A new study by Parkdean Resorts reveals the top 50 friendliest UK cities with the greatest sense of community, happiness and openness to tourism. We share our favourite spots to visit in each.
Moving to a new place, or even just visiting, can be a daunting thing. A friendly community can make moving just that much easier, and make any weekend trip that little bit more memorable. Voting for the friendliest UK cities was based on the happiness of residents, how safe the city is, the number of local businesses in the area, the number of community activities on offer and finally, the number of Facebook groups dedicated to tourism.
Glasgow, York and Canterbury ranked in the top ten, but Edinburgh, Exeter and Oxford topped the shortlist as the three friendliest UK cities.
The Scottish capital is steeped in history and culture, but budding residents may not know that they have the strongest sense of community than any other city in the UK. Edinburgh scored higher than any other city for community activities at 1,151, meaning new movers will have plenty of opportunities to meet the locals.
The city also scored highly for safety with just 124 incidents in the past 12 months and high for local businesses with 998 in the area. Here’s a few that we love…
For coffee — Artisan Roast, Bruntsfield Place
This snug, laid-back café is a hit with the locals. The brew bar and high stools create its relaxed atmosphere. The impressive collection of artisan coffees from around the world give you plenty to talk about with the friendly staff.
For Brunch — Checkpoint, Bristo Place
All dietary requirements are catered for in this bright, open plan café. From salads and avocado toast to eggs benedict and mezze platters, Checkpoint is a huge hit with locals and a must-visit for tourists. It’s nice to have the option of a more modern, clean cooked breakfast as well as the classic full Scottish.
For lunch — Hula Juice Bar, Grassmarket
This is a top pick for local and visiting vegans. Though menus include chicken, the smoothies, salad bowls, wraps and homemade bakes on offer give all eating requirements plenty to choose from. It’s a small hole-in-the-wall and there are often queues outside — especially in August when the Fringe Festival is in full flow — but we promise it is worth the wait.
For cocktails — Panda & Sons, Queen Street
This underground spot is disguised as an old barber’s shop storefront. But don’t be fooled! Enter on Queen Street, walk down the stairs and step through the bookcase (that’s right) into another world.
Décor is like something out of a ‘50s speakeasy — velvet drapes hang over dark wooden tables and vintage leather couches.
Mixologists write the menus, which change regularly with the most lavish of recipes — you’ll see no cocktail umbrellas here. Get dressed up for a fanciful evening after a day of exploring Scotland’s capital.
For dinner — Dishoom, St Andrew’s Square
Dishoom serves up delicious Indian food in the form of small plates and sharing platters boasting flavours unparalleled by any other South Asian restaurant in the city.
Lighting is low, tables are made from woven metal and every bar is lit up in gold with hundreds of spirits and wines to match your mouth-watering meal.
Exeter comes in second place for the cities with the strongest sense of community with a score of 356. The city positioned in southwest England scored highly for groups with 95 Facebook groups of the area currently running. Exeter also scores highly for happiness with 7.8 out of 10, the highest happiness score in our top ten.
For coffee — March Coffee, South Street
Not only are they popular for delightful coffee and cakes, March Coffee are legendary for their doughnut gift boxes, handcrafted lovingly on site. Brunch menus are available until 2:30 Friday to Sunday.
Cosy and welcoming, this is the perfect spot to fuel up for a day of sightseeing.
For Brunch — The Cosy Club, Southernhay Gardens
Think mansion splendour meets village hall in this chandelier-lined café bar. From a lazy breakfast to family lunch or a night out in your glad rags, visit both morning and night for food and drinks that are sure to please even the pickiest of visitors!
For lunch — Mango’s Café & Bar, The Quay
A small, independent café situated on Exeter’s historic quayside. This is the perfect summer menu with charcuterie boxes, cheeseboards, dipping oils, fruity desserts and wines to suit every meal.
Serving brunch, light lunches, snacks and alcohol with outside seating available.
For cocktails — The Oddfellows Speakeasy, New North Road
In their own words, The Oddfellows Speakeasy is, “The oldest Speakeasy in town serving classics to our own cocktail creations.”
This intimate spot is like something out of an old movie. Ornate and charming in its simplicity, it’s a gorgeous way to end a night of fun.
For dinner — Harry’s Restaurant, Longbrook Street
Harry’s Restaurant was established in 1993 by the Pounds family, now run by chef proprietor Samantha and four of her daughters.
Harry’s is for laid back dates, intimate dinners, celebrations and quick bites. Ingredients sourced from nearby farms, producers and suppliers.
In third place is the university city of Oxford, with a community index score of 341.
The city is known for its historic and prestigious university but going there as a non-student has its perks. Oxford scores high for community activities with 475 available to those looking to make new connections.
For coffee — Queen’s Lane Coffee House, High Street
A cosy, multi-roomed café that has been serving for more than 350 years. A famous favourite for visitors and locals alike, Queen’s Lane Coffee House is as fancy as it is welcoming.
For Brunch — Oxford Brunch Bar, George Street
“Our food is simple, wholesome and delicious. We don’t just make coffee and sandwiches to sell them. The food we eat makes a difference in our health so everything we sell is carefully sourced from local suppliers to maintain freshness and quality,” say the owners of this popular brunch spot in the heart of Oxford.
For lunch — Vaults & Garden, Radcliffe Square
This café rests in an ancient 1320’s building with vaulted ceilings and a garden perfect for a pleasant lunch. Everything is made with organic ingredients and plenty of options for vegans.
For cocktails — The Alchemist Oxford, Westgate
A modern bar and restaurant that serves up modern takes on your old favourite cocktails. A celebration of the unconventional, dark and controversial. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Masterclasses and experiences are also available. Plan far enough in advance and you can have a personal class when you arrive.
For dinner — No. 1 Ship, Ship street
To put it simply, No. 1 Ship makes modern British cuisine and cocktails presented in cosy surrounds with sophisticated ambiance. Visit for a relaxed but impressive meal.