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The cultural richness of Great Britain makes its cities some of the most interesting to visit in the world. Whether you’re looking for stunning architecture, world-class museums or contemporary art and music, you’ll find it all in Britain’s best cities.
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However, with so many major cities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (the four countries in the UK), it’s hard to decide which one to visit in a limited time.
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So in this guide, we have listed the best cities to visit in the UK that are worth visiting. In each city, we include the most important places that you should see easily. We’ve also listed a few additional attractions worth visiting if you have the time. For each city, we also show you how much time you need to visit.
Good to know: The great thing about visiting the UK is its small size and great transport links. This makes it easier to travel from one part of the country to another. In addition, some of these cities can also be visited on an organized tour in London (or other nearby cities). So if you plan well, you can visit several of these UK cities in one trip.
To help you plan your trip and see some of the best cities and towns in the UK, we asked our writer Christine, a UK resident, to share the best places and tips for your visit. We have also created a map identifying each city. That way, you have a better idea of where things are and can plan your trip accordingly. Look!
How to use this map: Use your computer’s mouse (or finger) to zoom in or out. Click on the icon to get more information about each location. Click the arrow in the upper left corner of the table. Click the star next to the map title to add it to your Google Maps account. To view maps stored on your smartphone or PC, open Google Maps, click on the menu and go to ‘Your places’/’Maps’. If you want to print the map or view it in a larger window, click ‘View larger map’ in the upper right corner.
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London really has to be on any list of the best places to visit in England. And there are plenty of reasons to visit the nation’s capital. Situated on the banks of the River Thames, London is the country’s financial centre, seat of government of the United Kingdom, and home of the royal family.
All of this is reflected in its beautiful historic architecture and lots of different things to see and do.
The diversity of Londoners is reflected in the stunning culinary scene. From traditional British food in local restaurants, to fine dining in world-renowned restaurants, to ethnic street food in its many markets, London has it all. London also offers some of the best shopping in the world. You’ll find designer shops, vintage boutiques, craft fairs and pretty markets throughout the city.
If you want to get away from the busy streets, museums and galleries, London has lots of beautiful and peaceful green spaces. Don’t miss beautiful Hyde Park! If you have extra time, visit the famous Kew Gardens, with its incredible collection of flora and fauna. London is truly a city that has something for everyone.
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Must see: Tower of London, Buckingham Palace (don’t miss Changing of the Guard), Westminster (including Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament), Tower Bridge, London Eye, British Museum, St Paul’s Cathedral, Trafalgar Square (home of Nelson’s Column), and Piccadilly Circus. Thames Cruise is also a must.
Good to see: Greenwich, Hyde Park, Covent Garden, Kew Gardens, Borough Market, Camden Town & Camden Lock Market, National Gallery, Harrods and Oxford Street. If you’re visiting London with the kids, don’t miss Madame Tussauds, the Natural History Museum, the shops of Leicester Square and the Royal Mews. Also, don’t miss at least some of London’s best sights!
How much time do you need. To see the main sites quickly and get a feel for the city, you’ll need at least two days in London. To fully appreciate all of London’s beautiful sights and visit some of them, you’ll need at least 3 to 4 days. If you want to experience the diversity of attractions throughout the city, discover some of London’s hidden gems, or take a day trip to Windsor Castle or day trips to other famous places to visit. Close to London, you could easily spend a week or even more here.
The capital of Scotland, Edinburgh is truly a tale of two cities! It has the New Town – full of trendy shops and trendy restaurants – on one side, and the historic Old Town on the other.
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Edinburgh Castle – one of the oldest places in Europe – overlooks the entire city. It is surrounded by green hills which are often compared to Rome. In fact, the Italian capital, like Edinburgh, is said to be built on seven hills. Its neoclassical architecture, together with its reputation for philosophy and learning, has earned Edinburgh the nickname ‘Athens of the North’.
Edinburgh has a rich history, stunning views, stunning green spaces and several world-class museums and galleries. On the other hand, it also has a dark and interesting history which you can learn about by exploring the haunted kirkyards (churches) and interesting underground passages that show you how life used to be in the city.
Must see: Edinburgh Castle, Calton Hill or Arthur’s Seat (view), Royal Mile, Holyrood Palace, National Museum of Scotland, Royal Yacht Britannia.
Good to see: Royal Botanic Gardens, St Giles’ Cathedral, Princes Street Gardens, Camera Obscura & World of Illusion (there’s a telescope at the top for the best views of the city), National Gallery of Scotland, The Real Mary King’s Close.
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How much time do you need. Given the small size of the city it is possible to see the sights of Edinburgh in 1 day, but it will be quick. We recommend 2-3 days to take in and fully appreciate all that this city has to offer.
Cambridge is perhaps best known for its University (4th oldest university in the world). Which is home to more Nobel Prize winners than any other British university.
Cambridge is also a beautiful city, with many well-preserved historic buildings that are often the seat of 31 (!) colleges. Cambridge also has several world-renowned Graduates. 14 British Prime Ministers have studied here, the famous Physicist Stephen Hawking, and many others who have had a real impact on the world.
A must do in Cambridge is to take a punt tour along the beautiful Amber River. Punti are traditional flat boats and are very common here. The river flows through the city center offering a beautiful view of the city’s ancient architecture.
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Being a student city, this central city still has a very modern vibe too. So there’s a lot of music, festivals and a strong arts scene. There are numerous art galleries featuring everything from classics to contemporary pieces. And you will find lovely shops to buy souvenirs.
Must see: King’s College Chapel, Queen’s College and Math Bridge (built without nails), Trinity College (and other colleges if you have more time), Fitzwilliam Museum, St Mary’s Church (climb to the top of the tower for amazing views of the city), River Camp and tourism.
Good to see: Botanic Gardens, Angelsey Abbey, Wren Library (Trinity College Library where you can see Newton’s “Principia Mathematica”; only open between noon and 2pm on weekdays, and Saturday mornings), Round Church, Bridge of Sighs , Back (behind the college ).
How much time do you need. You can see a lot of Cambridge in one day, and it’s also possible to visit it on a tour from the capital. But to give yourself time to explore the main museums and get somewhere along the River Cam, it’s worth planning two days for your visit.
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Of all the cities in the United Kingdom, the imposing and walled city of York offers the most attractions per square mile. While it has all the modern shops and services you’d expect from a major English city, York’s main appeal lies in its fascinating history.
As you wander the medieval cobbled streets – some with beautifully preserved buildings from the 14th and 15th centuries – you can also see signs of Roman roots and signs of Viking influence.
Among its many attractions, York has 30 museums, Britain’s best racecourse and an almost monthly festival.
The city’s cathedral – York Minster – is one of the largest in Europe. You can enjoy some amazing views of the city from above. You can also see the city from the water while taking it
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