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20 Best Cities To Visit In The UK 2024

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Are you planning to experience the best of the United Kingdom? Look no further!

The UK has some beautiful cities and places that are just waiting to be explored. The country is well-known for its rich cultural heritage, history, great shopping areas, sightseeing spots and experiences that it offers. From bustling city life to rural retreats – each city brings a unique experience when discovering this great nation.

Regardless of whether you are visiting as part of a city break or day trip, there’s an adventure or two awaiting you when exploring one of the most captivating countries in Europe. For those looking to plan their next excursion, here is a list of 20 best cities to visit in the UK.

english flags hanging up

1. London

A view of Big Ben from a London street
There’s so much to say about London we could write a book not a paragraph! Of course, London is the capital city of England and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. It’s home to some of the UK’s most iconic landmarks, including Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the Tower of London . This is city with loads to do for children, so is the perfect choice for families. Find an impressive selection of museums , theatres, galleries and restaurants. Some of which are famous across the world!

Staying in the city centre will give you an excellent base for a day of sightseeing. There’s a great choice of accommodation too. Choose from budget or boutique hotels or why not treat yourself to a 5 star place to stay for the perfect luxury accommodation?

Shopping in London is a must-do for any visitor. From the iconic Harrods and well known Oxford Street to the trendy boutiques of Covent Garden, there’s something for everyone.

London has many green spaces giving you lots of options for a break from the busy city centre. So, why not take a stroll in one of the London’s many parks. Hyde Park is one of the most popular, and it’s easy to see why. With its children’s playground, beautiful gardens and cafes it’s a great place to relax and enjoy the stunning views and some fresh air. The Diana Memorial Fountain can also be found at Hyde Park.

We recommend

A traditional afternoon tea at a luxury hotel. The Ritz and Claridges are just some of the many luxury hotel offering visitors decadent afternoon teas.  A trip on the London Eye and take in the river views from a nearby Thames cruise.

Don’t miss a visit to one of London’s amazing museums. The London Science Museum and The Natural History Museum are a good place to start. Then, finish off with a West End stage show. With top productions like The Lion King and Matilda The Musical, there’s fun for all the family.

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Central London
London SW1A 2DR

2. Edinburgh

Edinburgh castle
Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities in the UK and a must-visit for anyone looking to explore the country. The city is home to some of Scotland’s most iconic landmarks, including Edinburgh Castle, Calton Hill and Arthur’s Seat. It also boasts an impressive selection of museums, galleries and theatres.

If a bit of retail therapy and dining out are on your agenda you’ll find plenty of choice in Edinburgh. The city has many quirky shops and independent retailers to choose from and delicious award winning restaurants. Plus, with its cobblestone streets, beautiful architecture and picturesque views, Edinburgh is a great place to explore.

We recommend:

A show at the Edinburgh Playhouse, the UK’s largest all seated theatre, shopping and wandering along the Royal Mile, an area of cultural and historical importance for the city. Then, make sure you book a table at top restaurants The Ivy and Hawksmoor. For British cooking Time Out magazine said: “Hawksmoor was top of the pile.”

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Edinburgh City Centre

3. Bath

Georgian architecture in Bath city, UK
Bath is an English city with a stunning city centre full of Georgian architecture and is an ideal place to visit for a city break. There are plenty of things to do in the city, such as exploring the many quirky shops and delightful cafes and tearooms or taking a boat trip along the River Avon.

Bath is a popular destination for people wanting to visit the famous Roman Baths and for period drama fans because of Bath’s connection Jane Austen. The famous author lived in Bath for a number of years and you can retrace Jane’s steps with a visit to The Jane Austen Centre .

Find out more about the history of this picturesque city and why it’s a Unesco World Heritage Site with a visit to The Museum of Bath Architecture, Royal Crescent Museum and the majestic Bath Cathedral. Looking for some pampering? Discover Britain’s only thermal hot springs at the Thermae Bath Spa and spoil yourself with one of their luxurious treatments.

We recommend

Taking a swim in the rooftop pool at the Thermae Bath Spa for fantastic views of the city and a unique experience swimming high above Bath.

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City Centre
Bath

4. Manchester

Old Trafford Stadium, Manchester
Manchester is known as the capital of the North and is the 5th largest British city. Home to the famous football team Manchester United and iconic landmarks, including Old Trafford Stadium and Manchester Cathedral.

A well known mecca for shoppers Manchester has both independent shops and high street names-you’ll get lost in the huge Trafford Shopping Centre! A popular city for families with many family friendly attractions. Manchester SEALIFE and Lego Discovery Centre are both located conveniently next to each other and kids will be fascinated at discovering all about this Northern city’s industrial heritage at the Museum of Science and Industry. Little football fans will also love the award- winning Manchester United museum and stadium tour.

This cathedral city also has a vibrant nightlife scene with the Canal Street area and Chinatown offering many restaurants and bars to enjoy in a fun, welcoming atmosphere.

Also, if you are a Coronation Street fan, head to Granada Studios for a pic outside the famous Rovers Return pub.

We recommend

Taking a trip on the Manchester Hop on Hop off Bus which is a great way to explore the Manchester’s main neighbourhoods and landmarks. There’s live commentary too to give you extra insight into the city.

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Manchester City Centre
Manchester

5. Liverpool

Liverpool
Liverpool is a port city located in the north-west of England. The perfect destination for music and football fans, this after all is the home of one of the biggest UK bands ever, The Beatles. Also, Anfield football Stadium and Goodison Park, home of Everton football team. Take a trip to the iconic Cavern Club and the Beatles Story Museum to get a fascinating glimpse into the fab five. If it’s football you are looking for, then make sure to book a stadium tour at one of the two famous football grounds in Liverpool city centre.

A walkable city with plenty to explore this is a perfect weekend destination and there’s plenty of choice of accommodation in a central location. You can enjoy river views by taking a cruise across the Mersey and don’t miss a trip to the well known Albert Dock. Here you can see collections of art at the Tate Liverpool art gallery and also find out about Liverpool’s maritime past at the Merseyside Maritime Museum. Why not pick up a nautical themed gift to remember your trip?

Liverpudlians are known for liking to look good and follow trends. So, shoppers in the city will be in for a treat with a combination of boutique arcades, large shopping centres and bohemian streets. Don’t miss a visit to Liverpool ONE for the ultimate shopping experience!

We recommend

A visit to the Waterfront area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site for a real taste of this popular British city. It has beautiful views, history, culture, music, shopping and dining all in one place!

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Liverpool City Centre
Liverpool L1 1JW

6. Birmingham

View of Bullring in Birmingham city centre
Birmingham is the second largest city in the UK and is known for its industrial heritage. It’s a popular destination for families with plenty of attractions to keep kids entertained. With excellent shopping, history, famous canals, great restaurants and sightseeing you’ll be spoilt for choice!

The National SEALIFE Centre  is a must-see, located in the heart of Birmingham city centre. Here you can explore the underwater world with over 60 displays of sea creatures from around the world. Also, the National Trust Birmingham Back to Backs houses give you a fascinating glimpse into life in British cities during the 19th century. Kids will love exploring this carefully restored historic centre in Birmingham.

Of course, in more recent years Birmingham has been made famous by the popular TV show Peaky Blinders. The Peaky Blinders Tour is a must do for any fan taking you on a journey  to see some key filming locations around the city.

We recommend

Don’t miss a trip to Cadbury World. A chocolate lovers heaven and one of the UK’s most popular family attractions!

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Birmingham City Centre

7. York

A street in York
Located in North Yorkshire the cathedral city of York has medieval city walls. This ancient walled city is a great place to explore mixing a Viking Britain history with modern attractions, shops and eateries.

Visit the iconic York Minster, one of the largest gothic cathedrals in Northern Europe. Also, take a stroll around The Shambles, one of the oldest streets in England with its overhanging timber-framed buildings and a popular Instagram spot in the city. Get your camera ready!

Visiting with a Harry Potter fan? York is also known for its connection to the Harry Potter films. Take a tour of the city and visit some of the locations thought to inspire scenes in the famous JK Rowling movies. Plus, for spellbinding family fun do the Wizard Walk of York, the most magical ticket in town!

Then there’s art galleries, quirky shops, museums and a castle tower!

We recommend

A visit to the famous Betty’s Cafe and Tea Rooms. This iconic York location is often booked up months in advance with beautiful interiors, plus gorgeous tea and cakes.

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York
England

8. Cardiff

View of Cardiff Bay across the water
Cardiff is the capital of Wales and a popular destination for a city break or day trip. With outstanding accommodation and hotel eateries like Cardiff Bay’s St David’s Hotel or the centrally located 5 star The Parkgate plus history, shopping and entertainment-there’s plenty of things to do.

Take a boat trip around Cardiff Bay and explore the waterfront area with its stunning views. Then visit Cardiff Castle , an iconic landmark in the city with over 2000 years of history.

For some outdoor fun, head to Cardiff’s green spaces Roath Park or Bute Park. Then, don’t forget time for shopping. Browse the beautifully designed Victorian Cardiff arcades and Cardiff Market. For well known high street names you’ll love St. David’s Dewi Sant Cardiff’s biggest shopping centre.

Fancy a show or concert? Then, head to Wales Millennium Centre. The Cardiff landmark building hosts a programme of entertainment full of well known productions.

We recommend

Taking advantage of the excellent free museums in and around Cardiff. St Fagan’s National Museum of Welsh History has won awards and is a wonderful place for families to explore with a farm, cottages, gardens and castle. In addition, the National Museum Cardiff in the city centre takes you on a journey through Wales from pre historic times. Kids will love to see the giant woolly mammoth exhibit.

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Cardiff

9. Bristol

Clifton suspension bridge, Bristol
Bristol is a city in the South West with plenty of amazing things to do. This is a fabulous location for families to visit.

Explore Brunel’s SS Great Britain, a luxury ocean liner that is now a museum. Board a Concorde jet at Aerospace Bristol and then go deep beneath the see at Bristol Aquarium. 

For some outdoor fun, take a stroll across Clifton Suspension Bridge or see the many animals at The Wild Place Project Zoo.

We recommend

Visiting the Harbourside area and Millennium Square home to many waterside restaurants, tourist attractions and water sports.

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Bristol City Centre

10. Durham

Durham Cathedral
Durham Unesco World Heritage is in North East England and includes Durham Cathedral and Durham Castle. Marvel at the stunning architecture of Durham Cathedral and then, take a tour of Durham Castle. This Norman castle was built in the 11th Century and now forms part of Durham University.

Durham City has luxury hotels and cosy B&Bs with many shops, cafes and restaurants. The nearby Durham Dales a landscape of moors, valleys and hills provides an ideal location for scenic walks and views.

For little ones, the fun at Diggerland Durham theme park will make the perfect family day out!

We recommend

Take a trip to Beamish-The Living Museum of the North set in 350 acres of Durham countryside. Visitors to this open air museum discover a fascinating glimpse into what life was like for people in the North East from the 1900s to 1950s.

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Durham

11. Brighton

Brighton Pier
Brighton is a seaside city full of fun and entertainment. First thing you will notice are the brightly coloured houses and creations from some of the best street artists. These mean Brighton has some of the most colourful streets in Britain and instagrammable areas!

Best things to do in Brighton when you have put down your camera include visiting the iconic Royal Pavilion and Garden, a former royal residence built in the 18th century and taking a stroll along the famous Brighton Pier. The pier has many fairground rides to enjoy and traditional British seaside deckchairs to enjoy the coastal view. Also, see beyond Brighton beach with a trip beneath the waves at the world’s oldest aquarium SEALIFE Brighton.

Then head to The Lanes for some unique shopping experiences. This quirky area of connecting alleyways and courtyards are a great to wander around, dine and shop.

We recommend

Make sure you take a trip on British Airways Brighton i360 viewing tower offering the best views from 138 metres above!

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Brighton

12. Newcastle

Newcastle
When you visit Newcastle you’ll find a vibrant city full of culture, nightlife and great places to eat. Take a stroll in the Quayside area and see the iconic Newcastle Tyne Bridge, browse the Quayside market and enjoy one of the many restaurants with waterside views. This is the place to return at night too if you want to see the dazzling lights of the city, as it comes alive for evening entertainment.

For a taste of Newcastle’s history, visit Newcastle Castle and walk up the Castle Keep for some amazing views over the city.

For family fun, head to the Life Science Centre where you can explore science and technology through interactive exhibits. Plus, footie fans of all ages will enjoy a trip to St James’ Park for a tour of the Newcastle United’s home football ground.

We recommend

Taking a trip underneath Newcastle with a Victoria Tunnel tour. Discover a hidden world and stories of the past.

13. Canterbury

Canterbury
Visiting Canterbury is like stepping back in time. This beautiful medieval city is home to the famous Canterbury Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the oldest and most important Christian structures in England.

Take a tour of the cathedral and explore its stunning architecture and ancient walls, then visit the ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey.

For some fresh air, take a walk along the River Stour or explore Westgate Gardens. Need some refreshment? In Canterbury you’ll find that there’s many cosy pubs and restaurant options to choose from.

We recommend

If you are visiting between March and October then book a Canterbury Historic River Tour and the 12th century city architecture from the water.

14. Portsmouth

Portsmouth
Visiting Portsmouth is a great way to explore the history of England. This port city is home to many historic sites such as the HMS Victory, the Mary Rose Museum and the D-Day Story.

Take a tour of Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and explore its many attractions, then visit Southsea Castle for some stunning views over the Solent.

For family fun, head to Clarence Pier for some classic British seaside fun with amusements, rides and indoor adventure playground.

We recommend

For shopping bargains head to Gunwharf Quays with more than 90 outlet shops all on the water’s edge. Some with up to 60% off normal prices!

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Portsmouth

15. Cambridge

Cambridge
Cambridge is a beautiful city full of history, culture and stunning architecture. Take a walk around the city centre and explore its cobbled streets and historic buildings. Visit the famous King’s College Chapel, one of the most iconic buildings in Cambridge, or take a punt down the River Cam for some great views of the city.

See world class works of art in the free to enter Fitzwilliam Museum and look out for alfresco theatre performances during the summer in the parks and green spaces in Cambridge.

For outdoor activities to suit all the family head to Jesus Green. There’s a lido  open for swimming throughout the summer and certain times in the winter months. Furthermore, kids can enjoy a skate park and adventure play area.

We recommend

Getting on a bike and for a fun way to do sightseeing, by following the excellent network of cycle paths in and around the city.

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Cambridge

16. Leeds

Leeds
Leeds is the unofficial capital of Yorkshire in the North of the UK. A bustling city with great places to dine out and shop, plus exciting family attractions.

For a rainforest right in the middle of a city visit Tropical World, part of the Roundhay Park Estate in Leeds. There’s a butterfly house, meerkats and crocodiles!

The Royal Armouries Museum is a fun place to explore the history of arms and armour including one from King Henry VIII. Then, there’s the Leeds City Museum, where you can learn about the city’s past and present. Also, you can step back in time and walk down a 19th Century street at the Abbey House Museum.

Ready for some retail therapy? Shopping in Leeds is a must, with the city’s famous Victorian arcades and independent boutiques. Big brands meet local traders with something for everyone.

We recommend

Enjoy a family movie in a fun way at the Leeds Everyman cinema. Think cosy sofas and delicious sweet treats to enjoy while you watch.

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Leeds City Centre
Leeds

17. Belfast

Belfast City Hall
Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland and is city with beautiful landmarks, museums and top class dining and entertainment.

Take a tour of the Titanic Belfast, an interactive museum dedicated to the famous ship. Then, visit the Ulster Museum for some fascinating displays about the history and culture of Northern Ireland.

For a unique shopping experience. Head to St George’s Market on a Saturday morning for some local produce, live music and street food. It’s one of the oldest markets in Belfast and has been running since 1890!

We recommend

Taking a walk along the River Lagan or explore Cave Hill Country Park. Plus, visit Belfast Zoo for a day of animal spotting!

18. Nottingham

Nottingham market square with fountain
Visiting Nottingham is like stepping into a fairytale with an ancient castle and it’s home to the legend of Robin Hood. The city is known as the ‘Queen of the Midlands’. Whether it’s a weekend break or day trip there’s top attractions, Michelin star restaurants, shopping and entertainment.

Take a tour of Nottingham Castle, which dates back to 1068 and has been home to many royals over the centuries. Then, explore the city’s underground caves and tunnels at City of Caves or take a walk around the historic Lace Market area.

We recommend

Taking a stroll along one of the many walking trails in Sherwood Forest. See the hiding place of Robin Hood and the majestic collection of old oak trees.

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Nottingham City Centre

19. Oxford

View of the streets of Oxford, England
Oxford is a city of culture, history and learning. A mix of old and new, it’s home to one of the world’s most prestigious universities and is a great place to shop, dine out or just enjoy the scenery of the beautiful buildings.

You can book a tour to explore the University of Oxford, which is one of the oldest universities in the world. Then, explore some of the city’s famous landmarks including Christ Church, Radcliffe Camera and Ashmolean Museum.

We recommend

A trip to Bicester Shopping Village just outside Oxford. Choose from over 150 stores featuring luxury brands at discounted prices.

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Oxford

20. Glasgow

Glasgow
Glasgow is an excellent destination for all ages to visit with plenty of things to do. It was voted Best UK city break in 2021.

With cosy pubs and cafe’s dining out is a treat and flagship stores combined with local creators and traders make Glasgow an ideal shopping city.

Make sure you take a tour of the city’s iconic buildings, including the Glasgow Cathedral and the Riverside Museum. Then explore the many galleries and museums, such as Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum or The Burrell Collection.

Family attractions include Glasgow Science Centre or take a trip to the Glasgow Zoo.

We recommend

Glasgow is well known for amazing street art. So, don’t miss the city centre mural trail. Huge murals can be found on the side of city buildings and each location forms part of the trail.

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Glasgow

We hope you have found our guide to the best cities in the UK to visit helpful. Have you decided where to visit?

Looking for more family travel inspiration? Find things to do in the Cotswolds or a unique air bnb to stay in.

Red telephone boxes outside a British pub