While we tend to think about great city breaks being on the continent, we should not forget what the UK has to offer. Within this small country, there are lots of great cities crammed in, and this offers some great city breaks. A few of Britain's major cities have not always had the best reputations but in recent years many have had major regeneration works and have undergone extensive modernization, while at the same time keeping their character and heritage. In this post, I have written about some of my favorites UK city breaks.
A city by the sea, known by some as London by the sea. One reason I love Brighton so much is it offers you a city break and a seaside break in one. A city that's famous for its diversity, vibrant beachfront, independent eateries, its nightlife, and music scene that's is known the world over, and cafe culture to rival anywhere in the UK, as well as some unique quirky little shops. Brighton is within easy reach from the city of London on the train, with the journey taking just over 1 hour, and makes this the perfect getaway for your Mini Break.
Here is my list of some of the best things to do in Brighton.
Let's start with the first thing that comes to mind when visiting the seaside, the beach. A pebble beach rather than a sandy one but lay a towel down and it's pretty comfortable to sit here for a while. There are plenty of beach bars and cafes/restaurants along the beachfront so you won't need to travel far to grab yourself a refreshing cocktail or beer. My personal favorite is OhSo social, which by day is a lovely beachfront restaurant with great food, including a children's menu, and by night it turns into a place to have a few drinks and enjoy the latest tunes.
Wander the Lanes, a small district with narrow streets that's full of quirky little shops and designer shops, cafes, tea rooms, and traditional pubs. If you wanted to shop for unique gifts, then be sure to head to the Lanes. This area was once the heart of the old fishing town and has since been transformed into one of the must-visit places in the city. It is very busy here especially on weekends as it's where most people tend to come and do their shopping, but you don't have traffic to deal with as the area is pedestrianized.
Brighton's version of the Taj Mahal, this magnificent piece of architecture is one of Brighton's main attractions. This former royal residence was built in 1787 as a seaside getaway for, at the time, Prince George of Wales who went on to become King George IV. If you think the building looks stunning from the outside, then you will most definitely want to see inside and around the beautiful grounds. Come and see the great kitchens, the royal bedrooms the music room, and more. The only downside is no photos are allowed inside the building.
British Airways i360 tower
The British Airways i360 is the observation tower on Brighton seafront and from the top of the viewing tower, you will get the best views of the city and over the channel. The 360-degree glass viewing pod once reached the top is 162 meters and offers simply stunning views for miles on a clear sunny day. If you don't like heights, it's probably best to avoid this one, although there is seating in the middle of the pod so you don't have to look down!
Upside down house
Located between Brighton beach club and the British Airways i360 is something rather cool and unique, it's called the upside-down house. You may have seen one of these before as they are located in a few locations across the UK but if you have never visited or been to one then I suggest a visit. It's brilliant fun and for all the family including children and expect lots of laughter for a very reasonable price. Experience a house where everything is upside down, and experience walking on ceilings and take some great photos and have fun rotating them. A fantastic experience.
York is another of my favorite cities to visit in the UK. Not as popular as cities such as London and Manchester but it has to be put on a list of places to visit. A walled city founded by the Romans and once invaded by the Vikings. York is a very beautiful place with its ancient walls surrounding some areas of the city, it's truly unlike any other in the UK. York is also said to be the most haunted city in the UK, but don't let the ghosts put you off. There is so much to do, and here is my brief guide of things to do in York.
Immerse yourself in some of Yorks's history by visiting some of the cities 30 museums, you have the York castle museum and the York dungeon (my personal favorite), Henry VII, and Richard III's experiences to name just a few. The museums are a great way to learn about Yorks past and provide a make for a great day out.
The Shambles is an old Medieval-style shopping street with cobblestones and old wooden-style buildings and is one of the most picturesque places in the city. With traditional sweets shops, chocolatiers, tea rooms, and cafes here, your sweet tooth will be glad you came. Over the years most of the traditional buildings have been restored, this doesn't take away the Shambles magic. Spend a few magical hours walking around here, you won't regret it.
York River and harbor cruises
I love a good old river cruise and Yorks is no different. It's a great way to sit back and relax while taking in the splendid scenery while you cruise down the River Ouse. There are various cruises available, the river Ouse lunch cruise, the river Ouse dinner cruise, the river Ouse afternoon cruise, and the river Ouse city cruise. The tours range in price and times, with the evening dinner cruise being the longest and most expensive.
The cathedral of York or more commonly known as York Minster is a stunning piece of medieval architecture and one of the biggest cathedrals in Europe. Come and see the magnificent stained glassed windows and high ceilings and immerse yourself in some of the Cathedrals stories, from fires that threatened its very existence to the hidden stories behind the stained glass windows.
All tours must be booked online before visiting and cost £11.50 (€12.80) per adult, and free for children as long as they are with a paying adult.
York walking tour
For a true York experience, take one of the city’s walking tours. There are a number of different tours available but whichever you choose You will find the tour guides extremely knowledgeable so if you are keen to learn about the city’s history then this is a great place to start, and if you're like me and have a love of chocolate, then try the York’s chocolate story tour.
Liverpool is a city that is famous for many things particularly its music and football. The city’s musical heritage is unrivaled anywhere in the world largely thanks to the rock band The Beatles. The city is also a port region that is vital to the UK economy, and its waterfront and river Mersey is another famous landmark. Whenever you visit Liverpool you are always greeted with a warm and friendly smile.
Here is a list of some of Liverpool’s best attractions.
The Beatles story
A must-visit for any music fan, the Beatles exhibition in Liverpool tells the story of the life and times of the famous rock band. Here you will find the true story of the band, how they went from small-time to become world-famous, and the impact they had on music globally. The museum houses a collection of over 500 rare items like guitars and drums and George Harrison’s ukulele.
The museum is open daily from 10:00 am - 18:00 pm and tickets must be purchased in advance.
Royal Albert Docks
The Royal Albert Docks is my favorite place to stay when I come to Liverpool, it's the heartbeat of this historic and vibrant city. Liverpool's Albert dock had once dominated global trade, in fact, 40 percent of global trade passed through here. The docks suffered severe damage during the war and by the early 1980s, the docks were abandoned. In recent times though the docks have undergone major regeneration work and are now a lively hub home to museums such as the Tate Liverpool and the Merseyside maritime, restaurants, cafes, and cocktail bars and is a cool place to hang out.
I would recommend staying at the Jurys Inn hotel, it’s in a great location right on the docks, and just a couple of minutes walk to Liverpool one shopping center and the price is very reasonable too.
The Royal Liver Building
Lining the city's waterfront is this grade I listed building. An iconic landmark of Liverpool that stands just over 98 meters tall and features two Liver birds, one on each tower, with one overlooking the city and the other overlooking the sea. You can now take the royal liver 360 tour, offering wonderful views from the towers, overlooking the city and the sea.
Tickets for the tour must be booked online and in advance and prices are £15 per adult and £10 per child.
British music experience
Another example of the city's connection to music. Come and discover the history of rock and pop, and see outfits worn by top artists such as Freddy Mercury, and the Spice Girls as well as musical instruments from the likes of Noel Gallagher. Have a go at learning to play an instrument in the interactive studio, like drums and guitars. A great place to spend a few hours and brilliant fun for the whole family.
Like most museums today, Booking in advance is essential. Tickets cost £15 per adult, £9.50 per child over the age of 5, and £35 per family (2 adults and 2 children)
Fancy some shopping? Liverpool One is the best place in the city for a day's shopping. This open-air shopping center is located right in the heart of the city, near the waterfront with over 170 shops featuring designer and high street brands as well as unique boutiques. There are also more than 30 restaurants to choose from so once you have had enough shopping, stop for a drink and something to eat, choosing from a variety of cuisines.
With so much to see and do in, a city break in Chester should be on your list. Another city with Roman history and this is evident with the ruins on display today. Another example of a medieval walled city with Tudor-style timber buildings, and cobbled streets. Chester is a city rich in architectural history so come and explore this famous old city for yourself.
Chester Roman Amphitheatre
The Roman Amphitheatre in Chester was the largest Amphitheatre built in the Uk and excavations and discoveries are still happening today. Located just outside the city walls, the Amphitheatre Is something you will want to visit if you like your history. It was used as a place to train Roman soldiers, bullfighting, and combat sports. Today, it’s A great spot to bring a picnic and to use your imagination as to what it would have been like.
Chester zoo is one of the largest in the country and features on the popular tv series The secret life of zoo. There are over 35,000 animals here in 128 acres of zoo as well as the beautiful award-winning gardens. Come and get involved in some great family games and activities that make a brilliant family day out.
Chester city walls
At nearly 2000 years old, the Chester city walls are a must-visit for anybody interested in history, particularly Roman history. The city walls are in fact, the UK's longest and oldest. Walking around the near 2 miles around the city wall offers spectacular views of this ancient city. The walk is fairly easy so don't be put off if you are not in peak physical condition. The best place to start the walk is on Eastgate street heading past Chester Cathedral.
Shop along Chester Rows
Possibly one of the first things you will notice when you visit Chester or when you type it into google is the Chester Rows. This striking row of black and white timber buildings houses two levels of shops where you can indulge in some retail therapy at the same time as being surrounded by medieval history. Spend some time walking around here, go for a drink, and have something to eat in one of the many bars and restaurants around the area. There are walking tours of the city available, and by taking one of these with a guide, you will learn a lot more about the city's history.
My home town. The university city of Cambridge is a beautiful city steeped in history and offers visitors so much to see and do no matter what time of year. Read my best things to do in Cambridge here.
Edinburgh is recognized as the capital city of Scotland and has been since the 15th century. This beautiful medieval, bustling city is one of the best places for a UK city break, with so much to see and do, it will leave you wanting to come back for more. I could spend all day writing about the things to do here but still not cover everything. Here is my list of the best things to do in Edinburgh.
Edinburgh Castle was once home to the Scottish monarchs and dominates the city's skyline, perched on the top of an old volcano at 135 meters above sea level, offering breathtaking scenery. Today the castle is now mainly a museum that offers a brilliant day out for all the family. When you're walking up the main castle hill, you will be walking the same steps taken by the Kings and Queens of the past. There is so much to see and do at Edinburgh Castle, I would recommend following a tour guide, they really know their stuff. You will need to allow yourself a full day here, and you will want to be here for the 1 pm gunfire from the cannon, listen out for it. Edinburgh Castle is one of the best places to visit in the city.
Edinburgh old town
Edinburgh old town is the best area in the city for site seeing, with streets of centuries-old buildings and cobbled stone alleyways. I Always think the old town feels and looks a bit like a huge castle. The old town is the most beautiful part of the city, especially at night when it’s all lit up, and sites like Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, and St Giles cathedral are here too. And if it’s your first time in the city, I recommend staying in the old town. I also recommend taking a walking tour of the old town, just so you don’t miss anything. The scotch whiskey experience is pretty cool, especially if you like your scotch. This tour will show you everything you need to know about how Scottish whiskey is produced, and also has the world's largest collection of unopened whiskey!
The Royal Mile
Running through the main center of the old town is the Royal Mile, made up of lots of little cobbled streets and alleyways that simply must be explored on any trip to Edinburgh. Wander around the cobbled streets and take in the atmosphere with street performers, cozy traditional pubs and taverns with live music, restaurants, and shops aplenty. The Royal Mile stretches from Edinburgh Castle to Holyroodhouse Palace.
Palace of Holyroodhouse
Located at the opposite end of the Royal Mile from the castle is the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The palace is the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II in Scotland and another example of Edinburgh's splendid architecture and heritage. Visitors can explore the beautiful Palace Gardens, Holyrood Abbey, and its stately rooms, and learn about what goes on here, as well as its history. The Palace is only open to the public when the Queen is not in residence.
Underground ghost tours
Feeling brave? Take the world-famous underground ghost tour. Edinburgh is known to be one of the most haunted cities in the world, so if you're a fan of the paranormal, or even if not so keen on paranormal activity but you would like to explore a darker side of the city, this tour is for you. Take to the dark side of Edinburgh's old town as you explore the Edinburgh vaults beneath the streets while hearing strange noises in the dark. Learn about some of the most notorious characters of this famous city.
Bath is another example of a beautiful British city with wonderful architecture and 2000 years of history and a buzzing atmosphere. It's a city you need to visit at least once, so if you have never been, what are you waiting for? Bath is in the county of Somerset and while it’s one of the smaller city’s on my list, it still has plenty to offer.
The Roman baths are one of the UK's most popular attractions and a beautiful sight of Roman remains and it’s most definitely worth a visit. The baths are the remains of one of the greatest religious spas in the ancient world that was were originally built by the Romans several years after they invaded Britain. The Romans built the complex in Bath around a natural hot spring source in the city and grew it into a place for bathing, relaxing, and socializing. Unfortunately, bathing was banned in 1978 due to the quality of the water and it was deemed not safe enough to swim in.
Thermae Bath spa
The Thermae Spa is Britains only naturally warm mineral-rich spa, and this one you can swim and bathe in, just as the Romans would have done 2000 years ago. The site has two naturally hot thermal baths, an open-air rooftop pool, and an indoor pool, so come and sample this unique experience for yourself, and it's located just a couple of minutes walk from the Roman bath ruins.
The Royal Crescent
The Royal Crescent is one of Bath's most iconic landmarks, and one of the UK's finest examples of Georgian architecture. The row of 30 perfectly formed grade I listed buildings overlooks royal Victoria park. The Royal crescent is today a luxury 5-star spa Hotel in magnificent surroundings, but even if you're not staying here, it's worth a visit and it offers some splendid photo opportunity's for the keen photographer.
Bath boat tours
Why not jump aboard one of the boat tours you can find in Bath and see sights of this beautiful city from the river. There are a few options available if you wanted to hire a boat yourself or Hire a boat with a skipper, or Sample baths only floating restaurant, or for the adrenaline junkies, you might like to try the paddleboarding and kayaking river tours. Whichever tour you take you can guarantee a great time.
Over the years Bath abbey has undergone many major refurbishment projects, but it still remains a place of outstanding beauty. This gothic-style church with its magnificent stained glass windows and fan-vaulted ceilings is one of Bath's major tourist attractions. The Abbey is also home to 635 memorials on the abbey walls, including memorials from the world wars. Take the tour up to the top of the tower and on the way up to visit the bells, and the clock, and from the top, enjoy the best views of the city. Entrance to the Abbey is free but taking the tour to the top will cost £8 per adult and £4 per child. Check the abbey's website for tickets and availability.