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
Liverpool has been named by Which? members' as their favourite large UK city to visit this year in our annual survey of the UK's best city break destinations.
York wasn't far behind and ranked second, closely followed by Edinburgh in third position.
Liverpool scored highly for shopping, cultural sights and value for money, while the Scottish capital and York both got top marks for food and drink.
But which other big cities have all the right ingredients for a perfect weekend break?
UK weekend breaks in Liverpool
The city on the Mersey beat off all the competition to emerge victorious. Its five-star ratings reflect what we all want from our cities: a medley of culture, shopping and good food all at an affordable price.
The refurbishment of Royal Albert Dock after it was granted Unesco World Heritage status in 2004, triggered a general sprucing up of the city. Its industrial and waterfront buildings were reborn as galleries, creative quarters and eateries; and the city’s musical heritage was celebrated in the Cavern Quarter and The Beatles Story.
The result is a vibrant, cosmopolitan destination where you are never far from an artisan bakery (head to Red Brick Market), a tasty brunch stop, a record shop or a world-class museum. All of this against a backdrop of the skyline-defining The Three Graces buildings on Liverpool’s Pier Head, a mighty reminder of how it all started.
Best medium UK cities for a short break
The prestigious university town of Oxford was rated by Which? members as the best medium-sized city for a short break in the UK. Oxford scored highly in several categories including accommodation, cultural sites and tourist attractions, as well as food and drink.
In joint-second place were Cambridge and Chester. Chester, however, was ranked as much better value for money than Cambridge, scoring five out of five in this category. With the average hotel room costing £95 per night, compared with Cambridge's £131, it's no surprise.
Read on to discover which other medium-sized cities got top marks from Which? members.
UK weekend breaks in Oxford
Although Oxford’s mustard-coloured university buildings are soaked in learning and grounded in academia, it doesn’t feel overly stuffy or exclusive. Many of the 39 colleges are open to the public (some charge a fee) offering a chance to gawp at the splendid architecture, stroll through immaculate gardens or attend choral evensong in one of the chapels.
It’s easy to get carried away by the city’s dreamy charms, especially in summer when the punts are out on the shallow waters of the Thames (known as the Isis as it flows through Oxford) and Cherwell, and picnic hampers adorn the riverbank.
The city centre is compact and easy to explore, though it gets busy with shoppers and tourists at weekends. Better to walk on to the Botanic Garden with its glasshouses and seasonal borders, saunter across Christ Church Meadow to the Head of the River Pub, or drop into the Pitt Rivers Museum, which houses a collection of archaeological and ethnographic curiosities.
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 weekend away from the crowds?
UK weekend breaks in Wells
Sitting on the central green perches, Wells Cathedral, an epic endeavour of ecclesiastical architecture, was 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. It all adds up to the full five stars Wells received in our survey for cultural sights and attractions.
Better still, it's walkable: England's smallest city has a historic core that's hardly a mile wide.
In December 2019, Which? members completed an online survey about UK towns and cities they had visited for leisure purposes in the past year and stayed in for at least one night. We reported on 4,549 experiences.