News Remain in the UK: The best cities in Britain to visit in 2017

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Remain in the UK: The best cities in Britain to visit in 2017

Seeking a city break without spending a lot of cash? Given the current political and economic situation post-Brexit vote, you might want to consider a staycation if you're looking to get the best value from your hard-earned ££. Yes there's London and Edinburgh, but what about Nottingham or Liverpool? There are plenty of great cities in the UK that you've probably never been to, so now's the perfect chance! Here's our pick of the best 17 cities in the UK for a weekend away:

1. Bournemouth

Pastel-painted beach huts, seven miles of golden sands, landscaped Victorian parks, land trains, cliff lifts and the world’s first (and only) pier to shore zip line, Bournemouth has all you need for classic UK holidays by the seaside. Often warmer than the rest of the UK, with temperatures in July reaching 17°C on average, cool off in the new seaside fountains, or at one of the four Blue Flag beaches. Choose from Alum Chine, Durley Chine, Fisherman’s Walk or Southbourne.

Don’t miss:

A ride on one of those cliff railways, with link the seaside promenade with the cliff-top town. The Fisherman’s Walk cliff lift has even made it into the Guinness Book of World Records, as the world’s shortest funicular railway. Catch it between April and October when the railway is open to the public.

Where to stay in Bournemouth:

Check in to the Hilton Bournemouth for luxurious rooms with panoramic views of Bournemouth Bay plus an indoor heated pool and Sky bar, or book one of the Hampton by Hilton‘s bright, modern rooms, which come with breakfast and WiFi.

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The big event:

The tenth annual Bournemouth Air Festival runs from August 31
until September 3 in 2017 and showcases the skills of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. Expect air displays, a flotilla of Royal Navy ships, live music and fireworks.

How to get there:

Flybe operates direct domestic flights to Bournemouth from Glasgow and Manchester, and Bournemouth airport is just 4 miles from the city centre, so flying here is a good option if you don’t fancy the eight hour drive from Scotland and the north! Alternatively, you can drive to Bournemouth from London in just over two hours or catch the (slightly quicker) train from London Waterloo, with connections to the rest of the UK from here.

The golden sands and double piers of Bournemouth seafront

2. Brighton

The ancient lanes of Brighton’s ex-fishing village centre are now strung with quirky shops and one-off bars, its exuberant Royal Pavilion and unapologetically tacky pier pulling in the crowds. Brighton’s nightlife lights up the south coast all-year-round, with live music, theatre and comedy rounding out the city’s arts scene and leading up to England’s largest arts festival every May.

Don’t miss:

The world’s tallest moving observation experience, Brighton’s brand new (opened summer 2016) British Airways i360. You’ll take in 360-degree views as your viewing pod glides slowly up to 450 feet. Adult tickets will cost £15 and children can visit for £7.50, but book online in advance and you’ll get a small discount.

Where to stay in Brighton:

Base yourself on the seafront in the opulent Hotel du Vin, where you’ll find a sweeping staircase leading to quirky rooms, some with rolltop baths. Alternatively, book the good-value Blanch House, Brighton’s original boutique hotel in a Georgian terrace just back from the seafront.

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The big event:

Edinburgh Fringe a little too far away? Check out England’s largest fringe festival, the Brighton Festival, which promises music, theatre, dance, circus, art, film and literature. You’ll find various performances and activities going on all over the city from May 5 – June 4 this year. Check out the full line-up here.

How to get there:

At only an hour away by rail, Brighton makes a great weekend away from London. Coming from elsewhere? The easiest way to get here is to fly to London Gatwick and take the regular fast train from the airport to the city. You can get cheap flights to Gatwick from several regional airports in the UK, including Edinburgh, Belfast and Newquay.

Brighton's Royal Pavilion lit up at night

3. Cambridge

Few cities are as beautiful as Cambridge, its dreamy spires rising up from the green fields around the River Cam. Drink it all in by taking a walk along ‘the Backs’ of the college or partaking in an essential Cambridge activity – a spot of punting on the river. The city is dominated by the stately facades of its university colleges, and the vibrant student population keeps the food and bar scene interesting.

Don’t miss:

King’s College Chapel (in the eponymous University of Cambridge college) is a masterpiece of late Gothic flamboyance, its exquisite fantail ceiling and kaleidoscopic stained glass windows an unforgettable sight. It is also where the famous Carols from King’s TV programme is broadcast from every Christmas Eve.

Where to stay in Cambridge:

The best hotel in town is the chic Varsity, in the thick of the colleges and with its own spa and roof terrace. There are just 48 individual rooms, many with lovely views over the city. If you’re a bit more budget conscious then you can’t go wrong with a room at the Premier Inn, with comfy beds and free WiFi, just to the east of the city centre.

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The big event:

Cambridge Folk Festival (July 27 to 30, 2017) is one of the longest running and most famous folk festivals in the world, featuring a line-up of leading artists from around the world. 2017’s line-up already includes the likes of Jake Bugg and Hayseed Dixie, with more names to be announced. Tickets are on sale now: full festival passes are £167 for adults and day passes are between £27.50 and £70 depending on which day you choose to go. Find out more here.

How to get there:

Cambridge is well-serviced by the railway, with nearby Peterborough connecting to the major north-south line between Plymouth and Aberdeen, and trains from London can cost as little as £17 return*. London Stansted airport is only 30 miles down the road as well, so you can easily fly from Glasgow, Derry and Edinburgh.

King's College Cambridge in the snow

4. Cardiff

From its historic castle to its cutting edge arts scene, the Welsh capital packs a weighty punch. Stand in the Norman keep of Cardiff Castle, take in a performance at the Millennium Centre or a match at the Principality Stadium. Cardiff makes a perfect weekend break in the UK because you won’t leave feeling short-changed – in fact, both the National Museum Cardiff and St Fagans National History Museum are free, along with several art galleries and even the Welsh Assembly building, with its sweeping contemporary architecture and views across the bay.

Don’t miss:

Just outside the city centre, St. Fagan’s National History Museum is a chance to walk back in time, with more than 40 original buildings from different periods re-erected in beautiful parkland. Find out what life was like for the Celts living in Wales, learn about Wales’ unique traditional crafts or tour the museum’s First World War Collections. Open 10am – 5pm daily.

Where to stay in Cardiff:

For a room with a view it has to be The St Davids Hotel at Cardiff Bay, which has floor-to-ceiling windows in the spacious rooms and a restaurant and bar overlooking the water. In Cardiff centre, check in to the towering Radisson Blu for affordable rooms.

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The big event:

Cardiff International Food and Drink Festival is an annual summer event that sees local farmers, internationally-renowned chefs and a whole world of flavours arrive on Wales’ doorstep. Happening in July (2017 dates to be confirmed), the festival takes over a long weekend and if previous years are anything to go by, you can expect a great menu of live music and entertainment, as well as stalls offering samples of everything from Champagne to artisan cheeses. Check the Cardiff events website for updates.

How to get there:

Coming from the north of England or Scotland? Direct flights to Cardiff run from Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Cardiff Airport is located in nearby Rhoose, close to Barry and it takes around half an hour to travel to Cardiff from the airport. You’ll also find good rail connections to the city from the Midlands, London and the south-west, with Bristol Temple Meads station only a short ride away.

The red-brick Pierhead building and the Millennium Centre at Cardiff Bay


5. Derby

This is the Real Ale Capital of Britain, so needless to say it makes for one of the best weekends away in England! Derby’s food and pub scene has grown dramatically over the past few years and the city has a friendly, creative edge that is all its own, not to mention an enviable seat on the edge of the gorgeous Peak District National Park. Arguably, Derby is the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution and The Silk Mill, the world’s first factory, remains revolutionary – it’s currently undergoing renovation by the people of Derby to become the Museum of Making, due to be transformed in 2019/20. Check the website or drop in to catch the latest workshops and crafty projects, to become part of the museum’s story yourself!

Don’t miss:

Those pubs. Head to Derventio Brewery at Darley Abbey Mill for a tour and tasting before hitting Mr Grundy’s Tavern or The Brunswick, who also brew their own beers. Mr Grundy’s has open fires for winter nights and a flower strewn beer garden (one of Derby’s biggest) for those sultry summer evenings. It’s not all about the beer though: The Brunswick won the title of Derby’s best cider pub of the year in 2015.

Where to stay in Derby:

The Cathedral Quarter Hotel is a former Grade II listed council office turned boutique hotel, with cosy rooms complete with fireplaces and bath tubs. If you don’t mind being out of town, book into the Kedleston country house hotel for individually designed rooms with pencil poster beds and monsoon showers.

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The big event:

Really get to grips with those real ales at Derby CAMRA’s Winter Beer Festival, running from February 15 to 18 at the Roundhouse, the oldest railway turning shed in the world. Here you’ll be able to sample hundreds of different real ales from 4pm onwards and tickets cost £3 (daytime) and £6 (evenings).

How to get there:

Almost slap-bang in the middle of England, Derby is one of the most well-connected UK cities and is on the main line between northern stops like York, Newcastle and Edinburgh and London St Pancras if you’re coming by train. Alternatively, fly into East Midlands Airport and you’ll have the chance to explore another historic Midlands city, Nottingham, if you want to extend your UK weekend break. The airport sits neatly in between the two cities and is serviced by frequent Skylink buses to both.


Derby city centre at night


6. Durham

To arrive in Durham by train is to be instantly beguiled by one of the world’s most beautiful Romanesque cathedrals sitting in splendour above a neat city, blooming with ancient trees. The cathedral is the city’s heart, reached by sinuous cobbled lanes and reflected in the River Wear. There’s also an ancient university, a castle and the fascinating Crook Hall, with its rare mix of medieval, Jacobean and Georgian architecture.

Don’t miss:

The cathedral’s new Open Treasure exhibition route opened in 2016, and begins in the Monks’ Dormitory, ending in the Great Kitchen, opening up more spaces and bringing more of the cathedral’s treasures onto public display. Costing £10m, the renovation has transformed this ancient place of worship and provides visitors with better facilities, like the new and improved Undercroft Restaurant beneath the cathedral. Sit down to an afternoon tea between 2:30pm and 4pm under the beautiful medieval vaults for sandwiches, cakes, scones and jam with an unlimited supply of tea or coffee for £9.95 per person.

Where to stay in Durham:

Check in to the Radisson Blu for chic modern rooms and an on-site pool and spa. Some rooms have cathedral and river views – ask for one when booking and you might just be lucky! There’s also a simple but stylish Premier Inn in the city centre, offering free WiFi and their ‘Good Night Guarantee’ (or your money back).

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The big event:

From July 7 to 16, the Durham Brass Festival is an annual celebration of the county’s musical culture and tradition with bands performing jazz, funk, classical, ska and traditional music. You can book for each event individually on their website, but be sure to get in quick as some of the more popular acts sell out fast!

How to get there:

The city is close to several airports, including Durham Tees Valley and Newcastle International so flying is an efficient way to travel here if you’re coming from the south. Durham is easy to reach from Scotland by road and rail, with a journey time of under 2 hours from Edinburgh Waverley station.


Durham at night


7. Edinburgh

Scotland’s capital makes one of the most romantic city breaks in the UK at any time of the year; blustery walks up to the top of Arthur’s Seat in winter, springtime strolls by the Water of Leith, summer’s epic Fringe Festival (the UK’s largest) and the party to end all parties, Hogmanay, at each year end. And that’s before we even mention the castle, the Royal Mile, that whisky…Make sure fit it all in with our 24hr video guide to the city, which you can watch here.

Don’t miss:

Getting an overview of Scottish history at the National Museum of Scotland. The Scotland: A Changing Nation gallery is particularly interesting and extremely topical given current political discussions, revealing and exploring what it means to be Scottish today. The museum is open daily 10am – 5pm and entrance is free.

Where to stay in Edinburgh:

Book one of the Sheraton Grand Hotel and Spa‘s opulent rooms for castle views and access to the fabulous thermal circuit in the One Spa. The hip, budget Motel One Edinburgh Royal is another good choice, with bright, modern rooms with touches of tartan.

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The big event:

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the world’s largest arts festival and everyone should visit the city during festival season at least once. You’ll have more than 50,000 performances to choose from, so plan ahead! The 2017 festival will run from August 4 to 28.

How to get there:

Edinburgh makes an easy last minute getaway, thanks to direct, reliably cheap flights from East Midlands, London, Manchester, Birmingham and many more regional airports. Though it will take a little longer, the Scottish capital is easily accessible from most parts of the UK by rail, and journeys from the south and Midlands feature a dramatically beautiful stretch of the East Coast line via Berwick upon Tweed.


Edinburgh skyline


8. Glasgow

Glasgow is a vibrant city – once the second of the British Empire – and a melting pot of historic architecture and utterly contemporary culture. Stately Georgian buildings abound, as do hip bars and restaurants, and the ex-industrial heartland of the Clyde is today a revamped and rejuvenated area of real cultural clout. Find out more with our top 11 things to see and do in Glasgow.

Don’t miss:

A proper night out Glasgow-style. Try a pint of heavy in the Horseshoe Bar, get cosy in the Variety Bar or bar-hop all the way along Argyle Street in Finnieston. That is if you’ve got room after a fine feast in Porter & Rye – try their porterhouse steak for two (£65 per person and worth every penny) to taste world-famous Scottish beef at its best.

Where to stay in Glasgow:

You’ll get a friendly Glasgow welcome wherever you go, but One Devonshire Gardens Hotel du Vin is a cut above the rest, with kilt-wearing concierges to meet you at the door. The rooms are pretty special too – some even have standalone baths in the bedroom. For more wallet-friendly accommodation, check in to the Z Hotel where you’ll find snug rooms and a reception/bar serving complimentary breakfast.

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The big event:

Glasgow has just as much to offer the festival scene as its neighbour, Edinburgh, with the annual Glasgow Film Festival one of the major highlights. Themed screenings such as ‘Dangerous Dames’, celebrating film noir, rub shoulders with the freshest contemporary cinema from around the world, and you can expect a few celebs to turn up, too. The festival runs from February 15 to 26 this year, just the thing to break through your winter blues.

How to get there:

Glasgow is served by two airports but Glasgow International is the go-to airport for domestic flights to the rest of the UK including Bristol, Birmingham, London Stansted and Southampton (Glasgow Prestwick runs only short-haul flights to Europe). There are trains to Glasgow every 40 minutes from London and it’s only an hour between here and Edinburgh.


Glasgow's rejuvenated skyline


9. Hull

An epic history of ship-building, far-reaching trade and freedom (slavery abolition figure-head William Wilberforce was a notable resident back in the 19th century) has long put Kingston-Upon-Hull, aka Hull, on the industrial and cultural map. Crowned UK City of Culture 2017, Hull is also set to become an unexpected darling of the post-industrial age. You can further explore the story of this down-to-earth port city at one of its many free museums and attractions, from the elegant Guildhall and the Old Town to the Arctic Corsair, an old fishing vessel moored on the River Hull and full of salty tales (regaled by ex-sailor tour guides, of course). It’s also one of the few UK cities to boast a set of public toilets as a tourist attraction. Don’t believe us? The elegant Edwardian lavvies on the Pier might just change your mind…

Don’t miss:

The Humber Bridge, which links Hull with Lincolnshire, is a marvel of twentieth century engineering and was the longest suspension bridge of its kind in the world when built. A stroll along it will reward you with seabirds feeding alongside the Humber Estuary, a 30-metre high perspective and a healthy sea breeze. You can also tackle part (or all 79 miles!) of the beautiful Yorkshire Wolds Way, which meanders beneath the concrete towers of the bridge on the north bank.

Where to stay in Hull:

Stay central at the Kingston Theatre Hotel for easy access to popular attractions like The Deep aquarium and budget-friendly rates from £86 for a double. Fancy a more rural Yorkshire setting? Dunedin Country House sits quietly between the east coast and the city (a 30 minute drive from Hull), surrounded by acres of Victorian landscape gardens, with unique rooms chock-full of period features.

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The big event:

Hull has been working up to its stint as City of Culture for four years, and the efforts have paid off. A 365-day programme of music, art, theatre, film and celebration awaits visitors this year, split into four ‘seasons’, from touring British Museum exhibitions to award-winning plays by the likes of Anthony Minghella. Look out for the local community’s responses to this burst of creative energy – there’s already an exuberantly decorated fire engine going about town!

How to get there:

Hull is well-connected by rail to nearby cities, with both York and Leeds an hour away by train. Change for onward journeys by bus and coach (including destinations like London Victoria) at the central Hull Paragon Interchange. The nearest airports are at Humberside (20 miles from the city centre) and Leeds-Bradford.


10. Liverpool

Liverpool has England’s largest collection of museum and galleries outside London, a vibrant music scene and superb shopping – and, of course, a football team or two. Take the famous ferry across the Mersey, explore the historic Albert Dock and its Tate Liverpool gallery, see the Liver Building and hit the Beatles trail around this rejuvenated ex-industrial powerhouse.

Don’t miss:

Liverpool has dozens of museums and galleries but our favourite is the largely unsung Victoria Gallery and Museum, housed in a beautiful nineteenth century red-brick and featuring an eclectic collection, including nightmares in a bottle, a Victorian dental surgery, fine art and an archaeological dig. Open Tuesday to Saturday, 10am – 5pm, admission is free and there’s an onsite cafe if you need a refresher after going on a walking tour of the wider Liverpool University campus that surrounds the gallery.

Where to stay in Liverpool:

It has to be the Hope Street Hotel, for its independent spirit, fabulous London Carriage Works restaurant and unrivalled location between the city’s two cathedrals – some rooms have terraces with views of both. On a budget? Once again, the Z Hotel comes up trumps, with its compact rooms, central location, and terrific prices – rooms start at £35 a night.

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The big event:

Organisers of the Liverpool International Music Festival have long been committed to sourcing, developing and showcasing new talent, and in 2015 it won ‘Best Festival For Emerging Talent’ at the UK Festival Awards. As well as up-and-coming acts, last year’s line-up featured The Wombats, Buzzcocks and Lightning Seeds, so you can guarantee this year’s will be just as strong. Discover your next new favourites or enjoy a bit of old skool this July 20 to 23.

How to get there:

Liverpool is easily reached from Wales, the Midlands and nearby Manchester by road, although you may want to take advantage of cheap flights if coming from further afield – Belfast, Edinburgh and Castletown (Isle of Man) airports operate direct flights to Liverpool.


The Liver Building in Liverpool


11. London

Where can we start? With world-leading museums perhaps, or maybe the fantastic shopping to be had? How about the diverse cuisines on offer or the eclectic music scene? What about the copious green space and endless attractions? Ok, you get the point: London has it all – in spades. The highlights? The British Museum, Covent Garden, the London Eye, the Tower of London, the Shard

Don’t miss:

Even those who’ve done it all might not have done this one. In 2016, the ArcelorMittal Orbit in the Olympic Park launched a brand new attraction – a helter skelter slide all the way down the UK’s tallest sculpture. It’s the world’s longest and tallest tunnel slide, and predictably enough, more than rivals the London Eye for spectacular views of the city.

Where to stay in London:

Book a room at the stylish Andaz London and you’ll get five-star service and chic boutique style in one very attractive package – the nineteenth century ex Great Eastern railway hotel. There are five different bars and restaurants; an easy favourite is Eastway, for reliable brasserie dishes, including great steaks. Or, save your money for those swanky skyscraper restaurants and craft beers pubs and head to the Z hotel: there are several dotted around the city in Soho, Shoreditch, Piccadilly and Victoria, each with the trademark small but perfectly formed rooms.

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The big event:

If you haven’t made it to Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour yet, make this year the one you finally try Butterbeer. For costume fans, there’s a special exhibition of Wizarding Wardrobes, featuring everything from Hermione’s ball gown to the real Gryffindor school scarves, on this summer from July 21 to September 4. The attraction’s nearer to Watford than central London, but you can jump on the train from Euston and be there in 20 minutes.

How to get there:

In short, any which way you like! As the hub of England and the wider UK, London has excellent transport links to all corners of the country and beyond. With five major airports located around Greater London; Luton, Stansted airport, Gatwick, Heathrow and London City. With so much choice, it’s easy to find good city break deals to London. Once you land all you’ve got to do is hop on a coach or the good value easyBus by easyJet to get into the centre of London. Alternatively, come by train to get straight to the heart of the city, with Kings Cross and London St Pancras providing quick access from the Midlands, the north of England and Scotland, while London Waterloo or Paddington are the main end points for services from the West Country and Wales.


The House of Parliament at night


12. Manchester

Sprawling Manchester once sat at the heart of the Industrial Revolution and has retained an important place in English culture ever since. Here you’ll find the new northern base of the BBC, the Imperial War Museum North and learn more about where the story started at the fun and interactive Museum of Science and Industry. That’s not to the mention world-leading music venues and some of the best restaurants in the north of England.

Don’t miss:

A football match. Manchester is home to the world’s most famous (Manchester United) and one of the richest (Manchester City) football clubs and there’s no better way to get to know the city than to attend a game at either Old Trafford or the City of Manchester stadium.

Where to stay in Manchester:

The brand new King Street Townhouse has an infinity pool overlooking Albert Square and Manchester Town Hall. If this hasn’t sold it then it also has sleek, stylish rooms and the King Street Tavern for afternoon tea. The Abel Haywood is a pub with rooms in the city’s hip Northern Quarter – the perfect base for a night on the tiles.

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The big event:

Manchester International Festival only happens every two years, so don’t miss out this summer (June 29 to July 26 2017). Celebrating the city’s innovative culture with locally generated exhibits, and welcoming in artists and performers from across the globe, this event transforms venues all over the city. 2017’s event will be launched with a ‘catwalk’ parade by Manchester residents in Piccadilly Gardens!

How to get there:

Manchester has a busy airport close by, with its own train station and fast connections to city stations Oxford Road and Piccadilly. Alternatively, travel from other UK cities, like Nottingham and Leeds, using National Express coaches or the budget Megabus service to get here cheaply from London. Don’t forget, you’re also only about an hour by train or bus away from another of the liveliest short breaks in the UK, Liverpool…


Manchester city centre at night

13. Medway

Medway is the sort of place that doesn’t even make it into the guidebooks – but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to see and do in north Kent’s conurbation of three historic towns: Rochester, Chatham and Gillingham. Visit Rochester Castle, one of the best preserved and finest examples of Norman architecture in England, see Rochester Cathedral, England’s second oldest, and take a walking tour around the buildings featured in the work of Dickens, who lived (and died) nearby. You’ll also find Britain’s very first museum of Huguenot history and the country’s best surviving example of a Napoleonic fortress, Fort Amherst.

Don’t miss:

Command of the Oceans, a new (opened spring 2016) interactive gallery at Chatham Dockyards that takes you on a voyage back to the ‘age of sail’ – a time when the people of Chatham Dockyard built ships including HMS Victory. The docks re-open after winter on February 11 2017, and admission is £22 for adults and £13 for children if you book online.

Where to stay in Medway:

Book a room at the Ship and Trades pub-restaurant in Chatham marina for simple, stylish rooms in what was once the dockyard offices. The pub has a terrace, sits by the water and has 11 bedrooms. If you’d rather be in Rochester, take a room at the seventeenth century Gordon House Hotel on the High Street which has traditional en suite rooms and views of the cathedral.

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The big event:

Rochester loves Dickens, so much so that the city hosts two annual festivals devoted to him. The Dickens Summer Festival takes place from June 9 to June 11 2017, and includes a grand ball in the Corn Exchange, trips on the Edith May sailing barge and numerous costume competitions, while the Dickensian Christmas Festival, held in December, includes the Mistletoe Ball, a candlelit parade through the city and carol singing outside the cathedral.

How to get there:

Medway sits in a handy position – close enough to London to get here quickly by road, rail or air, without feeling like a busy transport hub. Rochester is probably the best station to travel to, serviced by trains from London Victoria and Charing Cross. You can also reach the Eurotunnel at Folkestone easily via the M20, and at 30 miles away, London City is the closest London airport, with many direct flights from Edinburgh, Exeter and Jersey.

The waterfront in Rochester with Rochester Castle in the background


14. Nottingham

Once a major player in the lace manufacturing and pharmaceuticals industry (Boots hails from here), Nottingham today makes for a cultural UK city break with the bonus of a lively personality – as anyone who has had a night out around the Market Square will attest! Visit the Castle Museum and Art Gallery, fashion big-name Paul Smith’s original shop and the handsome red-brick warehouses of the Lace Market, which now finds itself at the heart of the city’s Creative Quarter.

Don’t miss:

The Creative Quarter, which encompasses both the Lace Market and neighbouring Hockley. Amidst original Victorian buildings re-purposed as hidden bars and artsy cafes, you’ll find the world’s first cultural centre devoted to gaming, the National Videogame Arcade, and one of the UK’s leading modern art galleries, Nottingham Contemporary.

Where to stay in Nottingham:

Top pick is the Lace Market Hotel, newly refurbished with 42 individually styled bedrooms with features including copper claw-footed bathtubs, bespoke artwork and views across its historic neighbourhood. There’s also a Premier Inn in the city centre, right on the tram line, which has the usual high standard rooms with comfortable beds and free wifi.

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The big event:

Nottingham’s largest outdoor music event is a whopper – Splendour attracts more than 20,000 people each year. They come to Wollaton Park to see top international artists (previous names have included Jess Gylnne, The Specials, James, The Human League and local talent Jake Bugg) and will already have Saturday 22 July 2017 firmly in their calendars. Grab tickets while they last – £50.60 for a standard day pass, with concessions available.

How to get here

Nottingham is serviced by East Midlands Airport – hop on the Skylink bus to get directly to the city centre. Nottingham is also easy to get to from fellow regional hubs Derby and Leicester (both around 20 to 30 minutes on the train) but it’s also just over 90 minutes away from London St Pancras, making it very accessible from the south as well.


Fountains in Nottingham's Old Market Square


15. Portsmouth

Portsmouth has long been a naval heavyweight, with the harbour’s strategic location exploited by every monarch since Henry VII. Today the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is home to HMS Warrior, HMS Victory and the Mary Rose, plus the National Museum of the Royal Navy. The D-Day Museum is worth the short detour out of town, while the Spinnaker Tower should be climbed for its maritime views our over the Solent – and the chance to test that head for heights on its see-through floor.

Don’t miss:

A trip to the Mary Rose, Henry VIII’s flagship and the ship everybody remembers being hoisted from the mud offshore back in the 1980s. Now housed in a modern museum building arranged around the wreckage of the world’s only remaining sixteenth century warship, it’s an enlightening visit. The ship was renovated in 2016 and is open all year-round except Christmas. Book your tickets online for combo tickets and deals on some of Portsmouth other naval attractions.

Where to stay in Portsmouth:

The Marriott Portsmouth has plush rooms and a heated pool in a good, central location. Alternatively, try Florence House, where luxurious, homely rooms fill a lovingly restored Edwardian house. Breakfast, WiFi and parking are all included.


The big event:

Attracting visitors and competitors from as far as Asia and the South Pacific, Portsmouth Kite Festival is scheduled for August 12 and 13 this year (check the website for the confirmed dates). Look out for kite-making workshops amongst the colourful artistic displays and face-offs between Japanese fighting kites.

How to get there:

Portsmouth is well connected to other south coast cities by rail, with Southampton to the west (30 minutes), and Brighton to the east (80 minutes). Southampton Airport is a 20 miles away from the city centre, with trains connecting to Portsmouth.


The Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth


16. Stratford-upon-Avon

Think Stratford, think Shakespeare. Visit Shakespeare’s birthplace, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, and the home of the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Swan and Royal Shakespeare theatres, or simply take some time out next to the attractive river – in one of the town’s historic pubs perhaps? The Dirty Duck is a favourite for ales and good hearty grub, winning the accolade of CAMRA Pub of the Year in 2016.

Don’t miss:

The New Place, Shakespeare’s family home in Stratford-upon-Avon for the last 19 years of his adult life, transformed in 2016 into a new heritage landmark with artworks and displays to evoke a sense of family life and the 26 major works written during Shakespeare’s ownership of the property.

Where to stay in Stratford-upon-Avon:

For somewhere truly grand book a room at the Grade II listed nineteenth century neo-Jacobean Hallmark Hotel The Welcombe, designed by Henry Clutton, the architect behind Cliveden House, a Italianate mansion in Taplow. Rooms feature four-poster beds, rich fabric drapes and views of the surrounding countryside. Alternatively, if you’re looking for style and savings, check in to the Traveller’s Rest Guest House where the simple modern rooms are within easy walking distance of the town centre.

The big event:

The annual Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations on Saturday April 22 2017 kick-off a weekend of family fun with pageantry, pomp and performance. A 1,000-strong grand Birthday Procession parades through the streets on the Saturday, starting at the Town Hall before winding its way to Shakespeare’s Birthplace and past his school before arriving at the altar of Holy Trinity Church.

How to get there:

Sat just north of the beautiful Cotswolds countryside, it’s well-worth having your own set of wheels to visit Stratford and around. If you’re coming from further afield, you can fly into Birmingham and hire a car at the airport to travel the last 26 miles.


Boats on the River Avon in Stratford-on-Avon


17. York

Before the Industrial Revolution, York was second only to London in size and population and it could be said that the history of this ancient city is the history of England itself. Plenty to explore then, starting with a walk around the fourteenth century walls before ducking through the city’s medieval cobbled streets to reach the crowning glory, the York Minster, Britain’s largest Gothic building.

Don’t miss:

The National Railway Museum even if you have only a passing interest in trains. This is the country’s premier museum to all things rail and you’ll find more than 50 locomotives from 1829 onwards, including The Mallard, which can reach speeds of up to 126mph and is the fast steam engine ever built. Open daily 10am-5pm and entry is free – a perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon.

Where to stay in York:

Check in to Yorkshire’s finest five-star hotel, the Cedar Court Grand, in the city centre, housed in the 1906 headquarters of the North Eastern Railway, for luxurious rooms that have matchless views of the walls and Minster. For even more character take a room in the convent, the Bar Convent that is, England’s oldest functioning convent. It was founded in 1686 as a school for girls and today offers modern rooms in a Grade I listed building.

The big event:

York has a fascinating Viking history, celebrated every year in the Jorvik Viking Festival which runs during February. Expect live storytelling, live battle re-enactments, combat performances – and a fair few sword-wielding Vikings marauding through the streets. April 2017 will also see the much-loved Jorvik Viking Centre re-open better than ever, following devasting flood damage in 2015.

How to get there:

York sits on the main line line between London and Scotland so it’s straightforward to get here by rail. At 30 miles from Leeds Bradford Airport, you can also take advantage of cheap flights from London Heathrow, Aberdeen and Belfast to reach York.


York Minster


*Published January 2017. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.

Have we missed your favourite UK city? Tell us which British destinations you think make the best city breaks in the comments section below and we’ll include your recommendation in our next line-up!

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