Relocating to a new town or city can be daunting, especially if you have children, and searching for the perfect place to live with your family can become quite a challenge. There are many different factors to consider when house hunting, such as excellent schools, activities for children, low crime rates, and affordability, all of which need to be taken into account.
We’ve analysed 26 of the most populated towns and cities in the country on eight family-friendly factors to reveal the best places to settle down and raise a family.
A lot of planning and preparation goes into having children, from choosing schools to factoring in your finances. Later down the line, you’ll need to find space for all their toys and belongings, and figure out where you’ll store train sets, dress-up boxes and the dolls pram!
However, when it comes to preparing for a baby, dolls’ pushchairs are probably the last thing on your mind, as nothing requires more thought and consideration than choosing a name. In most cases, your name stays with you for life and becomes an intrinsic part of your identity, so it’s important to get it right!
The Best Towns and Cities for Families
Family Friendly City Score: 10 out of 10
Plymouth, a port city in Devon, Southwest England ranked first place for England’s most family-friendly cities, with a perfect score of 10 out of 10. Portsmouth’s affordability makes it a fantastic place to relocate with kids, as nursery costs were among the lowest in the UK (£700 monthly, for one child). It is also comparatively cheap and inexpensive to live in compared to other cities in the United Kingdom, with the average house price at around £240,076. Recorded crimes in September 2022 were also extremely low (89 per 1,000).
Plymouth, the city by the sea, offers an amazing quality of life and waterfront location. Its vibrant city centre had 69 attractions which catered for children (26.52 per 1,000) and 18 schools, three of which were rated outstanding by Ofsted (16.67% of outstanding schools).
Family Friendly City Score: 9.58 out of 10
Norwich, the county city of Norfolk, claimed second place in the ranking with an impressive score of 9.58 out of 10. The city is a safe and exciting place to live, with consistently low crime rankings and is swimming with culture, with theatre performances, museums and sporting events.
Norwich recorded 133 crimes (per 1,000 people) and had among the most outstanding schools (33.33% of outstanding schools). As the second oldest city behind London, Norwich has plenty of historical buildings and attractions to visit with children (31.90 per 1,000), as well as many family-friendly restaurants (158.56 per 1,000).
Family Friendly City Score: 9.17 out of 10
Known as the Great Waterfront City, Portsmouth sits on the Hampshire coast facing out to the Solent, and is considered the home of the British Royal Navy. The maritime city claimed third place in the ranking with a score of 9.17 out of 10. The city had a slightly smaller population than others in our top three (194,150 in 2023) but still offered plenty of children’s attractions (31.42% per 1,000).
Average house prices were on the higher end of the scale (£283,244, on average) but median household incomes were also higher (£621.90, weekly). The city is a great choice for young families, and there were a higher number of households with dependent children (48.68% of households).
Family Friendly City Score: 8.75 out of 10
The city of Leeds is a hub for art and music, making it an exciting location for children to live in. The West Yorkshire city claimed fourth place, with a score of 8.75 out of 10. Leeds offers great school options, with 36.36% of schools rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted. Dining options are plenty, with 767 child-friendly restaurants (168.53 per 1,000). Childcare costs were on the lower end of the scale at £758.33 for one month of preschool.
The Yorkshire city did, unfortunately, lose points for its slightly higher crime rate, with 142 total crimes per 1,000 people in the year ending September 2022. House prices in Leeds remained rather high despite its higher crime levels, with the average sold price for a property at £257,857.
Family Friendly City Score: 8.33 out of 10
Nottingham is renowned for its thriving music scene and excellent shops and restaurants, and scored 8.33 out of 10 in our ranking. The midlands city had lower-than-average house prices than the others in our top five, with the average sold price being £247,075. There are plenty of dining options that are child-friendly (141.84 per 1,000), but fewer attractions for kids (21.15 per 1,000).
The median weekly wage for full-time positions was lower than on average (£536.10), but this also reflected average house prices which fell to £247,075. In Nottingham, there were more households with dependent children than in other cities (43.27% of households).
Stoke-on-Trent: 65.22% Of Schools Deemed ‘Outstanding’
Out of 23 schools in this Staffordshire city, 15 were rated ‘outstanding’. In 2022, the city was named one of 55 new ‘education investment areas’ aimed at improving pupils’ results and opportunities.
Cost of Childcare
Southend-on-Sea: Preschool, Full Day, Private, Monthly for 1 Child: £300.00
Southend is known for being an affordable resort town, and the cost of groceries in the area is currently a staggering 10.1% lower than in London. This low cost of living also applies to childcare, with prices in the area being less than a fifth of what they are in the capital.
Things to Do
Northampton: 45.38 Kids’ Attractions per 100,000 People
This East Midlands town offers an array of historical attractions and natural scenery. There are entertainment complexes and go-karting centres for children to enjoy, and there is even a working farm, where little ones can get up close to goats, sheep and cows.
Portsmouth: 48.68% of Households with Dependent Children
Portsmouth had the highest number of households with dependent children, and this year, the city will benefit from £300 million investment until 2025 from the government for Family Hubs. The hubs will improve access to support, advice and services for local families.
Manchester: 278.12 Child-Friendly Restaurants per 100,000 People
The city of Manchester has a buzzing food scene, ranging from fine dining options to street food, cocktail bars and craft beer houses.
Blackpool: £142,672 Average House Price
As of 2023, Blackpool is among the top ten cheapest places to invest in property in England. Average houses cost only 45% of the price of the average property in England.
Plymouth: 89 Recorded Crimes per 1,000 People
In 2022, Plymouth was named as one of the UK’s safest places for a night out, retaining its Purple Flag accreditation which shows the city has a safe and welcoming evening-and-night-time economy.
London: £765.40 Median Full-Time Weekly Salary
London had the highest weekly full-time salary, with the median weekly earnings at £764.40. Salaries in London are high to keep up with the cost of living. For a family of four, monthly costs can rise to £5,285, or more than £63,000 annually. This makes London the most expensive city in the UK for living costs by quite some distance.
We ranked England’s 26 most populated cities on the following factors, giving each a normalised score out of ten, before combining these for a final score out of 100.
Although the City of London was the most populated area in the United Kingdom, it was not included in the ranking as there was no crime data available, owing to its small resident population.
Note: while we initially set out to compare the most populated cities in the UK as a whole, the differences between educational institutions across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (as well as a lack of comparable data in some other sections) meant we had to limit our research to England.
The average monthly cost of private preschool/kindergarten full-day childcare according to Numbeo.
% of ‘Outstanding’ Schools
The number of schools rated as ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted, is shown as a percentage of the total number of schools in the area (according to GOV.UK).
(Note: for Northampton, school data was unavailable at the Local Authority level, so the schools within the Northampton North and Northampton South parliamentary constituencies were used.)
Recorded Crimes per Person
The number of annual recorded crimes per 1,000 people, according to the Office for National Statistics for the year ending September 2022.
Median Full-Time Salary
Median weekly salary for full-time employees in 2022 according to the Office for National Statistics. The figures for some of the salaries took into account the whole unitary area.
Average House Price
The current average house price in every city or town according to Zoopla.
‘Good for Kids’ Attractions per 100,000 People
The number of attractions tagged as being ‘Good for Kids’, per 100,000 population according to Tripadvisor.
‘Child-Friendly’ Restaurants per 100,000 People
The number of restaurants tagged as being ‘Child-Friendly’, per 100,000 population according to Tripadvisor.
% of Households with Dependent ChildrenNumber of households with a dependent child according to 2011 Census data, accessed at Nomis.