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London vs Manchester: Which one is better for my next vacation

Are you planning a trip to England and wondering if London or Manchester is the better holiday spot? In this guide we do a side by side comparison on everything you need to know including costs, attractions, safety, and much more. So here is a complete guide to London vs Manchester.

I should also add for this guide, that we live in Manchester, and spend a lot of time in London for work and play. For that reason, a lot of this information is based on our own experiences.

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London or Manchester: Pin this guide

London vs Manchester: Some background

Before we delve into the London vs Manchester debate, here is a little bit of background on both cities.


London is the capital of England and the United Kingdom. It’s also the political, economic, and cultural centre of the country. The population of London sits at nearly 9 million. That being said the city of London itself is only 1.2 square miles with a population of around 9000 people. The remainder of London is actually ‘Greater London’.

Wondering is London worth visiting – here is a handy guide.


Manchester is a city located in the north west of England and has a population of around 553,230 people. It is known as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, and has played a prominent part worldwide, in science, politics, music, arts, and sport.

Wondering is Manchester worth visiting? Here is a handy guide.

London vs Manchester: which one is better for accommodation

One of the most important factors when deciding where to go on holiday is around accommodation. But in the battle of London vs Manchester which one has the better accommodation options.


London has excellent accommodation options, to suit all budgets. You get everything from hostel dorms, to your high end luxury hotels.

The closer you get to Central London the more expensive your accommodation will be. The rooms also tend to be a lot smaller with limited space for luggage.

If you are booking your accommodation make sure you book well in advance. You should also try and book accommodation near a tube station or public transport, as this will ensure you can get from place to place easily.


You can get a bit more value for your buck when booking accommodation in Manchester. There are lots of different options when it comes to resting your head for the night.

We recommend staying in The Northern Quarter, Spinningfields, Deansgate or Ancoats. All these areas are in the centre, and have excellent transport links. They are all close to the hustle and bustle with plenty of food and drink options nearby.


London has more option when it comes to accommodation because obviously it is the bigger city. Manchester on the other hand has cheaper rooms, and you are more likely to get a reasonably sized hotel room compared to London.

London vs Manchester: which one is better for attractions

If you are wondering if London or Manchester is better for attractions here are some of the top things to do in each location.


There is so much to do in London, we don’t even know where to begin. Here are some of the best things to do to give you a bit of a flavour with what to expect when visiting. For more information on things to do in London you can checkout this guide.


Westminster is the classic touristy part of London. You have the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and Westminster Bridge all within close proximity to each other. And that is only the start. It is perfect for first time visitors to London and gives you a real taste of the city.


This is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city. It takes 30 minutes to do a full rotation, and ticket prices start at £25 with advance tickets being slightly cheaper.


London has a LOT of museums and galleries, a lot of which are free. Some of the best include the Natural History Museum, The British Museum, The National Gallery and more.


The Palace is the official headquarters and residence of the British Royal Family. One of my favourite things has to be the Changing of the Guard, which if you do get the chance to witness it actually pretty cool.


One of London’s most photographed public squares has to be Trafalgar Square. It was built to commemorate the Battle of Trafalgar that took place in 1805. These days it is swarming with tourists all trying to get those iconic shots of the fountains and the lions.


One of the things London is famous for has to the the green spaces, and Hyde Park is the best of the lot.

It spans 350 acres, there is a lot to see and do in the grounds. Some of the more popular areas have to be speakers corner, a place where to this day people gather to debate and speak to the masses. Famous speakers are George Orwell and Karl Marx.

There is also a large lake where in the summer months you can swim, or rent a paddle boat in the London sun.


The cathedral is one of the most famous sights in London and has been the location for a number of Royal weddings and funerals, much like Westminster Abbey. The interior is worth a look, and if you are brave enough you can actually climb to the viewing platform for some incredible sights over London.


There are a number of neighbourhoods that you have to explore in London. If you are into music then Camden is a must, whilst Instagrammers will enjoy the streets of Notting Hill or Chelsea.


Another of London’s most famous monuments that often gets confused with London Bridge, is Tower Bridge. The bridge was completed in 1894 which makes it nearly 123 years old. You can pay for entry into the Tower Bridge Exhibition, and more information can be found here.

Located next to Tower Bridge is the Tower of London a historic castle founded in 1066. If you are into history this is a fascinating place to visit as you get a full understanding of the history of the castle. This includes its time as a Royal residence and even a prison.


Here are some of the best things to in Manchester.

And for more detailed information you can checkout our guide to spending 24 hours in Manchester here.


The Northern Quarter is one of the trendy parts of Manchester. There are several quirky shops in the area. And it’s one of those places that if you need an inflatable flamingo or a pug lamp you will be fine.


The Museum of Science and Industry  or the MOSI as it is often referred to, is a great place for kids and adults alike. The museum provides a fascinating insight into Manchester’s contribution in science and technology, particularly during the industrial revolution.


The John Rylands Library is like something out of Harry Potter. There are lots of old collections of books, and cosy alcoves where you can spend the day reading.


The Manchester Town Hall is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city with its neo-gothic architecture and clock tower. It’s currently undergoing a refurb, but eventually you should be able to do tours here.


The gallery is free to enter, and it is a great place to learn all about Manchester’s art history as well as admiring paintings from international artists.


If you are a football fan you certainly have to visit one of Manchester two Premier League Football Stadiums. Admittedly we’ve not done the Manchester City stadium tour, so will have to stick to the Manchester United (Old Trafford) stadium tour instead for the purposes of this guide. It’s a fantastic tour and you get to take a peak in the dressing rooms, as well as having the opportunity to walk from the tunnel to the pitch.

Tours don’t operate on match days (for obvious reasons) so do make sure you book and plan in advance.

And just in case you are a Manchester City fan, here is the link for the tour of the Etihad stadium instead.


hop on hop off bus tour is always a good way to orient yourself with a city. Not only do you get the chance to learn all about the city’s industrial past, but it is also a great way to explore Manchester and Salford Quays by simply hopping on and off.


Salford Quays is a very quick tram ride from the city centre (just hop on the Media City UK Line and get off at Media City). Salford Quays is home to a number of water sport activities,  a monthly makers market, restaurants, bars, and of course the BBC and ITV studios. Also worth a visit is the imperial war museum.


The canal network was a large part of Manchester industrial past, so a canal cruise is a must do when visiting. You start in the centre, and cruise down past Old Trafford, to Salford Quays.


To say Manchester is football mad is an understatement. The game has certainly influenced the city as well as the whole of the UK, and you can learn all about this at the National Football Museum. It’s quite interactive and you can take your photo with some of the trophies – if that is your thing.


There is way more to do in London when it comes to attractions compared to Manchester. Manchester isn’t a huge tourist city so it’s better for a weekend break. London is one of those places that you need a good week at least to get to grips with.

London vs Manchester: which one is more picturesque

Wondering if London or Manchester is the more picturesque option? Here we decide which one is more beautiful.


London has some really picturesque places that you can spend days exploring. Some of our favourites are Hyde Park, St James Park, as well as neighbourhoods like Camden, Chelsea, and Covent Garden.

There are also lots of quirky little hidden gems in the city, particularly the little gardens and nooks you might stumble across. St Dunstan in the East, a quaint garden and site of a former church is a great example of this.


Manchester also has quite a few picturesque parts, albeit on a much smaller scale. Places like Castlefield located on the canal network, give you a real taste of the beauty and charm in Manchester. You also have a lot of lovely parks located further out of the city centre, which are great for casual strolls.


London is the more picturesque. There are more options for beautiful spots to discover, especially because it is a much bigger city.

London vs Manchester: which one has the better vibe

I know judging a city based on vibe is a slightly random statement but hear us out.


London has a past paced urban vibe. People aren’t as open and friendly as maybe some of the smaller cities in the UK. People also tend to be very reserved.

On the plus side, there is some excellent nightlife, which adds to the youthful, playful vibe in certain parts of the city.


Manchester has a far more relaxed and informal vibe. It’s a very liberal and accepting city, and there are parts that are incredibly hip and bohemian.

It’s also a very popular student city, so you are bound to have yourself a great night out in Manchester.


The vibe in Manchester is a lot of more chilled out and accepting. People are more likely to engage in a conversation with you, whereas London is way more reserved.

London vs Manchester: which one is easier to get to

Getting to a city will obviously play a large part in your decision to visit. But is London or Manchester easier to get to?


London is a major travel hub into the rest of the UK. There are a number of ways to get here.

If you are travelling from other parts of the UK you are probably best off getting the train which will arrive at one of the below stations. All of these are centrally located, making it easy for you to get around.

  • Paddington
  • King’s Cross
  • St Pancras
  • Euston

You also have the option of getting the Eurostar, which arrives into London St Pancras station. There is a tube station nearby that will help you get to your onward destination.

There are also 3 major airports in London, Heathrow, Gatwick, and Stansted. All airports are easy to get to via train. Heathrow is the closest to central London. The quickest way is to get the Heathrow Express, which operates every 15 minutes between Heathrow and Paddington Station. The train trip takes 15 minutes.


Manchester has an international airport with a number of flights from Europe and further abroad arriving every day. Once you have arrived you can either get an Uber or Taxi from the airport into the city centre. This usually costs about £30 on average.

Alternatively you can also hop on a train to Piccadilly station or a tram. The train is much quicker than the tram though, and is a bit roomier too, so we recommend this over the tram.


Considering London is a major travel hub, it is a lot easier to get too. There are way more airlines that fly here too.

London vs Manchester: which one is easier to get around

If you are wondering if London or Manchester is the easiest to get around here are our thoughts.


London is huge so you will definitely need to use public transport at some point when visiting. The Tube is the best way to get around. And the good news is there are stations within walking distance if most of the big attractions.

The use the Tube, you can purchase an Oyster Card, and then top this up as you go with required funds Or if you are only in London for a short time, you can tap your credit/debit card in and out of stations.


Manchester isn’t huge, so chances are if you are staying in the city centre, you won’t need to use public transport. If you do find yourself wanting to venture further out though, you have a few options. The best of which is Manchester’s tram network.

You can tap on and off the tram with just a credit or debit card. The tram will take you to places like Old Trafford, the Etihad Stadium, and Salford Quays/ Media City.


London is the larger city, and the public transport is geared towards this. While it does get crowded it’s pretty easy to use, and there are always staff around the help you if needed.

London vs Manchester: which one is better for food

If you are a foodie, this section is for you.


London is incredibly multicultural, and this is reflected in the food options in the city. From a simple Indian Curry, to dumplings in Chinatown, London has some excellent options.

Of course, one of the things London is famous for is the traditional pub style food. Pub meals are a big deal in London where you can eat things like fish and chips, sausage and mash, and other comforting delights. You also have places like Peggy Porschen Cakes, which is not only instagrammble but perfect for tea and cake.

London also has a plethora of fancy restaurants dotted around. You have a few Michelin Star spots as well like Sketch in Shoreditch which is not only visually appealing but is tasty as anything!


Manchester may not be as fancy as London when it comes to eating. But it does have 1 Michelin Star restaurant, Mana, which is located in Ancoats. But even without tons of Michelin Star restaurants, Manchester does food well.

For starters, Manchester’s cuisine like London is incredibly multi-cultural. You have high quality tapas restaurants like El Gato Negro, modern Chinese cuisine at Tattu, top quality brunch at Federal and some of the best comfort food ever at The Sparrows. And honestly these are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to food in Manchester.


I know the obvious answer when deciding if London or Manchester has the better food, is going to be London. But don’t write Manchester off. Yes it’s smaller, but there are some really fantastic foods here waiting to be discovered.

London vs Manchester: which one is better for nightlife

Planning a night out? In this section we decide if London or Manchester is the better option for nightlife.


London is known for it’s amazing nightlife. And you will definitely find something here to suit all tastes. From swanky cocktail bars in Covent Garden, to dive bars in Camden. It’s also famed for it’s clubbing scene with places like Fabric and Ministry of Sound attracting world famous DJs.


Manchester knows how to party. As someone who lives here I can definitely confirm this is the case. You have so many fantastic spots in the city for a night out. The Gay Village is great for a fun and carefree night out. You also have the Northern Quarter for cool bars and cocktail lounges. And for something a little fancier you can head to Spinningfields. Whatever you want Manchester has it.


Again London might be the obvious choice based on it’s size, but Manchester also has a decent nightlife scene. And the good news is it is cheaper than London.

London vs Manchester: which one is better for culture

If you are a lover of culture, you might be wondering if London or Manchester is the better destination for you.


There is no denying that London is one of the cultural capitals of the world. Known for it’s rich history, incredible art scene, and top quality museums, London has been attracting visitors for years, based on it’s one of a kind culture.

Music is another important part of the culture of London, and you have places like Camden where this is very much celebrated. You also have an incredible theatre scene, some great architecture and so much more.


Manchester is a great place to visit if you love culture. Yes it is smaller than London, but it has it’s own style that is very much embraced.

Like London music has always been a big thing in Manchester, with several famous British Bands hailing from this fine city. Some of the most famous are of course, The Smiths, New Order, and Oasis.

There are several museums and galleries in the city, that embrace the industrial past that has shaped the culture of Manchester. And you only need to spend 5 minutes in Manchester to realise how important football is.


Obviously London being the bigger city, has more options when it comes to cultural attractions. Manchester can still hold its own though, and is very much worth exploring.

London vs Manchester: which one is better for safety

Safety is of course an important factor to consider when visiting a new place. But is London or Manchester safer?


Like any big city, London is one of those places that you probably need to take some precautions when it comes to safety. That being said, if you stick to tourist hotspots, and well lit places you should be ok.

Have your wits about you. Petty crimes like theft and pickpocketing are common particularly on the Tube. And we also don’t recommend walking home alone late at night. Get a taxi if you can.

Some neighbourhoods in London are best avoided, but these aren’t your tourist spots anyway. There is generally a high police presence in London, particularly around key attractions.


Manchester does have a high crime rate, although I can honestly say that in 12 years of living here we haven’t had many issues. In the city centre, particularly around Piccadilly Gardens you will see a lot of homelessness and some anti social behaviour. If you mind your own business and keep to yourself you should be fine.

Some neighbourhoods in Manchester can be a little sketchy, but most tourist spots are fine. Again we would recommend keeping to populated areas, and avoid walking home alone late at night.


It’s hard to compare Manchester and London when it comes to safety. This is in part due to the size of London compared to Manchester. That being said you should take precautions in both cities, and have your wits about you.

London vs Manchester: which one is better for couples

If you are travelling as a couple you might be wondering if London or Manchester is the better option. Here are our thoughts.


There are plenty of romantic things to do in London. You can take a romantic ride on the London Eye, or have a cocktail with a view at The Shard. On top of that you are spoilt for choice when it comes to bars and restaurants that will make for the perfect date night.


Manchester is also good for date nights, particularly if you want to experience the food and drink scene in the city.


London has more options when it comes to unique experiences to share as a couple. But Manchester does have a great nightlife scene perfect for those romantic date nights.

London vs Manchester: which one is better for families

If you are travelling with kids this section is for you. Here we look at whether London or Manchester is the better option for family travel.


London is a good option if you are travelling with kids. There are lots of spacious parks to explore, as well as museums, and galleries. The London Zoo is another popular attraction for kids, although it does get incredibly busy during the school holidays.


Manchester also has some good options for family activities. There are several museums in the city like the Museum of Science and Industry, and the Manchester Museum. Both have a number of fun exhibits for kids. Plus if you are a family of football fanatics Manchester is definitely the place to be, with options to tour Old Trafford or the Etihad Stadium.


London does have more kid friendly activities as it is a much bigger city.

London vs Manchester: which one is better for solo travel

Travelling solo? Here we decide if London or Manchester is the better option.


There is so much to see and do in London, that you will not get bored as a solo traveller. It’s also relatively easy to get around in the city.

It’s also relatively safe. You should definitely be aware of your surroundings and trust your instincts, but overall London is a safe and popular place for solo travellers.


Manchester probably isn’t the most exciting place to visit when it comes to solo travel. A lot of the activities tend to be based on nightlife and food. That being said it’s a relatively safe place to walk around and there are some beautiful bits, so we definitely wouldn’t discourage anyone from travelling solo here.


London is the better option for solo traveller, just because there is way more to see and do. In our experience Manchester is one of those cities best enjoyed in a group or couple.

London vs Manchester: which one is cheaper

Money is a big consideration when deciding where to visit. So is London or Manchester cheaper?


London is a notoriously expensive city. We would recommend budgeting a minimum of £100 per person per day. This will cover things like transport, basic meals, and attractions.

You can definitely spend less by avoiding restaurants and sticking to some of the free things to do in London. But you can just as easily spend much more, particularly if you are wanting to go out for cocktails and nice meals.

On average a standard hotel room can cost upwards of £100 per night. This would be the absolute minimum. Usually a 4 star hotel will average at around £140 per night but this is based on prices booked well in advance and not during peak season.


The city of Manchester can be expensive, but is still a lot cheaper than London. If you are in the city centre, you might find things like food and drink to be a lot more expensive compared to some of the smaller towns in Greater Manchester.

Accommodation ranges from £80 per night for hotel chains like the Ibis, with costs going up for some of the 4 star hotels in the city. On average if you book in advance you can get a decent room in a nicer hotel for about £120 per night.


Manchester is quite a bit cheaper than London. In fact some studies have shown that living costs including things like food, drink, clothes, and transport are 30% cheaper in Manchester than London.

London vs Manchester: which one is better for shopping

If you are a fan of shopping holidays this section covers whether London or Manchester is the better destination.


London really is a shoppers paradise. You can find so many incredible stores ranging from vintage and alternative treasures in places like Camden, to fancy designer brands in places like Bond Street. Whatever your shopping style London has you covered.


Manchester too has some fantastic shopping options. For all things vintage, or alternative, you can head to Affleck’s Palace in the Northern Quarter. You also have a lot of luxury and high end stores around the city centre, and Spinningfields.


London has a lot more options when it comes to shopping. Of course this is in part due to the fact that it is a much bigger city. Manchester has some excellent shopping options too, but on a much smaller scale.

London vs Manchester: which one is better in summer

If you are planning to visit London or Manchester in the summer you might be wondering which is the better option.


Summers in London are peak tourist season. The city really comes to life with alfresco dining, beer gardens, and a number of festivals. People are also far more cheerier.

On the flip side summer in London can be overcrowded, and chaotic. You will find yourself paying a lot more for accommodation, and lining up for a long time at various attractions. School holidays usually fall in August, so this is one month we recommend avoiding if you can.

You can also get humid days in the city where temperatures exceed 30 degrees Celsius. This can often be unpleasant particularly if you are getting the Tube as it get so hot and unbearable.


Summer is a great time to visit Manchester. It’s a busy time in the city, but nothing compared to the chaos of London.

Summer temperatures in Manchester average at about 20°C (68F) during the day, although in recent years there have been a lot more 30°C (86F)days. It’s the perfect time the grab a cold drink, and sit in a beer garden and enjoy the atmosphere of the city.


If you want to avoid the crowds we recommend skipping London and visiting Manchester in summer instead.

For more information on the best and worst time to visit England here is a handy guide.

London vs Manchester: which one is better in winter

If winter is more your thing you might be wondering if London or Manchester is the better option.


Winter in London is great because it is quieter with far less tourists. Accommodation is cheaper and you won’t find yourself lining up for hours to see the main attractions. It does get cold and rainy in winter, though so you will want to limit your time outdoors.

If you want to take advantage of the museums and the galleries then this is a good time to go. In December there are a number of Christmas markets to enjoy as well as ice skating rinks, in preparation for the holidays. 

For more information we have an article all about the best and worst times to visit London that you might find useful.


Manchester too is cold and rainy over the winter months. If you are visiting at this time of year you probably want to plan a number of indoor activities.

The Manchester Christmas markets are one of the best attractions in the city over winter. They usually open mid November and finish just before Christmas. They essentially take up most of the city centre, with stalls selling all sorts of trinkets, as well as comfort food, and mulled wine.


London is the better option for winter, unless you are specifically wanting to enjoy some Christmas cheer. There are more indoor activities to take advantage of, and the city is incredibly magical in the winter months.

London vs Manchester: which one is for me

Hopefully you have now made a decision as to which city is for you in the battle of London vs Manchester. But here is a final recap.


London is pretty much a city that never sleeps. There is so much going on, and it’s the cultural, economic, and political hub of the UK. There are so many different neighbourhoods to explore, each with their own vibe. There is a lot of history here, and it is a place definitely suited to a longer break just so that you can fit it all in.


Manchester is a city with a lot of history. It’s a lot smaller than London, and has a friendlier and more laid back attitude compared to the capital. It’s great for experiencing food and drink, and we highly recommend it for a weekend break.


It’s probably obvious after reading this post, that London has a lot more going on than Manchester. It’s a much bigger place, and considering it is the financial, economic, and entertainment capital of England it’s really no surprise.

But if you are trying to decide between London or Manchester here are our thoughts.

London is great if you want to see the sights, especially things like Westminster, The London Eye, Buckingham Palace and so on. If you have a week or two to kill there is far more happening in London.

But if you are doing a short city break, Manchester might be the better option. Particularly if you just want to relax and do a lot of eating and drinking. It’s also the better option for football fans as you have the National Football Museum, and two of the Premier Leagues finest clubs in close proximity. It’s also quite a bit cheaper which is something to keep in mind.

We hope this guide to London vs Manchester has helped you decide which city to visit for your next vacation. Don’t forget to pin this guide for later below.

For more inspiration you can have a look at this guide to the best day trips from Manchester.

Happy Travels!

London vs Manchester: Pin this guide

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