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October 11, 2022

London dethroned as the ‘best city in the UK’

A new poll of the best cities in the UK has placed the home of the historic Cambridge University above the capital.

By Ben Kosma

London may be the capital city and the political and economic hub of the country, but it is no longer the ‘best’ city in the UK, according to readers of Condé Nast Traveller.

The magazine’s annual Readers’ Choice Awards was published on 4 October and ranked the UK’s “urban destinations that scored the highest marks when it comes to nightlife, restaurants and friendliness”.

Best city UK
Cambridge has topped London as the UK’s best city according to Condé Nast Traveller. (Photo by yangjlin/Shutterstock)

Cambridge tops London as the UK’s best city

Knocking the Big Smoke off of its pedestal as the best city in the UK was Cambridge.

The home of the Times Higher Education‘s fifth-best university climbed from seventh place in 2021 to first place in 2022. Condé Nast Traveller cites that “a perky batch of new arrivals are adding cocktail and coffee culture” to the historic university town.

Coming in at second place was Glasgow, the largest city in Scotland and a consistent feature on the list, beating out Edinburgh despite the international popularity of the latter’s fringe festival.

London, however, fell from first to third place despite its advantages as arguably the most high-profile city in the country – including a huge metropolitan area of 32 distinct boroughs.

The top ten list of best cities in the UK is as follows:

  1. Cambridge
  2. Glasgow
  3. London
  4. Edinburgh
  5. Cardiff
  6. Manchester
  7. Liverpool
  8. Belfast
  9. Bath
  10. Oxford

Why is London losing popularity?

The drop among Condé Nast Traveller readers may be a year-to-year blip. However, there are reasons that could have influenced the slight decline in London’s perception.

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During the Covid-19 pandemic, London saw a significant number of bars and restaurants close, theatres and venues permanently draw curtains and residents relocate. While much of that has returned, there is still a visible drop compared with pre-pandemic figures.

The West End has been particularly badly hit, with UK Theatre chief executive Julian Bird telling a select committee in June that 70% of theatres and production companies could go out of business by the end of the year without adequate support.

Along with the pandemic, London has also been hit by rocketing property prices and cost-of-living troubles, which, if not a direct factor for visitors, can increase the cost of visiting an already expensive city.

[Read more: London ranks as the world’s top city for the wealthy]

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