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An Expat's Guide to Living in Manchester

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My name is Maddalena and I live as an expat in England.

After finishing my studies in Tourism in Venice in 2016, I left Italy to tick the bucket list box of living abroad (at least for some time). Among many destinations in Europe I was interested in, I chose Manchester in the UK.

I come from a town called Castelfranco Veneto, only 45 minutes drive or train ride from Venice. While living in Northern Italy is certainly beautiful, I was eager to try something new. When I moved to Manchester I was only 24 but years later, I still love living in the UK. 

I have met so many people here from different nationalities and backgrounds that have opened my mind from day one in this country. There are a few things to know before moving to the UK but I must say it was quite easy and straightforward for me to settle down.

Let's dive right into what it's really like living in Manchester so you can decide if it's the home abroad for you, too.

Short on time? Here's the cheat sheet:

💭Living in Manchester is ideal for those looking for a mid-size city with plenty of job opportunities and a lower cost of living (compared to other cities in the UK).

🏠Although it'll be more expensive, I highly recommend living in the city center instead of the outskirts. Northern Quarter, Castlefield, and Gay Village are 3 of my favorite areas.

🛏️Start off by booking somewhere centrally located and easy to get around, like this Luxurious Two Bedroom Apartment in Castlefield until you find your long-term stay.

📚Make your transition easier and get a headstart learning the language with Mondly but know that the local accent will take some time to adjust to.

☂️Although the weather lives up to the typical British stereotype of rainy days,

☀️Manchester is a wonderful city to call home, especially those looking for a vibrant university feel and plenty of fun things to do after work.

Why Did I Choose to Live in Manchester?

a mural dedicated to Manchester's icons
Some of Manchester's icons

At the time when I was taking into consideration different destinations and opportunities abroad, I ended up choosing England as I had a feeling that it could be a place where I could live long-term with good job opportunities. 

Mind you, I snuck in before Brexit when it was much, much easier for Europeans to move to the UK.

I remember many Italian expats going to London, a popular city to start off from, but I wasn't particularly attracted by it, mainly for the cost of living that was (and still is) quite high. While I also considered moving to Leeds, Manchester won out in the end.

That's why I decided on Manchester: a perfect mix between the big city, job opportunities, and a lower cost of living.

A mid-range city was exactly what I was looking for at that stage of my life.

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Best Neighborhoods to Live in Manchester

A mural painted on a brick wall that says "Welcome to Manchester's Gay Village"
Manchester's Gay Village, one of the best places to live

Coming from a town on the outskirts of Venice, I noticed that in Manchester all the main areas are located within walking distance. You don't need to get on a tram, bus, or drive your own car to get from one side of the city to the other as its size is still quite small. 

That was something I really appreciated considering that I like walking to get from one place to the other instead of needing to rely on public transport.

The most popular neighborhoods to hang out and live in Manchester are:

  • Northern Quarter
  • Castlefield
  • Gay Village
  • Ancoats
  • Green Quarter
  • Greengate
  • Salford

Just bear in mind that these districts are all based in the city centre, which means that the rent cost is higher than living +20 minutes away from it. 

Over the years, I found it very practical to be close to the city centre and it also means not getting on a bus every time I want to meet friends or do something within Manchester itself.

If you want to keep your costs low but still live in the center, I suggest looking for house shares. This is especially popular among students but also possible to find with other young professionals.

‍Northern Quarter

Living in NQ is best for those that are willing to pay for location. Your apartment rent will be higher here but you'll have everything you could need right outside of your doorstep. Just know that it can get noisy here, so it's up to you to decide if the nightlife is a pro or a con.

📍Before you decide to move to this neighborhood, I suggest you book a hotel or vacation rental for at least a night or two to get a real feel for it at all hours. This will give you the best chance to see if living in the Northern Quarter is a good choice for you.

  • Budget Stay: Modern Apartment in City Centre: This 1-bedroom apartment is pet-friendly and right near Piccadilly Gardens to enjoy some green space.
  • Mid-Tier Stay: Church Street by Supercity Aparthotels: Choose between a 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom modern apartment. This building offers a fitness center and shared rooftop patio.
  • Luxury Stay: Satori Serviced Apartments: Best if you're moving abroad with your family, this pet-friendly apartment has room for 4 while you house hunt for something more long-term.


Castlefield is one of my favorite areas in the city thanks to the canals and plentiful green spaces. Although you'll still be super close to the city center, it's a much calmer neighborhood than NQ. It's becoming more and more popular with young families.

📍Before you decide to move to this neighborhood, I suggest you book a hotel or vacation rental for at least a night or two to get a real feel for it at all hours. This will give you the best chance to see if living in Castlefield is a good choice for you.

  • Budget Stay: City Stay in Caslefield: This simple 1-bedroom apartment is surrounded by the Bridgewater Canal in a quieter area of Castlefield.
  • Mid-Tier Stay: Central Luxurious Two Bedroom Apartment: Get comfortable in this modern 2-bedroom apartment that offers a balcony, plenty of natural light, and views of the center.
  • Luxury Stay: Luxury Deansgate Townhouse: This townhouse isn't just spacious for your entire family but it's so beautifully designed, you might be tempted to try and turn it into your long-term stay.

Gay Village

The Village, as you may have guessed by the name, is the place to go for the LGBTQ+ community in Manchester. Regardless, so long as you're an ally, this neighborhood welcomes anyone to live or hang out here. With Canal Street and great nightlife, it's a super vibrant area to call home.

📍Before you decide to move to this neighborhood, I suggest you book a hotel or vacation rental for at least a night or two to get a real feel for it at all hours. This will give you the best chance to see if living in the Gay Village is a good choice for you.

  • Budget Stay: Whitworth Locke: Stay in a piece of Manchester's history by booking your stay at the Locke. This renovated building is now home to a variety of studio apartments and 1-bedroom suites for you to choose from.
  • Mid-Tier Stay: Cove Minshull Street: This cute and cozy 1-bedroom is perfectly located on the edge between NQ and the Village so you can freely explore all the best spots in Manchester's city centre to find where you want to live long-term.
  • Luxury Stay: Stunning Apartment in Manchester City Centre: Need more space? This 2-bedroom apartment has room for you family and it's own pool table for fun nights in.


If you like the idea of being near the Northern Quarter but aren't so sure if you'd enjoy the energy on a day-to-day basis, Ancoats could be a great choice for you. You'll have plenty of bars, restaurants, and shops outside your door but it's not nearly as rowdy as NQ.

This neighborhood is easily one of the best places to live in Manchester city center to get the best of both worlds.

📍Before you decide to move to this neighborhood, I suggest you book a hotel or vacation rental for at least a night or two to get a real feel for it at all hours. This will give you the best chance to see if living in Ancoats is a good choice for you.

  • Budget Stay: Luxury Two Bedroom En-Suité Apartment: Enjoy great city views and plenty of space at this 2-bedroom apartment, right on the border with NQ.
  • Mid-Tier Stay: Ancoats House: Choose between a 1, 2, or penthouse suite when booking your stay at the Ancoats House.
  • Luxury Stay: Paragon by The Heim Residences: This 2-bedroom industrial style apartment is pet-friendly and offers easy access to all of Manchester's top spots.

Green Quarter

Even quieter than Ancoats but still centrally located is Green Quarter. Since it's not quite as central (still just a 10-minute walk though) and has less going on, your living costs will most likely be much lower than the other neighborhoods so far on this list.

📍Before you decide to move to this neighborhood, I suggest you book a hotel or vacation rental for at least a night or two to get a real feel for it at all hours. This will give you the best chance to see if living in the Green Quarter is a good choice for you.

  • Budget Stay: Luxury Studio Apartment: The apartment is pretty basic but will cover you without breaking the bank while you search for your long-term stay.
  • Mid-Tier Stay: Arena Apartment: Similar to the other as in it'll just cover the basics, this apartment has 2-bedroom if you're moving with your kids in tow.
  • Luxury Stay: Stylish 2-Bedroom Apartment: Much more stylish and spacious, this 2-bedroom pet-friendly home is on the edge of the Green Quarter and Ancoats.


Another good area where to look for bars and restaurants, as well as flats or studios, as an expat, is Salford. Salford isn't just a neighborhood but a full borough with its own set of distinct neighborhoods.

This is a great choice if you're really looking to cut down on your cost of living because living in Salford tends to be much more affordable than living in Manchester city centre.

📍Before you decide to move to this neighborhood, I suggest you book a hotel or vacation rental for at least a night or two to get a real feel for it at all hours. This will give you the best chance to see if living in Salford is a good choice for you.

  • Budget Stay: CitySuites Aparthotel: Offering an indoor swimming pool, gym, and great city views, these studio apartments are fantastic places to settle into living in Manchester.
  • Mid-Tier Stay: Cosy Two bedroom Apartment: Also with a gym, this 2-bedroom apartment offers more space but still great views.
  • Luxury Stay: City View 2 Bedrooms Flat: For a much more modern apartment, you'll love the youthful vibe and fun design at this Salford rental.


More so than being a neighborhood, Greengate is a community within Salford. The apartments are serviced, there's a gym, restaurants, shops, and happy hour events. While I've never lived here, it could be a good place to start off since there are a lot of opportunities to meet your neighbors.

The Social Scene in Manchester

 a view of an indoor/outdoor pub with a group of men sitting around their table with a pint
Don't miss out on all the great places to grab a bite to eat and a pint!

‍It was quite easy for me to make new friends in Manchester. There are thousands of Italian expats I had the chance to connect with and also people coming from all around Europe and the rest of the world! 

For me, as an Italian, one of the best ways to find new friends was following the Facebook page 'Italiani a Manchester,' a quite active group where people ask questions about living in Manchester and also arrange meet-ups. For example, it's normal to see posts about meeting up to play football or invitations to take part in a certain sports event. 

Don't worry if you don't speak Italian, there are a handful of other expat Facebook groups for all nationalities to join! That was just the one that really helped me settle in upon first arriving.

There are also many ways to meet people that share your same interests and hobbies, for example through the website and app MeetUp. Whether you like hiking or painting, there's always some social event going on you can join and where to connect with new people. 

I also recommend joining Language Exchange groups if you're not a native English speaker so you can practice English. These exchanges can work well even if you are interested in learning a new language and want to have conversations with native expats. Mondly is a great app to use to hit the ground running but practicing in-person will help speed up the process and allow you to meet locals.

Living in Manchester as an Italian Expat

the outside of a coffee shop with a few tables and chairs on the sidewalk
You'll be happy to know there are a lot of great coffee shops

‍If you're asking yourself, will I ever feel alone in a city like Manchester as an Italian expat? The answer is absolutely not! There are many opportunities to connect with other expats. 

For me, it's been quite important, in particular during the first years, to find other people that understand the experience of moving abroad. In particular to share the challenges and wins and re-create that sense of 'family' that characterizes us as Italians. 

If I can share a tip with new expats is to not spend too much time with other Italians but mix up with English people and from other nationalities too. There are two reasons why:

  1. To have the chance to improve your English
  2. To not feel trapped in a 'bubble'

By 'bubble,' I mean living in a place, in this case England, but surrounded by everything 'Italian', in particular the friends you hang out with.

Manchester is a very welcoming city and the people are friendly. You'll notice that when going from grocery shopping to the bar or when asking for directions. 

Sooner rather than later someone will call you 'love' and that's something I've always smiled at.

By the way, if you're wondering, are there good Italian restaurants in Manchester? The answer is yes! There are a few authentic places for Italian food to eat out that will lift your day up and remind you of 'home'!

My Favorite Things to Do in Manchester

a view of a city center with an entire wall painted in black with street art designs
A glimpse of the street art in Manchester

‍Having fun in Manchester has never been a problem, in my experience! The range of activities you can do and places to see to have a fun day (or night) out is pretty big. 

Take Advantage of the Unique Activities

If you're looking for fun activities to do during the day I'd recommend the Treetop Adventure Golf, an indoor jungle-themed mini golf with a bar where you can spend a good 2 hours playing with friends or family. 

For a crazier and incredibly fun experience, visit the Crystal Maze, an interactive game set in 4 adventure zones, where you'll face different challenges as a team.

Go to the Museums

Not far from it, there's the Science and Industry Museum, a museum about the discoveries of the Industrial Revolution. There are some interactive parts of it, so it's particularly fun for children and families.

Visit temporary exhibitions at Home. This is a multipurpose space in Manchester's city centre with five cinema screens, two theaters, and an art gallery. There are frequently interesting events going on and free art exhibitions.

Lastly, the University of Manchester Museum is a lesser-known museum to visit but totally worth it. There are areas dedicated to Ancient Egypt, the Earth, and animals, like the vivarium with Costa Rican frogs.

Walk Around the Neighborhoods

It's good fun walking around neighborhoods like Northern Quarter for its colorful street art and lively bars and the Gay Village. These are great areas for a lively nightlife scene.

I also suggest you walk around the Castlefield neighborhood and along the canals. This is my perfect activity to relax after a day at work and gives me the opportunity to look at what's going on in the area.

Another great neighborhood to explore is Salford Quays. It's only 15 minutes away by tram from Manchester city centre. Here you can also find the IWM Museum that you can access for free and where to find out about real-world war stories.

Eat Up!

Whether it's for breakfast, brunch, or dinner I'm always on the lookout for new places that recently opened in town. I love trying new cuisines and Manchester will never let you down with its huge selection of restaurants.

Things I Wish I Knew Before Moving to Manchester

Salford Quay photo by depositphotos.com

While I've settled into living in Manchester quite well, there are a few things I wish I knew before moving to Manchester. These things would have helped me to settle in a bit more smoothly. Now that you're armed with this information, Manchester will feel like home in no time!

These are the 8 things I wish I knew before moving to Manchester:

  • Unlike many of the cities in northern Italy that I know of, there are (almost) no butchers or bakeries in Manchester. But, you can find them tucked inside the supermarkets. 
  • If looking for good quality meat, go to the Arndale's Market and for bread, visit Pollen Bakery.
  • Pharmacies are located inside Boots and Superdrug shops.
  • No one speaks the English you learnt at school! Expect to not understand a word in Mancunian (the local accent) at the beginning, but don't worry you'll get used to it eventually!
  • Healthcare is mostly free.
  • If you're thinking about moving around the Manchester area by bus, I recommend purchasing a day rider ticket instead of getting a single or return ticket. This is something to remember if you live or stay outside the city centre as well and need to get on a bus more than once. You can also get weekly or seasonal tickets to save some money.
  • Be extra careful when walking on busy streets like Market Street and holding your phone. Unfortunately, some people I know have gotten their phones stolen by pickpockets there.
  • Bar waiters don't serve at the table most of the time so you should order your drinks at the counter.

Is Living in Manchester a Good Fit for You?

Moving to Manchester has been a great step after finishing my studies and, although it has not always been easy, it has been totally worth it! 

Living in a different country where you can only rely on yourself is invaluable. This experience, whether it's for a short or long time, will teach you to go out of your comfort zone every single day and in different situations.

Whether you decide to try living in Manchester like I have or are thinking of moving abroad elsewhere in the world, go for it! You'll thank yourself later.

In Manchester though, you'll find many things to do and see and people from all over the world to meet and share life experiences with around a good pint of beer! What more could you ask for?

Hero Photo by Szymon Shields.

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