As you are probably already aware, London is a beautiful, diverse, exciting place to live. But the “Big Smoke” doesn’t come without its downsides. If you are weighing up whether it’s worth it to move to London, we’ve got you covered with this guide to the pros and cons of living in London.
Spoiler alert- we here at Thrifty Londoner think that if you have the opportunity to live in London for a while, grasp it with both hands! There is nowhere on earth quite like it. That said, read on to find out more about our list of definitive pros and cons of living in the city.
Pros of living in London
The wages are highest in the country
The average wage in London is 25% higher than other areas of the UK. This means that despite the cost of living, you can expect to be paid a slightly higher salary.
That said, the salary weighting is due to lots of roles in tech, banking, and law being based in The City. This pushes up the salary average and does not account for lower paid entry jobs, which of course still exist in London.
Job prospects and opportunities are unmatched
Thousands of companies are headquartered in London, or have an office based there. This means that the opportunity to work at some of the world’s biggest corporations is available in London. This is not the case for many other major cities.
You’ll find that jobs in fashion, advertising, marketing and other creative industries are all based in London. If you work in any of these industries, working in London is a great way to get impressive listings on your CV or resume.
Due to the job opportunities, London is also an exciting place for networking events. Not only can you make great connections in the workplace, but you can also network in the wider community in your industry and forge some professional relationships.
The transport network is fantastic
Transport for London (TFL) is a comprehensive network of trains and buses which connects all of London. The London Underground (us Londoners call it The Tube) can take you just about anywhere in the city. From North to South, East to West- the tubes are extremely frequent (some lines will come every minute during rush hour).
The buses are very cheap, and again connect all corners of London. It’s an inexpensive way to travel around the city, and the bonus is that you can also take in the view! Many night buses will run all hours of the night, so you’re covered if you need to get home (without paying a fortune for a taxi!)
Easy (and cheap) travel to Europe
The Eurostar train from London to Paris (and now Amsterdam and Brussels) departs from London St Pancras which is an extremely convenient way to travel to Europe. There are regular ticket sales which mean that you can sometimes get a real bargain on a trip from London to Paris.
There are also several airports in London, including; Heathrow, Gatwick, Stanstead, Luton and London City. Granted, you’ll need to travel at least 45 minutes to each of them, but they are all well connected via trains.
Flights can often be affordable from these airports, especially if you don’t check a hold bag. Cheap airlines include RyanAir, Whizz and easyJet, which all offer affordable travel from London. Check out Skyscanner to score some of the best deals.
As you already probably know- London is a city that’s steeped in history. From Buckingham Palace, to Tower Bridge, to Selfridges. The architecture in London is as unique as it is beautiful. A huge plus point when considering the pros and cons of living in London is the history.
You could spend weekend after weekend checking out the historical architecture in London, not to mention the many free museums and galleries available to visit in the city. Try the Natural History Museum and the Victoria & Albert (V&A)– they’re right next to each other so you could visit both in one afternoon.
Due to the significance of London, there is a very diverse population living in the city. Immigrants came from all corners of the globe to settle in London hundreds of years ago (and in more recent times too). This means that there is a ton of cultural diversity- from restaurants, to shopping, to music, to places of worship.
Every neighbourhood in London has a different identity- and, culturally, you’d be hard pushed to find somewhere as vibrant.
Education & healthcare
Some of the best schools in the UK can be found in London. And that’s not just the private schools! There are many schools in London that are highly rated and recommended by Ofsted, and with London on the doorstep, there are so many opportunities for learning.
As with the rest of the UK, London is home to the National Health Service (NHS). The NHS does have it’s struggles (we go into that in the cons section). But that said, there are lots of specialist hospitals in London from Great Ormond Street to Moorfield Eye Hospital.
Patients may travel from all over the UK to access this specialist care, but if you’re living in London, it’s much more accessible.
Parks and green spaces
Did you know that London has a ton of green space and parks? I’ve always been slightly taken aback by other cities as they just do not have the same amount of green space that London does. From Hyde Park to Richmond Park, there are huge expanses of green space ideal for exploring.
The parks are of course free to visit, and some offer some excellent skyline views of the city. Primrose Hill and Greenwich Park offer some particularly good viewpoints.
Thriving music scene
If you love music, you can pretty much guarantee that your favourite band will have a tour date in London. It’s extremely rare that London is missed off a list of venues in a UK tour.
There are some incredible venues in London such as Alexandra Palace and Wembley Stadium, but also smaller more intimate venues such as Brixton Academy and Koko.
No matter what your music taste, you can be sure to find a whole host of events for you. And if you prefer something a little more low key? They’ll be lots of local open mic nights and smaller gigs in venues in your neighbourhood- I promise.
What’s better than the West End? London is the place to be for any theatre buffs, with regular showings every day, all year round. Some London theatres date back to the 1600s, with The Theatre Drury Lane dating back to 1663- making it the oldest theatre in the world!
Shows range from classic musical shows, to modern thought-provoking plays. Cheap West End tickets can be hard to come by, but only if you don’t know where to look! You can often get discounted theatre tickets on the day at the TKTS booth in Leicester Square. But you do run the risk of disappointment!
Huge choice of restaurants
Did you know that there are over 20,000 restaurants in London? It’s impossible not to find a new restaurant with that much choice available in the city. You could eat dinner at a new restaurant every night and never even scratch the surface (but that could get a little expensive!)
It’s safe to say that the choice of restaurants in London is a huge plus point of living in the city, especially if you’re a foodie, or love to try new food experiences.
And to save some money on eating meals out? You should check out LivingSocial which have a ton of discounts available at restaurants across London.
Failing that, check out our list of the best fish & chips in London for a pocket-savvy dinner in the city!
Easy to meet new people
With over 9 million people living in London, there is no doubt that you will find someone that you click with- it just means that you have to put yourself out there.
When it comes to making friends in London, there are tons of clubs, societies, and sports teams that you could join. Not to mention it’s easy to meet friends when you live in a house share or start work at a new office.
And if you’re looking to make professional contacts? There are plenty of opportunities for that too. London is home to hundreds of different networking events. If you’re seeking new connections, London is the place to do it.
Great cycling network
You have heard of the London Underground (The Tube), but did you know that London also has a great cycling network? It doesn’t quite rival the likes of Amsterdam or Copenhagen, but there is certainly great infrastructure in London when it comes to cycling.
Many neighbourhoods in London are connected via Cycleways, and sometimes this is a quicker way of getting around the city compared to car or Tube.
Cycling is so encouraged in London, that Transport For London (TFL) have even produced dedicated cycle maps. Just don’t forget your helmet!
Lots of free things to do
London has a huge concentration of free museums and galleries (there are over 170 museums in London!). Often, you’ll also find free events throughout the city, especially during the summer. No matter what you are interested in, there is usually a way to find something free to do in the city every weekend, should you wish to.
Free things to do in London certainly helps balance the cost of moving to London. It doesn’t make up for the sky high rent and bills, but it can make socialising and enjoying the city a much more pocket-friendly activity.
And if you need more ideas for free things to do? Check out our guide to 100 Free Things To Do In London.
London? Family-Friendly? Yep, you heard that right! Hundreds of thousands of families live and thrive in London, and London has many fantastic state schools and nurseries- you’ll just have to fight the postcode battle to make sure that you’re in the right catchment area!
That said, there are a myriad of family friendly activities across London- and they don’t need to cost much either. As mentioned earlier, there are lots of parks and green space in London, which is ideal for children. But there are also regular free events, such as kid-friendly outdoor cinema at King’s Cross during the summer.
Cons of Living in London
High cost of living
When it comes to the pros and cons of living in London, it’s important to remember that the cost of living in London is no joke. In 2023, research by HomeViews suggests that the cost of living is, on average, over £3,100 per month for a single person.
Rents are high, travel can be high compared to other European cities, and bills and utilities soon add up. Add that to increasing every day living costs and inflation, and it’s an expensive place to live unless you’re earning a good salary.
Competitive housing market
Whether you’re looking to rent or buy a property, the housing market is extremely competitive. Not only are offers made above asking price in desirable areas, but there are often several people viewing a property at any once time.
This can make it challenging to move to London and find an apartment unless you are able to make regular trips for viewings, or form strong relationships with an estate agent.
If you’re hoping to move to a house share or flat share, the market is a little less competitive, but it’s still competitive. Be sure to create an account on Spareroom, and in our opinion? Pay the fee to access extra perks so that you have first dibs on properties that you’re interested in.
Long working hours
The London lifestyle is very ‘work hard, play hard.’ That can certainly be fun, but the hustle culture in London means that your boss may expect you to work overtime. In fact, sometimes working overtime can become the norm.
As you might expect, when long working hours are coupled with a long commute, burn out can be common in London. This is especially true in high pressure industries.
Before you accept a job, do your research into the company, check how they are reviewed online, and investigate their working culture. Glassdoor is a great place to find honest reviews on employers from ex-employees.
Competitive job market
Despite the expectation of overtime worked in London, the job market is incredibly competitive. You guessed it, although there are lots of jobs available in London, these jobs can be highly desirable and have hundreds of applicants.
That’s not to say this should completely put you off from moving to London. The best thing that you could do before moving, is to secure a job. This means greater financial security once you’re living in London. Costs can add up quickly if you move to London while you’re still looking for a job, so try to get your ducks in a row beforehand.
You’ll hear Londoners joke that it takes 45 minutes to get anywhere in London. While I can attest this to be true, it can also take you a lot longer than 45 minutes to get to work, unless you live right next to your workplace.
A 1 hour commute from West London to East London (or vice versa) for work can sound ok when you put it into Google Maps. However, factor in the time spent queuing to get onto a train at rush hour, signaling issues, and delays, and you’ll find it often takes you more like 1 hour 20 minutes. I can say that speaking from experience commuting from Chiswick to Shoreditch for a year!
Lots of tourists
Whether it’s Buckingham Palace, Oxford Street, Harrods or London Bridge- tourists love to flock to London. You may have even visited London as a tourist yourself. It’s a unique city with lots to do, so no wonder you’ll find certain areas packed with people year round.
Rain or shine, summer or winter, the sheer volume of tourists in central London can get a little intense, and it can make moving around the city a little more difficult. (Stopping and standing in the entrance to The Tube station anyone??). That said, it’s also lovely to see London being enjoyed by so many, and you can often avoid the crowds by not visiting key tourist hot spots.
Like with many cities, London has the highest crime rate in the UK. In fact, the crime rate is 20% worse in London than the rest of the UK. It’s a definite con when considering the pros and cons of living in London.
Some areas of London are worse than others, bur it goes without saying that you should never walk around London on your own at night, no matter which neighbourhood you are living in.
Areas with high crime rates in London include (but are not limited to): Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Newham, Enfield, Haringey, Croydon, and Lewisham.
Frequent train delays and cancellations
As was alluded to earlier, frequent train delays and cancellations (including The Tube), can make living in London feel stressful. There is nothing worse than trying to plan your route home with a walk, two buses, a taxi and a horse and cart (ok maybe not that last part) at the end of a busy day.
Signal failure, adverse weather conditions, staffing issues and more can all make rail travel in London feel difficult. Add to the mix that certain Tube lines are often closed over the weekends for maintenance, and it can all get quite frustrating.
London’s air quality is terrible. There is no good way to spin this one. Despite efforts such as ULEZ (Ultra Low Emission Zones) in areas of London, it is still a huge problem for the city. It is mostly caused by the amount of road traffic, and all areas in London exceed WHO guidelines for nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter. Pretty crazy right?!
It’s one of the worst cities in Europe for air pollution. You’ll also find that when travelling or walking around in central London, black stuff comes out of your nose when you blow it. Yep, it’s that bad!
You know how when you look at the sky at night, you expect to see the stars, the moon, and a dark blue or black sky? In most parts of London the sky is always a shade of brown, and you’ll never see stars. That’s due to the light pollution in the city.
Even in the dead of night, the sky has a brown hue- which is pretty crazy! But that’s what you get in a city where the lights are on all night!
You might now begin to see a pattern emerge when it comes to the cons and disadvantages of living in London. Long working hours, long commute and a high cost of living can all contribute to a stressful lifestyle.
It is not a guarantee that you’ll have a stressful lifestyle while living in London, but the city is notoriously fast paced. And not just at work! Even when in the stations or on the streets, everyone walks very quickly.
If you’re someone who prefers a slow or gentle pace of life, this is a definite downside to living in London.
It’s hard to save money
Money is really the decider when you think about the pros and cons of living in London. With the high cost of living in London, your expenses won’t leave much leftover unless you’re a high earner. That makes it especially hard to save money in London for the future.
After a few years in London, you might find yourself with little to no savings at all. And you wouldn’t be alone. It can be incredibly difficult to save up large amounts of money to buy a property in London, for example.
Money very quickly can get eaten away, so make sure that you do your calculations and budget before you move to make sure that your job in London will cover your living expenses (and more!)
Hear me out here. London is noisy. Whether it’s planes travelling to the airport, trains going past your building, people shouting or playing music at night. It’s loud! Trust me. I’ve even lived somewhere where the flat shook whenever a train went past (yep, really!)
Choose your location carefully. If you live above a shop or a pub, it’s likely that you’ll get disturbed by noise. Similarly if you live near a railway or Tube line. If you can find a quiet backwater that is still within 10 minutes walk of a Tube station, you’ve struck gold!
Londoners notoriously keep to themselves. Meaning, if someone talks to you on The Tube or in the street, you assume they are up to no good. This can come off as unfriendliness, and to an extent, it is.
You could very easily go years without knowing your neighbours, or even saying hello! It’s not like that in every part of London, but I did go a whole 2 years without crossing paths with my next door neighbour while living in London. You certainly notice a difference in friendliness elsewhere in the UK.
Lack of space
As discussed, the cost of living in London is high. Rent is high. That means space is at a premium. Studio flats and tiny one bedroom flats are the norm in London, usually with a huge lack of space. Your living conditions could be quite cramped, and you’ll be paying 4 figures a month for the privilege.
A lack of space can feel a little claustrophobic, especially if you work from home. Many flats don’t have a garden, and you may spend a lot of time in one room if you live and work in the same space.
What are the disadvantages of living in London?
As with any location, there are advantages and disadvantages. Some of the disadvantages of living in London are the high cost of living, the competitive job and housing markets, long working hours, long commutes and pollution levels. It’s down to you whether you feel that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
Is it worth it to live in London?
The job prospects, networking opportunities, and the vibrant culture of London makes it worth living there, even if you live there for a few years before moving on. The experience of living in London is like no other- it’s exciting, with a new adventure around every corner.
What is a good reason to live in London?
Work is a good reason to live in London. London has some of the best work opportunities in the country, and it’s worth taking a job for the experience, even if you don’t plan to stay in London forever.
Another good reason to live in London is to experience the city as a local. There are over 9 million people in London, so the opportunities to meet people are vast.
Is it better to live in or out of London?
When considering the pros and cons of living in London, whether you live in or out of London depends on your values and your ideal lifestyle. On the one hand, if you lived out of London, your rent or mortgage will be cheaper. But on the other hand, you’ll probably spend more time and money on travel than if you lived in London.
You may find that if you live out of London you miss out on fun events, drinks after work, and meet ups with friends. But if you have a family, you might want to live somewhere quieter and enjoy a more suburban lifestyle on evenings and weekends.