Best UK City Breaks for 2021

written by Zara Sekhavati
updated 8/5/2021
Share
fb tw mail_outline
attach_file

Travel closer to home and make the most of what’s right at our doorsteps, by enjoying one of the best UK city breaks. The UK has some stunning locations to explore. Think London for incredible views or head to the north and soak up some history in York. Wherever you choose to go, you’ll be treated to fascinating attractions, and a memorable weekend break for sure.

1 - London: Best for museums

London has a plethora of attractions to explore and it's no wonder that the capital tops our list of the best UK city breaks. Tourist-central spots like Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey attract the crowds, while iconic landmarks such as the Tower of London, Trafalgar Square and St Paul’s Cathedrals remain at the top of the list, too.

Alternatively, why not see London from high up? Head up the Shard to see the sprawling views of the city, while the London Eye is one of the most popular ways to enjoy a view – it attracts over three million visitors every year. Alternatively, hop on the Santander cable car for a ride over the city, too, and spot some iconic sights, such as the O2 arena. The arena hosts some fantastic live music, and is home to a plethora of shopping and dining opportunities. London's hotel scene has something for everyone - find your perfect place to stay in London.

Looking out onto Trafalgar Square and enjoying one of the best UK city breaks © VisitBritain

2 - Cambridge: Best for art

Known for its enchanting waterways and famous university, Cambridge is a real treat for a weekend break. Punt on the River Cam, explore the city on two wheels with its many cycle paths, and don’t miss the University of Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum, which is free to enter. Inside you will find excellent collections of art and antiquities. There’s more for artistic travellers – the Kettle’s Yard is one of the UK’s best galleries. Find sculpture trail walks and incredible contemporary art here. There are plenty of exhibitions inside, too. Discover the best things to do in Cambridge, beyond the Colleges and start planning your trip to Cambridge.

The historic University of Cambridge © Pajor Pawel/Shutterstock

3 - Bath: Best for history

Bath is known for its Roman remains. The top sight here is the Roman Baths, which is a remarkably preserved thermae. The thermal springs rise high in the city and natural hot water still flows here. In the summer, you can see the baths by torchlight, which provides a memorable experience.

For more history, head to the Circus and the Royal Crescent where you can find examples of Georgian architecture. All these incredible features have made the city a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. Another great way to explore the city is on foot with a walking tour and to learn more about historic sights such as The Circus, a collection of Grade I-listed townhouses. What’s more, you can’t miss a spa treatment here, so make your way to Thermae Bath and enjoy some much-deserved TLC. Discover the best hotels in Bath and start planning your trip.

Roman Baths, the city's main attraction © VisitBritain

4 - Brighton: Best seaside city

Close to the capital, Brighton is always a fun weekend getaway. Mooch around The Lanes neighbourhood and enjoy coffee after coffee, then take a look at the endless vintage shops to find that special something. To end the day make your way to the seafront and pier for some well-deserved fish and chips. For more outdoor fun head to Preston Park, which also serves as an outdoor festival venue.

For glistening views of the seafront, Brighton and the South Downs, head up the British Airways i360 tower which cuts through the sky at 162 metres high. For history, head to the Royal Pavilion, which stands as a Grade I-listed former royal residence. It was constructed as a seaside palace for King George IV. From dance lessons to vintage cocktails, discover the best alternative things to do in Brighton, and plan your perfect Brighton getaway.

Brighton Pier at sunset © VisitBritain

continued below

5 - Liverpool: Best for music

Home to the Beatles, Liverpool is without a doubt one of the most musical cities in the UK. With live music pouring out of hotspots such as the Cavern Club and the Arts Club, music is everywhere. If you’re a Fab Four fan, head to The Beatles Story museum for an in-depth look at the band. You can also hop on a Beatles Magical Mystery Tour which takes you to the band’s childhood homes, Penny Lane and Strawberry Field.

For more music head to the British Music Experience. It stands proudly as the UK’s premier rock and pop museum with plenty of interactive experiences and memorabilia dating from 1945 onwards. Enjoy jamming in the instrument studio, too. Liverpool isn’t just music though. Head to the Royal Albert Dock which owns the biggest collection of Grade I-listed buildings in the country. It’s a vibrant area in the city with plenty of food and drink spots here which look out onto the waterfront.

Head to Gusto for some fine Italian food, and after have a drink at The Smugglers Cove pub which has its very own Rum Room which is free to book. For more food and drink head to Lark Lane where you can find plenty of bars, alongside cafés and exciting clothing boutiques. Inspired? See Liverpool's top hotels.

Liverpool’s iconic Cavern Club © VisitBritain

6 - Bristol: Best for cool vibes

Bristol is a city full of independent restaurants, cafés and shops which are a fantastic way to explore the location. Head to the Root in Wapping Wharf for some veggie goodness while Masterchef finalist Larkin Cen has brought Woky Ko to the food scene. The Wave has been attracting visitors to the city, too, which is a man-made surfing spot. Here you can surf on waves all year round, whether you’re a beginner or an expert.

To fit in with the amazing cultural scene of the city, there are some fantastic sights to see as well. Spend an evening at the Grade II-listed building, Bristol Beacon, where you can catch live music. If you’re interested in seeing a show, head to the Bristol Old Vic Theatre. History buffs shouldn’t miss Brunel’s SS Great Britain. This is a former passenger ship and museum where you can learn all about its history. Find out everything you need to know about a short stay in Bristol.

Pad thai served at the Woky Ko in Bristol © gowithsotck/Shutterstock

7 - Edinburgh: Best Scottish city break

Edinburgh is one of those perfect, memorable UK city breaks. Coated in history, the pretty city is well-loved. Head to Edinburgh Castle and enjoy incredible views or make the most of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival which takes place every summer and celebrates arts and culture. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, there are plenty of tours.

continued below

In-depth, easy-to-use travel guides filled with expert advice.

Make your way to the Elephant House which is where JK Rowling wrote some of the books. Or trundle down Victoria Street, which is said to be the inspiration behind Diagon Alley. For even more inspiration about where to go in Edinburgh, read our guide to the best weekend breaks in the UK. Want to enjoy life on the fringes of Edinburgh? Discover eight ways to enjoy Edinburgh's quirky side and start planning your trip by checking out the best places to stay in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Castle © VisitScotland

8 - York: Best for walking

One of the best cities up north, York is an instant winner. Walk the city walls and plunge into the location’s impressive history. The York Minster is the cathedral of the city and is said to be the biggest of its kind in northern Europe. There’s plenty of history themed attractions to visit. Learn about all things Viking in the Jorvik Learning Centre, which is a fun day out. Alternatively, head to the top of Clifford’s Tower for panoramic views over Old York. It’s the biggest remaining part of York Castle, which was previously the centre of the government for the north of England.

Head to the York Castle Museum to learn more about this site, which was constructed by William the Conqueror in 106. For an alternative museum visit, why not head to the Chocolate Museum? It showcases the history of making chocolate in the city, so make sure to bring your appetite! After all that, make your way through the Shambles, which is a maze of narrow lanes. Described as the best preserved medieval street on the planet, the Shambles is full of charm. And don’t forget a trip to Bettys for a spot of afternoon tea. Start planning your York getaway today.

Picturesque York Minster © David Ionut/Shutterstock

9 - Belfast: Best for food and drink

One of the smallest cities on the list is Belfast, but it packs a real punch. It’s fantastic for the outdoors, think a climb to Cavhill, however, it may just be the food and drink scene that the city is mostly known for. Head to the rooftop Babel bar for a cocktail or two, while the Cathedral Quarter is where it’s at for a bar crawl. The Duke of York and the Sunflower Public House, are some of the best of the bunch.

For a spot of lunch head to the Hill Street Hatch which is full of pop-up stands. Try Sawers, a well-loved deli which is known for its giant cheese counter. For more Belfast attractions, read our guide to the best alternative UK city breaks. One of the city’s most popular attractions is the Titanic Belfast, a museum which details the history of this famous ship. See Belfast's top hotels to choose the one that's just right for your stay. Plus, discover more great reasons to visit Northern Ireland.

Belfast: a small city with a big personality © VisitBritain

10 - Birmingham: Best for fun neighbourhoods

Birmingham has always been one of the best UK city breaks, and not just because of the success of the popular TV series, Peaky Blinders. Spend your time spotting old factories that have been redesigned into hip galleries and buzzing shopping centres. Odox is a fine example of this, which transformed from a brass workshop into the artist-run spot which it is today..

The Jewellery Quarter is one of the finest neighbourhoods in the city. Trundle down past the canal while you enjoy the selection of quirky shops on offer. The Custard Factory is also a firm favourite. Head to Baked In Brick for tasty pizzas, before enjoying some exciting live music in the venue. See our Rough Guides expert guide to spending a weekend in Birmingham and find out how to book your Birmingham break.

The Chamberlain Clock in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter © Matthew Troke/Shutterstock

Inspired to explore the UK? Read our guide to the best weekend breaks in the UK.

author photo
written by Zara Sekhavati
updated 8/5/2021
Share
fb tw mail_outline
attach_file

Planning on your own? Prepare for your trip

Use Rough Guides' trusted partners for great rates

Find even more inspiration here

Ready to travel and discover Ireland?
Get support from our local experts for
stress-free planning & worry-free travels