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The 12 Best City Breaks to take in 2023!
The UK has 69 cities in total for you to choose from for that perfect city break, and we have handpicked several of the very best for you! With dynamic nightlife and great places to eat and drink, these UK city breaks are fantastic for romantic getaways as a couple, or you could take an extended short break and bring the whole family and pets along too - the good news is we've selected destinations that are great for everyone. For a trip away from the cities, see our guide to the best weekend breaks in the UK!
From the UK's capital city, to Scotlands, Wales and Northern Irelands, we plan on exciting your inner travel bug and getting your itchy travel feet in gear to choose an epic mini break away. You could enjoy a trip filled with absorbing culture, museums to explore, walks to ramble and delicious delicacies to eat, this could await you ... and so much more!
The Capital City of the World
Standing on the river Thames, stretching over 600 square miles in every direction, London has welcomed visitors since before the Romans arrived 2,000 years ago. One of the best destinations for a city break in the world, London boasts a lifetime of experiences and attractions in its vibrant city, including around 170 museums to explore, from the iconic British Museum to the incredible Victoria and Albert Museum. Along with world history, London celebrates art with over 1,500 outstanding galleries, from the mesmerising National Gallery to the tantalizing Tate Modern.
Known world-wide for London's incredible iconic landmarks including The London Eye, London also encompasses world-class shopping and retail experiences across its many streets with delightful stores like Harrods, the world's leading luxury department store. With an appetite for eating-out, London has over 20,000+ restaurants that cater to all tastes and incredible food markets available, one of the best being the Borough Market. London's premier food market specialises in high quality produce, and rather than just selling delicious food and drink the Borough Market celebrates it!
Make the most of a city break to London by booking an amazing short breaks package with Holiday Extras. Stay at a one of our many hand-picked luxurious 4-star London hotels in the heart of the city during a luxury break, including the Leonardo Royal Hotel St Paul's overlooking the breath-taking St Paul's Cathedral or the Crown Plaza, Albert Embankment with it's decadent decor and idyllic rooftop bar boasting memorising views across the River Thames.
With over 263 theatres in London, take in a show and experience the perfect theatre break or walk on the wild side at London Zoo. With lots of London city break packages on offer you could take a ride on the iconic London Eye or visit the Tower of London or London Dungeons - the choice is yours. These London breaks have one fantastic thing in common and that's that tickets come packaged with a relaxing overnight hotel stay nearby.
You could even book a combined tickets package and make the most of several London attractions in one day. Hop aboard a Thames River Cruise and combine an unlimited 24hr River Cruise Pass with a trip on the London Eye, a visit to the Tower of London. You could actually combine all 3 attractions and visit the London Eye, the Tower of London and cruise the Thames in one memorable London break.
If parking for your city break is a concern, check out Holiday Extras guide to Parking in London.
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The Powerhouse of the North
Of all the city break holidays to enjoy in the UK in 2023, Manchester is definitely one of the best. A metropolitan borough and the UK's second most populated urban area, this city has a lot to offer every visitor. Noted not only for its industrial architecture, scientific and engineering output (being the textile powerhouse of the 18th Century) Manchester also transformed itself at the end of the 20th and into the 21st Century as the Northern hub of music. Manchester has produced a wealth of internationally recognised bands - including the Smiths, Oasis, Joy Division, Happy Mondays and Take That. Many amplified through the scene known as 'Madchester' in the 1980s and 1990s.
A perfect mini break destination, Manchester is bursting with entertainment, from it's legendary clubs and nightlife, to its many pubs and restaurants. Swanky nightclubs like Chinawhite Manchester and Impossible, which is Manchester's only theatrical late night venue, are amongst around 500 licensed premises to be experienced in the city. Manchester also has plentiful places to eat out. There are numerous bars and restaurants to savour in this vibrant city. Perfect for couples - make memories at a romantic hideaway, an activity hideout or a restaurant with rooftop views which suits all culinary tastes. From the popular Flight Club in the heart of Manchester, with it's glitzy circus-themed and instagrammable decor, to mouthwatering dishes served at the Menagerie restaurant and bar in Salford - the choices are endless. Perfect for when you fancy partying and creating your very own Madchester memories!
On a city break in Manchester, don't forget to:
- Visit Old Trafford - The home of Manchester United and nicknamed 'The Theatre of Dreams' by Bobby Charlton, this world-famous football stadium needs to be top of an itinerary. Visit on a non-match day and take pleasure in a behind the scenes Stadium Tour, then score a delicious bite to eat in the Red Café and round off your away game by picking up a memento in the Stadium's Megastore. There is plenty to do and it's an ideal day out for the whole family.
- View Manchester Art Gallery - A publicly owned art museum, this gallery contains a wealth of collections. These range from historical collections to international contemporary art. The fresh perspectives could spark imagination and debate as you explore over 25,000 objects of fine art, decorative art and costume (developed over 200 years and still growing). Complete a masterpiece of a city break with a funky purchase from the Gallery's Gift Shop, after satisfying those all important artistic taste buds in the Gallery Café.
- Marvel at Manchester Cathedral - At the heart of the city's rich and diverse history for nearly 600 years, Manchester Cathedral had its royal charter signed by Henry V in 1421 granting permission for this collegiate church to be built. The church became a Cathedral in 1847 when a new Manchester diocese was created. This Northern Soul of Manchester has been captivating the faithful for almost six centuries, don't miss a chance to experience one of the most moving Cathedrals in the United Kingdom. Open 7 days a week and admission is absolutely free!
Known as 'London by the sea' for the last 200 years
Where better to enjoy a city break and coastal break combined than in Brighton! This vibrant seaside resort is just an hour's train ride from London and is beautifully situated on the south coast of the UK. Brighton Dome is famous for hosting the Eurovision song contest in 1974 where ABBA triumphed with their catchy melody 'Waterloo' and went on to become one of the most successful pop acts of all time. The city of Brighton is a celebration of creativity, with dazzling street art and a wealth of independent shops that present colourful and alternative fashion including Beyond Retro, a massive sky-lit warehouse packed with over 10,000 unique pieces of 20th century fashion.
An ideal destination for a city break, Brighton is bursting with activities and attractions. A visit to Britain's most eccentric palace the Brighton Royal Pavilion is a must, with a fantastical fusion of Indian styles on the outside and Chinese inside, this palace was designed for Britain's most decadent King, King George IV. A great destination for a family city break, Brighton's Palace Pier is a popular destination for many visitors, especially if you have children. There are rides and attractions suitable for the whole family, including fairground favourites like Mega slides and The Cups & Saucers.
Along with offering a cornucopia of cultural delights Brighton also offers food to suit all tastes. There are an array of award-winning restaurants offering everything from classic fish 'n' chips to creative vegetarian restaurants and even a zero waste restaurant. This has to be on the list of the best city getaways the UK has to offer!
If a family staycation is more your bag, we've compiled a selection of the best family breaks in the UK, which includes short breaks to other exciting theme park breaks, including Legoland Resort Windsor, Chessington World of Adventures and Alton Towers.
Scotland's Famed Capital City - From the Medieval Old to the Georgian New
The Jewel in the Crown of Caledonia! We couldn't compile a list of several of the best city getaways to explore in the UK without starting right near the top - Scotland's Southeastern Capital to be precise! Alongside the North Sea, Edinburgh is one of Scotland's most popular cities and is the perfect destination for a weekend or short break away. A hilly Capital City, famed for its medieval skyline and elegant neoclassical architecture, Edinburgh is bursting with exciting activities and sites to see, making it a staycation that needs to be near the top of your list of UK destinations to visit.
If you're looking for a countryside escape, or a short holiday at the seaside - the good news is that Edinburgh could tick many boxes for you. One minute you can enjoy a gander through Edinburgh's historic Royal Mile before enjoying a seaside stroll along Portobello beach. You could experience this relaxing break by staying in a local cosy cottage and visiting the city's shops by day, and relishing a meal at an award-winning restaurant by night - the amazing fact is all this and more is available in this one exhilarating city!
Plan your visit to Edinburgh with the best guide of things to see and do, what to eat and drink, when and how to travel and even more fascinating facts about the city with our Edinburgh city breaks guide.
For the latest travel advice for your trip in 2023, please visit our Edinburgh Travel Guide for further information.
Pack a picnic and Pimms, hire a punt and enjoy the perfect break
Ever increasing in popularity, this stunning architectural city welcomes visitors from far and wide and is well-known for its superb accommodation that suits every need. Perfect for a city break in 2023, Cambridge is a kingdom of scholars, along with it's world-famous University this beautiful city is home to more Nobel Prize winners than any other city. It is literally brimming with history, culture and incredible discoveries. From punting on the River Cam, to picnicing in the park, Cambridge does not shy away from providing entertainment to people of all ages.
There's a choice of galleries showcasing impressive art, from classic to contemporary, and a thrilling theatre and performance scene which presents drama, dance, family shows and a variety of live music from internationally acclaimed orchestras to world-famous folk festivals. A great choice for a romantic city break, Cambridge exudes romance with numerous places to eat, whatever your appetite. A couple could experience the intimacy of a brasserie dining setting at one of Cambridge's hotels or indulge in extravagant fine-dining at one of the UK's best Michelin Starred restaurants. Cycle off into the sunset using the excellent network of cycle paths in and around the city on this idyllic short break.
If you're feeling that financial pinch, we've included Cambridge as one of our top 10 budget destinations in the UK because of the range of activities and accommodation available to suit all tastes and budgets. Visit our guide to find out which other 9 destinations made this list and plan a short break that watches the pennies for you.
Gaze at the glittering Quayside in this shopaholic's paradise
Renowned for being the business and social hub of the North East. Newcastle is a great city to enjoy for a short break. A city that never stands still, Newcastle has entertainment to suit all ages. From award-winning museums to world-class concert halls and outstanding art galleries, you'll be hard-pressed to not fill your days with exciting attractions. A foodie's paradise, Newcastle is crammed full of fantastic restaurants and places to eat out that cater for all tastes. Described as the North East's style capital, Newcastle also has an exciting mix of independent boutiques, high street favourites and fantastic malls including the Grainger Market and Eldon Square that offer the city-slicker more than a few hours of retail therapy.
In the evening indulge in dressing up and experience top-notch nightlife with the exciting bars and nightclubs that Newcastle is renowned for. Let your hair down with a few drinks in the evening and escape the city-life the following morning for a seaside stroll along some of the striking strips of coastline located near the city. A great destination for any nature-lover, wander through Rising Sun Country Park, an extraordinary 400-acre park. This remarkable park is a designated local nature reserve with woodland, wetland and pond inhabitants and there's even a bird hide for keen twitchers.
An ideal location for a cheap city break, Newcastle has an incredible selection of free things to see and do, as well as budget-friendly hotels to stay at. A visit to this spectacular city can be great value for money!
Wales' capital city celebrates culture with a capital 'C'
One of the very best destinations for a UK city break this year, Cardiff is a hive of activity. If art and history appeal then Cardiff's National Museum houses the largest collection of Impressionist art outside of Paris, with works spanning 500 years of art history. There's also the Museum of Cardiff which explores the city's diverse history dating right back to the 1300s.
Weave through the city's delightful arcades that date back to Victorian and Edwardian times as you enjoy a spot of retail therapy. Spanning nearly a kilometre through the city there's great independent shops, unique boutiques and even the world's oldest record shop, Spiller Records. Alternatively, situated near the arcades is St David's large contemporary shopping centre with high-end stores and luxury brands.
When it comes to tantalising those taste buds and stopping for a bite to eat, this city offers a world of food experiences and culinary delights to satisfy visitors. There's authentic international cuisine available at competitive prices along City Road in Roath or Cowbridge Road East in Canton. Alternatively, High Street and Mary's Street are teaming with great restaurants, as well as swanky bars serving refreshing cocktails. To step into true foodie heaven check out the Cardiff Indoor Market or the Cardiff Farmer's Markets located in Riverside, Roath and Rhiwbina offering the tastiest food from the best food producers in Wales.
Don't forget to visit:
- Cardiff Castle - Situated in the heart of the city, with history spanning 2,000 years, this Castle is a must-see. Witness the lavish makeover by William Burges that took place in the 19th century and tour the Castle's interiors with elaborate décor, outstanding floral carvings and luxurious marble and gold furnishings that are all concealed in the castle's enchanting fairytale towers.
Built purely for pleasure and relaxation - Bath is B-E-A-U-tiful
The largest city in Somerset, this idyllic spa town is the perfect location for a city break. Great for history-lovers, with stunning honey-coloured Georgian architecture, immerse yourself in remarkable museums and galleries including the Herschel Museum of Astronomy and the Victoria Art Gallery. With such an exquisite selection of things to see and do it's no wonder why Jane Austen fell under the spell of the only UK city designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A center for relaxation, it's true that there's something in the water in Bath. Whether your city break is for a spa day, wellness weekend or longer short break, a bathe in the natural hot springs needs to be top of your itenary. Accredited by UNESCO as one of the Great Spa Towns of Europe, the city is powered by the same mineral-rich thermal springs that soothed the Romans.
Pay a visit to:
- The Roman Baths - One of the best-preserved Roman remains in the world, the Roman Baths is a jaw-dropping experience. Walk on the pavements tred by the Romans 2,000 years ago and explore chambers and plunge pools. Witness this spectacular attraction which was constructed in around 70 AD for grand bathing and socialising. Enjoy a tipple at one of the superb bars or restaurants nearby and celebrate historical socialising in the present day.
Plan the best romantic break with our guide to the Top 10 Romantic Getaways and the best Couples Breaks in the UK this year. Why not check out our top tips for making the most of a Romantic City Break on a Budget. Start planning the perfect romantic interlude that will keep you forever in your partner's good books.
A maritime city, where the River Mersey meets the Irish Sea
If you're deciding on the soundest city break to take in 2023, consider one of the UK's liveliest cities in the northwest of England. Liverpool is a metropolitan borough booming with life in Merseyside. Home to world-famous football clubs Liverpool and Everton and the Anfield and Goodison Park football stadiums, Liverpool is also the hometown of the famous pop group The Beatles. Book yourself 'a magical mystery tour' or a 'ticket to ride' and jam-pack your schedule with exceptional sites to admire, including The Beatles Story Exhibition. Music is the lifeblood of Liverpool and the renowned Liverpool Docks thrive as the heartland for the arts, and Liverpool has been designated UNESCO City of Music since 2015. Thanks to the success of The Beatles, Liverpool and music are synonymous with the city, but Liverpool's rich and diverse music history stretches right back to the 18th Century and the city's development as one of the world's great ports.
Liverpool's links with America, Africa and Asia cemented a wealth of cultural and ethnic traditions that shaped its unique style and character. Being one of the UK's major ports, Liverpool brought cultural expansion over the years that can be felt in the city's grand concert halls and multiple music clubs, societies, pubs and associations. From the funky Merseybeat in the 1960s, to the excitement of the Erics, and the influential post punk scene of the 1970s and 1980s. Recognised as the 'World Capital of Pop' by the Guinness Book of Records, Liverpool's diverse flavour of music can also be enjoyed at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and amongst one of the many vibrant festivals, including Africa Oyé, Liverpool's International Music Festival (LIMF), Liverpool Irish Festival and Liverpool Sound City.
The City of Dreaming Spires
Number 10 on our list is the stunning city of Oxford, known world-wide for its breathtaking architecture, history and culture. It's also popular for punting! One of the finest ways to view Oxford is to cruise the river in a punt, so pack a few things (include a celebratory tipple) and make the most of one of Oxford's most memorable traditions that's been alive since the late 19th century. A city that is perfect for literature-lovers and inspired the likes of J.R.R. Tolkien, Lewis Carroll and Thomas Hardy, check out Blackwell's Bookshop which is the largest specialist bookseller in the UK. Popular for lovers of the finer things in life, there's also great restaurants and bars throughout the city.
A city rich in history, Oxford is a celebration of academia. There are incredible museums, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Oxford Museum of Natural History, where you can come face to face with the museum's most iconic specimen the extinct bird - the Dodo. Visit Blenheim Palace and walk in Sir Winston Churchill's footsteps as you explore 300 years of history. Oxford is even a great city break for Muggles and Wizards alike, who can explore the magical world of Harry Potter in Oxford. Discover the secrets of Hogwarts and walk the same hallways as Harry, Hermione and Ron. Walk through the historic University City of Oxford in its beautifully golden glory, and visit the famous film locations that featured in several of the early Harry Potter films, including the Tudor Great Dining Hall in Christ Church College which provided the inspiration for the great Hogwarts Dining Hall.
Alternatively, Harry Potter fans could enjoy an action-packed break in London with one of our short breaks Harry Potter packages which combine tickets with a convenient hotel stay nearby and breakfast. Experience Warner Bros. Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter and discover the props, costumes and sets as you wander through the production home of all eight Harry Potter films. Or, view behind-the-scenes photos of your favourite characters, sets and locations with Warner Bros. On Location London presents the Harry Potter Photographic Exhibition.
A city with more canals than Venice, the waterways are magical
Birmingham is top of the list in terms of what it offers a city break-er. This incredible industrial city has become a dynamic cultural and commercial haven, turning its old factories into popular shopping centres and thriving art galleries. Venture along the rejuvenated canal to Birmingham Jewellery Quarter and visit hundreds of independent jewellers selling classic pieces, contemporary designs and beautifully handcrafted jewellery. It's no wonder why the UK's center for jewellery has been described by English Heritage as a 'national treasure'. A great destination if you're on a romantic city break and looking for a gift to purchase, after which, you can take a pit stop at one of the many pubs, cafés or restaurants.
Whether jewellery, fine food or lively bars take your fancy Birmingham is brimming with possibilities. A perfect haven for food-lovers, Birmingham has multiple Michelin-starred restaurants, offering luxury cuisine at great prices. Pop along to the Custard Factory in Digbeth, set in 15 acres of meticulously restored Victorian factories and home to a variety of creative and digital businesses, independent shops and cafés and bars. Witness the digital revolution at the heart of Birmingham's creative district and enjoy a bite to eat at one of its many restaurants, including Baked in Brick which serves mouth-watering wood-fired artisanal pizzas. Alternatively make the most of Birdies Bar, at the heart of the Custard Factory, serving refreshing tropical cocktails as well as beers and delicious street food.
Beal Feirste - the mouth of the sand-bank ford
There are numerous exciting UK city breaks to take in Northern Ireland, perhaps none better than to its capital and largest city Belfast. Belfast is actually the 12th-largest city in the UK and the second largest on the island of Ireland. Belfast's cityscape ranges from the architectural style of Georgian buildings through Victorian to Edwardian. Nicknamed 'Linenopolis' because of the important role played in the Industrial Revolution in Ireland, Belfast is also the birthplace of the RMS Titanic. Belfast is a city filled with history to discover and heritage to learn about, especially in and amongst its tremendous 44 Museums.
Experience this city's beautiful countryside with its natural wonders and over 100+ landmarks to experience. Also there is so much to see in this land of literary delights; including the C.S. Lewis Square which boasts seven inspiring sculptures from the author's most famous work 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' and many more.
Add the following essentials to your Belfast city break itinerary:
- Walk in Game of Thrones Territory - Northern Ireland is the Home of the Thrones. The best-selling books by George R. R. Martin inspired the successful TV series which was filmed in Belfast and across Northern Ireland. The rugged coastlines and stunning scenery were the perfect setting for this epic story. Book a Game of Thrones coach tour and explore the unique filming locations. Not only will you journey into Westeros, the themed tour also includes a stop at the breathtaking Giant's Causeway. Perfect for a romantic city break, learn the behind-the-scenes facts and all the gossip. Keep your eyes on the scenery and relive the iconic scenes as the expert driver takes care of the journey. Alternatively, immerse yourself in the Game of Thrones Studio Tour with hotel stay and coach transfer. Located at Linen Mill Studios in Banbridge (one of the show's main filming locations), this tickets and hotel package will let you experience the world of Game of Thrones like never before.
- Book a Ticket at The Ulster Hall - One of Belfast's most iconic venues situated at the heart of this city's vibrant entertainment scene, this venue is a cultural delight for all the family. Originally designed for grand dances, book a ticket for a show at the Ulster Hall and enjoy a comedy gig, theatrical performance or family-friendly show to warm your heart. Savour a delicious meal in one of the nearby restaurants before or after the performance; including Belfast's award-winning OX Belfast, Deanes EIPIC or The Muddlers Club Restaurant to name but a few.
- Delve into the History at Titanic Belfast - On the site of the former Harland & Wolff shipyard in the city's Titanic Quarter where the RMS Titanic was built, Titanic Belfast is the World's largest Titanic visitor experience and must-see attractions in Northern Ireland. There are multiple dimensions to the Titanic Experience that will engage the whole family. The Titanic Belfast alone extends for over nine interactive galleries, drawing together special effects, dark rides, full-scale reconstructions and innovative interactive features. Explore the shipyard, travel to the depths of the ocean and uncover the legend of the Titanic for yourself - in the city of Belfast, where it began. During a visit indulge in a range of delicious menu choices within The Pantry Restaurant, which includes the best of Northern Irish Produce, or partake in afternoon tea and sandwiches in the Galley Café.
- Visit Belfast's Grand Opera House - Designed in the late 19th Century by renowned architect Frank Matcham, this spectacular theatre boasts the majestic Victorian main auditorium. The Grand Opera House is Northern Ireland's premier theatre attracting tourists from all over the world. Showing everything from dance, drama and comedy to pantomime and premier West End shows. The Opera House offers various refreshment options so why not indulge in a tipple at one of the well-stocked theatre bars.
Looking for an adventure further afield? Then get set to fuel your wanderlust and explore the best destinations around the globe with our Holiday Extras Travel Guides. Let us take the hassle out of choosing your next holiday!