The Coolest Cities to Visit in the UK (Excluding London)

Let’s face it, not all of us can afford London’s obscene Bond Street, Chelsea mansions and Ivy cuisine. Some might even say that London is an overrated travel destination. However, who doesn’t love to spend a weekend in the city? Especially if you live further North. This is a short list of some of the coolest cities in the UK to visit that exude that “London feeling” without requiring you to travel vast distances. 

 

Manchester

 

First up, for a vibey, student-inspired kaleidoscope of a weekend, you’ll head to Manchester.

 

Manchester caters towards a youthful, college lifestyle. It boasts libraries, parks, clubs and super trendy brunch spots. You could easily spend a weekend and a few additional days in this buzzing city. Manchester is also highly walkable so you won’t be traveling miles to see the entire city. 

 

Manchester’s foodie scene is quite the assortment, featuring its very own Chinatown, Mexican street, Turkish delicacies such as baklava and freshly prepared Greek gyros just to name a few.

 

Cambridge 

 

London’s residential areas are often associated with old money and generational wealth. For example, areas like Chelsea, Golders Green and Kensington. For that “old money aesthetic” on a budget, you’ll head to Cambridge. You’ll spend your weekend surrounded by literature. You’ll get lost within the rivers as you punt your way through them in true British style. You’ll marvel at the intricacy of the Fitzwilliam Museum that will leave you feeling as though you’ve entered Buckingham Palace itself. 

 

Cambridge has this wonderful, sophisticated, feel about it that makes you feel as though you were a Duke or Duchess in a past life. 

 

Spend your afternoon at Betty’s, and opt to stay in quaint cottages for the nights you’re there.

 

York 

 

A Harry Potter fan’s dream location if there ever was one. London may have platform 9 and ¾ but York features the best of Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade and the Forbidden Forest.

 

York’s streets are filled with aromas, apothecaries, astronomy, art and mesmerizing crafts. The alleys encourage you to get lost in the best way possible as you wind your way through York’s city towards the Minster.

 

Additionally, York has an array of cultural restaurants that rival that of Dumbledore’s feasts at Hogwarts

 

Finally, take a trip around York’s ancient city walls to feel as though you’re on the edge of entering Harry Potter’s forbidden forest. 

 

Leeds 

 

A bit of this , a bit of that, accepting of all, Leeds embraces everyone and everything. From theater to art to sport and recreation, you’re bound to find something for everyone to enjoy. Its pub culture is some of the best across the UK and its  shopping scene gives London’s Harrods a run for its money.

 

Whether you’re a fan of the theater or not, heading to the Grand Theatre and Opera House in Leeds is a must. The theater retains its medieval, red and gold charm with velvet seats and sprawling levels or carved wood.

 

For a delectable, three course, affordable dining option that blends Mediterranean with Asian fusion, make your way towards Shears Yard.

 

If you’re a history fanatic or are interested in armory, the Royal Armouries Museum will definitely be a hit (literally).

 

Liverpool  

 

There’s a reason why The Beatles decided to call Liverpool their home while they recorded their albums…

 

Liverpool’s blend of street life, cosmopolitan restaurants and high street filled with vintage finds, colored denim and the latest fashion will leave you feeling as though you’ve spent the day at Portobello Market in London.

 

Aside from its shopping scene, Liverpool has a beautiful park (Saint James Mount and Gardens) where the locals spend their weekends. They also take time during their work day to rejuvenate in the gardens of lush greenery. Take a picnic and enjoy this tranquil oasis in the city.

 

The next time you think about traipsing into London if you live further North, consider giving these cities a visit instead. There’s nothing like a city break to keep the soul invigorated and young at heart. Which one will you be traveling to first?

Jessica Bayley

Jessica Bayley is an international author and journalist based in South Africa. She writes on international affairs, travel and is also the author of "The Ladies of Belgium"