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There are loads of reasons to visit the UK. It’s a destination that’s known for its romantic, green rolling landscapes and quaint villages, but its cities are some of the best in the world!
If you’ve never visited before, London is probably top of your list of best cities to visit in the UK. This is a city that’s definitely the perfect place to start, but there’s so much more to the United Kingdom than its capital.
Across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, there’s a brilliant mix of cities to explore. So if you’re not sure which to add to your itinerary, I’ve got you covered!
Whether you live in Britain and want a staycation (or a city minimoon), or you’re visiting from overseas, there’ll be a UK city that you’ll fall in love with. Need help choosing your next city break? Here’s my pick of the 10 best cities to visit in the UK this year!
Best UK cities to visit in 2023
1 London – the most popular city in the UK
The English capital had to be first on the list of best cities to visit in the UK. London is modern, cosmopolitan and has so much to offer its visitors. Whether you’ve been before or you’re visiting London for the first time, you’ll find so many things to see and do!
London in my opinion is the best city in Europe (if not the world!) I lived there for a year and a half, and have visited SO many times since, but there’s always more I want to explore.
There’s a ridiculous number of famous sights in London – from Buckingham Palace and Big Ben to The Shard. As the UK’s largest city, you’ll be able to explore different neighbourhoods, too. From the fancy streets of Chelsea to edgy Shoreditch and Notting Hill, there’s something for everyone and no shortage of places to fill your time.
An amazing destination for historic architecture and picturesque settings, you’ll find gems across the city. The grand buildings of Regent Street, as well as St Paul’s Cathedral and the canals of Little Venice are picture-perfect. I love seeing these when I visit – it never gets old!
There are also brilliant galleries and museums to visit in London including the Tate Modern, Natural History Museum and the V&A. Plus, you can see some of the world’s best theatre in the West End.
If you’re a foodie, you’ll love London too… You’ll find everything from fine dining and street food markets to British pubs and everything in between. You’ll also be able to visit amazing cocktail bars and clubs if you want to enjoy the nightlife.
London also has plenty of peaceful green spaces. Hyde Park and Regent’s Park are the most known, but you’ll also want to see Greenwich Park, Richmond Park and Kew Gardens – they’re great for escaping the crowds.
📸 Top London attractions: Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral, Camden, Covent Garden, Hyde Park, Borough Market, Spitalfields, Sky Garden, The Shard, West End Theatre
🏡 Hotel recommendation: Pan Pacific London
2 Bristol – one of the UK’s coolest cities
Located in the Southwest of England, Bristol is a vibrant and trendy city. I might be biased because I live nearby, but Bristol has to be one of the best and coolest cities in the UK!
Over the last few years, the city has attracted Londoners moving out of the capital – it feels like a little London neighbourhood.
There are different parts of Bristol that you’ll want to explore. Bristol’s Harbourside is a buzzy district with cool bars, restaurants and galleries. The area’s Wapping Wharf is also great with its independent shops and cafes.
Further along the water, you’ll find Brunel’s SS Great Britain as well as Bristol Marina which is a pretty spot for a stroll.
If you visit Bristol, a walk to Clifton makes a great afternoon – you can stop at the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge on the way. Clifton Village is a cute neighbourhood filled with upscale independent boutiques and cosy cafes. It feels quiet and relaxed here so it’s a lovely place to spend some time.
Back in central Bristol, Cabot Circus is amazing for shoppers. This shopping precinct has the best selection of stores in the area as well as bars and restaurants.
If art and culture’s your thing, Bristol won’t disappoint either. As the home of Banksy, you’ll find street art around Bristol, but you’ll specifically want to check out the area of Stokes Croft.
📸 Top Bristol attractions: Clifton Suspension Bridge, Clifton Village, Cabot Circus, Harbourside, Stokes Croft, Gloucester Road, Millennium Square, St. Nicholas Market
🏡 Hotel recommendation: Artist Residence Bristol
3 Winchester – a charming UK city
Winchester is a sweet little city in Southern England, just 50 minutes from London by train.
I lived in Winchester for 3 years and love everything about it! This photogenic city isn’t big (it’s more a market town), but it still has a lot to offer. If you love art, history and culture, it’s also a real big winner!
Once named the capital of England by King Alfred, Winchester is a fascinating city that’s steeped in history. Winchester Cathedral is one of Southern England’s most historic buildings and has the most gorgeous architecture.
This is a destination that’s inspired many, including the poet John Keats. If you want to enjoy the English countryside, there’s a trail that follows his footsteps through the landscapes that inspired him. It’s a really pretty walk!
You can also climb St Catherine’s Hill which is an idyllic spot for a picnic. With so much beauty in Winchester’s peaceful surroundings, it’s the perfect destination for a relaxing city break.
Back in the centre, Winchester has loads of independent shops as well as a wonderful choice of cosy pubs, restaurants and bars. The quaint high street is mostly pedestrianised so it’s lovely for a wander.
📸 Top Winchester attractions: Winchester Cathedral, The Great Hall, St Catherine’s Hill, Keats’ Walk, Winchester Christmas Market
🏡 Hotel recommendation: The Old Vine
4 Bath – a best UK city for couples
Bath is one of England’s most romantic destinations and is definitely worthy of being one of the best cities to visit in the UK!
A beautiful Georgian setting, Bath is exceptionally photogenic. It’s a city that’s been used for countless film and TV programs – including Les Mis and Bridgerton.
This is a city that feels magical and unlike anywhere else. If you love history and architecture, you’ll fall in love with Bath’s majestic golden streets. Filled to the brim with things to see and do, you won’t just be admiring the gorgeous buildings (but there will be a lot of that, too!).
If you want a culture fix, Bath is one of the best cities to visit in the UK. Not only will you find the historic Roman Baths, but there are also plenty of museums and galleries to keep you entertained.
Even if that’s not your thing, the historic sites of Pulteney Bridge, Bath Abbey and The Royal Crescent are really impressive landmarks.
If you want a more relaxing break, Bath is a shopper’s paradise boasting both mainstream and independent stores. Thermae Bath Spa is also a wonderful setting if you want to while away an afternoon – its naturally heated rooftop pool offers idyllic views of the city.
📸 Top Bath attractions: Roman Baths, Pulteney Bridge, Royal Crescent, The Circus, Bath Abbey, Milsom Street, Thermae Bath Spa, Jane Austen Centre
🏡 Hotel recommendation: No 15 by GuestHouse
5 Liverpool – a top UK city for culture
Liverpool is a lively city that needs to be on any UK itinerary. This is a city that’s home to so much and it’s a renowned British destination.
If you love music, Liverpool is home of The Beatles – there are museums dedicated to the band and you’ll be able to take tours around the sites that inspired them. A Beatles walking tour or a trip on the Magical Mystery Tour Bus is a must. We had so much fun on the bus – I highly recommend it!
Liverpool is also famed for its vibrant nightlife. This is a buzzy city and one of the top destinations for Brits throwing bachelorette parties – there’s always lots happening. You’ll find different areas to choose for a night out depending on your vibe – from Concert Square to Mathew Street where you’ll find the famous Cavern Club.
If you love shopping, Liverpool ticks the right boxes too. And for more culture, there’s lots to be inspired by. Make sure you visit the Tate Liverpool and Museum of Liverpool as well as the Maritime Museum over on the Royal Albert Dock.
The Albert Dock is one of the most iconic settings in Liverpool – it’s a lively place to explore. As well as museums, you’ll find top brunch spots, bakeries and restaurants as well as cool bars and a few shops. If you want a coffee or a snack while you take in the scenery, we loved Rough Hand Made for the most delicious pastries!
📸 Top Liverpool attractions: Royal Albert Dock, The Beatles Story, Museum of Liverpool, Tate Liverpool, Maritime Museum, Magical Mystery Tour, Cavern Club, Liverpool Cathedral
🏡 Hotel recommendation: Titanic Hotel Liverpool
6 Manchester – an exciting UK city
As the UK’s second city, there’s a lot to love about Manchester. This is a city that epitomises industrial cool. It has a gritty and creative edge with streets full of art, culture and quirky finds.
Despite its size, Manchester feels compact and walkable, but there are lots of diverse neighbourhoods to explore. The city’s Gay Village is a vibrant area that’s known for its lively nightlife, while the trendy Northern Quarter is an edgy spot renowned for independent businesses, hip bars and street art.
Ancoats is often named one of the city’s coolest districts. And, next to this, you’ll find New Islington, which is one of my favourite parts of the city! It’s a lovely residential setting with a marina and spaces that are perfect for a picnic. On our last visit, we really loved wandering along the canals in the area and walking from there back into the centre.
Shopping is great in the UK and Manchester is no exception. As well as independents, you’ll find modern shopping centres in Manchester. There’s also so much for foodies to love – from the best coffee shops and cafes to amazing restaurants. There are plenty of museums, galleries and cultural sites to take in, too.
📸 Top Manchester attractions: Northern Quarter, New Islington Marina, Gay Village, Exchange Square, John Rylands Library, Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester Museum, The Spirit of Manchester Distillery
🏡 Hotel recommendation: Stock Exchange Hotel
7 Edinburgh – one of the most beautiful UK cities
The Scottish capital is one of the prettiest cities in the UK. It’s a thoroughly romantic destination and easily one of the best cities to visit in the UK.
There’s so much to see and do in Edinburgh that it’s an amazing place to visit, no matter your travel style. Mainly though, Edinburgh is famed for its historical old town, cobblestone streets and cultural heritage.
The Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle and Arthur’s Seat are the main landmarks for first-time visitors. There are also several free museums and galleries if you want to get your culture fix. And, if you visit in August, you’ll be able to experience the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. I’ve been several times and absolutely recommend it!!
Throughout the year, you can also do fun tours in Edinburgh like the Scotch Whisky Experience as well as visit the Dynamic Earth science centre and join in on a host of Harry Potter-themed activities!
As a compact enough city, Edinburgh is also a winner if you’re looking for a city that’s walkable. There’s really nothing better than ambling Edinburgh’s streets and discovering the hidden gems.
Edinburgh is bursting with charm and has loads of comfy cafes if you’re looking for downtime. You’ll also find a shopping paradise along Princes Street as well as great bars and restaurants scattered across the city.
📸 Top Edinburgh attractions: Edinburgh Castle, Arthur’s Seat, Royal Mile, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Calton Hill, National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh Festival Fringe
🏡 Hotel recommendation: The Balmoral Hotel
8 Cardiff – a beautiful and compact capital
Cardiff can’t be left off a list of best cities to visit in the UK. The Welsh capital has lots to offer and is a top destination in Britain. Renowned for its history, Cardiff has many castles, but my highlight is the Edwardian arcades.
Dotted through the centre, these shopping arcades are a really pretty setting with their mix of shops and cafes. Cardiff Market is also worth visiting if you love quirky finds – it’s a charming spot to shop and soak up the vibes.
Elsewhere in the city, Cardiff Bay is a must-visit. It’s one of the largest waterfront developments and is a nice place to relax and enjoy vibrant cafes, bars, restaurants and attractions.
If you’re a sports fan, you’ll love Cardiff, too – it’s iconic with the Principality Stadium the heart of the town. There are also great spaces for walking and cycling in Cardiff. The Cardiff Bay Trail is a 10km path that takes in the city’s landmarks. You can also amble around Bute Park or head further afield to the beach!
Cardiff is also famous for its parties, so it’s a good choice if you want nightlife. You’ll find everything from clubs and bars to craft beer breweries.
📸 Top Cardiff attractions: Cardiff Castle, Cardiff Bay, National Museum Cardiff, Bute Park, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Market, Castle Quarter Arcades
🏡 Hotel recommendation: Parador 44
9 Brighton – a best vibrant UK city
Brighton is a cool and quirky coastal city in southern England. Popular with Londoners thanks to its proximity to the city, it’s famed for its iconic pier and seaside attractions. But, it’s so much more than a tourist trap, and it’s 1000% worthy of being on your list!
This is a city that is vibrant, eclectic and inclusive. It’s celebrated for its LGBTQ+ communities and for being a liberal, arty and creative city. It’s also a green and eco-friendly destination.
The Lanes are one of the most popular attractions in Brighton and are one of my favourite places to explore. These streets are the beating heart of Brighton where you’ll find hundreds of independent shops and cafes.
There are loads of fab places for drinks and food in Brighton, too. The seafront has all the traditional options, with bars lining the promenade.
Brighton is also a great vegan destination with some of the UK’s best eateries dotted across the city. You won’t want to miss The No Catch Co or Purezza if you want the tastiest plant-based food… Purezza has the BEST vegan pizza.
If you don’t want to lounge on the beach, there are lovely parks and nature spots in and around Brighton, too. Plus, you’ll want to check out the Royal Pavilion – it’s an exotic and beautiful building.
📸 Top Brighton attractions: Brighton Palace Pier, Royal Pavilion, The Lanes, Brighton i360, Brighton Beach, Devil’s Dyke National Trust
🏡 Hotel recommendation: Snooze Brighton
10 Belfast – one of the best cities in Northern Ireland
As the capital and largest city in Northern Ireland, Belfast has a ton to offer. It might be a city that’s known for its troubled past, but it has a rich culture and friendly locals!
It’s one of the best cities in the UK for enjoying a traditional, cosy pub. Plus, it has amazing nightlife – it’s one of the best destinations for bars and clubs.
Away from the drinks, there’s loads to love about Belfast. The Titanic Belfast is one of the main attractions, as is the Ulster Museum.
If you want things to do outdoors, the Botanic Gardens is a lovely place to spend some time. You could also visit the rugged hillside of Cave Hill Country Park where you can take in archaeological sites and scenic views.
If you have time for a longer stay, you’ll also want to visit Giant’s Causeway. Although it’s not in Belfast, you can take day trips and tours to this UNESCO World Heritage Site and it’s one you definitely won’t want to miss! If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you can also book tours to some of the film locations in the area.
Back in the city, you’ll want to plan time in the Cathedral Quarter. This is the city’s cultural heart. It’s a historic and vibrant district and has cobblestone streets lined with trendy bars, restaurants and art.
📸 Top Belfast attractions: Titanic Belfast, Crumlin Road Gaol, City Hall, Ulster Museum, St. George’s Market, Botanic Gardens, Cathedral Quarter, Cave Hill Country Park
🏡 Hotel recommendation: The Harrison Chambers of Distinction
Best cities to visit in the UK map
The United Kingdom boasts a lot and is an amazing place to explore! With cities filled with incredible architecture, history and culture, as well as scenic landmarks, picturesque spots and trendy shopping areas, there’s something for everyone.
I hope this top 10 best UK cities list has helped you put together your dream itinerary and inspired you for your next getaway!