This article may contain affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.
Keep reading to discover the best UK city breaks! Treat yourself to an adventure or relaxing UK weekend away. I’ve got you covered on the best towns to visit, activities, and places to stay.
London has become my home and while I love it dearly, a weekend getaway from the hustle and bustle is always welcome.
Although the UK is a considerably small island, it packs a punch with amazing city break locations.
So you’ve explored all of London’s famous landmarks. It’s time to venture out and treat yourself to an adventure or relaxing UK weekend away.
I’ve got you covered on the best towns to visit, activities, and places to stay. Keep reading to discover the best UK city breaks!
UK City Break and UK Staycation Ideas
Bath: UK Staycation
Bath is famous for its breathtaking beauty and is the only UNESCO World Heritage city in the UK. From the buttery golden-coloured Georgian architecture to the sweeping country hills, Bath is postcard picturesque.
It was the home of Jane Austin and it’s easy to understand where her inspiration for romantic novels came from.
Bath is one of the best city breaks in England.
What To Do In Bath
Whether you have a weekend city break in Bath or can afforded a longer trip, there is plenty to see and do. When in Bath, do as the Romans did and start your day off at the Thermae Bath Spa.
Relax in the warm natural spring waters in several of the Hetling Pump Room’s baths. I suggest making your way to the open-air bath which can be enjoyed all times of the year, in any weather.
To get cultured, there is a long list of museums to visit in Bath. The Holburne Museum is impressive in its architecture and manicured gardens, as well as all the artistic treasures it holds.
What originally was an opulent hotel, now holds permanent and temporary exhibitions. Discover the beauty of the paintings, sculptures, and fine porcelain work.
Sotto Sotto is a must-try Italian restaurant just a few steps away from the warm baths. The bare stone walls and candlelit vaulted cellar will make your UK staycation feel like an international trip. And let’s be honest, warm pasta and risotto is a recipe for happiness.
Bath is one of the best weekend trips from London.
Where To Stay In Bath
Gray’s Boutique Hotel is a warm and welcoming bed and breakfast. It is a stunning Victorian villa with modern touches in the interior giving it a stylish and inviting edge.
How To Get To Bath
Bath is a short 1.5-hour trip from London Paddington station. You can easily book your tickets in advance.
And remember, it’s always a good idea to reserve your seats, especially if you’re travelling with friends.
Oxford: Weekend City Breaks
Oxford is one of the UK’s most famous cities. Gatsby wished he was an “Oxford man”, and it’s not difficult to understand why. The ancient university and its students give the streets a lively and energetic feeling.
While the beautiful buildings and renowned “Dreaming Spires” whisk you into the pages of a romantic novel.
What To Do In Oxford
You can tour the legendary university which was established in 1379. Learn about its fantastic history and experience the location where Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was filmed!
Oxford was home to literary geniuses such a Tolkien and CS Lewis. The city is packed with landmarks and sites dedicated to their amazing contributions to the English language.
You can visit J.R.R. Tolkien’s grave at the Wolvercote cemetery or have a drink at the Eagle and Child Pub where both authors used to frequent.
Another fun and exciting way to get a taste of the city is a river cruise. What is more relaxing than gently flowing down a river, enjoying the view of historic landmarks, with a packed lunch picnic?
Where To Stay In Oxford
If you’re planning on making Oxford a destination for your weekend getaways, then Airbnb is an excellent accommodation choice. You can find cosy, quintessential English styled apartments in the heart of the town.
The perfect location to make exploring during your mini break easy and enjoyable.
How To Get To Oxford
Trains from London to Oxford run frequently throughout the day and it takes just over an hour to reach the beautiful city.
Because the university town is so easily accessible, a day trip to Oxford is a great option for a fun weekend activity.
Cambridge: City Break Weekend
Cambridge is another famous university city that is buzzing with life and energy. Almost half of the buildings in the city centre are a part of this iconic institution.
There are 31 colleges that make up the university. Each with its own incredible buildings and history.
What To Do In Cambridge
While exploring the university make sure you don’t miss out on its incredible botanical gardens. There are 40 acres of gorgeous luscious land to discover with over 8000 plant species.
The historical greenhouses are picture-perfect where you can appreciate both desert and tropical flowers.
Cambridge is also well-known for its river punting. River punting tours take their guests along the blissfully calm river and point out the city’s landmarks and sites for you to enjoy.
Be sure to treat yourself at the Midsummer House. Elegant dining of the finest French cuisine is always a satisfying experience. Top that with being set on a riverside, Victorian-era cottage and you know you have a winner.
For more information on how the explore the city then read my quick guide to Cambridge.
How To Get To Cambridge
The trains to Cambridge from London are just 45 minutes long. They run frequently throughout the day, perfect for a London day-trip.
Where To Stay In Cambridge
For weekend getaways a night or two at the Cambridge Guest House is guaranteed to make your trip more memorable.
Lake District: Weekend Away UK
The Lake District is also known as Lakeland or the Lakes. The natural lakes, forests, and mountains are so overwhelmingly beautiful that they inspired the words of William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter.
What To Do In Lake District
To understand what these poets, writers and artists feel, why not explore any of the 16 glacial lakes and their surrounding peaks? The scenery can be enjoyed by foot, on a bicycle, by car, or by bus. I trust that you will be swooning on arrival.
The Castlerigg Stone Circle is one of the United Kingdom’s oldest stone circles thought to be erected in the Neolithic period.
The circle is off of the tourist track. The dramatic display of rocks can often be enjoyed by just one or two people.
Where To Stay In Lake District
The Crown Inn Pooley Bridge is a gorgeous place to stay. It encapsulates country living with tartan accents in the rooms, warm wood finishes and a terrace right on the river.
How To Get To Lake District
The Lake District can be reached by train from London. The journey is just over three hours long.
Liverpool: City Break Destination
The birthplace of The Beatles and the home of one of the world’s most famous football teams! For fans and non-fans alike, The Beatles Story is a must-do experience. It’s a walkthrough of an immersive Beatles museum.
And as for football, an Anfield stadium tour is where the magic happens.
Liverpool should be at the top of your list if you are looking for cheap city breaks from London
What To Do In Liverpool
But don’t let pop culture and team sports allow you to think that that’s all the city has to offer. It put itself on the map during the industrial revolution where the port town grew into a city.
The Maritime Mercantile City, Liverpool’s port, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is recognised for its history and pioneering the way for modern dock technology and port management. Visit the Merseyside Maritime Museum for an in-depth history of the city’s port.
Where To Stay In Liverpool
The Stanley Dock is home to the Titanic Hotel. This stylish and chic hotel used to be a warehouse.
Many of the original features, such exposed brick walls and vaulted ceilings, give this upmarket hotel an industrial edge.
How To Get To Liverpool
The quickest way to get to Liverpool is a 2 hour and 15-minute train from Euston station in London. Remember that buying tickets in advance means cheaper prices.
Whitstable: Underrated City Breaks
When you think of the UK’s most popular tourist destinations, Whitstable is not a name that comes to mind. However, Whitstable is perfect for a girls city break or a couples weekend away.
It is beautiful, laidback, and has food that will get you planning your next trip after just one bite.
What To Do In Whitstable
This coastal town in Kent is an incredible summer staycation idea. The annual Oyster Festival takes place during the warm month of July and is a must for seafood lovers.
If your trip is during other times of the year, grab a table at The Sportsman. You will have to book in advance for this one since their food is so good and so popular the waiting list can be long!
Whitstable has all sorts of cute and unique shops. So put on your walking shoes and mozy around for an afternoon of shopping.
Where To Stay In Whitstable
You can find amazing Airbnbs right on the beach’s edge for decent prices. Harbour Street Holiday Apartment is colourful and centrally located.
Perfect to get that artistic vibe in your accommodation that Whitstable so strongly exudes.
How To Get To Whitstable
The average time to get from London to Whitstable is roughly two hours. A tip to remember is that trains over the weekend may take a little longer.
Edinburgh: Cheap Weekend Breaks UK
The capital of Scotland and famous for kilts, castles, and its rugged charm. This city is overflowing with artistic work and happenings. The most notable of these is the Edinburgh Festival.
What To Do In Edinburgh
In the summer months, the city hosts talented performers and comedians for the people to enjoy.
Most of these shows are free and have led to many famous performers’ careers taking off.
Of course, Edinburgh Castle is a must-visit when you’re in the city. It has incredible views of Edinburgh and dominates the city’s skyline. The long and fascinating history of the castle is worth hearing about.
The stories of royalty, military, and its fortress and prison use gives it a very Game of Thrones feeling.
Taking a city break in August to Edinburgh means you have the opportunity to experience The Royal Military Tattoo Festival. Edinburgh is a great weekend trips from London by train.
For more inspiration read my guide on Cities close to London
Where To Stay In Edinburgh
Edinburgh is an affordable city and is one of the cheaper trips you can do in the UK. For just £70 a night, you can stay at The St Valery.
How To Get To Edinburgh
The journey from London to Edinburgh is a little longer than other cities but every minute spent on the train or in the air is worth it!
The train takes just over five hours. Alternatively, you can take a direct flight for a trip of 60 – 90 minutes.
Edinburgh is great if you are looking for cheap weekend breaks in England.
Cardiff: City Break In September
Cardiff is the capital of Wales and is one of the UK’s most visited cities. It is full of castles, museums, and historic buildings.
Cardiff Castle is an iconic attraction for all travellers. It has an interesting mixture of Georgian, Roman, and Victorian architecture.
What To Do In Cardiff
Cardiff is known as the City of Arcades. It gets its name from having the largest number of Edwardian, Victorian, and indoor shopping arcades.
So for those who love to shop till you drop, this city is definitely for you.
Be sure to check out the Milkwood restaurant for an incredibly memorable meal.
The restaurant sources local Welsh farm ingredients and creates an ever-changing menu.
The classic British dishes are given modern twists to create a noteworthy experience.
Where To Stay In Cardiff
The Lincoln House Private Hotel is a beautiful place to stay. The Victorian townhouse brings all of the whimsical vibes with its four-post beds draped in luxurious fabrics.
How To Get To Cardiff
Trains from London to Cardiff take two hours on average. To spare disappointment, book your tickets in advance.
The Cotswolds: Unique Staycations UK
The Cotswolds is an area in south-central, south-west England. The area is named after the Cotswold Hills.
These rolling green hills with classic honey-colour stoned houses give the little villages in this area a quintessentially English look and feel.
What To Do In The Cotswolds
There are many little villages to explore and discover. Known as the “Venice of Cotswold”, Bourton on Water is one of the most charming and idyllic villages in the area. The river Windrush flows right through the centre of town.
Other amazing picturesque villages include Burford and Cirencester. Imagine long walks in the fresh air spotting happy sheep and listening to the songs of tweeting birds.
Travellers can take a full-day tour to Cotswold from London. Alternatively, spend the weekend in the gorgeous countryside.
Where To Stay In The Cotswolds
The Lansdowne Guest House shows off all the things you may expect from this area. Buttery yellow bricks, warm cosy rooms, and stunning green lush views.
How To Get To The Cotswolds
For practical reasons, it is best to explore this area by car. The villages are sparsely located and to see and make the most of it, further distances need to be travelled.
Brighton: Summer City Break
Brighton is one of the most energetic and alive coastal cities in the UK. Unofficially known as the “gay capital of the UK”, this city is packed with personality and quirkiness.
It has artsy finesse from its diverse communities, music and arts scene, and unconventional shopping streets.
What To Do In Brighton
For the perfect summer staycation idea, stick to ocean-related activities. Make your way to Palace Pier where you’ll feel like a kid again at the amusement arcades.
Enjoy the smells and sights of the ocean while snacking on traditional fish and chips. I feel like I’m on the coast just thinking about it!
The Royal Pavilion is another must-see. Transporting your mind to India, the towers, peaks and spires give off Taj Mahal energy in the middle of the UK.
It is absolutely opulent and lavish in its design and architecture and will leave your jaw-dropped. Its also one of the most unusual sight when you think about its surrounding.
But its was my top UK city break ideas, my I was writing this guide. Plus I’ve visited Brighton a few times and love the vibe of the city.
Where To Stay In Brighton
Get into the creative spirit by staying in one of the colourful and unique rooms at the Guest And The City.
And check out the amazing THEWITCHEZ Photo Design Cafe Bar for a celebration of both food and art.
How To Get To Brighton
The easiest way to get to Brighton from London is on a train from either Victoria or St Pancras station. The train takes 1 hour 15 minutes.
Isle of Wight: The Best City Break
The Isle of Wight is the perfect beach getaway. It is known for resorts which have been a holiday destination since Victorian times.
Its mild climate and coastal scenery leave visitors feeling relaxed and refreshed in no time.
What To Do In Isle of Wight
The Cowes Week Sailing regatta is the perfect occasion to take a city break in August to the Isle of Wight.
The 7-day event has pop up bars, live music and a top-quality fireworks display. It is a lot of fun for friends, families, and couples to experience.
A novel activity for families to enjoy is the Blackgang Chine Themepark. It was built in the 1830s and is the UK’s oldest theme park.
A tour of the Osborne House will give travellers a solid cultural fix. The property was previously a royal residence of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
Where To Stay In Isle of Wight
Spend the weekend staying at One Fifty B&B and enjoy the light and spacious rooms with a scrumptious breakfast option.
How To Get To Isle of Wight
There is no direct mode of transport to the Isle of Wight. Travellers can take a train, bus, or car to the car ferry terminal. Once there the ferry can be taken to the island. For ease and convenience, I would suggest driving your own car.
York: Cheap City Break
York is most well-known for its medieval streets. It’s winding cobblestone streets, impressive Gothic architecture, and rich, interesting history has made this city very popular.
What To Do In York
Cities like York always have so much to see and do. A Hop-On Hop-Off Sightseeing Bus is often a great option to see as much as possible.
Get lost in the maze of cobbled roads known as The Shambles. The buildings date back to the 14th century and have become iconic.
The Shambles will lead you towards the Minister. The impressive Gothic-style cathedral is a beautiful sight to behold.
These are just a few of the things you can do with short breaks in York.
Where To Stay In York
The Bar Convent is a fantastic guest house in the centre of town, within walking distance from all of York’s landmarks.
How To Get To York
Trains leave frequently from London to York, averaging 30 trains a day, leaving approximately every 15 minutes. The trip is just over two hours long.
Dorset Coast: Staycation Ideas For Couples UK
Dorset is noted for its magnificent beauty! The Jurassic Coast has dramatic cliffs hanging over the sea that impassions all those who lay their eyes on them. It’s been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its fossil sites along the coast.
Visiting the Dorest Cost is one of the top UK city breaks for couples.
What To Do In Dorset
Durdle Door is one of Dorset’s most famous rock formations. It is an incredible limestone arch that ends in the ocean.
Dorset’s beaches are golden and the waters are a sparkling blue. It is a romantic destination for couples in the summer.
Dorset is on the quieter side of UK holiday destinations. The less populated spots are great for couples to enjoy each other’s company and to feel like they have had the ultimate escape.
Where To Stay In Dorset
The Duchess of Cornwall Inn is an art-filled inn with a stately atmosphere. It is scattered with artefacts and antique pieces that will keep your eyes wandering for your entire stay.
How To Get To Dorset
Dorset is a short two-hour and 11-minute train trip from London. Leaving from Waterloo station is your best option.
Manchester: City Break For One Person
“0161 manny on the map!”. Manchester is a major cultural hub and its many best-kept secrets can be discovered with the help of a local on a tour.
And while there are impressive historical and cultural landmarks to experience, it really is Manchester’s nightlife that gives this city all of its personality.
What To Do In Manchester
Famous for its stand-up comedy clubs and bars, laughing your way through your staycation is highly advised. Book a night The Comedy Store for an evening of giggles and LOLs.
Be sure to try out the One Plus Chinese Restaurant for delicious low-key dining after a night out on the town.
There is a classic ‘sushi-style’ conveyer belt as well as warm and comforting rice and noodle dishes.
Where To Stay In Manchester
The Motel One Manchester – Royal Exchange is definitely a top place to stay while you’re in the city. It has a chic interior with deep rich velvet and leather finishes.
But, it is the quirky touches, like smiley faces drawn on that breakfast buffet’s boiled eggs, that remind you that you’re in a city packed with charisma.
How To Get To Manchester
Trains from London to Manchester typically take roughly two hours. They depart from London’s Euston station and arrive in Manchester’s Piccadilly station.
Peak District: 2 Day City Break
The Peak District National Park is every hiker’s paradise. Located in central England, as the name suggests, the mountainous region is packed with cycling and running trails as well as many rock climbing spots.
What To Do In Peak District
Stanage Edge must be one of the most impressive lookout points in the area. It is the largest of the gritstone edges that looks over Hathersage.
The views of the surrounding countryside are simply breathtaking.
If you aren’t up for a challenging hike, Heights of Abraham has a cablecar for visitors to soak up the impressive views.
View the Derwent Valley from the skies and be blown away by the lush green landscape below you.
Where To Stay In Peak District
The Peacock at Barlow is a quaint bed and breakfast located in Chesterfield. The B&B has a restaurant and brewery on-site for you to enjoy.
How To Get To Peak District
The Peak District is easy to reach by train from London. The trip is just over 90 minutes from St Pancras station.
However, I would suggest driving to the peak district by car. That way you can explore a larger part of the natural landscape in the area.
Bristol: Weekend Break UK
Ah, Bristol! The land of art, music, and its iconic suspension bridge. As the home of most of Banksy’s street art, Bristol is an inspired and colourful city.
You can discover Bristol’s rich and story-filled history on a walking tour. From Blackbeard to Banksy, this tour reveals all of the secret tales of the city.
What To Do In Bristol
The Clifton Suspension Bridge is a masterpiece of engineering and design. Make sure to take a second to appreciate its ingenuity. Like almost everything in the UK, the wrought-iron bridge has a long history.
Enjoy a fantastic 1920s themed British meal at the Mugshot restaurant. The food served is as warm and comforting as its decor.
Bristol is one the easy weekend trips from London.
Where To Stay In Bristol
Number 38 Clifton is an excellent choice of accommodation. It is set in a Georgian townhouse with a contemporary interior as unique as the city it is in.
How to get To Bristol
There are plenty of trains that run between London and Bristol. On an average weekday, there are up to 90 trains that run. The journey takes just under two and a half hours.
London City Break
My home city! London! There is something about being a tourist in your own city that gives a new sense of appreciation for the place you live in.
A London staycation is not only a great way to get out of your routine but often pushes you to see and do the things you’ve been putting off.
London is all about exploration. You could have lived in the city for years and still be surprised every day by something new.
Where To Stay In London
The Holmes Hotel in Marylebone Village is one of those pleasant surprises that you can stumble upon.
A Sherlock Holmes themed hotel. The attention to detail in the decor makes this boutique hotel quirky and memorable.
Final Thoughts On The Best UK City Breaks
Life can get hectic! We all need to slow down and take time to breathe. Whether it’s rediscovering your own city or adventuring to a new one, treating yourself is always a good idea.
Falling in love with your hometown often instils newfound gratitude for all that you have around you. A staycation is the world’s best-kept secret!
And, if you do feel like trying out a new town, discovering this incredible country with fresh eyes can give you a whole new appreciation for it. This best city breaks UK guide is the ultimate way to make the most of your time off.