If you’re on the lookout for the best cities to visit in the UK, you’ve come to the right place. There are so many beautiful places to visit in the UK, and even with the amount of nature and stunning views on offer in the UK National Parks, the cities are still a great place to spend a weekend. In this post, we highlight our top cities to visit in the UK, across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The UK is home to 76 cities, with 55 in England, eight in Scotland, seven in Wales and six in Northern Ireland. There are cities to visit in the UK whether you’re looking for a full weekend away, a day trip, places to visit in the UK as a couple, as a solo traveller, or with friends.
If you’re visiting the UK for the first time, sightseeing in some of the UK’s more popular cities such as London, Cambridge and York is bound to be on your UK bucket list. However, if you live in the UK or you’ve been multiple times, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t explore some of the best cities in the UK too. In short… there are loads of awesome places to visit in the UK, and there really is something for everyone!
Think of this blog post as the ultimate cities in the UK bucket list. If you’re looking for the top things to do in the UK, this is the post for you. We’ve taken all the highlights from our UK blog posts and created a best cities in the UK travel guide for you which will give you some of the best places to visit in the UK.
Other travel guides you might find useful…
- England Travel Guide
- 30 of the best places to visit in the UK
- The ultimate guide to planning a UK road trip
- A UK road trip checklist: Things to remember
- The best things to do in Scotland
- The best things to do in England
- Top 15 things to do in Wales
- The best places to visit in Northern Ireland
- Europe: The Ultimate Travel Guide
- 22 top tips for travelling in Europe
The best cities to visit in the UK...
1. Bangor, Northern Ireland
Bangor is one of the newest cities in the UK, having been awarded city status as part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations in 2022. It’s one of the most popular places to visit in Northern Ireland and is known for being a lovely seaside city. You’ve got Bangor Marina and the seaside promenade for a wander and a coffee, Bangor Castle and the Walled Garden for spring-time exploring, and the nice coastal path between Bangor and Holyhead, which all make for a lovely weekend away!
Did you know that there is also a town in Wales called Bangor? Here’s our weekend guide to Bangor, Wales.
2. Bath, England
Bath is definitely one of the prettiest places to visit in the UK and one of the best cities to spend a weekend in. It’s particularly lovely at Christmas, where you have some of the best Christmas markets in the UK. Don’t fret if you want to visit at a different time of year though, as there is still plenty of things to do in Bath for a weekend: the Thermae Bath Spa and the Roman baths, Bath Abbey, as well as museums, galleries and plenty of afternoon tea.
3. Belfast, Northern Ireland
Belfast is a stunning port city with a troubled past, but worthy of a place on this list of the best cities to visit in the UK. With a great food scene and nightlife, as well as plenty of history to learn (don’t miss seeing the Peace Walls), there’s plenty to do in the capital of Northern Ireland.
4. Brighton, England
Brighton has got to be one of the best cities to visit in the UK, with its colourful streets, awesome nightlife, inclusive community (it’s one of the best LGBTQ+ destinations) and wonderful seaside city vibe. As well as the usual fish and chips on the pier and arcade games, when you’re in Brighton don’t miss shopping in the lanes, checking out the music scene, cycling along the coast ad checking out any pop up events that are going on.
5. Bristol, England
Bristol is an epicentre of creativity and one of the best cities to visit in the UK if you love the arts. Home to a fascinating but important history, here you can see some of Banksy’s best street art, take in the stunning views of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, and attend the annual balloon fiesta as well as enjoying the food scene and admiring the beautiful architecture.
6. Cambridge, England
Known all over the world for the famous university, you must visit Cambridge if you are visiting England. From punting on the river to a guided tour of one of the university colleges, there are plenty of things to do in one of the best cities to visit in the UK. There are also museums to visit, as well as there being wonderful architecture to look at and independent cafes to enjoy a cuppa in.
Check out the best things to do in Cambridge in this blog post.
7. Cardiff, Wales
Cardiff is the capital of Wales and definitely one of the best cities to visit in the UK for a weekend away. It’s got a buzzing sports culture, with football, rugby and ice hockey matches on regularly, as well as thriving art and food scenes. For those of you who love castles, Cardiff is one of the best places to visit in the UK; Caerphilly Castle, the second largest castle in Britain, is on the outskirts of Cardiff, as it Castell Coch, and both are worth a visit. The fun doesn’t stop there… if you love being active, Cardiff is the place for you. You can do everything from a gentle walk around Cardiff Bay to getting your adrenaline running at Cardiff International White Water.
8. Coventry, England
One of the most underrated cities in the UK, it’s not somewhere you see often on lists of the best cities to visit in the UK. However, it’s worth a trip! Coventry is the UK City of Culture 2021 and it’s just one hour from London by train, making it one of the best day trips from London. With an up-and-coming arts and culture scene, a rich Medieval history and the stunning Coventry Cathedral, there’s plenty to see and do.
Check out our travel guide on the best places to visit in England here.
9. Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland
Fans of Derry Girls, this is the place for you. Derry-Londonderry is the only completely walled city in the UK, and it was the first UK City of Culture. Add this to some very important history (don’t miss the symbolic Peace Bridge or the city walls) and some “legenderry” food, there are plenty of reasons why Derry-Londonderry is one of the best cities to visit in the UK.
10. Edinburgh, Scotland
Hiking up an ancient volcano (Arthur’s Seat), exploring the Dungeons and the Castle, wandering around the streets of the Old Town… What’s not to love about Edinburgh?! All of this plus the museums, shopping and food on offer here make Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, one of the best cities to visit in the UK! Visit in the summer and you get the added fun of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival too!
11. Exeter, England
Exeter is right in the heart of Devon, with easy transport links to Dartmoor National Park, Exmoor National Park and the coast. This makes it the perfect weekend break in the UK! Close to some of the best beaches in England and some of the best walks and hikes in England, full of Norman history and beautiful places such as Exeter Cathedral and the Historic Quayside, and home to a buzzing arts, culture and music scene, there are many reasons why Exeter is one of the best cities to visit in the UK.
12. Glasgow, Scotland
Glasgow is a UNESCO City of Music, so if that doesn’t make it one of the best cities to visit in the UK, I don’t know what does! It’s also home to some world-class museums, over 90 parks and green spaces, and it’s a great base for visiting other areas on a West Scotland road trip! It might not be the capital, but it’s still one of the best places to visit in Scotland.
13. Leeds, England
Restaurants, art, theatre, music, shopping, nightlife and festivals… these are just some of the things that make Leeds such a vibrant city. It’s a hubbub of creativity, and a student city, so great for those of you travelling on a budget. Don’t miss heading to Kirkgate Market (home to the first Marks & Spencer), enjoying the amazing food scene, or exploring the independent boutiques in the Arcades. And hey, if you love outdoors activities, Leeds is really close to the Yorkshire Dales so you can extend your weekend break there!
14. Liverpool, England
Home to The Beatles, a great football team and a vibrant waterfront area, there are many reasons to visit Liverpool, a UNESCO World Heritage listed city. It might feel a little rough around the edges and have a grungy charm, but it’s arty, it’s liberal and here you’ll find some of the friendliest people in England. And you can’t miss the cathedral: the largest church in the UK by area, and the longest cathedral in the world.
15. London, England
Where to start with London… there are so many things to see and do here that it can’t not be on this list of the best cities to visit in the UK. World-famous landmarks and museums, great restaurants, awesome London markets to explore and lots of places for cocktails, there’s lots of choice. Whether you’re looking for things to do in London in summer, things to do in London in winter, things to do in London when it’s raining, and even free things to do in London, there’s something for everyone here. If it’s your first visit, start with this sightseeing walk around London so that you see the all the main landmarks such as Big Ben, Tower Bridge and Westminster Abbey. Then treat yourself to afternoon tea in London!
16. Manchester, England
Manchester is one of the most exciting cities to visit in the UK at the moment. Famous for it’s football team, it’s also home to a great music scene and nightlife, beautiful architecture, creativity and culture. It’s a city where old meets new: old Victorian markets are Instagram-friendly food halls, and the infamous red-brick mills have now become independent art hubs. From the creative Northern Quarter to the foodie centre of Ancoats, as well as lots of independent shops and cafes to explore, there are lots of things to do in Manchester for a weekend.
17. Newcastle upon Tyne, England
Another city that is passionate about football, Newcastle is also worth exploring! In the city centre you can have dinner on the Quayside, visit the landmarks such as the Tyne Bridge and the castle, spend a day exploring the museums, and then enjoy the nightlife after dark. Outside the city, Newcastle is just a short drive from the Northumberland Coast AONB and Northumberland National Park, so you can plan a trip that includes city fun and nature!
18. Norwich, England
Norwich is the gateway to The Broads National Park, so it’s no surprise that it’s one of the best cities to visit in the UK. As well as the breathtaking Norwich Cathedral, there are lots of other pretty churches to see, and lots of pubs to visit for lunch. The saying goes that Norwich has a church for every week, but a pub for every day! You can also have lunch and coffee at Norwich Market, or take a picnic to Eaton Park.
19. Oxford, England
Full of interesting culture, history and architecture, the world-famous university is not the only reason to visit Oxford. From punting on the river to dipping in and out of independent bookshops, or exploring the museums. This is one of the best cities to visit in the UK for Harry Potter fans, who might recognise lots of the landmarks from the films!
20. Southampton, England
Best known for its ties to the Titanic, Southampton is an underrated port city in the UK that you must visit. It’s great for shopping, walks along the river, learning about UK naval history, and visiting the large variety of art exhibitions on offer here. It’s also one of the cities in the UK that you catch the ferry to the Isle of Wight from, another of the best places to visit in the UK.
21. Swansea, Wales
Seaside charm, plenty of culture, and loads of surround natural beauty, Swansea is one of the best cities to visit in the UK. It’s a waterfront city so you can enjoy fish and chips on the pier, but you can also escape to the beach at The Mumbles and explore more of the Gower Peninsula if you want more than the numerous green spaces on offer in town. In Swansea you can also get some great fresh seafood, and explore Swansea Market, the largest indoor market in Wales.
22. Truro, England
Truro is the southernmost city on the British mainland, and the perfect base for exploring Cornwall. Home to a Gothic Revival cathedral, it’s one of the best cities in the UK to enjoy a relaxing day wandering around town, doing a bit of shopping and cafe hopping. Take a boat trip between Truro and Falmouth or go hiking in the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Beauty once you’ve explored the city.
23. Winchester, England
Winchester used to be the capital of England, and it’s the perfect place to visit in the UK if you’re looking for a good day trip. Famous for the 11th century cathedral, the Great Hall which has housed King Arthur’s Round Table for over 700 years, as well as for being the home of cricket, hosting the country’s largest farmer’s market and being the resting place for Jane Austen, there are many reasons why Winchester is one of the best cities to visit in the UK.
Winchester is also right on the edge of the South Downs, making it the perfect base for exploring here too. See the best things to do in South Downs National Park in this blog post.
24. York, England
Roman ruins and a medieval cathedral – York is just full of history and one of the best cities to visit in the UK if you are a history buff. Wander around the cobbled streets, marvel at York Minster, go shopping along The Shambles, walk around the city walls, all topped off with afternoon tea at Betty’s… there are so many things to do in York. York is also a great base for exploring the Yorkshire Dales or the North York Moors.
What are your favourite cities in the UK?
Where are your favourite places to visit in the UK? Anything you’d add to this best cities to visit in the UK travel guide?
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