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Moving from London to Bristol – should we do it?

A month or so ago a reader got in touch to ask about our experiences of moving from London to Bristol. He asked for an honest pros and cons of moving – what’s better, what’s worse, how have we found the adjustment?

It’s around two years since my husband saw the house i’m sitting in. So, if you’re considering moving to Bristol from London, here’s my honest list of things to consider.

Firstly, if you’re lucky enough to be in a position to buy, either by selling your London home or just not having enough deposit to get on the ladder there, here’s the thing: Bristol property is still cheaper than London, but there are areas where it’s almost comparable, and the market is probably faster, or as fast. Houses and flats sell in hours. Open days and ‘best and final offers’, the nail-biting blind bids, are popular. It’s hard trying to view houses from a different city. I would suggest taking a mid-week holiday and viewing as many houses as you can. Be brutal, be on the estate agent’s backs like rats on cheese, and show willing. Property near good schools sells better than anything else.

The above is a few screenshots from RightMove of what’s available in some price brackets, big and small. If you’re selling a two bed in 1-6 in London, probably all of them are within your mortgage grasp though!

On the subject of schools – I’m afraid the situation here is as fevered, if not more, than it is in London. Research the ones you like the look of and speak to people about the admissions process. Secondary schools, for many, are more of an issue.

There is a big, big North/South divide in Bristol which people just don’t mention. It’s not a positive or negative thing, but it does exist. In very general terms, property is cheaper south of the river. BUT – this is changing fast because in the areas near to Temple Meads (Southville, Bedminster, Windmill Hill, Knowle, Totterdown) you can walk to the station, and when the track gets upgraded and you can get to London in just over an hour, well, that makes it more commutable than some parts of Surrey, for example. The traditional North Bristol areas for families (Cotham, Redland, Bishopston, Horfield etc) are not as close to the centre, but all easy to get to a centre office from. Public transport is ok, driving can be tough, there’s a lot of traffic in Bristol, it’s comparable to London for that.

Bristol is hilly, there’s no denying it. It makes for beautiful views, great skylines, and a lot of houses with steps up to the door, or steps into the garden. If you want a garden, don’t be fooled into thinking they are always bigger here. Some of the most pricey houses don’t have anything more than a courtyard. Strange but true. In terms of parking, you’ll be lucky to be able to park on your street, especially on terraced roads, although it’s better than London. There are some resident’s parking zones.

Bristol has ‘villages’ just like London. It has more green space and, drive in any direction for 20 minutes and you are in open countryside. You’re in Devon and Wales in an hour and Cornwall in two. You’re 2 hours from London by train and, actually, I regularly drive to central London and on a good day, you’re there in 2.5hrs tops. In other words, you can go back easily and tempt your friends to visit you quite easily too. Oh, and there’s an airport, so you can still go on holiday to most places in Europe – but you’ll need to go to London to fly to other continents.

(A great way to see Bristol is the Instagram hashtag #igersbristol)

Children’s services are good. You have a few hospital choices to give birth in. We don’t have as many children’s centres any more, due to cuts, but we have many, many more baby and child cafes, more available playgrounds (think having a few to choose from each week rather than just the one nearest your house). I’ve not had a problem finding an NHS doctor or dentist, and both are good. We’ve got everything London has which you might currently think of as being unique: a carnival (St Pauls), a natural history museum, a science museum, many outdoor music festivals, a big waterside scene with many things to do, musicals, theatre, etc. There’s a big focus on food, and coffee, and drinks here.

What do I miss? The tube. The Evening Standard. Everything else I miss is just memories of life pre-children – nights out, Soho on a Friday night, The City on a deserted Sunday, dodgy Stockwell nightclubs, beers after work on hot pavements wearing a bad skirt suit, dodgy taxis, all-day hangovers, packed parks, the noise of trains.

Why did we move? We had jobs to come to, we wanted to buy a house, not a flat, we wanted to be away from the pressure of the home counties young family scene, and nearer our favourite coastal counties. The shorter commute means Tibbs sees her father most evenings, which is a huge deal for both of them. Personally, I wanted any kids we have to grow up wanting to go down to London when they’re ready, like I did, and get the most out of it, rather than grow up in it and be underwhelmed by anywhere else, or worse still, live on the fringes of it and still not really experience it (personal opinions here, I realise this is not how it is for everybody!).

Bristol is a great alternative to London for raising a family. There are of course others (am biased but Manchester is wonderful too).

If anyone else has any advice for people considering the move, please do leave a comment.

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31 Comments

  1. Hmm, I actually find the buses are a bit of a pain. If you’re going into the centre it’s fine but a lot of areas are actually not that connected and Bristol is bigger than a lot of people expect. The other thing I’d say is that there are suburbs that literally feel like being out in the countryside. It is such a green place.

  2. Great article, I miss the same things but like you say they are more to do with a pre child life that would be so different if we stayed there anyway! I didn’t know about the new fast train, no excuse now for our Londoncentric friends to not visit. LOVE Bristol.
    Julie x

  3. Wow, this is really interesting as sometimes we ‘toy’ with the idea of relocating down south and Bristol is one area we always discuss. So useful, thank you! xx

  4. Ah, I love Bristol! You know what though, I don’t miss the traffic! I’m gradually adjusting to moving back to Somerset and it is nice to be able to visit regularly.

  5. I am London born and bred, but currently living in NZ. If we were to live in the UK again however, I think Bristol would draw us in!

  6. Wow this is very interesting and really enjoyed reading it mainly because we have debated moving from Cardiff to Bristol – okay so Cardiff is not London at all but some of the things to consider are the same

    Laura x

  7. this is just making me want to move to bristol even more than i already do!

  8. I am seriously considering to move to Bristol with my family. We live in London but it feels so busy to me since we have a baby. I find Bristol lovely and I don’t see any serious issues that can make it hard for me and my family. We are about to buy a house and here in London the house market is awful and everything is so expensive! Thanks for the post!

    • Glad it helped. It truly is a top place to live and bring up kids. The traffic is pretty gruesome sometimes, but there’s lots comparable to London in a good way, too!

  9. Jamie Jamie

    I will object to one thing in this. Don’t be too overbearing on the estate agent – being ‘like rats on cheese’ will not bode well.

    Be nice, be like able and be polite on top of showing you’re eager. If you’re rude to the estate agent or act like a big shot, it may not work in your favour if you have someone else who is offering the same amount on a property and happens to live in Bristol already. I’ve come across vendors who have chosen a buyer with a mortgage over someone who is cash, because they are from Bristol.

    About one third of the buyers I come across are from London, so being a cash buyer who doesn’t live in the city puts you in a boat with a lot of other people, but remember you also remember you are the people the sellers are competing with if they want to move within the city.

    • Thanks James, am guessing you’re an estate agent, so that’s really very good advice!

  10. Darren Darren

    We are moving from London to Bristol next month but need help on affordable areas that you’d recommend close to the city centre and also areas that are best avoided?

    Thanks!

    • Hi Darren, I guess it depends on the term affordable, annoyingly. Could you give me a ballpark, and are you renting or buying? Am sure readers will be able to help!

  11. Kristi Powell Kristi Powell

    Excellent post! I work in the sphere of house removals in London removalcompanyruislip.co.uk and I can confirm that there are many people who either are moving form London to Bristol, either are moving from Bristol to London. It is nice to know more helpful ideas for the people moving between the two cities. Thank you for the post!

  12. Helen Helen

    Loved this piece. My OH & I lived in Bristol together for 2.5 years before coming back up north and absolutely loved it. We only moved because it was too far from family (Cheshire and Cumbria) for us and we felt that buying a house was too hard. Funnily enough Bristol was to us what I think London was to you (lots of pre-kids carefree memories). Despite being really happy in Manchester for the last 11 years, I still think if we could have upended Bristol and moved it up the country, we would have done! It’s a really unique city in lots of ways and I loved it.

    • Aww that’s so cool, because I am from Manchester originally (well, technically Trafford!). Thanks so much for commenting!

  13. Phil Phil

    Thanks for this article. I Live in central London and was thinking of buying a property away from here, but somewhere that is similar . I visit Bristol on a regular basis, for work, but not really learnt of the life is in Bristol. Sounds like a great city and a great place to settle down. Looks like you helped me make up my mind. Thanks.

    • Phil – I absolutely love getting comments like this! I really hope you do get to have a closer look at Bristol, if you have any more questions, let me know and I’ll try and help. Good luck with the potential move.

  14. Cole Cole

    Great low down on Bristol’s pros and cons. I lived in Brighton for 8 years and now in London for about 6 months. I am gearing up to move to Bristol by year’s end but am alone, how is the city for a single mid 30s male? I’m only asking because most of the comments are centered around people in relationships/marriages/families.

    If anyone is renting and have moved from London, how does it compare?
    Are there a lot of opportunities to get into sports participating/coaching?
    If you could name two of your favourite things about Bristol what would they be?

    • Hello, quite a hard one, Cole, being as I’m not single, but…I reckon you’ll be absolutely fine. It’s definitely cheaper to rent here, but not by a huge margin. I’d say having your own flat was more affordable though, as long as you avoid the classically expensive areas like Clifton Village. The nightlife is massively healthy, I’m permanently jealous of those who can get out every weekend. Check out this article for example, http://www.bristol247.com/channel/news-comment/features/things-to-do/things-to-do-in-bristol-in-july it’ll give you an idea. Sports wise, it’s a very healthy city, in general. Good luck!

    • Luciano Luciano

      Hi Cole, did you do this? Did you move to Bristol? I’m planning on doing the same, and I have the same questions.

  15. Mairead Mairead

    Hi Eleanor,
    Loved your blog! So helpful and informative 🙂
    My boyfriend and I are relocating from London to Bristol at around December/ Jan. I’m really looking forward to it, being Irish, I’ve never full settled in London, despite being here 3 years.
    Any advice on best areas to rent? Up and coming areas. We are both very outdoorsy people, hence wanting to relocate. I will be commuting to outside the city to work – Portishead, so ideally somewhere central enough to “feel still in a city” but close enough to get out of it at easy. We’ve no children, so still will want to have some sort of a social life.
    We are both quite artsy/ foodie people.. so I think Bristol will be the right move for us both. Any help or suggestions would be great. Thanks.

    • Hey Mairead, It might be best to hop onto the Bristol Parent FB Facebook page and ask this question – so that you can get a nice rounded view from people (they are a helpful bunch). It kind of depends on how you’re planning on getting to Portishead, whether you need to be near a bus or train stop. We live about 25 minutes from Temple Meads, in stunning countryside. We used to live 10 minutes from Temple Meads, within sight of 4 huge parks. Bristol is naturally a green city. I’m confident you’ll find what you need. Good luck, and thanks so much for commenting.

    • Thanks Jon, do you live there? What do you like the most about it…I’ve not been up there yet, even though there’s a new family friendly cafe I’ve been meaning to check out for ages.

  16. Kent Andersen Kent Andersen

    We are a family currently planning to move to Bristol. At that time our eldest son will need to start sixth form and our youngest his gcse’s. At this stage its totally flexible in which area we choose to live. Which schools should we be looking at? From a distance it seems like Redland Green, Cotham, Bristol Brunel, or Ashton Park look good. But of course that normally means admission is difficult. Is there anyone out there who can share some information about this please….

  17. Leticia Leticia

    Hi, great article!!! We are trying to decide ATM as well whether to move or not and your definitely shed some light. One question, what do you mean by “the home counties young family scene”? We are not from London neither, just been living here for the past three years (from Barcelona) so not sure what you mean.

    We also want to buy and have a 2,5yo and definitely need to look for schools so I’ll follow your tips. Can you please post a link to the Facebook parents group you mentioned?

    I was also wondering if you could help with two questions.

    1. Is the job market ok or it’s brutally different from London? Oh is it IT and I’m in Marketing. Also, how much % would you realistically say salaries are lower?

    2. The other question is, am I right in thinking that the house market is a bit slower right now than when you originally wrote the article? (just thinking with Brexit and all?)

    Thank you once more for the great blog and article.

    Leti

    • David David

      Hi Leti – this is Eleanor’s husband, David. I think what is meant by the “home counties family scene” is the surrounding counties nearest London are the “home counties” so Surrey, Kent, Hampshire, Bucks etc. A lot of people live in these areas and commute into London – it wasn’t really for us but it works for a whole bunch of people.

      Not so sure about the parent groups – i am sure if you search for Bristol Parent on Facebook, everyone on that will chip in and help out.

      In terms of the job market, I would say at a high level, there are less jobs in Bristol than London – just as a function of the relative sizes of the cities. My sense is that Bristol has a fair amount of IT/tech roles and particularly around Aerospace. The best bet might be to look at websites like Reed, Monster etc. In terms of marketing, there are a fair few large corporates for in house marketing and I think there is a growing Agency type presence – however probably nowhere near as much as London. Salary wise it is very job specific, however it’s a supply/demand thing (i.e low unemployment, high skill base, less jobs – so it is competitive) and also a cost of living consideration (although the gap on that is closing) – I would anticipate lower salaries (and hopefully lower cost of living).
      Finally in terms of the housing market – anecdotally the market in Bristol for family houses hasn’t cooled down too much perhaps a bit more scope for making a below/on asking offer however it’s all relative, before Brexit family homes were going regularly above asking particularly in the core markets. South Bristol has really gone from strength to strength since the original post which is reflected unfortunately in much higher prices. Typically (for family terraced houses as a rough guide) I would say (in descending order) Clifton – £600k-£1.5m, Redland/St Andrews is in the £500k-£750k bracket, Horfield £350k-£500k, Montpellier £350k-£600k, Southville/Bedmo £250k-£500k, Totterdown £250k-£400k, Knowle £200k-£400k, Easton £200k-£350k. St Weburghs £200k-£300k. If you fancy more urban living, there are lots of flatted schemes coming on line in Harbourside and City Centre over the next 12-36 months.

    • Marta Marta

      Hi Leti, David and Eleanor!

      What a fantastic post! Thanks for all the tips.

      @ Leti did you make the move? Me, husband and 16moths old daughter are also considering moving to Bristol from London. I am originally from Madrid and after 5 years old in London I feel we will have a better quality of life in a smaller city. The idea of living in the home counties does not appeal to us as the commute will be too long and expensive. I also work in Marketing so I have felt very much touch by your post.

      @ David, Eleanor, we will be renting for a bit until we get to know the city. We will be looking to get a 3 bedroom flat/house. Which areas are the most family friendly? Which areas are the no go for a family? Also, what is the situation over there with nurseries? Are they as expensive as in London? The waiting list to get into one in here is aprox of 3 months. Do you know if it will be similar?

      Many thanks
      Marta

  18. Allan Harris Allan Harris

    Very interesting conversation thread. I moved from London to Bristol in the 1980s – the big difference for me was the public transport, it was and still is awful, although I accept we are spoilt by the transport system in London.

    I know loads of people who have made the same move and they all say they wouldn’t go back!

    Bristol is great!

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