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Best city breaks in the UK

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Best city breaks in the UK

We asked readers to rate the food, accommodation, sights and attractions and value for money at destinations across the UK

Best large UK cities for a short break

Edinburgh takes the top spot for the third year running in our annual reader poll of the best UK destinations for a city break. 

It turns out that having a dormant volcano on your doorstep, a mile-long parade of medieval masterpiece buildings and a diary full of festivals is still exactly what visitors want from a destination.

But where else offers that magic mix of historic charm, cultural interest, great restaurants and bars, and excellent value for money for a weekend break?

The UK's best large cities, as voted by you
City Avg hotel rate Food and drink Sights and attractions Getting around Value for money City score
Edinburgh £79 91%
Liverpool £108 89%
York £103 87%
Bristol £94 83%
Belfast £109 82%
Glasgow £85 82%
Newcastle £86 82%
Cardiff £107 80%
Hull - 80%
London £123 79%
Portsmouth £109 76%
Manchester £99 74%
Brighton £110 73%
Nottingham - 73%
Sheffield £71 73%
Birmingham £79 70%
Leeds £84 70%
Plymouth £76 64%
Swansea £84 64%
Aberdeen £62 61%
Leicester £74 60%
Southampton £86 52%

Full features table

Using the table: Star ratings range from one to five. A dash (–) indicates we didn’t receive enough responses (30 or more) to provide a rating. Avg hotel rate from Kayak.co.uk Cultural sights and tourist attractions Includes range, quality and price of historic buildings, galleries, museums, parks and city tours. Ease of getting around Includes range of public transport options, ease of understanding transport-related maps/information/ transport ticket pricing systems, ease of walking/travelling between sights. City score Based on a combination of overall satisfaction and how likely people are to recommend the city as a holiday destination to a friend.

UK Weekend breaks in Edinburgh

The Scottish capital scores full marks for its cultural attractions, which include iconic Edinburgh Castle, the Holyrood Palace and an ancient Volcano, Arthur's Seat. All are within walking distance in its compact city centre.

Hop on a bus and there's even more to see, such as the inspiring Forth Bridges, the pomp and circumstance of the Royal Yacht Britannia or a zoo with the UK's only giant pandas.

Oh and did we mention the festivals that take place over the entire city in August?

INSIDER TIP: Mary King's Close and South Bridge Vaults are where tourists go to explore Edinburgh's hidden underground passageways, but head south to Gilmerton Cove to discover more secretive chambers. 

Were the caves used by witches? Or escapees from Craigmillar Castle? Head into this warren of fireplaces and forges carved in the sandstone to find out.

Our destination features are based on real insight from readers, who tell us their favourite places to visit before we go undercover to investigate. Find out more about Which? Travel

Best medium UK cities for a short break

Oxford secured the top spot in our table of medium-sized UK cities and towns. With centuries of culture under its belt, it's no wonder it scored the full five stars for sights and attractions.

But where else in the UK can you have a weekend break in a more manageable city offering plenty of history, excellent accommodation and great value for money?

The UK's best medium cities and towns, as voted by you
City Avg hotel rate Food and drink Sights and attractions Getting around Value for money City score
Oxford £105 84%
Canterbury £85 83%
Chester £99 82%
Norwich £92 80%
Cambridge £113 78%
Winchester £89 78%
Harrogate £82 77%
Exeter £86 73%
Worcester £87 73%
Chichester £128 71%
Cheltenham £112 68%
Gloucester £88 61%
Bournemouth £83 60%

Full features table

Using the table:Star ratings range from one to five. A dash (–) indicates we didn’t receive enough responses (30 or more) to provide a rating. Avg hotel rate from Kayak.co.uk Cultural sights and tourist attractions Includes range, quality and price of historic buildings, galleries, museums, parks and city tours. Ease of getting around Includes range of public transport options, ease of understanding transport-related maps/information/ transport ticket pricing systems, ease of walking/travelling between sights. City score Based on a combination of overall satisfaction and how likely people are to recommend the city as a holiday destination to a friend.

UK weekend breaks in Oxford

The dreaming spires of Oxford have long doubled as highbrow cultural beacons - for visitors as much as for residents, as our readers' five-star cultural rating suggests.

Here town and gown are intervowen within the compact city centure. Historic pubs such as the White Horse and the King's Arms sit steps from the 17th-century Bodleian Library; the peaceful Botanic Garden lies opposite Magdalen College, with its medieval quadrangles and bucolic deer park. And while there are museums galore - from the Ashmolean (which underwent a £61m refurb in 2009), to the Pitt Rivers with its gloriously geeky anthropological collection (complete with Amazonian shrunken heads), this is a place to soak up living history.

INSIDER TIP: For a glimpse of the 'real' Oxford, make for Jericho, north of the centre, with peaceful pubs, beautiful townhouses and canalside walks. 

Best small UK cities for a short break

The Bishops of Bath and Wells knew what they were doing when they chose to build a palace on the edge of the Mendip Hills in 1180. With whole streets of listed buildings and the 13th-century cathedral, Wells is a compact but perfectly formed gem.

What other small but beautiful towns and cities are perfect for a relaxing and uncrowded weekend away?

The UK's best small cities and towns, as voted by you
City Avg hotel rate Food and drink Sights and attractions Getting around Value for money City score
Wells £98 90%
Bath £118 86%
Durham £106 84%
Lincoln £86 82%
St Ives £118 - - - - 81%
St Davids - - 80%
Salisbury - 76%
Stratford-upon-Avon £99 75%
Truro £92 - - - 75%
Windsor £131 73%
Oban £105 71%
Inverness £83 67%
Perth £83 - - - - 67%
Eastbourne £55 63%
Torquay £72 60%
Fort William £100 52%

Full features table

Using the table: Star ratings range from one to five. A dash (–) indicates we didn’t receive enough responses (30 or more) to provide a rating. Avg hotel rate from Kayak.co.uk Cultural sights and tourist attractions Includes range, quality and price of historic buildings, galleries, museums, parks and city tours. Ease of getting around Includes range of public transport options, ease of understanding transport-related maps/information/ transport ticket pricing systems, ease of walking/travelling between sights. City score Based on a combination of overall satisfaction and how likely people are to recommend the city as a holiday destination to a friend.

UK weekend breaks in Wells

Plum on the central green perches Wells Cathedral, an epic endeavour of ecclesiastical architecture raised as England's first Gothic cathedral between 1175 and 1490. Alongside runs Vicar's Close, one of the only intact residential medieval streets left in Britain, with the moated Bishop's Palace close by. All that adds up to the full five stars for Wells' cultural attractions.

Better still, it's walkable: England's smallest city has a historic core that's hardly a mile wide.

INSIDER TIP: Everyone knows nearby star attraction Wookey Hole, but comparatively few find Ebbor Gorge, three miles out. This dramatic cleft in the limestone rock has several gentle hikes leading into its caves.

Our research

In November 2017, Which? members completed an online survey about UK towns and cities they’d visited for leisure purposes in the past year and stayed in for at least one night. We reported on 5,472 experiences. The city score is based on a combination of overall satisfaction and the likelihood of recommending it to a friend or family member. Only cities that were reviewed by at least 30 people are included.

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