18 of the best UK city breaks for a weekend getaway

18 of the best UK city breaks for a weekend getaway | PACK THE SUITCASES

Here are 18 of (in my opinion) the best UK city breaks for a weekend getaway when you don’t want to venture further afield. And as well as sharing my own favourite UK city breaks, I thought I’d rope in some other travel bloggers as well so that I could cover more of the country and include tips on UK cities that I’ve never visited or have visited but don’t know well enough to write about in any detail.

I asked around and some fellow travel bloggers obliged me with their own UK city break ideas. So I’ve included them below after my ones. It’s all in no particular order either. I’m not ‘ranking’ my ones and the others are just in the order other bloggers sent them to me!

You’ll notice that London is not listed. Before anyone asks why, it’s because a) I don’t like it, b) it’s already been done to death online and c) I wanted to write about great UK cities that don’t get as much attention.

So, get comfy with a cup of tea. It might take you a while to read this one…

1. Liverpool

I couldn’t not kick off with the city I grew up near. Although I moved away 10 years ago, I still visit regularly and try to keep a hand in with what’s going on there. Every time I visit, I can’t believe how much Liverpool is improving and changing. It’s definitely one of the best UK city breaks, especially for tourists from abroad who want to see the ‘real’ UK rather than just the capital.

Things to see and do in Liverpool

Liverpool’s Albert Dock is a good starting point for your trip. You’ll find incredible architecture, views across the the River Mersey, and some brilliant free museums/galleries. Tate Liverpool (free) is here, as well as the Museum of Liverpool (free), the Merseyside Maritime Museum (free), and the International Slavery Museum (free).

It’s then a short walk over to the Three Graces (a trio of gorgeous buildings – the Royal Liver Building, the Cunard Building and the Port of Liverpool Building), where you’ll be able to spot the famous Liver Birds on the roof. Liverpool’s skyline is unbeatable (better than New York’s in my opinion, soz) and it’s best viewed from the famous ferry ride (as in the one ‘cross the Mersey). And yes, they play the song while you’re on it (£10 on the day or £9 advance).

Hope Street stretches from the Roman Catholic Cathedral (free) to the Anglican Cathedral (free) and beyond. If you’re in the latter, look out for the little mouse on one of the coffins (caskets?). The name ‘Hope Street’ is all about linking the two faiths. Also on Hope Street, keep an eye out for the excellent art installation ‘A case history’, a set of suitcases piled on the pavement. I couldn’t leave this out given my blog’s name, could I?!

If you’re into the Beatles, there’s obviously loads of Beatles-themed stuff to do and you could probably plan your entire trip around just that.

Where to eat in Liverpool

Liverpool has a big foodie scene and an even bigger drinking scene. My favourite place for combining the two activities has to be the Baltic Market, an industrial-style (ahem, hipster) food court featuring picnic benches and more street food pop-ups than you can shake a stick at, which reminds me – it’s also dog friendly.

Other places I like eating include: Maray (try the disco cauliflower), Down the Hatch (dirty vegan burgers!), East Avenue Bakehouse (perfect for brunch), Salt House Tapas (good if you’re shopping in Liverpool One and need somewhere nearby), and last but by no means least the little hidden gem on Rodney Street, Cafe Porto (not actually a cafe but a delicious Portuguese restaurant). [Side note: everyone I know who has been to Neon Jamon raves about it, but I’ve not been yet. I feel obliged to include it here.]

Where to drink in Liverpool

Some bars I’d recommend…

  • For cocktails/fancier drinks: Leaf (also nice for a cuppa/afternoon tea in the day), Alma de Cuba (it’s in an old church and they drop rose petals from the ceiling at midnight, which is quite a unique thing to see), The Florist (the most Instagram-tastic place I have ever seen), Alhambra in the Baltic Triangle (for some outdoor summer wine-sipping).
  • For beer: Ship & Mitre (seriously huge selection), Kazimier Garden (a little oasis in the city), and Fly in the Loaf (owned by Okell’s of Isle of Man fame!), The Dead Crafty Beer Company (if you only go to one beer place, it should be this).

Where to stay in Liverpool

While I normally stay at my parents’ when I visit Liverpool, I’ve stayed in a few city centre hotels for weddings over the years and I’d recommend the Lock and Key Hotel (a boutique-style hotel in a beautiful Georgian building with very quirky rooms), Hotel Indigo or The Nadler.

If you’re after a splurge, the Signature Living Hotel or Hope Street Hotel are good choices (and often not that expensive). For an affordable chain hotel, you can’t go wrong with an Ibis Styles, and Liverpool’s one is on Dale Street, which is dead central.

2. Manchester

Manchester is the city I know best in the UK. I’ve worked here for almost 10 years and have lived in apartments all over the city centre. About six years ago, I moved out into the Cheshire/Stockport area, but I still know Manchester like the back of my hand. Not gonna lie, we have a love/hate relationship… but I still think I’d make a decent tour guide. I’ve directed countless friends to my top tips when they’ve visited for a city break!

Side note: I’ve just put a few snippets of tips here as I actually have a MASSIVE guide to Manchester post that lists everything, so go and read that for more info.

Things to see and do in Manchester

For me, Manchester is about wandering around, taking in the architecture, doing a bit of shopping and spotting the city’s famous symbol, the Manchester worker bee, on everything.

You should see the two libraries: The John Rylands Library (for Hogwarts vibes) and Manchester Central Library. Between the Whitworth Art Gallery and Manchester Art Gallery, you can pass an artsy morning easily. Discover more about Britain’s history of democracy at the People’s History Museum. This is my favourite thing in Manchester: it’s a million times better than it sounds. If you like equality, social justice and women’s suffrage, you’re going to be in your element. Also, the gift shop is next level. Make sure you don’t miss Victoria Baths, a Grade II listed Victorian bath house. It’s restored and now hosts vintage fairs, art exhibitions and cinema/music festivals inside the actual swimming pools. I’ve put some more brilliant things to do in my full guide to Manchester post

If you’re after some shopping, wander over to the Northern Quarter. It’s the hipster alternative part of town, full of quirky independents. Oldham Street is a good place to start, home to Retro Rehab, which sells very affordable vintage dresses/clothing. I’ve listed loads more shops to check out in my full guide to Manchester post.

Where to eat in Manchester

I could (and probably should) write a whole post on this – I eat out in Manchester a LOT. But these are my most trusted favourites…

  • Mackie Mayor – Manchester’s answer to Liverpool’s Baltic Market. It’s a converted Grade II listed building that’s now a large, two-storey space for food and drink stalls.
  • Evelyn’s Cafe Bar – I go here every couple of weeks, to the point it’s becoming embarrassing. I LOVE it. They do brilliant veggie/vegan options, brunch, lunch, tea and cocktails. The selling point though is the frankly outstanding family of houseplants that adorns all the walls.
  • Shoryu Ramen or Cocktail Beer Ramen + Bun – Ramen is my go-to meal. Either of these are a safe bet.
  • The Allotment Vegan Restaurant – My favourite Stockport restaurant recently(ish) moved to Manchester and I’ve actually not yet been to its new gaff. But I’m told that standards are still as exquisite as ever. They do vegan tasting menus that will change your life. Michelin-quality but without the stupid price tag (an unreal 10-course tasting menu is only £65pp). I’m going for my very belated birthday meal soon so will report back…
  • Try Thai – The best Thai, located in Chinatown.
  • The Marble Arch – A cosy, down-to-earth pub. It does Sunday roast and other traditional pub grub to an excellent standard.
  • Sugar Junction – The best afternoon tea. I’ve been going here for years (in fact, I added them to TripAdvisor and wrote their first review and now they are HUGE on there #justsayin). One to take your mum to.
  • Bundobust – For vegan Indian streetfood.

Where to drink in Manchester

Again, this could be a whole post in itself, but here are some of my favourites:

  • Cloudwater Brew Company‘s Unit 9. If you only go for one drink, make it here. Cloudwater has won countless awards for its craft beer, including being named the second best in the world at the RateBeer Awards. As well the beer being amazing, the artwork on their cans is always beautiful, including their distinctive logo (a cloud with waves under it – cloud, water – of course).
  • Track Brewing Company‘s Taproom – this is a fairly new one to me and is probably the most hipster of the list but I had one of the best sours I’ve ever had here so I will be becoming a regular.
  • The Marble Arch – I’ve already mentioned this cosy, down-to-earth pub in the food section, but it’s well worth popping in just for a drink. It’s much more traditional than any of the others in this list.
  • Seven Brothers Brewery‘s BeerHouse – The best place for a drink if you’re in Ancoats.
  • The Pilcrow – I find people tend to not know about this one, maybe because it’s in an unusual location. We always go before any gigs at the Manchester Arena because it’s dead handy.
  • Bundobust – I’ve already mentioned this in the food bit too, but it has some excellent local beers and it’s fine just to have a drink without food.

Where to stay in Manchester

While I live close enough to get home easily so don’t need to stay over, I’ve stayed in a few city centre hotels over the years. I’d recommend as my top pick the German chain Motel One, which has a hotel by the Royal Exchange theatre. This couldn’t be more convenient and is a decent price. Manchester is weirdly expensive for hotels compared with a lot of other northern cities. Another affordable chain hotel is the Ibis Styles (Manchester’s is themed around rain, naturally), but the location isn’t as good as the Motel One one.

If you want to splash out, there’s the beautiful (but expensive) King Street Townhouse for amazing views and an infinity pool or the Great John Street Hotel near Spinningfields, which is not quite as extra but still good.

3. Edinburgh

Circus Lane, Edinburgh: the best photo spot | PACK THE SUITCASES

Edinburgh is one of my most-visited UK cities and my favourite city that I’ve never lived in. Of course it’s an obvious one for all tourists and is probably the cream of the crop of all the best UK city breaks. Despite all its attention and tourism, it never gets boring.

Things to see and do in Edinburgh

Where to begin? Edinburgh is one of the most jam-packed cities I’ve ever been to and probably my favourite UK city. Edinburgh Castle is an obvious place to start – it can get busy so book your tickets ahead, but the views of the city are spectacular on a clear day. Speaking of views, if you have decent weather in Edinburgh then climbing Arthur’s Seat is a must. You’ll naturally walk down the Royal Mile, which although touristy is an essential part of any Edinburgh city break. Grassmarket is another popular spot, especially for a shop and a drink. Victoria Street is my favourite road for browsing shops though – not to mention for taking photos as well, because it is SO photogenic.

You also have to do a ghost walk. I know it sounds cheesy but I’ve done a few and they’re so good. I did the City of the Dead one on my hen do and it was just the right balance between funny and actually weeing yourself with terror. Calm yourself down by going off to find the statue of Greyfriars Bobby. There is just SO much to do, I’m going to have to direct you to the Edinburgh Tourist Board site because I could seriously write an epic novel on the city.

Finally, my top recommendation if you’ve already done all the ‘big sights’ is to explore the Dean Village and the Stockbridge area (more in my post on that, but Dean Village is just out of this world). While you’re in that bit of town, you can easily get to the fantastic Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, which has a superb selection of modern and contemporary art. And for those of you into getting those Instagram shots, wander over to Edinburgh’s quaint, cobbled Circus Lane. You will not be disappointed.

Oh and if you’re in Edinburgh for a longer stay, I’d really recommend doing a day trip to North Berwick. It’s only 30 minutes away on the train and is the cutest seaside town ever.

Where to eat and drink in Edinburgh

For evening meals, I love the Scran and Scallie, Tom Kitchin’s gastro pub. I’m not usually into celebrity chef places at all. It’s not expensive and the food is all locally sourced. Café Andaluz (which isn’t a café) is a brilliant option for tapas in the evening. My favourite for Thai is Passorn. For lunch, we always head to Papii, an incredible café with great window seats for people watching. For other nibbles, if you’re out in the Leith area, afternoon tea or just tea and cake at The Haven café is not to be missed. Also, if you want delicious gelato, try the famous Mary’s Milk Café.

There are plenty of exclusively vegan eateries in Edinburgh too, like Holy Cow, Hendersons and Novapizza.

Finally, drinks! I love cocktails at Dragonfly (I did this on my hen do and barely remember any of it but I have been many times and can confirm it’s great). The craft beer scene is of course thriving in Edinburgh, like it is in all the best cities these days. My personal favourite place for beer is Six Degrees North because of their great sours, but other picks include the Hanging Bat and Salt Horse. If you want a more cosy and traditional pub, I’d go to the Queens Arms or The Bailie.

Where to stay in Edinburgh

I’ve mentioned them before in this post and I’ll probably mention them again, but one of my favourite hotel chains for an affordable/mid-range city break is the German chain Motel One. They have a Motel One on the Royal Mile and another on Princes Street. Also, you can’t go wrong with the Stay Central Hotel or an Ibis.

If you want to live like a local, I’d recommend getting an aparthotel or apartment – you can these save money on food/breakfast too. I’ve got my eye on this one for next time, which looks beautiful and isn’t too badly priced at about £85 a night (at the time of writing).

If you want to splash out (over £200 a night but very luxurious!) for a special occasion, try the Balmoral Hotel or The Witchery by the Castle.

4. York

18 of the best UK city breaks for a weekend getaway | PACK THE SUITCASES

I did a heap of York research last year for my friend’s hen do and now feel like I could run my own organised tour company for doing a city break there. I’ve been many times over the years and never failed to love it. There’s something so magical about York’s cobbled streets oozing with history.

Things to see and do in York

York is a walled city and if the weather’s good, walking its walls is a nice way to get a sense of the city. To do the whole thing takes about 2 hours, but you can easily just walk a section and then head into the centre. The best section for photos is between the River Ouse and Mickelgate, because you can see York Minster really well. That’s obviously a must-do attraction in itself, too. You can climb up its tower if you’re into exhausting yourself for a great view.

Just wandering around York is the beauty of a visit to the city for me. Harry Potter fans will probably head straight to The Shambles, York’s beautiful 15th-century street of olde-worlde shops. Even if you’re not a fan of HP, you can’t miss this area. It really is unique and it’s a good place to explore (despite the crowds). Like with Edinburgh, York is really into its ghostly side so a ghost walk can be a laugh – they’re also often in the early evening, when shops and attractions are shutting but you’re not ready to eat yet so it’s a good use of that time. You can also head to the York Dungeon for more mildly scary fun, and that’s a good shout if it’s raining.

One more tip – there’s the (free) National Railway Museum in York too. I’ve not actually been yet but I really want to. I bloody love a good train. They even have a shinkansen there. And they have a tearoom in a restored railway carriage, so you can combine a love of trains and scones (the dream, surely?!)

Where to eat and drink in York

One of my favourite streets in York is the lovely Fossgate, and that’s where my favourite restaurant Ambiente Tapas is (there’s another branch in the city too but the Fossgate one is my recommendation). If you want a real treat, try Skosh, which is exquisite. For lunch or brunch, try the cosy and cute Brew & Brownie or Osbornes at 68 Gillygate (excellent vegan options here).

A city break to York would be incomplete without afternoon tea. The world-famous Betty’s Tearooms is the obvious choice and it really is good, but if you’re there on a weekend or if you’re in a group of friends, the queues can be ridiculous. I’ve had the Hendrick’s gin themed afternoon tea at The Grand for my friend’s hen do and it was brilliant. I also have my eye on the aforementioned Railway Museum tearoom, the Countess of York, for my next trip.

For drinks, you’re going to be spoiled for choice. York is famous for having a lot of pubs. Two of the most well known are The Guy Fawkes Inn, where Guy Fawkes was born and The Golden Fleece, which is apparently very haunted. My favourite places to drink though have got to be the Evil Eye Lounge (behind an amazing gin shop) and the wonderful Fossgate Social (I wish this was my local). The latter is brilliant for craft beer too.

Where to stay in York

For about £50 a night, you can get a lovely room in the StayCity Aparthotel, which is the best I’ve stayed in for price and location.

If you want a boutiquey feel and some impressive interior design, I love the Parisi Hotel – and for a stylish little hotel, it’s actually not too bad price-wise (I’ve paid more for a lot less). If you want to stay in a really quirky and historic building, you could splash a bit more cash and go for the Judge’s Lodging, which was once what it says on the tin and is only steps from Betty’s Tearooms. Again, York is dead walkable so the location for all these is good.

Finally, although I’ve not actually stayed there, I’m sure the rooms at The Grand Hotel & Spa would be lovely (it’s where I’ve been for afternoon tea, and can confirm that was excellent).

5. Lancaster

One day in Lancaster: things to do | PACK THE SUITCASES

I lived my best student life in Lancaster back in the noughties and it’s still one of my favourite places on earth. Going there feels like going ‘home’, even though it’s been years since I lived there. It might be an unusual entry on a list of the best UK city breaks, but it’s a bit of an underrated gem for a short break – or for a longer one if you want to explore the surrounding countryside.

Things to see and do in Lancaster

If you like dark history, you’re going to love Lancaster. Start with a trip to Lancaster Castle and enjoy all the gory execution stories. The famous Pendle witches were killed here, which is a piece of history I’ve always been fascinated by, and the castle explains it all really well. You can go inside cells (excellent photo opportunities, naturally) and even do a guided tour. It’s £8 to get in but absolutely worth it.

My favourite attraction in Lancaster though has got to be the Ashton Memorial and Williamson Park. This is a short walk from the centre of Lancaster. The memorial is a beautiful domed building on a hilltop. You can climb to the top of for gorgeous views out to the sea in Morecambe Bay. In the park itself, there’s a butterfly house (which Chris was petrified by when we went) and a mini beats centre, which includes some GUINEA PIGS. It’s £4 to get in, which is obviously a bargain for anything involving guinea pigs.

Back in Lancaster city centre itself, visit the Charter Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays. If you’re into ale, do a tour of Lancaster Brewery. There are also some nice shops not to be missed, including Paper Gallery (an independent card shop); Arteria (a curated art shop); Ashton Hall Garden Centre (it’s a short taxi ride out of the city but it’s worth going as it’s the best garden centre in the world… it has to be experienced to be understood!); and GB Antiques Centre for a rummage.

Finally, Lancaster is an excellent base for exploring the surrounding countryside and cute market towns like my favourite ever place in England, Kirkby Lonsdale.

Where to eat and drink in Lancaster

Lancaster is a foodie destination, being bang in the middle of countryside growing loads of local produce. I enjoyed The Music Room for coffee and cake last time I went, and the building its in is gorgeous. Try The Sultan for Indian (this was a popular one when I was a student so has stood the test of time!); Journey Social for brunch; Whale Tail for hearty veggie dishes; and Buccelli’s for Italian. Sun Pizza is just round the corner from the Sun Inn. One is a pizza restaurant and one is a cosy pub. You work it out. Oh and Lancaster now has its own vegan café, The Herbarium, which is a good sign of progress for a small city.

For drinks, Merchants 1688 is a really unique little bar with book-themed wallpaper and a cosy atmosphere. Ye Olde John O’Gaunt is a classic ‘old man’s pub’ in the centre and not to be missed. Finally, you have to go to the Accidental Brewery and Micropub. This is new and just what Lancaster needed! It serves a good sour and I understand it sometimes has selections from my favourite brewery, Cloudwater (see the Manchester section of this post for more on that).

Where to stay in Lancaster

I’d go for The Sun Hotel, which is the same pub I mentioned in the eating section – this is an excellent location and has been a reliable choice for years. A little bit pricier, you’ve got the Toll House Inn, which has views over the canal and quirky rooms.

Probably my top choice for location and cosiness would be The Borough, which was one of my favourite gastro pubs back in my student days but now also does rooms.

Finally, the Wagon & Horses is another cosy pub/hotel that has been recommended to me by some friends who stay there every time they go – I’ve not actually tried it myself yet but I trust their standards.

Fellow travel bloggers’ ideas for the best UK city breaks

Right, that’s the end of my bit.

Onto the best UK city breaks suggested by other travel bloggers

6. Newcastle

18 of the best UK city breaks for a weekend getaway | PACK THE SUITCASES

With thanks to fellow travel blogger Melis from Melis Living.

Things to see and do in Newcastle

There is a common misconception that Newcastle is all about the nightlife. While we do have some of the best bars and clubs in the UK, there is so much more to see in ‘the toon’ as locals call it! The main area to head to for lovely views is the Quayside (pictured). On a nice day it is perfect to walk along the river, taking in the view and stopping at some of my favourite places for food and drink.

Whilst on the Quayside I would recommend taking in some culture at the Baltic Art Gallery. It is a modern gallery with regularly changing exhibitions, which also offers great views of Newcastle from the top floor. For a dining treat, book dinner or Sunday lunch at the top floor restaurant to take in the views as you dine. Heading up the bank towards central Newcastle, you will find the 1838 Grey’s Monument which is a prominent landmark in the centre of the city. It is also worth
checking out the castle, which puts the castle into New-castle, and is easy to pass on your way up to the city centre.

Where to eat and drink in Newcastle

Pitcher and Piano is a must: it is a total sun trap and as soon as the sun shows its face, the locals dash there to sit in the beer garden on the river. From here you can watch the famous Millennium Bridge open like a winking eye to let tall ships sail past. If tea and cake is more your thing, Violet’s Café on the Quayside is a beautiful place with delicious cakes to match. Or just across the street is the Instagram haven, Great British Cupcakery which is pink with a flower wall and so many great cakes.

Where to stay in Newcastle

I would recommend staying at the Malmaison on the Quayside for beautiful river views. Alternatively, there are a number of affordable Premier Inn and Holiday Inn options, and an Easyhotel (formerly a Tune Hotel) on the Quayside which has very reasonable prices.

7. Birmingham

18 of the best UK city breaks for a weekend getaway | PACK THE SUITCASES

With thanks to fellow blogger Carolin from Style Lingua.

Things to see and do in Birmingham

If someone would have suggested visiting Birmingham five years ago to me, I would have given them a look. But the UK’s second largest city has made a huge transformation in the past few years.

Although the city has always been thriving and busy, the city centre didn’t offer much to explore. Now, the old Birmingham New Street station has been completely renewed and carries the name ‘Grand Central’, which conveys a lot more glamour and style. Once you arrive in Grand Central, you can’t but to be in complete awe over the city’s impressive welcome. And it doesn’t stop there – the city is currently under construction to extend its tram system, which will make going around town more accessible in the years to come.

From Grand Central, you can easily explore the Bullring, the city’s massive shopping centre which has the usual High Street shops. Selfridges, in particular, is one of Birmingham’s most iconic buildings with its futuristic aluminium façade.

Did you know the Bullring has actually been built on Birmingham’s old trade spot? In the 18th century this area was famous for textile trading. Whilst you’re at the Bullring, you can also admire the centre’s mascot the Bull. The massive 6-tonne bronze statue designed by Laurence Broderick has entertained visitors all over the world since 2003. Once in a while for specific occasions, you’ll see it dressed up which has earned the Bull the title of a trendsetting fashion icon nationwide.

If you prefer vintage shops over the High Street, you should follow the road down the Bullring for a short 10-minute walk to Birmingham’s trendy Digbeth area. The Custard Factory is a thriving hub for vintage lovers and hosts monthly vintage kilo sales. Have a look in Cow as well, which sells beautiful vintage clothing and handbags. Another area worth exploring is the Jewellery Quarter in the North of the city which has stunning independent shops. Up-and-coming local designers sell here and they annually showcase their fashion at Birmingham Fashion Week (usually around February time).

Where to eat and drink in Birmingham

Birmingham is a treasure trove for food and to explore new culinary experiences. For nachos and Mexican street food, I can recommend Bodega at 12 Bennetts Hill. If you’re after a fine dining experience, visit Lost & Found near Victoria Square, or admire the impressive authentic pub The Old Joint Stock in Temple Row.

The Canalhouse is perfect for cocktails and drinks or you can relax in one of the cosy restaurants around Brindley Place. If you prefer a more romantic setting, have a look around the Canal area in Gas Street which is only a short walk away from the city’s stunning new library. There’s more Indian and modern European cuisine to explore on Broad Street, Birmingham’s well-known food mile.

Where to stay in Birmingham

[Hello, it’s Caroline of Pack The Suitcases again. The lovely blogger who contributed this bit on doing a city break in Birmingham didn’t have any tips on hotels, so I thought I would add my own here. I have stayed at the Hampton by Hilton in the Jewellery Quarter twice and it’s been great. My friend who travels to Birmingham a lot also recommended the Clayton, which is a bit pricier but good for more of a treat. Both are nice and central.]

8. Glasgow

18 of the best UK city breaks for a weekend getaway | PACK THE SUITCASES

With thanks to fellow travel blogger Bradley from Dream Big, Travel Far.

What to see and do in Glasgow

There’s lots to see and do on a city break in Glasgow, especially if you are a fan of art and culture. Some of the best places we went to include the Kelvingrove Art Gallery, the Riverside Museum and Gallery of Modern Art. I also recommend a trip to the famous Glasgow University. It is here that apparently inspired JK Rowling’s depiction of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series.

Where to eat and drink in Glasgow

As we visited in December, we made good use of Glasgow’s annual Christmas markets and indulged in all kinds of Christmas favourites. If you are looking or something typically Glaswegian, then dishes to seek out include Scotch Pie, haggis and the good old fried Mars bar!

Where to stay in Glasgow

It’s a good idea to stay as close to the centre of town as possible. That way, we save time by not having to get any public transport in and out to see things. However, it is possible to stay further out in the main urban areas and save a bit of money. There are plenty of bus routes that run all throughout the city at all hours of the day.

9. Brighton

18 of the best UK city breaks for a weekend getaway | PACK THE SUITCASES

With thanks to fellow travel blogger Danielle from Live in 10 Countries.

What to see and do in Brighton

Famous the world over, Brighton is the place to admire a Royal Pavilion with exotic domes, pull up a comfy deck chair on the seaside and stroll a retro pier. You can buy almost anything in the quirky Lanes, too.

Where to eat and drink in Brighton

As with many places on the seaside, a stick of rock is the icon here and fish and chips taste the best in the fresh air of the pier. Although there are many famous names, the authentic experience is just strolling into one of the sunken eateries that line the seafront and ordering a pile of golden crispy chips with lots of ketchup or vinegar. Upstairs on the pier itself, try delicious pancakes for a change rather than the traditional ice cream. If it’s the evening and you’d like something fancy, Latinoamerica on Church Road has mouthwatering Argentine steaks with great wine to tempt you. Finish that off with drinks at a proper pub in the Lanes with street art on its walls and real ales in its glasses – try the Prince Albert on Trafalgar Street.

Where to stay in Brighton

If you’re keen for night life, a hotel by the beach will suit you to a T, but if it’s something a little quieter you’re seeking there are better zones to explore. A short walk from the Lanes, Kemptown has an eclectic vibe and quirky shops that make it another great option, or Hove‘s quieter streets are another option – about 15 minutes from the centre.

Further reading on Brighton

Another of my blogger friends also has a brilliant guide to the best things to do in Brighton.

10. Bristol

18 of the best UK city breaks for a weekend getaway | PACK THE SUITCASES

With thanks to Lyubomira from Bulgarian On The Go.

What to see and do in Bristol

Bristol has quite a few things to offer to its visitors for a great city break in the UK. The Clifton Suspension Bridge is undoubtedly the city’s landmark and one of the most beautiful sights around. There are even free weekly walking tours where you can learn more about the history, construction and maintenance of this iconic structure.

The Bristol harbour is another must-see spot that you can’t miss. The harbour has played a very important role in the city’s development and history. However, today it has turned into a big tourists attraction with a lot of museums, galleries, restaurants, bars.

One of the most important events for Bristolians is the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta – an annual hot air balloon festival where the sky over the city gets filled with colourful balloons. It is usually held in August and lasts for four days. The festival began in 1979 and it has been taking place every year since then, attracting over 100,000 visitors daily.

When wandering around the city, another thing you can’t miss is all the fascinating art work on the buildings. The world famous street artist Banksy has left a huge mark on Bristol’s facades, and locals are proud of it.

What to eat and drink in Bristol

Bristol is full of lovely cafes and restaurants to choose from. If you want to try something unique, head to The Clifton Sausage and grab The Clifton Sausage Tasting Plate. Looking for a spot to have a nice drink? Try The Florist – one of the prettiest cafes/bars in town with a lovely floral interior.

Where to stay in Bristol

In order to explore Bristol conveniently by foot, look for an accommodation around the city centre or the harbourside area. Anywhere around the Old City, the Bristol Cathedral or the Harbour is a great option.

11. Cardiff

18 of the best UK city breaks for a weekend getaway | PACK THE SUITCASES

With thanks to fellow travel blogger Victoria from Vic Advisor.

Things to see and do in Cardiff

Visit Cardiff Castle right in the heart of the city and spot the gargoyle animals on the surrounding wall. Then take a walk or bike ride around Bute Park right behind it (you can rent a ‘next bikes’, our public bike sharing scheme, from only £1 for 30 mins).

Take a guided boat tour from Bute Park behind the castle and travel the short distance down to Cardiff Bay for a selection of waterside eateries, and to see the iconic Millennium Centre building – why not catch a performance while you’re there?

Known as the City of Arcades, you should head to the beautiful historic Victorian arcades (the most in any UK city!) for a boutique shopping experience or to just relax in an array of independent cafes. For a modern shopping complex, the large St. David’s is right across the road.

For sports fans, take a tour of the Principality Stadium (aka Millennium Stadium) right by Cardiff Central Station. It’s host to some of the biggest international rugby events. If you’re not visiting Cardiff for a rugby game, you might want to avoid coming on a matchday when fans take over the city centre and hotel rates will inevitably be higher.

Head out of the centre and learn about Welsh history at St Fagans, an open-air museum in 100-acre parkland. Over 50 original buildings from across Wales have been rebuilt here from different historical periods, and each one offers a glimpse into the past.

Where to eat and drink in Cardiff

Head to Cardiff Market and try a Welsh cake or three, a small, flat, round treat filled with raisins and sprinkled with sugar.

Venture through Castle Arcade to Madame Fromage, a deli and excellent cafe with delicious cheese-based dishes like the traditional Welsh rarebit.

For one of the best Italians in the city centre, try the tiny Cafe Citta (booking recommended); for burgers, you can’t go wrong with independent eatery Grazing Shed; and for slightly more upmarket dining that also supports a great cause, try the Clink restaurant located next to the Cardiff prison. The restaurant and kitchen are both run by inmates who are working towards hospitality qualifications, and the food is excellent (booking recommended). For the best vegan eats, try Anna Loka.

For tea, there’s Barkers Tea House in High Street Arcade, and for coffee, Coffee Barker, their cocoa-bean counterpart across the road in Castle Arcade!

Cardiff is also home to great nightlife, with clubs, pubs and bars to cater for all tastes.

Where to stay in Cardiff

There are plenty of hotels to choose from to suit all budgets. I’d recommend basing yourself in or near the city centre, but as Cardiff is not a huge city, most places are easily accessible by walking or public transport. The nearest areas to the centre are Canton, Pontcanna and Riverside. Avoid visiting during rugby day events as prices will be inflated as fans flock to the city.

12. Chester

18 of the best UK city breaks for a weekend getaway | PACK THE SUITCASES

With thanks to fellow blogger Katy from The Lilac Scrapbook.

What to see and do in Chester

There’s so much to see and do on a city break in Chester, but for me the highlights are the Roman Gardens which are SO beautiful, and walking down the River Dee looking at the different boats and spotting all the ducks wandering in and out of people’s gardens. Chester has some great escape rooms, too, notably Escapism Chester – and it’s not too far from Cheshire Oaks and the Coliseum, if you want to go further afield and do some shopping or go bowling/to the cinema.

Where to eat and drink in Chester

Chester has so many bars, pubs and restaurants to choose from. Highlights include The Botanist for a nice evening meal in a gorgeous setting and Off The Waffle for delicious loaded waffles. For cosy drinks, head to Big Hand Alehouse!

Where to stay in Chester

Hoole Road is home to a lot of B&Bs, if that’s your sort of thing – and it’s within walking distance of the city centre and the train station. But for something a bit more up to date, check out Roomzzz which is really well located.

13. Belfast

18 of the best UK city breaks for a weekend getaway | PACK THE SUITCASES

With thanks to fellow travel blogger Anna from My Travel Scrapbook.

What to see and do in Belfast

There are many fantastic things to do and see in and around Belfast. In the city centre, you should go on a mural tour with a former IRA member, visit the Ulster Museum and explore the Titanic Quarter. Outside of the city, you should hire a car and go on an amazing Northern Irish road trip. Drive along the coastline to see the Giant’s causeway and visit the Dark Hedges.

Where to eat and drink in Belfast

There are many lovely places to eat in Belfast, but the more exciting scene is the night life. The pub scene is Belfast is very unique. Most cites tend to have bars for tourists, bars for students and bars for locals. Yet in Belfast everyone seems to mix! You must check out the Duke of York, the Spaniard and the Crown for their incredible interiors, fascinating histories and friendly atmospheres.

Where to stay in Belfast

In terms of where you should stay in Belfast, try and stay as close to the City Hall as you can. The City Hall is the centre and from there it is easy to walk around the centre or hop on a bus to the Titanic quarter. There are many great apartments to stay in as well as fancy hotels. 

Belfast is the perfect place to spend a fantastic UK city break due to the friendly locals, fantastic culture and the beautiful nature around the city.

14. Dundee

18 of the best UK city breaks for a weekend getaway | PACK THE SUITCASES

With thanks to fellow travel blogger Nicola from FunkyEllas Travel.

What to see and do in Dundee

Dundee, Scotland’s fourth largest city, was recently named in the top 12 places to live in the UK. It’s certainly changed in recent years to become a vibrant and exciting city. This is partly due to the huge regeneration project taking place along the waterfront, and the addition of the fantastic award-winning V&A Dundee. This spectacular building juts into the Tay and houses amazing design exhibitions and and shows off Scotland’s creativity beautifully. Next door to the V&A is the RSS Discovery, the last traditional three-mastered ship to be built in the UK, that was used to explore the Antarctic. Other museums in Dundee include the The McManus, Verdant Works and Dundee Contemporary Arts. As you walk the city, you’ll spot quirky statues including the city’s penguins, comic characters Desperate Dan and The Lemmings, both of which were created in Dundee, and colourful street art.

Where to eat and drink in Dundee

If you want a traditional Dundee food to try, opt for a slice of Dundee cake or sample some delicious Dundee orange marmalade, another of the city’s inventions. Dundee has an up-and-coming foodie scene with some brilliant restaurants and cafes opening up, including The Flame Tree Cafe, which serves up scrumptious rainbow bagels and The Parlour Cafe, which has the best salads I’ve tasted.

Where to stay in Dundee

With the emergence of the new Waterfront, it’s no surprise that there are some wonderful new hotels opening in Dundee. My favourite has to be the Apex: it’s classy and the spa is perfect to relax in after a day pounding the streets. Some of the newer hotels include the Sleeperz Hotel and Hotel Indigo.

This city may be small but it’s going through an impressive transformation. It’s great to watch and there is a real buzz which makes it pretty ideal for a UK city break.

15. Leeds

18 of the best UK city breaks for a weekend getaway | PACK THE SUITCASES

With thanks to fellow travel blogger Claire from Tales of a Backpacker.

What to see and do in Leeds

Leeds is renowned for its shopping, and a stroll along Briggate, into the Trinity Shopping Centre, the Corn Exchange and the Victoria Quarter will show you why. Leeds has everything from designer shops to cute boutiques, vintage retro and all the high street names. However, Leeds is often underestimated as a destination. There is plenty here for culture vultures too, with various live music venues, the theatre and an arena where you can catch some big-name performances. There are also some fascinating museums in Leeds, including the Royal Armouries Museum, which houses a huge collection of armour and weaponry, including a set of armour worn by King Henry VIII, and the most complete set of elephant armour in the world – and it’s free! Leeds Art Gallery and the Leeds Museum are also free, as is the beautiful Kirkstall Abbey, about 15 minutes’ drive from the city centre.

Where to eat and drink in Leeds

The best place to start your city break is Kirkgate Market, where you can find all manner of fresh fruit and veg to cook at home, as well as some fabulous cooked food to eat in the street food area where you can choose from Indian or Thai food, Yorkshire pudding wraps, giant hotdogs and more. Leeds has some fabulous curry houses like Aagrah and Akbar’s, and even Michelin-starred restaurants like The Man Behind the Curtain.

Where to stay in Leeds

Anywhere in the city centre is a great location for convenience as it is close to all the action. Bear in mind you might have some noise from the street so bring some earplugs with you. If you prefer things a little quieter, Oulton Hall Hotel and Thorpe Park Hotel & Spa are both a short drive from the city centre. They’re set in their own grounds with a spa on site for an extra special treat!

16. Derry

18 of the best UK city breaks for a weekend getaway | PACK THE SUITCASES

With thanks to fellow travel blogger Teresa from Brogan Abroad.

What to see and do in Derry

The biggest attraction in Derry is the 17th century City Walls that surround the Old Town, and one of the reasons why people visit Derry. The Walls were built by the Irish Society for the English and Scottish settlers, and Derry is the only remaining completely walled city in Ireland. You can walk on top of the Walls and circumnavigate the Old Town. The views from the Double Bastion over the neighbourhood of the Bogside and the Old Town are pretty spectacular.

Visitors mustn’t miss the Museum of Free Derry, located in the Bogside. This working class neighbourhood was at the centre of what is known as Bloody Sunday, a civil rights march that ended in a massacre where 14 local people lost their lives. The museum has displays about the civil rights era, the Battle of the Bogside and Bloody Sunday, all the way to the healing process that this once divided city went through to this day. The museum has been set up in a tasteful manner with the aim to educate people about conflict and the peace process they’ve gone through. It is by no means a political museum.

Where to eat and drink in Derry

Derry is a foodie destination, and a sustainable one at that. Most of the local restaurants focus on supporting the local farmers and producers and use locally sourced ingredients. My favourite place for food has to be Walled City Brewery. Try their delicious tapas in a relaxed atmosphere. Their beers are brewed onsite too, so make sure you try one or two.

Where to stay in Derry

The best place to stay is in the Old Town within the City Walls, although everything is within walking distance, so anywhere will be convenient. I loved the Bishop’s Gate Hotel, located in the Cathedral Quarter.

17. Sheffield

18 of the best UK city breaks for a weekend getaway | PACK THE SUITCASES

With thanks to fellow travel blogger Daniel from Layer Culture.

What to see and do in Sheffield

Sheffield, known as one of the greenest cities in Europe, is a perfect UK city break for a weekend getaway. Some of the main sights that are worth visiting are the Winter Gardens – which are one of the largest temperate glasshouses to be built in the UK. Visit one of the local pubs to sample some the finest British beer and while you’re here check out the interactive galleries at Kelham Island Museum. If doing a bit of shopping, you’ll find the hip boutique fashion stores in the Devonshire Quarter.

Where to eat and drink in Sheffield

As the day settles and you’re ready to hit the nightlife scene in Sheffield, get yourself down to Cubana, located in Leopold Square. It’s a Cuban inspired Tapas restaurant and bar with some great live music. This is the ideal spot for working on your Salsa dance moves whilst you sip on some of Sheffield’s finest exotic cocktails.

Where to stay in Sheffield

Whether you decide to head onto West Street for more party vibes or stay in the square, there is a lovely hotel called the Leopold Hotel situated just a few steps away from the restaurant.

You really can’t go wrong in Sheffield when looking for a weekend break and some local entertainment.

18. Bath

18 of the best UK city breaks for a weekend getaway | PACK THE SUITCASES

With thanks to Wendy from The Nomadic Vegan.

What to see and do in Bath

Bath has been attracting tourists for centuries, and with good reason! In ancient Roman times, it became famous for its natural hot springs that bubbled up from the ground. The Romans established a settlement here called Aquae Sulis and constructed a huge bath complex (yep, that’s why it’s called ‘Bath’). This complex is still intact today and is among the world’s best preserved Roman bathhouses. In addition to the Roman baths, which are a must visit, you can also admire the grand Georgian architecture at the Circus and the Royal Crescent. These imposing buildings were built hundreds of years later, when Bath once again became a sophisticated spa town in the 18th century. Even today, you can still enjoy a luxurious spa treatment at the Thermae Bath Spa.

For literature buffs, the Jane Austen Centre is definitely worth checking out. Austen lived here in the early 1800s and used Bath as the setting for two of her novels. Tour guides dressed in period costumes add to the ambiance of the place. Bath is compact and easily walkable, so all of these places can be explored on foot.

Where to eat and drink in Bath

Nourish offers a plant-based menu inspired by cuisines from around the world. Dishes include falafel croquettes and onion pakoras, cauliflower steak and walnut pepper cashew lasagne. Gluten-free options are also available. The food here rivals that of the top vegan restaurants in Brighton, which has long been considered the vegan capital of the UK. If you’re celebrating a special occasion or just want to treat yourself, Acorn Kitchen is a more upscale restaurant that offers seasonal, modern cuisine.

Where to stay in Bath

Most visitors will want to stay in the city centre, near all the attractions. The Abbey Hotel is a charming, historic hotel in a convenient location.

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13 Comments

  1. I love this post! We currently holiday in the UK rather than going abroad and have visted some of these cities listed but have found other s to add to our bucket list. My favourites have to be Bath and York, there’s just so much history in these cities. Down every street there is something new and wonderful to see. xxx

    Ashley

  2. Nice post! I am definitely going to come back to this if I am every going to a city in the UK again, this has nearly everything. I have been to Belfast, London and Edinburgh before so I’d love to explore another city in the UK.
    Róisín

  3. This is a great blog Caroline. York, Edinburgh, and Lancaster are my favourite cities-Lancaster is much underrated..(my kids were at Uni there).the centre, Williamson Park, and out to Galgate and Dolphinholme. Water Witch in the summer is great. I too am South Manchester based. Always wanted to visit Kirkby Lonsdale too. North Berwick also, on my to do list. Are the trams/train from Edinburgh reasonable? First time in Edinburgh this year and loved it. Royal Mile, Rose St pubs…Cafe Royal definitely worth a mention.Did Calton Hill but couldn’t get my wife to climb Arthur’s Seat- Dean Village looks great- so much for next time. I agree budget/mid hotels are the best places as you only need a good/clean base. How about Devon/Torbay too? Best Wishes Steve

    1. Hi Steve, glad you enjoyed the blog post! Good taste in favourite cities there. Yes the train from Edinburgh to North Berwick isn’t too bad – can’t remember the cost off the top of my head but takes about 30 mins. Heard good things about Devon/Torbay but it’s just so so far and we don’t drive so not sure about getting around once there! Happy travels.

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