10 incredible UK cities to visit

Victoria Street Edinburgh

As a lifelong UK resident, I may be biased but I think we have some truly remarkable travel destinations here. While I love the English countryside, there are some amazing adventures to be had across the best cities in the UK.

I love that each city in the UK has its own unique personality, from the dynamic energy of London to the irresistible magic of Edinburgh. 

I’ve been lucky to explore many UK cities over the years and I’m here to share all of my favourites with you. 

With so much choice – and such different experiences in each – I know it can be difficult deciding which UK city to visit. 

In this guide, I share my pick of the top 10 UK cities to visit and what I think each is best for, be that cultural attractions, incredible culinary scenes or a lively nightlife. 

Plus, I’ll also share some insider tips, top tours to book and a few of my favourite hotels along the way.

Author Bio: Jessie Moore

Jessie Moore is a luxury travel expert with years of experience travelling the world to find the best destinations, hotels and adventures.

This post contains affiliate links. 

1. Edinburgh

Best for: Harry Potter magic

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The Milkman in Edinburgh

If you follow me on Instagram then you’ll know all about my obsession with Edinburgh. It is one of my favourite cities in the UK – if not the world – and I find myself returning time after time. 

The best way to explore Edinburgh is simply by wandering its cobbled streets and discovering all the magic that oozes from every nook and cranny.

It’s a great destination for Harry Potter fans, with a number of real-life locations that sparked inspiration for the books. Learn more in my Harry Potter guide to Edinburgh.

Movie magic aside, Edinburgh is a place where history and Gothic architecture meets a thriving modern arts scene. 

It’s a wonderfully creative city and if you’re a big fan of the arts then you simply must visit during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival which takes place in August each year. 

There are plenty of things to do in Edinburgh, from the imposing Edinburgh Castle to a spot of shopping along the Royal Mile.

Personally, my favourite activity is to simply while away a few hours in a cosy Edinburgh café with a good book and a spot of people watching.

Insider travel tip: I’d recommend venturing beyond the city centre to explore the charming Dean Village. It’s a bit of a hidden gem (although becoming increasingly popular on Instagram) and a wonderfully tranquil walk. 

Discover the best day trips from Edinburgh.

2. London

Best for: Cultural richness

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Tourist attractions in London

I couldn’t write a guide to the best UK cities and not include London – afterall, it’s a truly iconic city. 

London is a city of incredible diversity, immense history and vibrant energy. If you’re after a laid-back UK city break then this might not be it – but what it lacks in calm, it more than makes up for in culture, architecture and food. 

Whether you’re looking for London’s most famous tourist attractions or you want to see a different side to the city, London offers a huge amount of choice to its visitors. 

From party-fuelled Soho and well-heeled Kensington to the leafy boroughs of Hampstead and Wimbledon, there are plenty of neighbourhoods to explore.

I always like to remind visitors that the majority of London’s museums are free to explore, including the likes of the Natural History Museum, the British Museum and the Tate Modern. 

Plus, the food and drink scene in London is second-to-none, with a seriously impressive range of Michelin star restaurants, world-class cocktail bars and bustling street food markets. 

Insider tip: For a taste of London’s foodie scene without the hefty price tag, I’d recommend visiting one of the many food markets.

Borough Market is my personal favourite, but I also love Maltby Street Market, Broadway Market and Seven Dials Market.

3. Bath

Best for: Baths and Bridgerton

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Bath Somerset

From the chaos of London to the calm of Bath, this historic city can be found just south of the Cotswolds. 

In fact, this is a city of so much history and cultural significance that it’s actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site – which I think is reason enough to visit in itself!

Bath is famous for its gorgeous Georgian architecture, well-preserved Roman bath remains, and Jane Austen heritage. 

The beautiful honey-coloured stone used in its buildings gives Bath its distinctive look and highly photogenic status!

There’s plenty to do in Bath too, from exploring and relaxing in its thermal baths to the impressive collection of museums dotted around the city.

You’ll also find some delightful green spaces, perfect for a picnic on a summer’s day or for an afternoon stroll.

If you’d like to explore further afield, you’ll be pleased to know that Bath is a gateway to the Cotswolds with all of its fairytale villages and dreamy hotels.

Insider travel tip: For a unique view of the city, I’d recommend taking a leisurely walk up to Alexandra Park on a clear day. This lovely spot provides breathtaking panoramic views of Bath and the surrounding countryside.

Get access to my Cotswolds travel guide

I have curated all of my Cotswolds knowledge and recommendations into one comprehensive guide, complete with an interactive map, filtering options and itineraries. 

It’s available to buy through Rexby and you can preview parts of it for free. Get in touch if you have any questions about my Cotswolds guide!

4. York

Best for: Historic charm

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No city in the UK does mediaeval quite like York. With roots that hark back to Roman and Viking times, this is a city bursting with history.

Take a walk through The Shambles or get lost among York’s winding alleyways and you’ll feel the history oozing from any corner. 

The centrepiece of the city is the spectacular York Minster, with its breathtaking Gothic architecture and intricate stained glass windows.

I was lucky enough to attend a wedding at York Minster recently and what a venue it was!

In terms of things to do, there are plenty of museums to explore, distilleries to get tipsy at and Harry Potter gems to discover.

Don’t miss the Jorvik Viking Centre for an immersive step back in time.

Insider travel tip: For a unique perspective on the city, I’d recommend taking a walk along the city’s well-preserved mediaeval walls.

This free activity takes around two hours and you can start the walk at Bootham Bar, one of the four main gatehouses.

5. Cambridge

Best for: Academic allure

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Fitzbillies Cambridge

Cambridge may be world-famous for its prestigious university, but there is so much more to this charming city than its scholarly heritage. 

One of my favourite things to do in Cambridge is to go punting on the River Cam. A dreamy activity in the summer, I’d recommend bringing a picnic and a bottle of wine as you view the city from a different perspective.

Of course the architecture throughout the city is simply spectacular, from the incredible King’s College Chapel to the very Instagrammable Mathematical Bridge. 

I also love the café culture in the city. You’ll find a whole multitude of independent cafés in Cambridge, where students have their heads buried in books and locals do a spot of people watching. 

For a cultural hit there’s the Fitzwilliam Museum or for an oasis of tranquillity there’s the Cambridge University Botanic Garden. 

Insider travel tip: To experience the city like a local, then you simply have to explore by bike. In fact, Cambridge is the leading UK city for walking and cycling!

For foodies, check out my guides to the best breakfast spots in Cambridge and the best afternoon tea spots.

6. Manchester

Best for: Art and music

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Manchester may not be the prettiest of the UK cities on this list, but it is certainly one of the most vibrant. 

Once the beating heart of the industrial revolution in the UK, it has since evolved into a modern metropolis with incredible art, music and foodie scenes. 

In the Northern Quarter you’ll find an eclectic mix of street art, boutique vintage stores and independent coffee shops. It’s got a bohemian feel to it, and is the perfect destination for creatives. 

Manchester’s cutting-edge music scene is also of great appeal to visitors – the city’s musical legacy spans from the likes of the BeeGees to Oasis.

It’s also a hotspot for sports fans – while I’m not a football fan myself, those who are will certainly be attracted by the city’s strong football legacy.

For a deepdive into Manchester’s industrial past, I’d recommend a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry.

Did you know that Manchester is where the atom was first split? This city is full of surprises!

Insider travel tip: Foodies will love Mackie Mayor, an enticing food hall housed in a restored Victorian market building in the Northern Quarter.

Make sure you turn up hungry, as there are all kinds of cuisines on offer, from Neapolitan pizzas to Korean-inspired dishes. 

7. Cardiff

Best for: Friendly Welsh hospitality

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I simply had to include the vibrant capital of Wales in my guide to the best UK cities to visit. 

Cardiff often feels almost as dynamic and multicultural as London – except the people are much friendlier! 

This is another city that effortlessly merges its ancient roots with a modern spirit. It’s this combination of the old and the new that makes it such an interesting city to explore.

I feel I have to start with the mediaeval Cardiff Castle that boasts over 2,000 years of history and jaw-dropping interiors. 

The city also has a number of lovely green spaces; my favourite is Bute Park which comprises an impressive 130 acres of landscaped gardens and has the majestic Cardiff Castle as a backdrop.

For a taste of the city’s lively personality, head to the restored Cardiff Bay area where you’ll find a bustling cultural hub. This is the place to find fantastic restaurants, bars and shops.

Sports enthusiasts should not miss the opportunity to catch a rugby match at the Principality Stadium, especially during the Six Nations Championship.

Insider travel tip: For a fun local experience, pay a visit to the Cardiff Indoor Market. This Victorian market hall is a haven of Welsh delicacies, fresh produce, and unique finds.

This is the place to try Welsh cakes, or browse for artisanal cheeses, vintage records, and crafts. 

8. Oxford

Best for: History and architecture

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Another city that’s famed for its distinguished university – in fact, it’s actually the oldest university in the English-speaking world.

As with Cambridge, Oxford’s university colleges are architectural gems and a big draw for visitors to the city.

Think splendid chapels, pretty gardens and serene courtyards – you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve stepped into Hogwarts.

I’d really recommend a visit to the Bodleian Library, one of the oldest libraries in Europe. Or for more cultural attractions, there are a number of museums and exhibitions to discover. 

Beyond its academic prowess, Oxford also has a modern charm with its artisan coffee shops, laid-back pubs, and excellent shopping provisions.

Don’t miss out on a punt down the river or a visit to the University of Oxford Botanic Garden for a touch of tranquillity in the city centre. 

Insider travel tip: There are a number of impossibly pretty streets in Oxford. One of my favourites is Holywell Street with its pastel-coloured buildings. I’d also recommend checking out Turl Street and Brasenose Lane.

9. Belfast

Best for: Interesting history

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Belfast City

Another city with a strong industrial background, Belfast may be a city with a troubled past, but it certainly packs a cultural punch. 

Make sure you allow time to explore the Cathedral Quarter. A hub of creativity, it’s known for its street art, live music and an eclectic array of pubs and restaurants. 

I’d recommend paying a visit to one of Belfast’s oldest attractions, St George’s Market.

Here you’ll find a dynamic mix of food, crafts and live entertainment. Note that it’s only open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Of course a trip to Belfast would not be complete without a visit to The Titanic Belfast, where you can learn more about the tragic story of the infamous ship. 

One advantage of visiting Belfast is that it is one of the more affordable UK cities to visit. I wouldn’t consider any UK cities to be particularly cheap, but Belfast is arguably the most budget-friendly.

Insider travel tip: For a unique perspective of Belfast and its history, I’d highly recommend taking a Black Taxi tour.

These tours offer personal insights into the city’s political history, including the famous murals and peace walls. 

10. Brighton

Best for: Coastal gem

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I’ll be completely honest, I only recently realised that Brighton & Hove is in fact a city! And as one of my favourite places to explore in the UK, I had to include it in this list.

Brighton, often referred to as London-by-the-sea, is a vibrant coastal city with a fantastically flamboyant personality.

Creatives and artsy types will adore Brighton, as it’s known for its lively arts scene, eclectic shopping areas, and inclusive atmosphere.

Brighton Pier is an icon of the city where you can spend hours amusing yourself with the arcade, fairground rides and, of course, the gorgeous sea views. Here it’s all about traditional British seaside fun.

As you can imagine, Brighton is a hotspot during the summer months, when visitors flock to the pebbled beach for a day in the sun. 

The city’s bohemian spirit is best experienced in the Lanes, a labyrinth of narrow alleyways, filled with antique shops, unique boutiques, and independent cafés.

Plus, Brighton’s commitment to diversity is celebrated annually at the Brighton Pride festival. It’s one of the UK’s largest and most vibrant pride events, attracting visitors from around the globe.

Insider travel tip: I’d highly recommend a visit to the Royal Pavilion, a former royal residence built for King George IV.

An exotic palace with an Indian-inspired exterior and opulent Chinese-influenced interior, you’ll be shocked that you’re still in the UK when you see it!

I wasn’t able to include every amazing UK city in this guide, as there are just too many to mention! Do let me know any of your favourite UK cities to visit in the comments.

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Jessie Moore
Jessie Moore

Jessie is a luxury travel expert with years of experience travelling the world to find the best destinations, hotels and adventures.

Find me on: Web | Instagram


Want up to 25% off hotels?

Subscribe to my newsletter and get immediate access to my guide on how to save money on flights and hotels. Our weekly emails are filled with adventure inspiration, insider travel tips and exclusive discounts.