11 Best Cities to Visit in the UK 2024

11 Best Cities to Visit in the UK 2024

Bank holidays are the busiest times for vacations to the UK. Traditionally, most people in the UK get bank holidays off from work. These dates typically fall around major holidays, usually on the Monday closest to the event. While bank holiday breaks are a popular vacation time for locals, it’s also when international travelers are keen to visit the British Isles. 

Bank holiday weekends are when some of the best cities in the UK put on exclusive events and independent festivals. It offers something for every budget and travel interest, from history enthusiasts wanting to explore palaces to music fans who dream of walking in the footsteps of legends like The Beatles.

We’re covering the best cities to visit in the UK, from university cities to up-and-coming destinations.

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1. London

London has something for every traveler with its 32 boroughs and convenient public transport links. Anything is possible in this city, whether you want to see your favorite actor on the West End, sail along the River Thames, or admire a Van Gogh painting. This metropolitan city has everything you would associate with England, from its iconic red buses to classic afternoon tea experiences. 

Tick off bucket-list destinations like the West End, Buckingham Palace, and Big Ben. London puts you within easy travel distance of other popular tourist attractions, including the Harry Potter Studio Tour, Windsor Castle, and Stonehenge. You can choose it as a base for a Bank Holiday vacation using the extensive train network to travel to other cities on this list. 

Don’t forget to explore its rich art scene with dozens of museums dotted across the capital. While London is one of the most expensive places to visit in the UK, there are plenty of public activities to help offset the cost. Most of its restaurants will offer exclusive deals and menus during Bank holiday weekends with one-day mini-festivals, like Glitterfest.

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2. Cambridge

Cambridge is a university city that feels like you’re stepping into Hogwarts with its medieval architecture and the river that flows throughout its center.

Photo by Kirsten Drew on Unsplash

Although famous for its academia, Cambridge offers a relaxing escape from the hustle and bustle you would expect from most cities in England. It’s less than 90 minutes from London by train, making it ideal for an overnight stay. You’ll find dozens of independent shops and bakeries throughout the area, including antique shops for a unique souvenir. 

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3. Edinburgh

Edinburgh is instantly recognizable around the world for the iconic Edinburgh Castle. The city is divided between the “Old Town” and the “New Town.” 

This family-friendly destination is the only place you’ll see giant pandas in the UK, with plenty of free activities for kids of all ages. Edinburgh Festival Fringe runs until the August Bank Holiday weekend, making it an ideal time to explore the city. 

Catch up-and-coming comedic talent, musical acts, and entertainment across hundreds of stages throughout Edinburgh. 

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4. Bath

Bath is home to some of the most picturesque streets in England. It’s famous for serving as inspiration for many Jane Austen novels and is rising in popularity thanks to Regency-era shows like Bridgerton. Bath has the only natural thermal hot springs in Great Britain, with the Roman Baths being one of the city’s major attractions, right next to the Abbey.

Photo: Boris Stroujko/Shutterstock.com

Bookworms are in for a treat with the Jane Austen Centre, Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein, and independent bookshops like Persephone Books within a few streets of each other. It’s one of the top UK cities for couples, offering a romantic getaway with Georgian architecture and independent restaurants. Bath is just over 30 minutes from Bristol Airport. 

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5. York

York is one of the oldest cities in Great Britain, transporting you back in time with its 13th-century cathedral and famous city walls. Its rich Viking heritage is everywhere you look. This is one place where you’ll want to keep your camera out and ready.

Photo by Hayden Pollard and Photo by Karl Moran on Unsplash

Shambles is one of the world’s oldest streets with architecture to match. It is full of hidden treasures to explore within its cobbled streets. It’s considered the inspiration behind Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley, with sweet shops, quirky cafes, and small boutiques dotted throughout the streets.

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6. Belfast

Belfast is quickly becoming one of the most popular alternatives to London for weekend breaks. It’s best known for being the home of Titanic, with hit TV shows like “Derry Girls” and “Game of Thrones” helping to attract international tourists. Titanic is a cornerstone of the docklands area with an award-winning visitor attraction and a recently converted hotel that had served as the architect’s office. 

 Photo by mana5280 on Unsplash

It’s easy to get around Belfast on foot or with public transport if staying in the city center or near the River Lagan. The Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, transports you back to the island’s ancient past and offers some of the best views from the coast. It welcomes around a million visitors every year.

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7. Brighton

Escape to the seaside and tuck into some classic British fish and chips on a pebble beach at Brighton. This bohemian city has something to offer everyone and is only 90 minutes from London by train.

Photo: Charlie Moss/Shutterstock.com

It’s one of the most popular destinations for Bank Holiday breaks as a seaside destination with a vibrant food scene, from iconic food trucks to Michelin-star restaurants. 

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8. Glasgow

What makes Glasgow unique on this list is that it’s a UNESCO City of Music, hosting dozens of independent venues that have made Scotland a must-visit destination for music lovers of every genre. It’s considered Edinburgh’s cooler cousin with its bustling nightlife, immersive art scene, and beautiful museums. 

Photo: TreasureGalore/Shutterstock.com

It’s an ideal choice for a multi-stop break with a direct train running from Edinburgh over 80 times a day. Glasgow is famous for its sports club, art scene, and dining experiences.

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9. Liverpool

While Liverpool is most known for being the home of The Beatles, it is a cultural destination with the largest number of listed buildings in the British Isles. It’s a port area popular for cruises, making it ideal for a long weekend vacation. The bars, nightclubs, and galleries in the city centre make it one of the top British cities for nightlife.

Not sure where to explore? Jump on one of the tourist buses for a whistlestop tour of Liverpool. The Royal Albert Docks, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the perfect location for spotting cruise ships and discovering up-and-coming restaurants and food locations. Other highlights include Tate Liverpool, Merseyside Maritime Museum, and Anfield, home to Liverpool Football Club. 

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10. Cardiff

Cardiff is the capital of Wales and is easy to reach from any of England’s major travel hubs by train. As a smaller but lively city, Cardiff offers a relaxing break for solo travelers, families, and groups. It offers dog-friendly destinations and hosts major events, including the bi-annual BBC Cardiff Singer of the World contest, and rugby tournaments at the Principality Stadium. 

Photo: muratart/Shutterstock.com

The 200-hectare lake that runs along the city’s river, locally known as “the Bay”. It became popular after the Doctor Who spin-off, Torchwood, was filmed in the area. Cardiff is the perfect choice if you want a central base for exploring the countryside with hiking trails for all levels of experience. 

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11. Manchester

Manchester is quickly making a name for itself amongst international tourists as an ideal stop on a multi-city trip to the British Isles. You’ll find an eclectic mix of cuisine with vintage shops and a thriving nightlife scene. It’s one of the best English cities for group trips, with dozens of sporting attractions, museums, and independent breweries.

Don’t overlook the city’s green spaces. You’ll find serene parks and tranquil gardens dotted throughout the area to help you reconnect with nature. Manchester has its own international airport and offers a “Visit Manchester pass to save money on multiple attractions, including SEA Life and the Coronation Street Experience.

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Photo by Alessio Festa on Unsplash

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Get started with RateHawk to curate affordable vacations to the British Isles with our all-in-one platform. You’ll get access to over 2.5 million hotels from more than 230 international suppliers. Our user-friendly interface streamlines the booking process for travel agents with an extensive inventory of hotels, exclusive rates on flights, and 24/7 multi-lingual support. 

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Cover: Photo by Pixabay

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