Visit England’s great cities
Inspiration for wonderful places to explore beyond London
All images courtesy of VisitEngland and/or partner destinations
If you think a city break means flights, passports and a dash to the bank for foreign currency, think again. England’s cities are rich in culture and great for shopping, and each has its own unique charms. Hop on the train and escape for a romantic weekend in a city set in stunning countryside, soothe your stresses on a pampering break, or taste the best in regional cooking.
Get inspired: short hop
Internationally renowned ceramics houses still make The Potteries, as the city is known, their home. Wedgwood, Portmeirion, Burleigh and Moorcroft all produce their work by the Trent & Mersey Canal, and new designers are ensuring that Stoke-on-Trent remains the place to discover great design and indulge in some serious retail therapy. Perhaps the best-known newcomer (she’s only been here since 1985) is Emma Bridgewater; the local’s designs are sold around the world. A visit to her factory promises the chance to decorate a mug or plate (with expert guidance) to take home – plus there’s a pretty garden to wander in and a cosy kitchen café.
- From London: 1 hr 24 mins by train; 160 miles by car
- Staffordshire, West Midlands
The UK’s only island city, Portsmouth is always about the water. It has been England’s main naval base for centuries, and a magnet for the chic and wealthy attracted by the naval prestige and glamour. Henry VIII saw his warship the Mary Rose sunk in battle in the Solent – raised from the sea 450 years later, it can now be seen on the quayside, along with Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory, at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Get a sense of history and see the spot onboard where Nelson died, explore the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and D-Day museums, then fast-forward to the present with a trip to the top of the stunning Spinnaker Tower, a harbourside icon of today’s city.
- From London: 1 hr 32 mins by train; 76 miles by car
- Hampshire, South East England
Athens has its Parthenon and Lincoln has its cathedral. One of the finest Gothic buildings in Europe, its three towers dominate the skyline from its hilltop perch above the city. Lincoln is a place to lose yourself in – climb the cathedral’s tallest tower for thrilling city views, explore the Cathedral Quarter’s medieval cobbled streets lined with boutiques and places to eat, and follow Steep Hill down to the heart of the modern city. The bars and restaurants at Brayford Waterfront on the River Witham make a fine end to your tour through the ages – a buzzing modern spot built on the city’s original Iron Age settlement. A trip through time with plenty of great food, art and entertainment along the way.
- From London: 1 hr 50 mins by train; 211 miles by car
- Lincolnshire, East Midlands
All the way up
Hollywood and West Yorkshire may seem like unlikely cultural bedfellows, but Bradford was named the first Unesco City of Film for good reason. Bradford has played a role in the UK film industry since its inception, when Richard Appleton filmed Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 and showed it in the city the next day on his patented Cieroscope projector. Later, Bradford was a recurring location for the dramas of the 1950s and ’60s. But you don’t have to be a devoted cinephile to enjoy the National Media Museum, whose eight floors take in not just feature films but video games and animation and contain three cinemas, including a massive IMAX screen.
- From London: 2 hrs 5 mins by train; 142 miles by car
- West Yorkshire, Yorkshire and the Humber
Discover more great things to do in London
Visit England's great cities
Glorious beaches, Robin Hood, UK City of Culture and contemporary arts
A magnificent castle, lively café culture, Scandi history and a thriving music scene
The Potteries, an island city, medieval cobbled streets and the Unesco City of Film
A peek into Bronze Age life, a feast of shopping, cultural treasures and groundbreaking theatre
Visit England's great countryside
Discover battle relics, giant horses, Robin Hood and more
Woodland, magical waterlands, historic spa towns, fine views and rugged clifftops
Perfect beaches, literary history, pretty market towns and rolling hills