7 of the best UK cities to visit this year

Updated September 3, 2022
Published October 8, 2021

By Cathy Toogood

The UK has an exciting choice of cities to visit, with world-famous cultural attractions, top-notch places to eat and drink, and happening events calendars. And, there have been some fantastic new openings in the UK’s cities, from sleek bars and cool restaurants to hotels in historic buildings.

To help you decide where to go next, we’ve rounded up the best UK city breaks for 2022, from a creative northern powerhouse to a Georgian beauty where you can soak your stresses away in thermal waters.

1. Belfast

According to members of Which?, Belfast is the place to visit for a laidback UK city break this year – it was the only large city to score five stars for its lack of crowds. But fewer crowds don’t mean Belfast is lacking in the things to do department. Visit Titanic Belfast to see the story of the ‘unsinkable ship’ come to life; learn about its troubled past on a tour of its Peace Walls; and stroll through its lush Botanic Gardens to stop at the Ulster Museum, where its 87m-long Game of Thrones tapestry is back on display until September 25, 2022.

Its food and drink scene is on the up, too, and one of the hottest new openings is Angel and Two Bibles, a cosy rooftop speakeasy that pays homage to the old 18th-century bar it occupies. Check out its ‘Old Testament’ menu for classic concoctions or the ‘New Testament’ musician-inspired list. Then, bed down for the night at one of Belfast’s coolest places to stay, the boutique Harrison Chambers of Distinction, which was National Geographic Traveller’s winner for best value in 2021.

2. Manchester

Manchester was recently named the second friendliest city world – and the thirteenth best – in Time Out’s ‘Time Out Index’, a poll more than 20,000 city-dwellers. In addition to its welcoming residents, the northern city was voted top for nightlife, creativity, community spirit and getting to know your neighbours.

You can lap up some of these vibes in the enormous Escape to Freight Island, a food market in a former freight depot where you can order from a selection of food and drink vendors while watching live entertainment. Or you can take in some of the city’s fabulous street art, in the central Northern Quarter or south Manchester’s Withington, where you’ll find a huge mural of Marcus Rashford as part of the Withington Walls project.

You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to eating out in Manchester but one of the city’s hottest spots is Bundobust Brewery on Oxford Street, a 150-seat taproom and restaurant serving Indian street food.

3. Glasgow

Just pipping Manchester for friendliness in the Time Out Index – and the UK’s second best overall – Glasgow is an exciting city with architecture to admire, fabulous cultural attractions and excellent shopping. On a short break, you could follow the City Centre Mural Trail, where artworks include St Enoch and Child by Smug, which is a modern interpretation of the city’s founding story, and the Glasgow Panda by Klingatron. You could also learn all about the Glaswegian architect and designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, in venues throughout the city before treating yourself to afternoon tea in Mackintosh at the Willow, the tearooms he designed in 1903.

One of the city’s newest places to stay is Boutique 50, a ten-room bolthole that’s inspired by Glasgow’s Victorian West End. It’s near the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, another city must-see.

4. Liverpool

Northern city Liverpool was voted one of Which? members’ favourite large cities to visit in 2022 due to its fantastic shopping, cultural sights and value for money. And it’s a city with plenty up its sleeve for visitors, whether you want to explore the Royal Albert Dock, with a stop in Tate Liverpool to see the Turner Prize 2022 exhibition (from October 20), or dance until dawn in one of the city’s lively music venues and clubs. First timers should also take a ferry across the River Mersey to see the city from the water.

Home of The Beatles, on a visit to Liverpool, you can also learn more about the Fab Four in the Beatles Story on the Albert Dock, Liverpool Beatles Museum and Strawberry Field before watching a live gig at the Cavern Club where the Beatles played 292 times.

5. London

No list of the UK’s best cities would be complete without England’s capital, London, where world-famous attractions, a huge array of shops, and food and drink for all tastes and budgets are there to keep you busy. And while it’s easy to splash the cash in London on luxuries galore, there are plenty of free attractions and things to do. Visit the British Museum to discover two million years of human history and culture; Richmond Park, which is home to 650 deer; and the Natural History Museum, where you’ll find Dippy the Dinosaur back until January 2023.

There’s a huge choice of accommodation in London too, whether you’re on a budget or would like to stay within walking distance of your top attractions. Consider staying centrally in areas such as Covent Garden or the West End if you’d like to look around the city’s big landmarks; Bloomsbury for some good budget choices; or south of the river in Greenwich to be close to the green space of Greenwich Park and the Royal Observatory Greenwich while still having good transport links to Central London.

6. Bath

Binged Netflix’s hit Bridgerton? On a visit to Bath, you can visit many of its filming locations, from the Georgian No. 1 Royal Crescent, which was used as the home of the Featherington family, and colonnaded Bath Street, which was used in a trailer for the show, to the Assembly Rooms, where ball scenes were shot.

No trip to Bath would be complete without a visit to its Roman Baths, one of the best-preserved Roman remains in the world, followed by a restorative dip in the natural hot spring water at Thermae Bath Spa.

Embrace a Bridgerton-themed break in style at the five-star Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa or book into the more playful (and kinder to your wallet) Hotel Indigo Bath, which is spread across 11 Georgian townhouses.

7. York

York topped the Which? poll of the UK’s best city break destinations thanks to its value for money and eating out options. And there’s plenty to see and do in the handsome, historic city, whether you’d like to learn more about Viking life in the Jorvik Viking Centre; explore on its city walls, which are the longest medieval town walls in England; or learn about all things chocolate on the York Chocolate Trail. While the city has a rich history, it’s certainly not stuck in the past and you’ll have plenty of choice of independent bars, restaurants and hotels to relax in after a busy day sightseeing.

One bar that is creating quite a stir is the seventh-floor Asian fusion tapas and cocktail bar, Sora, in Malmaison York. You’ll enjoy a fantastic view of York Minster from its terrace and bar – expect to see diners lining up to get the perfect shot of the gothic cathedral.

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