Top UK cities for weekend breaks outside London

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York Minster and York City Wall, York

Despite being able to travel with almost no restrictions, Brits have fallen back in love with staycations since the pandemic. According to new research from the Post Office, in the last five years 76 percent of people from the UK have decided to stay on British soil for their holiday rather than jet to warmer climes.

With the cost of living crisis, cancellations at many airports, Dover and crazy queues for the Eurotunnel, more and more Brits are choosing to explore closer to home. That, and more and more of us wanting to make less of an impact on the environment.

With incredible places across the whole of the United Kingdom, there’s so many spots to have a break this summer. And, where better to spend a weekend than in a city bursting at the seams with things to do.

Every British city has its own heritage and charm. Whether it’s York and its cobbled streets, rich history and culture, or the creative hub of Manchester and its fantastic nightlife, there’s a city in the UK to spend a long weekend.

No matter what you’re looking for on your next trip, there’s something for all tastes in our pick of some of the best city breaks in the UK outside of London.

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The Roman Baths, Bath

Bath

Soak in an abundance of history during a weekend break to Bath. The historic city in the southwest is renowned for its Roman links and mineral-rich springs. Despite only being able to look at Bath’s Roman baths today, there’s plenty of things to do to keep you occupied throughout your trip. The tourist hotspot is also a mecca for arts and culture, and is awash with cobblestone streets and incredible places to eat and drink.

Just visiting for 48 hours? Visit the Jane Austen Centre for a literary morning, then take a stroll around the gothic 15th-century Bath Abbey in the afternoon sun. If you’re looking for fine dining, book a table at Michelin-starred restaurant, Olive Tree and enjoy contemporary, seasonal dishes using local produce. Then, after a day of sightseeing, rest your weary head at the iconic The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa.

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Titanic Belfast, Belfast

Belfast

Just a short trip across the Irish Sea, you’ll find Northern Ireland’s capital, Belfast. Once a place overcome by the Troubles, the city is now a safer and incredible place to visit for a weekend. That being said, the scars still remain and it’s important to learn more about the city’s past during your trip.

During your weekend getaway to Belfast, book tickets to the waterfront museum dedicated to the Titanic. Titanic Belfast tells the story of RMS Titanic, from its conception in Belfast to its ultimate sinking and place in history. Younger holiday makers should book a place on one of the city’s Game of Thrones tours, where you’ll visit all the castles and sights from the filming locations in and around Belfast.

After a long day of visiting locations, book a table at James St & Co. The modern restaurant is a gastronomic experience housed in what feels like an art gallery. The wine list is a sight to behold. After an evening of delicious food, treat yourself to a couple of night’s stay at the Grade A-listed Merchant Hotel in Belfast’s historic Cathedral Quarter.

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Punters on the River Cam, Cambridge

Cambridge

When you think of Cambridge, what do you think of? University? Punting? Museums? Well, you’d be right, but there’s even more to see and do in the quaint city of Cambridge. That being said, a university tour around all the colleges is a must. Even if it’s to walk in the footsteps of alumni including Stephen Hawking, Charles Darwin, and Isaac Newton. If time is of the essence, however, head to The University Museum of Zoology. The incredible museum showcases the diversity of animal life – a great attraction for all the family.

Budding artists make sure you visit Kettles Yard. The lesser-known hidden gem, is a short walk from the City centre. Kettle’s Yard is a contemporary art gallery adjoined by the late artists Jim and Helen Ede’s house, which is home to a remarkable collection of 20th-century art preserved in an intimate, domestic setting.

Celebrate a successful trip with a table at the extravagant Midsummer House. The Victorian, riverside cottage serves delicious French seasonal dishes. Then, put your feet up after a day full of walking at the boutique University Arms Cambridge hotel. Built in 1834, the hotel is the oldest in Cambridge and was originally erected as a coaching inn alongside the city common, Parker’s Piece.

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Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Cardiff

If you’re in the Welsh capital of Cardiff make sure to visit one of the many historic castles. Regarded as the city with the most castles in the world, it would be hard to visit without stepping back in time. Weekend visitors should make the time to visit the most famous, Cardiff Castle, which has stood for nearly 2,000 years and is the centre of the city.

Head to the warehouses along the waterfront development, Cardiff Bay, and you’ll be treated to a plethora of restaurants, theatres and galleries. Enjoy a golden hour tipple at the Cosy Club overlooking the water, before making your way to the elegant five-star Parkgate Hotel just a short stroll from the iconic sports and music venue, Principality Stadium.

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University of Glasgow, Glasgow

Glasgow

In more recent years, the city of Glasgow has shaken off its unfashionable persona and become the go-to city for arts and culture in Scotland. Glasgow is now Edinburgh’s edgier cousin. With artists and musicians setting up shop in the heart of the city, the city is a must when considering 48 hours in Scotland.

Hailed for its attractions, quirky lanes, amazing food scene and relaxed vibe, the trendy West End has endless things for you to do. Those looking for a little bit of history, make sure you book a ticket to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum before wandering around Kelvingrove Park before visiting the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Museum to see the art nouveau architect left their mark.

For authentic Scottish fare, book a table at The Bothy, an upmarket Scottish bolthole offering delicious cuisine including haggis, neeps and tatties, just a short walk from the bustling West End.

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The Beatles Pier Head statue, Liverpool

Liverpool

Music and art lovers should pack their bags and head to the northern city of Liverpool. The city’s musical heritage is rich and you won’t be able to visit Liverpool without taking part in something to do with The Beatles. Whether it’s joining a Penny Lane walking tour, popping into the notorious Cavern Club, visiting The Beatles Story, or simply walking by the pier head statue, it’s impossible to visit without seeing the band’s influence.

Artists should visit Tate Liverpool for an injection of contemporary art for free, explore Liverpool’s waterfront Liverpool Museum for local history, or visit the national gallery of the North, The Walker Art Gallery. Then, after a day absorbing the culture of the city, enjoy a meal at fine dining restaurant Lerpwl, which is found at Royal Albert Dock. Lerpwl supports responsible local agriculture and only uses sustainably sourced seafood.

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Manchester Central Library, Manchester

Manchester

Another musical powerhouse in the UK, Manchester has powered both Britain’s industrial and music revolutions. The Smiths, The Stone Roses, Joy Division and Oasis all come from the northern city. So, if you find yourself in Manchester for a weekend, make sure to catch some live music at O2 Ritz Manchester, YES, or the renowned Band on the Wall.

Manchester is also a cultural hub with plenty of creative experiences waiting for you, including Manchester Art Gallery, which is a publicly owned art museum in the heart of the city with an incredible lineup of exhibitions as well as a calendar full of fun things for all the family to do this summer.

Rest your weary feet after a day of exploring at The Lowry Hotel. The beautiful waterside five-star hotel on the banks of the River Irwell was named after the artist Lowry whose work is strongly associated with the city, and is the spot to have as a basis while visiting Manchester.

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River Tyne, Newcastle

Newcastle

For a real northern experience, make your way to the exciting and vibrant city of Newcastle. With a nightlife to rival most, Newcastle has ample things to do when visiting for the weekend.

You can’t visit the city without heading to the vibrant cultural quarter, Ouseburn. The community is home to artists, musicians, designers, printmakers, brewers and even an urban farm. Stroll through the area with a pastry or cake from Dreamworld Cakes before sitting down to enjoy foot-tapping live music at The Cluny.

Culture vultures should venture to The Baltic. The former flour mill is now a free modern art gallery that also boasts a viewing platform at the top, offering you panoramic views of the city.

After a night on the tiles drinking cocktails at ABOVE or quirky The Exchange – the bar is hidden behind a secret door concealed as a phone box – book at night at luxury hotel The Vermont. Formerly the County Hall for Northumberland, the breathtaking, neo-classical building is minutes from the best bars and shops, and has amazing views of the river.

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York Minster and York City Wall, York

York

A favourite amongst tourists around the world, York is a must if you’re looking for the perfect, slow-paced getaway in the UK. Steeped in history, the northern city has activities around each corner for all ages and abilities to enjoy.

Start your stay by taking a walk along the Roman walls surrounding the ancient city, before visiting the Roman Baths and ending at the Yorkshire Museum to learn even more about the city’s past. If old buildings are your bag, make sure to head to the 13th-century Gothic cathedral, York Minster, with its medieval stained-glass windows and functioning bell towers. Finally, set your sights on the Monk Bar gate where you can explore the exhibition following the life of Plantagenet King Richard III.

Relax with a cup of tea and something sweet at the famous Bettys, before going on a shopping spree down the best-preserved medieval shopping streets in Europe, The Shambles. Pop in and out of quaint little shops found along the cobbled streets and under overhanging timber-framed buildings before finishing the day in York’s only five-star hotel, The Grand. The elegant hotel offers luxurious rooms, relaxing spa experiences and high-end dining.

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