The UK is rich in history and home to countless cities and small towns that are worth visiting. For locals that want to explore the country on a short city break or tourists that want a taste of British history, browse the best UK city breaks below. Having personally visited most of the main cities in the UK, we’ve hand-selected our favourites. They each have something completely different to offer and range from vast metropolises to some of the smaller and more picturesque locations.
First on our list of the best UK city breaks is a place that has a special place in our heart. The Geordie people of Newcastle make it one of the most welcoming places in the UK. It has a famous nightlife that rivals any other UK city and there’s plenty to keep your entertained in one weekend. Wander the historic streets, stop by the castle or ride a bike along the full length of the Newcastle Quayside. Here you’ll find a picture-perfect view of the 7 bridges of the River Tyne. In addition, some nice pubs, restaurants and a modern art gallery decorate the riverside.
Your days in Newcastle will be made up of sightseeing, but make sure you have an afternoon rest as evenings are where it really comes alive. The bustling bar and restaurant scene are second to none and there’s something for all interests. Go for a quiet cocktail in a trendy bar overlooking the river. Alternatively, catch a show at the Theatre Royal or Sage Music Centre. If you want a night out that takes you until the early hours, Newcastle will not disappoint either! A bonus to visiting on a UK city break is the low cost. You’ll be able stay in a luxury hotel and spend less on drinks and food compared to the rest of the cities on our list.
Pro-tip: Go for a morning walk or cycle on the Quayside for a refreshing start to your day. It’s a great place to stay too! Walk to the city centre on foot in only 10 minutes.
Aptly named due to its significance as the first Roman bath house in England, Bath was a city that rose to fame in ancient times for its geothermal spa’s. Today, it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the UK and is usually top of the list for tourists that want to sample UK culture. Tour the ancient bath house in person and head onwards to the streets and bridges to experience Bath’s incredible architecture. The best thing to do here is simply exploring on foot, marvelling at the beautiful scenery.
For a more relaxing afternoon after sightseeing all morning, stop by the rooftop spas. Bathe in the open air and sip a refreshing glass of prosecco – life is bliss! Alternatively, pack a picnic and wind down in a nice park. Being only 2 hours from London on the train and a short drive from the Cotswolds, Bath is a no-brainer city break idea for anyone that hasn’t visited before. It’s a very romantic place too…Enjoy the company of your partner in a boutique hotel with quaint shops and streets at your doorstep.
Pro-tip: Book your place at the thermal spa online in advance (visit website). You’ll skip the long queues of this must-see attraction. And don’t forget your swimsuit!
Liverpool is a place of music that has been modernised into an eccentric UK city break destination. Known worldwide as the hometown of The Beatles, a whole entourage of musicians and TV personalities were born here and it continues to ooze creativity. Visit for a long weekend and you’ll get a taste of the electric atmosphere that entails. And it’s not just on Saturday night! The docks area is a sophisticated day-time spot that’s home to the Maritime Museum and plenty of cool bars and restaurants.
Inside the city, you’ll find a clash of historic churches and museums alongside modern shopping centres. Take a trip down memory lane on the Beatles Tour or cosy up in an Irish pub for great atmosphere that takes you into the early hours. The nightlife in Liverpool is one of the best in the UK! If you’re visiting on a weekend, try to catch a Liverpool football match at Anfield. The atmosphere is renowned and the team are currently in top-form, so catch them whilst you can.
Pro-tip: Join a walking tour and explore the city on foot to re-trace the footsteps of famous musicians and listen to some interesting stories.
York is sometimes overlooked as one of the best UK city breaks and we can’t figure out why. It’s one of the most historic places to visit in the country and is visually stunning. Stroll down the cobbled streets browsing ‘Ye Olde’ sweet shops and bakeries and pop into a traditional pub for an old-fashioned pint. A castle, interactive history museum, train exhibition and iconic cathedral are all within walking distance of each other.
Visit York for a city break on a smaller scale. You’ll fall in love with the architecture and can have a more relaxing sightseeing experience than other busy cities. Quaint boutique hotels, charming tea rooms and some interesting attractions all make it a must-see for holiday-seekers. It offers something different to the usual high streets and chain restaurants you see in cities throughout the UK. 2 nights is the perfect amount of time to get a good taste of Yorkshire life.
Pro-tip: Stop by Betty’s Tearooms for an exquisite Yorkshire breakfast or afternoon tea. It’s insanely popular, and for good reason! Well worth queuing for.
Having visited Bristol many times to see friends, we’ve found it to be a young and vibrant city. In the summer there’s a seemingly endless plan of events and year-round it has a trendy charm that’s hard not to love. It has a thriving creative industry that attracts young professionals and has a nightlife and entertainment scene to suit. Go for a long walk by the pretty marina and see the Brunel SS Great Britain ship, shop til’ you drop at Cabot Circus or dine on the river in a cool ship-burger restaurant.
A city break in Bristol has some excellent sights to see during the day, including the vast Clifton suspension bridge, and evenings pave way to cocktails by the marina or alternative nightlife scenes in underground ‘ruin style’ bars. Bristol is a place where you can walk around for hours on end taking in the picturesque scenery so plan to visit during the spring or summer months. The hot air balloon festival in August is one of the best times to visit!
Pro-tip: Enjoy a cold drink in White Lion pub in the Clifton area. It overlooks Clifton Suspension Bridge and is one of the coolest places in the city, especially in the summer.
Bonus tip: See if you can spot the many pieces of Banksy artwork scattered around on streets and buildings. Bristol is widely believed to be the artist’s hometown.
London is the capital city of the UK with an endless amount of attractions and historic charm. It simply had to appear on our list! Some people avoid the capital as it’s so vast and intimidating, however we encourage everyone to give it a chance. It’s so big, you’ll find different things to do and completely contrasting vibes depending on where in London you visit. The city centre is the place to go for key attractions such as Oxford Street, theatre shows, the London Eye and Buckingham Palace and is the best place for first time visitors.
Have you visited London on a city break before? We encourage you to venture out of zone one to try something new. Sail down the river to Greenwich on a cruise. Stand on the Greenwich Meantime divide, venture to East London for an edgy and hip side to the city or enjoy the parks and colourful streets of West London. See London like a local! A city break here can be enjoyed year-round and whilst it’s more expensive than the rest of the ideas on our list, it’s the top choice if you want plenty to see and do.
Pro-tip: London is very well connected. Stay West or South rather than central London for better value for money and a nice environment away from the touristic centre.
Alongside London, Edinburgh is a UK city that we encourage everyone in the world to visit! It’s the breathing heart of Scottish culture and promises festivals and events all year round. Attend the famous Hogmanay New Year festival, visit during August for the hilarious Fringe comedy and performance festival or arrive during December for a festive city break full of Scottish cheer. Edinburgh’s streets are filled with old monuments and its iconic castle sits in the centre of town.
Top things to do include sightseeing, beautiful parks, museums, theatre and comedy shows, shopping and a nice zoo just outside of town. It’s a large place that’s easy to travel around and the Scottish heritage is evident everywhere you go. We recommend spending a long weekend in Edinburgh around Christmas-time or booking tickets early for Fringe Festival August city break. It appeals to families, couples, groups of friends and all interests! A true all-rounder UK destination.
Pro-tip: Walk up the winding hill in Holyrood Park to find Arthur’s Seat viewpoint. It’s provides the best view of the entire city…
If you live in the south of England and want a traditional seaside experience in one of Britain’s most famous beach cities, take the train to Brighton. A long pier and usually busy stone beach are what everyone flocks to see. The city is also home to plenty of entertainment venues and events, especially in the summer. Enjoy fish and chip in the sunshine and walk along the pier or venture into the centre of town.
Live theatre, plenty of trendy shops and restaurants and quirky seaside attractions all make Brighton an entertaining UK city break idea. It’s also home to an action-packed event plan. Brighton Marathon, the unbeatable Pride parade and summer music events in the park are not to be missed! It appeals to families during the day and comes alive at night with a lively nightlife scene. Sure, there’s plenty of nice seaside towns to visit along the south coast, but Brighton wins every time for the number of things to do and its iconic British heritage. It’ll keep you entertained all weekend!
Pro-tip: Brighton is a small city that gets very busy and parking is hard to find. Catch the train there for a hassle-free city break.
Perhaps unexpected city to appear on our list of the best UK city breaks, Bournemouth is a top contender for its vibrant summer setting, lively pier and trendy bar and restaurant scene. It’s a small city on the south coast that has excellent weather from June to August and is within a short drive of some breath-taking Dorset coastal scenery. Bournemouth’s long sandy beaches stretch for miles and there’s a variety to choose from.
Its pier is a fun collection of amusements, restaurants and attractions and you can catch the ferry over to the beaches of Studland for a more relaxed setting away from the crowds. On an evening, the centre is an atmospheric mix of young and old as bars and restaurants fill up and live musicians play in ‘The Square’, which is lit up with fairy lights and even has a dance floor! You also have a good range of affordable accommodation in the city and excellent dining options. It’s one of the more relaxing city breaks on our list and ideal for a summer getaway for couples and families.
Pro-tip: Walk the full length of the beach west to Sandbanks or catch a cab. This upscale area of Bournemouth has quieter sands to relax on an a nice promenade to enjoy a drink. You can also catch the ferry across to Studlands from here, which is an excellent half-day trip.
The historic university city of Cambridge is just 50 minutes on the train to London and is equally as easy to get to from the Midlands. Visit during spring or summer for a relaxing UK city break full of history and culture. Tour the old streets that have been transformed to house modern shops and restaurants, marvel at the university campus and the many churches, or visit a museum.
If the weather’s nice outside, Cambridge is a great place to be! Rent a bike and cycle the full perimeter of the city into the countryside and through the old-town centre or have a picnic in a park. One of the most popular things to do here is Punting on the river. Stand upright on a narrow ‘gondola-style’ boat and move gently along the stream with your friends. It’s great fun! Cambridge is one of the best UK city breaks for culture. 2 nights is the perfect amount of time to stay, but shorter periods work fine too! Day trips and 1-night visits are common.
Pro-tip: Search for Cambridge’s University Campus Botanical Gardens and marvel at the beautiful greenery. It’s a lesser know attraction that’s well worth checking out.
Now we’ve shared the best UK city breaks, all that’s left to do now is try them out! These destinations are our favourite places for a short 2 or 3-night break and can be visited throughout the year for different experiences. Check local events before arrival to see what’s on and write down a few activities that you want to try whilst you’re there. For help planning your city break, get in touch! We’ve visited the above places multiple times and will happily share our top tips.