Manchester Vs London: Which City Comes Out On Top?

By Danny Lavelle Last edited 78 months ago
Manchester Vs London: Which City Comes Out On Top?

Now, you're probably expecting a biased piece illustrating why London is superior to England's second city (cue outrage from Brummies). Well, I'm the closest thing to a Manc there is at Londonist. I’m actually from Oldham, which in relative terms is closer to Manchester City Centre than Peckham is to central London. But I love both places. So you can expect pure objectivity here…


Borough Market: it's good for food

London's eight million or so denizens make up one of the most diverse cities on Earth. As well as themselves and their families, migrants to the capital also bring their cuisine and culinary skills, leaving Londoners spoilt for choice. And if fine dining is your bag, then London is unrivalled in the UK. The capital boasts 72 Michelin-starred restaurants; Manchester doesn't have one solitary single star.

Then again, if you're not mithered about your food also doubling as a work of art, the Mancunian way is not to be sneered at. Up north, you never have to look too far for chips 'n' gravy, and if it's curry you're after, there's a mile of it. London's answer to this is, of course, Brick Lane. What you can't get on Brick Lane is a curry for a fiver, or a kebab for £2.50. It's a similar story for Chinese food — at Buffet Metro in Manchester's Piccadilly Gardens you can eat all you want for £4.50.

As well as fine dining, London has a thriving pop-up scene with unique and experimental foodie joints appearing all over the city. Because the rent is cheaper in Manchester, a lot of these more experimental spots aren't just fly-by-night like they are in the capital — they become permanent fixtures in places like the Northern Quarter. Still, you can only admire how one day a stall in London is selling Hawaiian poke, and the next, duck confit burgers.

Result: London wins.


Shaftesbury Avenue. Image: Steve Collis

Let's not beat around the bush — Manchester isn't going to come out on top here either. Mancunians can get stuck into theatre at the Royal Exchange, classical music at the Bridgewater Hall, and head over to the Lowry for more song and dance. But then London has the West End… need I say more? OK, I will. It also has Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (for anyone who's watched Toast of London, you're not an actor until you've performed at The Globe). Again, price is where Manchester claws some ground back from the capital — when West End shows go on tour, you can often snaffle cheaper tickets. But Londoners have already seen the show two years ago.

Result: London wins.


Old Trafford. Image: Abhijit Tembhekar

About that objectivity thing. As a Manchester United fan it would be impossible for me to say that London's clubs rival the success of Manchester's. This does have the added benefit of being true. Manchester United have won the league 20 times — one less than the combined haul of all the London clubs. And if we must include Manchester City that brings the total to 24... three more than the titles won by London's only league champions (Arsenal, Chelsea, and Spurs).

Manchester United have won the UEFA Champions League three times — two more than Chelsea (the only London club to win the competition). Rightly then, Manchester is home to the National Football Museum. Even if it has nicked that Michael Jackson statue from Fulham.

Result: Manchester wins.


Oasis chalk up one for Manchester. Image by: Will Fresch

In anticipation of Manchester's whirlpool of musical talent — about to be illustrated here — Londoners will be quick to cite the Rolling Stones, the Clash and David Bowie as definitive evidence of the capital's ultimate superiority. However. The Clash's lead singer was born in Turkey and raised in Surrey, Jagger and Richards are from Kent, and Bowie... he was obviously from another planet. Manchester gave birth to Oasis, The Stone Roses, The Smiths, The Verve, The Charlatans, James, Elbow, Joy Division, Take That and the Happy Mondays. Nuff said really.

Result: Manchester swaggers to victory.


Westminster Abbey. Image by Hjjanisch

Manchester is far from bereft on the architectural front. Manchester Town Hall is a gorgeous neo-gothic building designed by Alfred Waterhouse (he also designed the Natural History Museum, which is arguably better) complimented by the delightfully cobbled Albert Square, which plays host to many important events in the city. The Central Library is no eye-sore either. Throw a stone in any direction in the capital, and you'll inevitably hit an iconic building or two (and subsequently be arrested for it).

I've not forgotten that London has some proper architectural eyesores. In September 2017, Building Design Magazine crowned London's Nova Victoria the ugliest building in the UK — it's the sixth consecutive time a London building has won this honour. Manchester has its own problems though: There's the Piccadilly Wall, the Arndale Tower and — although the University of Manchester is a bastion of higher learning — its precinct is a ghastly piece of 60s architecture. A good job they're demolishing it soon.

Result: London wins.


The Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester

By definition, every location on the planet has an identical amount of history. So quality not quantity will be measured here, and once again we're veering into subjective territory. Both cities were touched in some way by the ancient Romans — so far so even. But being the nation's capital, London has an advantage in regards to pageantry, pomp and circumstance; every monarch you can think of ponced about in London with their shiny hat on at some point. There was a massive fire in London that they banged on about in history lessons at school too. But Manchester did kick off the start of the industrial revolution in the 19th century and created a blueprint for the modern world to be built on... so there.

Result: It's a draw.


London doesn't really have an accent to speak of — which isn't a great start. But for the purpose of this article we'll say that the London accent is the cockney rhyming slang made popular by Only Fools and Horses and butchered by Dick Van Dyke. Talking to cockneys is either a confusing exercise in deciphering euphemisms, or working out if the person you're talking to is about to beat seven bells out of you. The Mancunian accent is also an acquired taste. For some reason Mancs drag out their vowels, and would not be able to pronounce their Rs if their lives depended on it; they're either rolling them or missing them entirely: "Ere, check out this plick in the paypo!" That's unless they're talking about R kid.

Result: Another draw.


Driverless tube trains to be introduced in 2020. Image by Priestman Goode

It doesn't really matter if you miss your bus or train in London — there will be another one in two-to-five minutes. Manchester's train and bus service isn't as frequent, unless you're travelling via one of the main thoroughfares. (You'll definitely be more comfy in Manchester though.) London's Oyster system is also really easy to use and cross compatible with every service provider. Manchester has recently rolled out the Get Me There card scheme — a step closer to the London look, but you can't top it up with cash, and there's no mechanism to calculate weekly fares as you go...hmm.

Result: London wins.

Cost of living

If you're renting a one bedroom flat in central London, then good for you; your pockets are so deep, they've solved the meaning of life. Otherwise, even if you're a relatively well-paid intern working at a thriving media company, you're probably living with four other blokes; one of whom insists on stealing your bread from you and then denies it with a huge smirk on his face (seriously Dom stop stealing my bread). In central Manchester however, you can rent a one bedroom flat for around £600 a month... and you'll save money on bread too.

Result: Manchester walks it.


Manchester in the rain. Image by Max Pixel

Prefer dampness, drizzle, rain, fine rain, heavy rain, horizontal rain, sleet, snow and did I mention rain? Then grab a parka and head up to Manneh. If, on the other hand, you like a milder climate augmented by toxic clouds that linger over the capital city like a bellowing spectre of death, London's the place for you.

Result: Draw.

Final Score: London 5  Manchester 3

So it appears London has done it — although Manchester should probably get two points for the cost of living and another two for football. So t's a draw! I think we can all agree that this article has been a fabulous showcase of objective reasoning. And despite the score, we can all agree that it is indeed possible to have room in your heart for both cities.

Last Updated 12 October 2017