Whenever you explain to someone who isn’t from the UK that you’re from England, the immediate assumption is that you live in London. It’s as though other cities don’t exist in this Kingdom, when really our island is host to plenty of vibrant and cultured cities, with amazing restaurants, landmarks and historical sites. Read our top cities to visit in the UK that aren’t London, how to get there and what there is so see.
As a home-grown Mancunian, I’m obviously biased when it comes to this incredible North West city. However as the prices of property and everyday living increases in London, people are exploring other cities and Manchester is fast becoming an amazing place to live. With new restaurants, bars and clubs every week, it is a great place for young people and although apartments in the centre are still pricey, you can get so much more for your money here.
Travel: Manchester has its own huge airport, it is easily reached by train, with most national services as well as airport transfers travelling to Victoria or Piccadilly. There is also an effective metro service which travels between main areas of the city as well as the suburbs. Taxi's and ubers are a little more expensive, but this all depends on what time of the day you travel (evenings obviously sees a surcharge).
Things to do: Manchester is in fact home to some impressive museums, including the Manchester History Museum, the National Football Museum, the Imperial War Museum, Whitworth Gallery and the Manchester Art Gallery. There are also multiple theatres to see shows, the M.E.N arena frequently home to enormous acts. Most popular however, is the shopping and eating scenes with plenty of bars and restaurants to suit every taste and hundreds of high-street and designer stores across the city.
Nights Out: Manchester is fast becoming a city of metropolitan cocktail bars, cool new restaurants and colourful boisterous clubs. With busy areas such as Peter's Street, Deansgate and Northern Quarter, there is something to suit everyone's perfect night out. Be warned that the security for these bars and clubs will find any reason not to let particularly large groups of lads in, so if you're planning a night out in Manchester, dress for the occasion.
Definitely in my top 3 UK city break destinations there is SO much to do in Edinburgh and with its niche old streets and colourful shops it often feels like you're in a Scandinavian port-side town, until you hear the accent that is... Home to the only pandas in the UK, an impressive castle, colourful kitsch shops and green rolling country sides Edinburgh is a picturesque city full of sight-seeing and history.
Travel: Edinburgh has its own airport and is well served by trains (which are pretty cheap and fast if you buy them in advance and during off peak times). There are trams which cover the city as well as frequent bus services. I find however this city is best discovered by foot, as secret pretty alleys and unusal shops could be missed using transport, it is quite hilly but there are plenty of pubs to stop off and replenish yourself!
Things to do: The majestic Edinburgh castle is a must, even if it's a free wander around its grounds, wander the high street stores on Princes street, gawp at the enormous Scott monument, pick up unique souvenirs from the royal mile and visit the pandas at Edinburgh zoo. Annnd if that wasn't enough, alot of gins and whiskeys are made in Edinburgh, so drop by places like Edinburgh Gin for a tour and taster session!
Nights out: Definitely more pubs than bars, I can't say I can accurately comment on the club/nightlife as I visited with my mum and sister but we enjoyed drinking in local pubs and cute bars throughout the town during the day.
My current home, I can safely say I have settled in well to the busy city life of Birmingham. I've found it to be very similar to Manchester, chic cafe bars, bars full of WAGs and their designer wares, as well as a fast paced nightlife and drinking culture. Birmingham is great for a city break for shopping and food, and whilst being only an hour away from London there are great links to the capital. The city centre is fast developing, as the home of four universities, there is constant building and renovations across all the shared campuses and it is becoming a popular destination for London commuters.
Travel: Birmingham has its own international airport which is well connected by trains into one of its main stations; New Street or Moor Street. There are also trams which connect the suburbs to the city centre, but the trains in Birmingham are by far the most efficient and on time I have ever experienced in the UK (don't even get me started on Northern Rail).
Things To Do/Nights Out: In the city centre, Birmingham is mostly host to a huge range of shops - another city in addition to Manchester to home a Selfridges, as well as the Bullring. If you're looking for a rowdy night out, Broad Street is home to a range of bar and pub branches including Bierkeller, Revolution and everyone's favourite: Popworld. Birmingham is also home to the beloved Cadbury's world as well as being roughly 1 hour away from Warwick and it's castle.
Whilst studying my masters in Liverpool I had time to visit the city, the docks and the cool edgy cafes peppered around the streets outside the city centre. Liverpool has a great shopping and nightlife scene as well as lots of edgy restaurants and bars. Not only that the city has plenty of museums and amazing galleries someaning that Liverpool has something to offer for everyone no matter what your interests.
Travel: Liverpool has its own airport, which is often a cheaper destination than flying to/from Manchester. Liverpool Lime Street is a huge train station connecting the city to whole country and you can score really cheap tickets. There are buses which connect the universities and the centre which is probably a better option than parking in the city as this is extremely expensive - especially in the shopping areas.
Things to Do: Liverpool is home to a lot of National Museums such as the International Slavery Museum, as well as the World Museum and Tate Modern. Liverpool one shopping centre is home to over 170 shops and plenty of restaurants and bars. Home to the Beatles there is also plenty of references throughout the city which is set in magestic and busy Albert Docks.
Night Out: Liverpool is a great night out, an excuse to get dressed up and visit lots of cool cocktail bars and clubs. Not only that Liverpool has multiple universities, so the student nightlife is very lively too so can be a cheaper night depending on what you’re looking for!
Fun fact I studied my undergraduate degree in York and I adored the city. It is small, cute and full of history. Whether you're into drinking (York is home to 365 pubs - one for every day of the year!), history (previously inhabited by Romans, Vikings and the Tudors to name a few), walking (the city is enclosed by ancient walls 2miles long or shopping (there are so many one off boutique shops). York is a great place for a weekend break that isn’t a huge plus city, expect one off live music in pubs, pretty views and ancient buildings. Book a trip in summer to enjoy ice creams by the River Ouse or in the winter for Christmas markets and hot chocolate whilst wandering the Shambles.
Travel: York train station is a museum in itself, it is well connected to the UK with frequent services to both the South and North. There are no metros but buses are frequent and efficient to outside the city, but honestly its easy to walk around the center so there is no need for public transport.
Things to Do: What you do in York largely depends on the season as they often host special events or festivals during different times of the year. However, most popular to do in York include the glorious minster, walking the city walls, wandering down the shambles, rolling down Clifford's tower and visiting all the humble Yorkshire pubs! Home to the River Ouse, you can also hire small self-drive boats to ride in the water, as well as enjoying ice cream from the ice cream boat (really) and perching over the side of the river with a pint.
Nights out: York is relatively tame in comparison to larger cities like Manchester and Newcastle, and whilst there are some smaller clubs in the center, the night-life mostly consists of rowdy pubs with live music or cocktail and wine bars.
After moving to Birmingham I was determined to visit more southern cities, especially as this would have taken me twice the length of time to reach when I lived in Manchester. Bath is a beautifully quaint city, heavily influenced by the Georgian era which is still evident in the pale brick buildings and gorgeous Royal Crescent. Not only that Bath is rich in history, as it was founded by the Romans in the 1st century AD and is now a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site!
Travel: Whilst Bath is a major city in terms of culture, it is not as well served by transport as its neighbouring city Bristol. Whilst Bath does have a major train station, the nearest airport is Bristol and there is only buses throughout the city. The cheapest and easiest option for us was to drive, but be aware that parking is limited and expensive!
Things To Do: Bath is home to lots of cultural and historical gems including the Roman Baths, afternoon tea in the pump rooms, admiring the views from the Pulteney Bridge and visit the awe-inspiring Bath Abbey. Not only that but Bath is home to so many unique shops that only have stores in this city. There also some really exquisite restaurants and bars in Bath, so there really is plenty to do in a weekend city break.
Nights out: Of course Bath is not notorious for its wild nights out, but Bath is actually home to a lot of Michelin star restaurants as well as some really beautiful chain bars (they went all out with the secret bar in the Botanist's branch in Bath).