So, you’re thinking about moving to London? It’s a great city and I lived there for six years while I was doing my Master’s degree. Even though I have a soft spot for the capital of the UK, I can admit there are definitely some downsides to living there. So, before you make any major decisions, check out the pros and cons of living in London.
It might just help make up your mind about whether living in London is the right move for you.
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First, A Little About Living in London
If you’re planning on living in London, there are a few things that you’re going to need to keep in mind. Firstly, it’s expensive. The cost of living was already high and it’s rising at the moment, which is not ideal.
London is also huge. It could take well over an hour to get from one side to the other without traffic. So, with a city that big, a lot of these pros and cons depend on the area that you’re looking at.
Some are more affordable but might be further away meaning increased transport costs to get into the center. Some might be more expensive but have all the amenities you need on your doorstep.
It’s all about what works for your individual situation. These are just so overarching pros and cons that apply to London as a whole, not specific boroughs.
The thing is there are a lot of different cultures and types of people who live in and around London, so everywhere you go there’s a completely different vibe.
If you’re sick of one part, you can go a few stops over on the tube and feel like you’re totally somewhere else.
So, with that out of the way let’s dive into the pros and cons of living in London, starting with the good stuff!
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The Pros of Living in London (Advantages of Living in London)
1. There’s So Much Choice
One of the best things about living in a big city like London is that there is so much choice when it comes to things to do, see, or enjoy.
From restaurants to museums to shops to markets, there are so many of them that you’re always spoiled for choice!
Whatever mood you wake up in, there’s going to be something to suit you, no matter how crazy. Fancy a restaurant dedicated just to breakfast cereals? There’s one in Brick Lane.
Want something obscure in the middle of the night? There are so many 24/7 delivery services that you can get whatever you need, pretty much whenever you need it.
I’ll give you a fair warning though, it does make the ‘where do you want to go for food’ conversation, way harder!
Take This Quiz to See if London is Right For You!
It’s no secret that London is a melting pot of culture. There are plenty of theaters, cinemas, galleries, and museums that prove just how much culture is in and around the capital city.
If you’re looking to have an enriching night out or day exploring the city, you definitely can.
Another great thing about many of the major art galleries and museums is that they’re free.
Although there are some core exhibits that are always there, there’s also a constant rotation of temporary exhibits that makes visiting these cultural institutions something you can do time and time again!
Away from the museums and galleries, there are loads of cultural events that take place throughout the year including the famous Notting Hill Carnival!
There are loads of events sites where you can see the different cultural goings-on across the city – chances are they’ll be one going on near you!
London is one of the oldest cities in Europe, so when you’re walking around it’s like you’re stepping through time. If you love beautiful architecture and old-world vibes, then there are plenty of places that you can go and explore.
There are even secret London tours that point out the stories behind some of London’s oldest buildings and landmarks.
If you’re not afraid of the supernatural, ghost tours and Jack the Ripper tours are also a favorite with tourists and locals alike.
Although there are a lot of older buildings in the posher, more affluent areas of London, there’s also plenty of history to be appreciated throughout the boroughs, especially if you’re into modern history, including the World Wars.
Obviously, London was massively affected in both, so if you’re a war history nut there are tons of little tidbits to find around the city.
Also for fans of period dramas, there are a lot of grand townhouses scattered around the more affluent areas of the city like Kensington. If you’re into architecture and love the palatial styles of buildings, you’re going to be in your element.
On some days you can even get tours around Buckingham Palace and the other royal palaces in the city. It’s a cool opportunity to feel like you’re in a historic novel or film – Bridgerton fantasies much?
4. There’s Always Something Going On
With a city the size of London, there is always something new and exciting going on. From pop-up shops to immersive experiences to exclusive shows and events, there’s something different around every corner.
If you love going to gigs or enjoying theater shows, London is home to some of the best venues in the world and gets pretty much all the major artists and performers gracing their stages.
Even if you’re just out on an afternoon walk around your neighborhood, it’s not uncommon to see a market or a march or an event going on that you didn’t know about.
You never know what you’re going to see next or who you might meet, and that can be a really fun and exciting part of living in London.
This is the main benefit of living in a larger city over a town or small city that might be cheaper but with less going on.
When you first move to a new country, you don’t really want to be sitting around on your own wondering what you should do on a Saturday night. In London, that’s never a problem.
5. Great Travel Links
As with any capital city, London has really great transport links both domestically and internationally.
From the buses and tube network that take you around the city itself to the overground rail links that connect London with the rest of the UK, it feels like a major travel hub.
If you just want to get out of the city for the day or want to check out the other side of the city, it’s completely viable to make a spontaneous decision and run with it.
Additionally, there are numerous airports in and around London, all with different routes and airlines.
Flying in or out of London is normally the cheapest option when going to the UK, purely because there are so many flights a day. I recommend using Skyscanner to find the best deals.
If you want to visit mainland Europe for a weekend or head out on a long-haul adventure, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find a city with better flight links.
Omio is a great way to compare prices for traveling around Europe, as it compares flights to trains to buses and tells you which is the cheapest and shortest route!
If you’re more into ferries and cruises there is a terminal at London Tilbury so if you’re not a fan of flying or want a more all-inclusive holiday or travel option, you can take your pick!
6. Job Availability
One of the main reasons that a lot of people move to London in the first place is the job availability.
There are so many businesses and headquarters that call London home, so whatever industry you work in or whatever seniority level that you’re currently working at, there’s bound to be something suitable for you.
With so many jobs and businesses around, there are also loads of industry events and conferences where you can meet like-minded individuals.
These kinds of mixers are especially important if you’re moving to London on your own. Not only is it awesome for business connections, but also for meeting new friends.
It’s really important to know that there is a good array of jobs on offer if you’re looking to move to another country.
If you’re coming over on a visa that isn’t contingent on work that’s great, but if you’re sponsored and want to change jobs for any reason, it’s important to know that there are a lot of positions that can offer you that visa security if you’re unhappy in your previous role.
In order to make your resume/CV more competitive, I definitely recommend earning a few certifications on Coursera. My favorite certifications that are guaranteed to make your CV look great to employers are Graphic Design, Software Development, Project Management, and Brand Management.
I used courses and certifications in Software Development to help me land the position I have today!
7. Green Space
Oddly enough for a giant, skyscraper-filled city like London, there is so much green space where you go, unwind, and get away from it all.
From the manicured royal parks to secret spots in the middle of the city to wide spaces like Hampstead Heath, you can get your fill of fresh air and nature!
Whether you just want to have a quiet walk, get your heart pumping with a run or want to fly around on a bike or skateboard, there are plenty of options.
As there’s more and more focus on the air quality and the amount of available space in the city, the government is continually investing more money in London’s green spaces, which means there’s only going to be more of them in the future!
If green space isn’t your thing, there are also plenty of blue spaces with the River Thames on your doorstep as well as numerous lakes and open-air swimming pools, called Lidos, dotted around the city for recreational use.
8. Higher Wages Than the Rest of the UK
It’s no secret that London is pretty expensive to live in. Luckily, London also has much higher wages than the rest of the UK.
It’s quite common to see two salaries on a job advert that has a choice of locations – one as the standard rate and a higher one with the London weighting.
It basically tries to equal out the wage and cost of living gap to make it feasible for people to keep living in London.
If you’re thinking of living in London as a student, you’ll be pleased to know that the loans and grants that universities and the government offer also come with a London weighting.
So, even if you’re going to university in a cheaper borough or on the outskirts of the city, you can still benefit from a higher loan amount.
It’s important to really think about your outgoings when you move to London. The wage might look amazing, but with all the extra costs, it can disappear pretty quickly.
Do your homework and don’t be afraid to ask for what you deserve in an interview scenario – the interviewer knows how expensive London is too!
9. There are Loads of Pop-ups
While there are plenty of permanent stores and events happening in the city, there are also a ton of pop-ups happening every day.
With so many key demographics and the different vibe that certain boroughs have, it’s the ideal spot for product testing, advertising, and businesses who are looking to try a new approach.
This might be free drinks giveaways outside train stations, it might be a food truck to advertise a new cookbook, or it might be a series of intimate supper clubs by a chef who’s not quite ready to open a restaurant yet.
These pop-ups are great because they’re normally free or much cheaper than similar alternatives, and you get to potentially try out the next big thing before anyone else.
The Cons of Living in London (Disadvantages of Living in London)
Okay, let’s get into the stuff that perhaps isn’t quite so good about London.
10. Expensive Rent
So, although the price of a lot of things goes up in the capital, one of the major things that isn’t great about London is the rent. It’s some of the most expensive rent in the world.
So much so, that many people who move to London don’t even think about living on their own and just move into a house share or flat share.
The average monthly rent for a room in a larger house is around £760 with a two-bed apartment rising to £1,800 a month – and that’s without any bills, insurance, or utilities. It’s way above the UK national average and when you add house buying into the mix, it gets crazy.
The other thing is that you don’t exactly get value for money. London flats are an actual joke for their size and layouts. On Rightmove, it’s pretty common to see studio apartments where the toilet is in the kitchen.
It’s not a design feature, it’s a massive flaw. Take some time and look to find something that’s reasonable and functional.
11. London is Not the Cleanest
This might not come as a surprise given how big London is and how many people live there, but honestly, it’s not the cleanest. Outside of the main tourist areas which are maintained, it can get super grimy.
Especially if you’re in some of the main parks and green spaces on a hot day, you’ll probably see a lot of the garbage cans overflowing.
It’s not that the residents themselves aren’t respectful of the area, it’s just that the councils find it difficult to keep up with the number of people and rubbish in the area.
Also, if you’re in a popular area after an event or a big night out, expect it to be pretty messy. It takes time to clean spots up and with the number of clubs and bars in London, it can take a while!
12. It Can Get Crowded
London is a super popular destination both with tourists and locals. As such, it’s pretty much always crowded.
Between day-trippers, holidaymakers, and the hordes of locals just trying to go about their day, there is frantic energy in the capital. Londoners don’t have time for slow walkers getting in their way and blocking up the sidewalks.
Also if there is any kind of major event like a soccer final at Wembley or Wimbledon tennis tournament, the crowds get even worse.
A lot of the time, you’ll know about these in advance and there’ll even be messages about them at your local Tube station to advise you not to travel during this period.
If you’re looking for a quiet spot to chill out, there are a couple but not many. It might be better to get out of the city altogether if this is what you’re after.
13. Bad Air Quality
Unfortunately, London’s air quality is very bad and has been getting worse in recent years. Due to the number of taxis, cars, and people in the city, the air quality has been reported as dangerous quite a few times in the past year.
If you have asthma or other respiratory problems, this might factor in your decision to move here.
Obviously, the closest to the center of London you get, the worse the pollution tends to be. If you don’t mind commuting in, you can live further out where the air quality may be better.
Just make sure to steer clear of boroughs near one of the many London airports as this is also a massive contributor to air pollution.
There are steps being taken to address the air pollution in London, but as with any policy change, it’s going to take a long while for any reasonable difference to be seen.
14. Safety is an Issue
It might not come as a huge surprise but as a major capital, it’s not always the safest place in the world.
Now, obviously, you can reduce the risk by being sensible and not walking alone at night, avoiding certain areas, keeping your belongings on your person, and investing in multiple locks for your apartment or room.
Safety is a big concern for anyone, let alone anyone moving to a massive city, and sometimes unfortunate things happen no matter how much you try and mitigate the risks.
Crime is a problem in London and it’s probably not going away anytime soon. That being said, some boroughs are safer than others, and like in any place, it really depends on where you’re living and where you’re spending the majority of your time.
As long as you have some street smarts and common sense, you should be as safe in London as you would be in Paris, New York, or LA – that’s the kind of level you’re operating on.
15. Super Touristy
It’s an unavoidable part of living in one of the most popular destinations in the world, but there are so many tourists in London.
Although the majority of them stay around the main sites, more and more people are exploring the “hidden gems” of London, which often means straying into the places where locals like to hang out.
It’s pretty common to hear a lot of very confused people hanging around street corners with tourist maps and union jack hats on.
Soon, you learn to tune them out, but when you first move it can be a weird thing to experience – especially if you’re coming from a small town that no one seems to visit.
If you have to get somewhere in the heart of London in a hurry, be aware that you’re probably going to be behind some very slow-moving tourists that will stop at every landmark, telephone box and vaguely historic spot – which in London could be anywhere.
Always give yourself way more time than you need, especially in the school holidays!
16. Hard to Get Reservations
As it’s such a popular place to visit and there are a lot of business people and tourists exploring London, it can be near impossible to get reservations at restaurants and exclusive bars.
This has only gotten worse post-covid as many places that previously didn’t work on a reservation basis have kept the system post-restrictions.
It’s one of those things where you need to get in early or find somewhere that’s off the beaten path a little bit.
Avoid the touristy places if you need to book somewhere on a time crunch and avoid delicious, reservation-free places like Borough Market – chances are you’re going to have to queue for a fair while, especially on weekends.
There are always new spots opening up and if you avoid the major chains, you should be able to find somewhere. Preparation is key here.
Eventually, you will find reliable places that either don’t require reservations or secret spots that are easier to get into. It’s a fun part of living in a new spot – finding the best places to eat and drink!
Like a lot of densely populated cities, London has a pretty bad space shortage. With lots of high rises, studio apartments, and office blocks, space comes at a premium.
I’ve briefly spoken about the ridiculous sizes of apartments in London, but even apart from that there isn’t a lot of open space.
Even the green spaces and wilder parts of the river are normally filled with joggers, tourists and people going about their business. If you want space to be alone or to spread out, London is definitely not the place for that.
If your accommodation wish list includes having a garden and off-road parking, you’re looking to spend a fortune and live outside of the city center.
You’re better off living within an hour of London in the commuter belt and getting the train in each day if having outdoor space is a make or break condition.
Pros & Cons of Living in London: Is it Worth it?
All in all, there are a lot of great things to love about living in London – after all there’s a reason why so many people move and stay there each year, but like with any place, it’s not for everybody.
A lot of people move there straight out of college or university for graduate schemes or to get on the job ladder, so it’s got quite a strong community of young professionals.
That means that there’s nearly always a spare room going in a flatshare in the part of the city that you want to be in. It also helps that you can ask the other people in the apartment for advice and help navigating London.
Living in London is pretty similar to living in any other major city. If you’re moving from anywhere like Berlin, LA, Sydney, Amsterdam, you’re going to find some pretty big parallels that are going to help you adjust to living life in the UK capital.
If you’re coming from a small town or village then it might come as a culture shock at first, but give it a couple of weeks and you’ll be wondering what life was like before Deliveroo and 24/7 public transport.
Moving to any new place can be scary, but it’s how we grow and learn more about ourselves. I definitely learned so much about myself and had so much fun in the six years that I lived in London, and I’m sure you will too!