While a lot can be said for the wonders of London, the UK is full of historic, lively cities outside the capital that are worth a visit. Here is a list of underrated cities in the UK:
As one of the oldest cities in England, York is brimming with history. Make a journey to the north of England and you’ll be rewarded with beautiful countryside views, quaint architecture and immersion into a heartland of English culture. First, visit York Minster, a cathedral that dates back to the 13th century. Visitors can climb the 300 steps to the top of the tower and see an incredible view of the city.
Along with York Minster, the Shambles are a must-see attraction in York. These Medieval streets are considered some of the prettiest in England. Stroll past craft stalls, jewellers, tea spots, and even some wizardry shops (an ode to York’s feature in Harry Potter), and wander down “Snickelways,” or Medieval pedestrian routes, that crisscross the city.
York’s Medieval city walls also still exist, lining the city centre; walking these walls is a great way to explore the city. If the weather does not cooperate, York also has a number of museums and galleries: the Castle Museum and Jorvik Viking Centre offer interesting glimpses into York’s fascinating past.
Liverpool is best known for its vibrant music scene, historic waterfront, iconic football clubs and, of course, The Beatles. Liverpool offers plenty of attractions for fans: The Beatles Story gives a comprehensive look into the lives of the four hometown heroes. Fans can even take a look at Paul McCartney and John Lennon’s childhood homes. As both belong to the preservation society National Trust, a membership will grant you access to a combined tour of both premises. A lot of culturally significant homes and natural areas across England belong to the National Trust, so look into their properties for a great chance to get off the beaten path in the country.
Liverpool’s Royal Albert Dock is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and worth visiting to see the largest collection of Grade 1 listed buildings in the country. Ferry trips along the River Mersey offer fun sightseeing opportunities from the water. And for the best views of Liverpool and the surrounding Merseyside area, head to the Royal Liver Building 360 or climb to the top of Liverpool Cathedral.
Liverpool is even starting to stake its claim as a new foodie destination in the UK, with restaurant offerings and eclectic market stalls to please all palates. Mowgli Street Food, in its two locations on Water St. and Bold St., is home to award-winning Indian small plates and delicious cocktails. Baltic Market is a relative newcomer to the namesake Baltic Triangle area of Liverpool, and has stalls offering everything from vegan options to Tex-Mex, plus beer gardens perfect for watching a Liverpool or Everton FC match.
Bristol is a historic port city in England’s South West. The city was voted the best place to live in the UK in 2017, thanks to its vibrant food scene, nightlife, and creativity. The harbor has stood since the 13th century, and the harborside history museum, M Shed, is a great place to explore Bristol’s past.
The city has developed a strong food scene – from Michelin-starred dining experiences like Casamia, to trendy street food at St. Nick’s Market. Bristol is also a student city, so there are plenty of pubs, nightclubs, and live music venues to keep you entertained.
Bristol is also famous for its street art. Wander the streets and see if you can spot an original Banksy: the anonymous artist grew up in Bristol and some of his earliest work can be spotted around the city. Some of his most famous works in Central Bristol are the “Grim Reaper,” painted in 2014 and now on display in the M Shed, and “The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum,” near Bristol Marina.
Chester is a beautiful city in England’s Cheshire county, which sits on the border with Wales. Chester is known for its grand buildings from the Medieval and Victorian periods. Ancient walls encircle the city – in fact, this is the most complete walled city in England. Visitors can walk the two-mile walls in about 45 minutes. Check out the beautiful Eastgate Clock on your way: it is said to be the second most photographed clock in England, after Big Ben.
Chester is a quaint, quintessentially English city. Visit the Chester Amphitheatre, Chester Cathedral, and learn more about Roman Chester at the Dewa Roman Experience. Stroll through cobbled streets, half-timbered buildings, and Chester’s covered “rows:” two-tiered wooden walkways and Tudor style buildings that date back to the 14th century.
Nottingham is best known as the home of Robin Hood, one of the world’s favorite folk heroes. With its castles, pubs, historic streets, and green spaces, Nottingham is an underrated spot in England’s East Midlands.
Explore the history of Robin Hood with the Robin Hood Town Tour: led by an actor in full costume, this tour takes you to many major sites in the city, including the Lace Market, Nottingham Castle, and Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, a pub that claims to be the oldest inn in England. Sherwood Forest, Robin Hood’s hideout, is also just outside the city, and has many beautiful walking and cycling trails.
Interestingly, Nottingham is also home to the City of Caves: a maze of more than 500 sandstone caves hidden under the streets that date back to the dark ages. Part of the National Justice Museum, visitors touring the caves can see a medieval tannery, WWII air raid shelter, and more.
There is an old rivalry between Scotland’s two biggest cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh. The latter is the capital and tends to get all the attention, but Glasgow is certainly worth a visit.
Glasgow is known for its music: as an UNESCO City of Music, there are plenty of exciting live venues with both newer artists and established performers. A cultural hub, Glasgow’s museums and art galleries make great afternoon activities: explore the city’s long history at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, tour the GoMA (Gallery of Modern Art), or visit the Riverside Museum and learn about Glasgow and Scotland’s transport history.
Glasgow is also known as the best place in Scotland for shopping: visit the “Golden Z” — Buchanan Street, Argyle Street, and Sauchihall Street, which zigzag through the city. This area is nicknamed the “Style Mile” for its concentration of popular stores.
Glasgow has a reputation for being welcoming and bursting with energy. The city also has a vibrant food scene, with the Finnieston neighborhood considered Glasgow’s “foodie quarter.”
Plus, once in Glasgow, it is easy to take a day trip to some of Scotland’s most scenic destinations. Loch Lomond, home of Nessie, is less than an hour away from the city centre.
These are just a handful of great cities in the UK outside London: from Durham and its magnificent cathedral in the North East, to Newcastle’s famous nightlife, to popular Manchester in the North West, there are many more cities to explore. And, of course, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland all have their own hidden gems.
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And, if you are eager to explore the UK on a budget or plan the perfect day trip from London, check out more of our UK guides.