Thinking of going away for a few days later this year? Here are some city break destinations for the perfect UK short break.
Whether you normally travel abroad for your holidays or stay in the UK, it’s clear that 2021 is not going to be a normal year. International leisure travel may become a possibility later on in the year but for now, UK travel is your only option.
Luckily, there are plenty of exciting places to visit in the UK, whether you’re looking for full week holidays or mini breaks. UK city breaks are ideal for when you just want to get away for a night or two, or maybe for a long weekend.
So here are some ideas for the best UK city breaks in 2021:
It’s probably not going to come as a huge surprise that top of my list is my nearest city, Birmingham.
I absolutely love visiting Birmingham, and you’ll find several posts about Birmingham throughout this site. Although I live in Shropshire, I usually visit the city at least once a month and spend a weekend there a few times each year.
There’s fantastic shopping, great places for brunch, gorgeous hotels, bars and clubs, and masses of culture. You can visit exciting museums in Birmingham, explore the street art of Digbeth, and seek out independent places to eat in the Jewellery Quarter.
Birmingham sits close to the motorway network and is well served by trains, so it’s really easy to get to. What more could you ask for in a city break?
Newcastle is gaining a well-deserved reputation as a great location for a UK city break.
Its cultural quarter is home to the Biscuit Factory, which is housed in a Victorian warehouse. It’s the UK’s largest independent contemporary art, craft and design gallery, and hosts art exhibitions alongside the gallery’s craft and jewellery shop and cafe.
Or you could check out the Grade I listed Grainger Market, which has 144 shops. These cover everything from traditional food and deli stalls, to retro and vintage stores and craft sellers.
Gateshead is the metropolitan town which sits on the opposite site of the River Tyne, and there are plenty of places to go for a night out. And Antony Gormley’s iconic Angel of the North stands nearby, overlooking the A1.
You’ll certainly never be bored on a city break to Newcastle!
York is what most people would think of when they imagine a picture-postcard English city.
Lying within the medieval city walls (York has more than any other city in England), you’ll find the perfect mix of history and the modern day.
It has quirky medieval streets, including the well known Shambles where you can touch the buildings on each side with outstretched arms. Museums like the Jorvik Viking Centre and the National Railway Museum bring a touch of history, while there are modern touches from the many shops and restaurants.
You can take a tour on the river or pay a visit to York Minster, which was famously damaged by fire after a lightning strike in 1984.
With its cobbled streets, Gothic architecture, and charming tearooms, the quintessentially English city of York is perfect for your next UK city break.
Over on the other side of the Pennines, you’ll find the city of Manchester which seems to reinvent itself every few years.
As well as being a great city for shopping and for sport, Manchester is also known for its excellent music scene. And on top of this, it also has a reputation for great food and drink, with a wide range of restaurants serving every cuisine imaginable.
The Northern Quarter of Manchester is the place to go if you love shopping in quirky, independent stores. And museums and art galleries like the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), the Whitworth Gallery and the Lowry are well worth a visit.
Manchester’s indomitable spirit and character can be seen throughout the city, and it’s the ideal location for a cool UK city break.
Yes, Cardiff has a lot to see and do, and I always love visiting Wales’ capital city. But Swansea is fast becoming a hive of culture, with a thriving art and theatre community.
If you’re visiting Swansea this year, you can visit Elysium, an artist-led social enterprise which moved into its new permanent home in 2020. And it’s also worth checking out the Volcano Theatre, which runs shows throughout the summer from its home in a former supermarket.
Other highlights worth a visit include the Swansea Museum. This is the oldest museum in Wales, and its glorious neo-classical building was constructed in 1841. It houses collections which take you through the industrial, cultural and maritime history of Swansea.
And don’t forget to pay a visit to the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery which recently underwent a stunning £6-million restoration.
Maybe you’re looking for a city break by the sea? With a relaxed atmosphere, great nightlife and thriving art scene, Brighton is a must-visit city that’s perfect for a weekend away.
It only takes around 30 minutes to reach Brighton from London by train, so it’s very easy to get to from around the UK. Once you arrive, you’re sure to fall in love with this quirky city with its laid-back vibe.
Brighton is great for antique shopping and also has a fantastic foodie scene. And no city break in Brighton would be complete without a visit to the fabulous Royal Pavilion.
Brighton’s broad shingle beach is perfect for blowing away the cobwebs if you’re visiting in the cooler months, and its famous pier and amusement arcades come to life in the warmer months.
Throw in a traditional fish and chip supper and you’ve got the perfect seaside city break!
Dundee has been steadily gaining a reputation as one of Scotland’s coolest cities, and is definitely worth considering for a city break in 2020.
Dundee is Scotland’s fourth largest city and the waterfront area has undergone a major regeneration recently. One of the highlights is the new V&A museum which opened in 2018. But there are other more established attractions like the Verdant Works museum which celebrates Dundee’s rich industrial textile heritage.
The city also has a proud maritime history, and Discovery Point houses the RSS Discovery which carried Scott on his voyage to the Antarctic. But these are just some of the many things to do in Dundee, as I discovered when I visited in 2017.
Dundee is really easy to get to from Glasgow or Edinburgh, and it’s perfect for a city break in its own right, or as part of a longer visit to Scotland.
Scotland’s biggest city has also been voted the world’s friendliest, and you’ll be sure of a warm welcome if you decide on a Glasgow city break in 2021.
The city is famous for its dramatic Victorian and art nouveau architecture, and there are plenty of fascinating museums and art galleries like the Kelvingrove pictured above. Glasgow is also home to the Scottish Opera and Scottish Ballet, as well as having a thriving music scene.
If shopping is more your thing, you’ll find plenty of independent shops throughout the city, together with many fabulous places to eat and drink.
Glasgow is very easy to reach by car, train or air, and it’s an ideal destination for a UK city break.
Liverpool has a long history as an important maritime city, and is famous all over the world for its music scene and football teams.
And it has become known as a great destination for a long weekend, with plenty to see and do.
There are museums like the Merseyside Maritime Museum, Museum of Liverpool and Tate Liverpool. If you’re a fan of the Beatles, you’ll enjoy visiting the Beatles Story and of course the Cavern Club. You can plan your visit before you go by taking a virtual tour of Liverpool.
You’ll find a wide variety of excellent restaurants, bars and cafes to keep you refreshed during your visit. And of course, Liverpool city break would be complete without a trip on the Mersey Ferry.
Liverpool is also a very compact city, which makes it perfect for a 2021 UK city break.
Over the last few years, the capital city of Northern Ireland has become a popular place to visit for a city break.
If history is your thing, you’ll find lots to intrigue and interest you in Belfast. The city is well known as being the birthplace of the Titanic, and the Titanic museum dedicated to the ill-fated ocean liner is a popular attraction.
You can also visit the Ulster Museum, which is located in the Belfast Botanic Gardens. There you’ll find 8000 square metres of displays including everything from Irish history to Ancient Egypt, as well as fine art and the natural sciences.
And it’s worth fitting in a visit to Mount Stewart, the grand stately home which was voted one of the top 10 gardens in the world.
Combine all of that with the famous Irish hospitality and excellent food and drink, and you’ve got the perfect city break!
So tell me – which destination would you choose for a UK city break in 2021?