Sheffield was deemed the happiest city in the UK, in a survey by a cosmetic surgery company (whether plastic surgeons are best placed to evaluate happiness is a debate for another time).
Sheffield isn’t high up the rankings when it comes to going out or single people, not cracking the top 10 on either, but it’s a solid performer in the more ‘grown up’ categories. It’s the 10th greenest city. As for crime – low crime being something 84 per cent of readers said was important to them – Sheffield has the third lowest crime rate in the UK, so you can see why the place would appeal. Unsurprisingly, it’s also the third safest place to live, with 50 per cent of its population judging it to be safe, according to YouGov (for comparison, Edinburgh – the city that was deemed safest – got a ranking of 68 per cent).
Not that you should decide where to live based on this information alone, but if you were to sidle into a Sheffield pub you are likely to pay around £2.72. It also has better phone coverage than Manchester, Liverpool and Edinburgh. We wouldn’t usually mention that information, but 68 per cent of you deemed it a very important factor in choosing where to live…
If you are in your twenties, get thee to Cardiff. Wales’s largest city ranks highly in almost every ‘young’ category. This probably has to do with its popular university, but is also a result of there being so much to do. Cardiff has a huge number of clubs and bars, 14 cinemas, and the Millennium Centre is a home to theatre, opera, dance and other fancy-people pursuits. This saw Cardiff ranked as seventh best city for nightlife in the UK, something almost half of you consider a very important factor when choosing a home.
Wales’s capital is also very fit, as the second highest purchaser of exercise equipment in the UK and many sporting venues, such as the Millennium Stadium.
As 83 per cent of you said you value outdoor space, Cardiff is a fine choice, with 10 per cent of the city made up of parkland. In 2011, National Geographic put it at No6 on a list of alternative holiday destinations, and it’s hard to disagree – so head there for a visit, or stay forever.
What do you know about Plymouth? Probably not a lot, unless you already live there, which is cheating. Sir Francis Drake? That nice green football kit? For many years, Plymouth has simply been that place you pass on your way to Cornwall.
It has, however, started to make a name for itself recently. Living in Plymouth is a mature choice; it’s not the place to come when you’re in the first flush of youth. While there are plenty of bars, the way of life is generally more gentle.
If you crave a quieter life then come on in. It’s the fifth cheapest major city, with the average property setting you back around £170,000. It’s also the eighth greenest place in the country, which goes some way to explaining why it’s considered the most cycle-friendly place in the UK.
For a long time the city centre has been the least appealing part of Plymouth, but local architecture is improving – the Theatre Royal’s rehearsal building was named British Building Of The Year in 2003 – and there’s a redevelopment plan to be completed by 2020. If you want a gentle coastal life, then now might be the time to up sticks for Plymouth.
Nobody tell Newcastle, but despite being the fourth-cheapest city to live in, it’s doing a good impression of the UK’s more expensive destinations. If we let on, we might scare it and send all the prices shooting up. Honestly, though, it’s brilliant. Newcastle has plenty of beaches, like Brighton. It’s got a vibrant city centre, like (an admittedly much smaller) London. It’s got countless beautiful, old buildings, like Edinburgh. In short, it’s a first-class city that combines the best of many worlds at a fraction of the cost.
Like sport? Obviously football’s big, but also all that coastline means that you can sail, surf or paddle just about any craft you like. Then there’s the Great North Run, the world’s most popular half-marathon. Sixty-four per cent of you say you’re keen on easy access to the countryside, and while Newcastle isn’t actually near much in the way of rolling fields, it has a huge amount of parks, including Town Moor and is the greenest city in the entire country.
Architecturally, Newcastle’s a gem, something that’s important to 67 per cent of you. As well as the Georgian buildings all over the place there are plenty of striking modern additions. There’s the Millennium Bridge; there’s the big wobbly Sage music venue, which is technically over the water in Gateshead, but you can still see it from Newcastle. Not forgetting old favourite Baltic Mill, which was once a flour mill and is now an impressive art gallery.
Newcastle famously likes a night out and, given everything on offer, you can hardly blame them. There’s the famous free-for-all of the Bigg Market, or the more stylish bars of Collingwood Street. There’s a great selection of restaurants covering just about every country you can imagine and a load of theatres and gig venues.
The way things are going politically, Britain needs to enjoy Edinburgh while it can. And, boy, is it enjoyable – no matter what stage of manhood you’re at. Thinking of settling down? The capital of Scotland was voted No5 on a list of the best places in the UK to raise a family, while it also came out top in a YouGov poll to find the safest places in Britain – 68 per cent of its inhabitants described it as safe. It’s also the ninth greenest city in Britain and, in most directions you look, a bit of a stunner.
Edinburgh is not only a good choice for those entering the Bugaboo stage of life. Its four universities mean there’s a sizeable young demographic in the mix. It ranks highly on the list of best places for restaurant selection, coming in third. Having all those students means it’s also the second most likely place to have a one-night stand. You play safe, students.
There aren’t many places more dedicated to culture than Edinburgh. The summer’s renowned Fringe Festival is the biggest arts festival in the world, which is quite a feat. The Edinburgh Film Festival is second only to London’s. Then there’s the Edinburgh International Festival, which celebrates dance and classic music. It’s not surprising, then, that Edinburgh is the second most-visited city in the UK.
We all knew it was going to be on there somewhere. How could the English capital not be? But for all that’s fantastic about London – and there is an awful lot – it couldn’t make it to the top of the list for a few very key reasons. For one, it’s eye-wateringly expensive. The average house now costs over £500k. Even considering the average London salary is around £40k – a figure that is significantly pushed up by City workers – that’s out of the reach of most.
However, to that 65 per cent of you looking for great local pubs and the 44 per cent of you keen to live somewhere with a good live-music scene, there is nowhere better to live. London is officially the best in the country for live music, with iconic venues of every size, and it has the highest number of local breweries (54 according to CAMRA). On the going-out front, you could live in London for decades and not run out of new places to visit. London is so keen on eating that we challenge you to find a single country’s cuisine not represented somewhere.
The capital, surprisingly, doesn’t hit the top 10 when it comes to finding unattached people, although it does when it comes to one-night stands. Thirty-two per cent of you value good access to menswear shops and there’s nowhere better than London for that – try Lamb’s Conduit Street: a mini menswear haven.
Incidentally, London is also the UK’s most successful footballing city (according to The Telegraph).
Bristol is doing so many things right that we have to wonder why the whole country isn’t squeezing in there. Either that or it’s hiding something. Essentially, Bristol makes an appearance on almost all the good lists and very few of the bad ones. On the really, really important stuff, it’s the third-best place to get a curry in the UK. And it’s the fifth-best place to go for live music. Forty-seven per cent of the local population regard themselves as single, but unlike most of the other cities in our survey with high numbers of unattached people, it doesn’t appear on the list of most promiscuous. You are so mature, Bristol, and you are making good choices.
On the practical front, YouGov’s poll puts Bristol at the number two spot of safest cities and it tops the list of places with the lowest crime, which is something that’s important to 84 per cent of you. Crime is the joint most important thing to ShortList readers, according to our survey, along with access to good shops. Bristol has a higher proportion of independent shops than your average city, particularly on Gloucester Road, so consider that base covered. It’s not the best for traffic, coming fourth on the list of cities with the worst congestion, but it’s third most cycle-friendly, so there are ways around it.
Bristol has plenty of the aforementioned live venues, but it’s also the closest city to Glastonbury making it a great base for any music obsessive. It’s so close you could feasibly go home each night and sleep in a proper bed. The Glastonbury dream. And, as you well know, it’s the home of trip-hop, which is maybe why Tricky showed up on stage that time Beyoncé headlined the Pyramid Stage; he was likely just passing. It has quite a number of festivals of its own, including one dedicated to hot-air balloons…
The 50 per cent of you after good exercise opportunities need to just try walking or cycling round the city. It’s so hilly that even leaving your front door counts as a workout. And the higher you get the more you’ll see of this magnificent city, which, thanks to its waterside location and all those blooming hills, has no end of cracking views. But be warned, given how fast the city is growing, it’s becoming more and more pricey. It’s already at number 10 on the list of most-expensive places to live and there’s every chance it could edge higher than that.