A Guide to Working in the UK’s Mega Cities

Many of us dream of upping sticks and moving to a larger city. 

They’re bustling and exciting places where new career opportunities await. They’re where new adventures are just waiting to be had. They’re where it feels like experiences of all shapes and sizes are waiting for you around every street corner. 

However, not all cities are the same. That’s why, before you hand in your notice at work and pack your bags, you should do your research and find out more about what each of our cities have to offer. 

Here’s our guide to the top five mega-cities in the UK: London, Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester and Edinburgh. 

London

London needs no introduction. It’s the big capital; a true mega-city if there ever was one. With a population of 8.1 million, it’s exciting, active and there is always somewhere new to be discovered. 

According to Cornerstone Office search, ‘One of the best things about London has to be the diversity; people from all over the globe travel here for new starts, adventure and work opportunities.’ 

When it comes to attractions, activities and nightlight, London is perhaps one of the best in the world. Lastly, don’t believe what you’ve heard about Londoners. They’re a friendly bunch and will welcome you with open arms once you’ve broken the ice. 

Which companies are situated in London?

As you’d expect in the capital, you’ll find businesses from just about every sector in London including media, finances, TV, retail, hospitality, estate agents, education, social work and unsurprisingly, tourism. 

Big brands include Google, Unilever, Royal Mail, BT, Rolls-Royce, BBC, Channel 4 and 20th Century Fox.  

There’s currently a huge demand for information technology professionals, teachers, skilled tradespeople and hospitality staff so if you fit into any of these groups, London is worth consideration. 

Getting around 

Getting around is easy in London as there’s a fantastic (if not pricey) public transport system. Choose from the famous Tube, trains, buses or cycle to work using a ‘Boris Bike’. 

Average salary

As you’d expect from a more expensive city, the average salary in London stands at £2,190. 

Rent

Rent prices in Central London are notoriously high and more than most cities across the world. According to a survey by Thrillist, average rent in Oxford Circus hits an eye watering £2,260 per month. Move further from the city and you might find rooms in shared accommodation for £500 per month or a one bedroom flat from around £1000 per month. 

Nightlife

Do you really need to ask? You’re in the capital so there’s so much to do. Fancy world class theatre performances, live music, pubs, clubs, bars or even a niche scene of your choice? You’re guaranteed to find it here. 

Birmingham

Birmingham is the UK’s second city when it comes to the economy and its size. Locals here tend to be very friendly and will strike up a conversation with you whenever they can- helping you to feel very welcome. 

Although Birmingham was one of the core cities of the Industrial Revolution a couple of centuries ago, these days the focus is primarily on finances, manufacturing, engineering and services. An eclectic city, you’ll also find a strong creative sector plus many other sectors like overseas banking, retail, logistics, law and accountancy. 

Which companies are situated in Birmingham?

Because the cost of living is much lower than London and business rentals are generally lower, Birmingham has attracted many investors and business owners over the years.

Brands that now have a strong presence in the city include Sainsbury’s, Jaguar Cars, Lloyds banking, HSBC banking, Asda and National Express Group PLC.  

Getting around 

Thanks to the infamous Spaghetti Junction, Birmingham has a reputation for very heavy traffic. That’s why, like many other big cities in the UK, it’s best not to drive. You could take the popular Park and Ride, hop on a bus, take the train or even cycle to work.  

Average salary

According to the Birmingham Post, the average salary in the West Midlands stands at £30,000. 

Rent

Although the housing market in Birmingham can be competitive, rental is usually cheaper than most other cities in the UK. A 2-bed flat will set you back around £800. 

Nightlife

With three universities, a thriving gay scene and a growing Indie music scene, the city is a lively place with plenty of pubs, clubs and bars that are sure to keep you entertained. 

Bristol

The largest city in the South West, Bristol is a calm and peaceful city boasting plenty of green space, a wonderful local feel and a thriving arts scene. Despite the smaller size it boasts famous landmarks such as the Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol Cathedral and even original Banksy murals. 

Voted Green Capital of Europe in 2015, it’s also home to many festivals including the Balloon Fiesta, VegFest, BrisFest, Harbour Festival, Interesting Games Festival, St Paul’s Carnival, Silent Comedy, and many more besides. 

Which companies are situated in Bristol?

In the old days, Bristol was heavily reliant on sea trade. However, these days it’s more about creative media, electronics, industry and aerospace. Thanks to the huge amount of regeneration going on, there’s also now a thriving financial sector and a growth of industries such as advertising, PR, design, digital media and TV. 

Names you’re sure to recognise include Lloyds Banking Group, AXA, Bank of Ireland, Hewlett Packard, BBC, Aardman Animations BAE systems, Airbus, Rolls Royce and the Ministry of Defence.

Getting around 

Like most other cities in the UK, congestion is always a problem. Having said that, the city does have a great bus system as well as a Park and Ride. You could also cycle to work if you moved here. 

Average salary

Bristol boasts one of the lowest unemployment rates in the UK and according to Money Supermarket, an average salary of £22,293.  

Rent

If you’re hoping to move to the city centre, be prepared to pay on average £900 per month for a one bedroom flat. However, most people live just outside the city in one of the most popular suburbs and pay much less than this. 

Nightlife

Bristol is an excellent place to live if you’re a fan of live music and theatre. With venues like Bristol Hippodrome, Little Black Box Theatre and the O2 Academy Bristol, you’re sure to find something you love. Another city popular with students, it also has a great pub, bar and club scene and a thriving food scene. 

Manchester

Manchester is a thriving and eternally popular city in the north of England which rose to fame during the days of the Industrial Revolution. 

These days it’s a hub of creativity, industry, technology and much more besides. Come here to marvel at the architecture, swot up on British history, soak up the amazing music scene, enjoy the bar culture and even treat yourself to a curry on the world-famous Curry Mile. 

Which companies are situated in Manchester?

Almost every company and industry you can imagine has a headquarters or base in Manchester. Big names include Royal Bank of Scotland, Ticketline, Adidas, Umbro, Manchester United, Manchester City, BBC, ITV/ Granada Television, Guardian Media Group, Google, Kellogg’s, Warburtons, PG Tips, Thomas Cook Airlines, The Co-operative and many more. 

It’s not just big brands that are welcome here- Manchester Science Park is now home to over 150 science and tech companies, start-ups are everywhere and the tourism industry continues to grow. 

Getting around 

As long as you’re not planning to drive, Manchester is easy for commuting. There’s a ton of options including trams, buses and trains and you can even walk or cycle home if you live close enough. 

Average salaries

According to Money Supermarket, the average Manchester salary is higher than the national average at around £27,331. 

Rent

Cheaper than Bristol, London and most other big cities in the UK, you can find one-bedroom flats in the city centre from £500 per month. Move to the suburbs and you’ll be looking closer to £400. 

Nightlife

Manchester offers some fabulous nightlife including live music at the MEN arena, O2 Academies and the Bridgewater Hall. As there are several universities in the city, there’s also a great bar and club scene, a thriving gay scene and the food is fantastic too. 

Edinburgh

The UK’s 4th largest city and the capital of Scotland, Edinburgh is a welcoming and friendly city with plenty of offer when it comes to your career. According to Arcadis, it’s one of the ‘most liveable cities in the world’.

Voted the greenest city in the UK, it’s popular with artists, it showcases fantastic history and architecture and it’s on most people’s travel bucket lists. When it comes to employment, it’s the fastest growing city in the UK and highly productive. 

Which companies are situated in Edinburgh?

Edinburgh is home to businesses from just about every sector including financial services, technology, software, creative industries, tourism, retail, food and drink, education and transport. You name it, it’s here. 

Big names include Royal Bank of Scotland, JP Morgan, Standard Life Investments, UK Green Investment Bank, Baillie Gifford, Scottish Widows Investment Partnership, Cairn Energy and even Toshiba. Edinburgh is also home to many start-ups including Skyscanner, FanDuel, and Quorate Technology. 

Getting around 

Everything is within walking distance in this charming and compact city. If you need to commute or want to save time, you can hop onto a bus or cycle to work. 

Average salary

The average salary in Edinburgh stands at an impressive £25,528. 

Rent

We’re not going to beat around the bush- renting in the city centre is extremely expensive; you’d be looking at around £1370 for a 2-bedroom flat. Do as the locals do and look further out of town to find a property that won’t break the bank. 

Nightlife

Edinburgh’s nightlight is varied, thriving and fantastic no matter what your tastes. Whether you want to visit the theatre, crave listening to some live music, want to hang out with friends or prefer to enjoy great food, the city has it all waiting. 

There’s no better place to experience big city life than in one of the UK’s mega cities. Varied, vibrant and friendly, they’re the perfect place to relocate for work. 

If you’re moving to the city and would like to find the perfect office space for your needs, head to the Corner Stone Office website for a range of attractive options. 

Sophia Anderson

Sophia Anderson is a blogger and a freelance writer. She is passionate about covering topics on money, business, careers, self-improvement, motivation and others. She believes in the driving force of positive attitude and constant development.

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