While navigating the unpredictable weather of a summer at home may not sound quite as appealing as exploring a sun-drenched city, there’s still plenty to explore.
After all, if the pandemic did anything for the travel industry, it was demonstrate how many brilliant places are located on our doorstep – from picturesque seaside towns to awe-inspiring beauty spots.
The UK is also home to plenty of exciting cities, too. And while there are some cities – such as London, Manchester, Bristol, Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff – which are recommended time and time again, there are lots of underrated cities across the UK with plenty to offer potential visitors.
So, which of these cities should you have at the top of your UK travel bucket list?
To find out more about the places worth visiting, we asked women from across the country to share their recommendations for the best underrated UK city breaks to take in summer 2022. Check out what they had to say below.
“I visited Portsmouth for a long weekend in summer 2020 and I was surprised that it felt like a real seaside holiday! We swam in the sea and it was super clear and so relaxing (even on cold days) and the pier is so lovely to wander around. It’s also really close to Brighton via train if you fancy two seaside breaks in one!”
Must-see: “A trip up the Spinnaker Tower allows for views across Portsmouth and out to the sea, where you can spot the Isle Of Wight on a clear day.”
Recommended by Alice Porter
“We spent a 3-day weekend in Hereford in June 2021 and loved how vibrant it was. There are streets devoted to independent shops and restaurants that give the city real character. Only a 10-minute drive out of the centre and you reach rolling green countryside complete with farm shops and country pubs. The cathedral is beautiful, and right now has an exhibition showing the Mappa Mundi and Chained Library. Or if you’re driving, Goodrich Castle is only 30 minutes away.”
Must-see: “The city has a number of hidden gems, especially for East Asian cuisine. Try Simply Thai Kitchen or Fujisan for authentic Thai or Japanese.”
Recommended by Alissa Burn
“Canterbury has something for everyone, whether you fancy visiting the stunning cathedral, taking a lazy trip down the canal on one of the Westgate Punts or doing some designer and boutique shopping.”
Recommended by Dee Primett
“Leeds has so much heart and soul, and that’s what I love about it. It has something for everyone, whether that’s food, culture, or music. I’ve attended some of the greatest gigs of my life in Leeds, and the music venues are my favourite aspect of the city – when it opens up again, Brudenell Social Club is an excellent spot for up-and-coming indie bands. And the pints are great, too!”
Must-see: “Definitely visit If on Call Lane for brunch. Their pulled pork sourdough is amazing!”
Recommended by Eleanor Noyce
“We were told to visit Norwich as part of a trip around Norfolk and we weren’t disappointed! It’s a lovely city with quirky independent shops and bars lining cobbled streets. As dog-owners we were really pleased with how many bars and cafes were dog-friendly. We enjoyed lunch at an indie bar called Franks, sipping their local beer and gin before strolling around The Lanes – the main shopping area in Norwich. The food market is also a must-visit with lines of street food vendors, coffee stalls and bakeries.”
Recommended by Emily Wood
“I love visiting Derry city! The people are so friendly and they definitely are known for their warm hospitality and welcoming nature. I enjoy going for a walk around the famous Derry walls, learning all about the history of the siege of Derry and taking some photographs with the iconic Guildhall in the background.”
Must-see: “Once I’ve worked up an appetite I love stopping for a spot of afternoon tea in the gorgeous Bishop’s Gate Hotel just within the city walls.”
Recommended by Eileen Donaghey
“Glasgow is one of my favourite cities, thanks to its friendly locals, amazing shopping, gorgeous architecture, plethora of buzzing bars and restaurants and vibrant arts scene (even big chain hotels like the Radisson Red have made a point of teaming up with local artists). As such, it’s beautiful all year round, and there’s always plenty to do, from wandering around the Burrell Collection and Pollok House, to partaking in a wee dram at the experiential Drygate Brewery. That being said, I’d particularly advise visiting around Christmas – if you time your visit just right, you’ll get to see over 8,000 Santas roaming the streets in Glasgow’s world-famous Santa Dash! What’s not to love?”
Must-see: “The Botany Bar and Restaurant is a must-visit. It’s right by the botanical gardens and serves up botanical cocktails in a beautiful greenhouse.”
Recommended by Kayleigh Dray
“St Davids was once the capital city of Wales despite being the smallest city in the UK. This seems odd, but once you see St Davids in all its glory, you understand why it was once the reigning place of Wales; its cathedral is vast and steeped in Celtic history and yet the town is quaint and full of Celtic charm.”
Must-see: “Make sure to try St David’s Kitchen where all ingredients used are fresh and locally sourced, including the amazing seafood. They have also started making their own gin which is infused with locally sourced, hand-picked seaweed to make an incredibly fresh tipple. You can try it at the restaurant and can even purchase a bottle of it while you’re there! If you want something sweeter, make sure you stop by Chapel Chocolates to try homemade Welsh treats. It’s tucked away in The Pebbles, just 150 metres from the cathedral.”
Recommended by Maddie Davies
“Derby is a much-underrated city. It’s easily accessible both by car and public transport, making it a perfect destination for meeting up with friends and family as restrictions ease and things start opening up. The Cathedral Quarter is full of beautiful architecture and independent shops, and at weekends the Bustler Street Food Market comes alive with the very best street food vendors, a good selection of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options and a great atmosphere from live DJs. You can also be in the most stunning scenery of the Peak District in less than an hour.”
Recommended by Molly Scott
“As well as tons of independent coffee shops and boutiques, Leicester is home to three fabulous museums – the Leicester Museum and Art Gallery, Newarke Houses, and the King Richard III Visitor Centre which is built right on top of the old car park where his body was found. They’re all packed with local history and stories so make sure you visit at least one of them on a trip to the city.”
Must-see: “My favourite thing about Leicester is Charnwood Forest, which is a huge area of beautiful woodland and parks that wraps around the city. There are hours of walks to explore in the woods, in Bradgate Park where Lady Jane Grey lived, and Beacon Hill where you can find scenic trails around craggy rocks and amazing views out over the north of the county.”
Recommended by Ruth Sedar
“From the range of independent shops on Fore Street to the beautiful cathedral and picturesque quay, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in Exeter. Its Devon location also makes it the perfect spot to try a delicious afternoon tea – the scones they serve at Eat On The Green (an adorable little café/restaurant on the edge of the Cathedral green) are some of the best I’ve tried anywhere. Plus, the beach’s being a stone’s throw away in Exmouth doesn’t hurt, either.”
Must-see: “No Guts No Glory is my favourite boutique shop in Exeter. Not only does it offer a range of houseplants and products from independent brands, but the atmosphere of the shop itself is incredibly relaxing.”
Recommended by Lauren Geall
“Stirling is the perfect place to visit if you love local history, nestled right in between Glasgow and Edinburgh. Stirling Castle has Instagram-worthy views over the surrounding landscape, The Old Town is brimming with stunning historic buildings and architecture, and the nearby Wallace Monument – a tribute to William Wallace (of Braveheart fame!) – is also worth the climb. I’d recommend a walk along to the Cup and Saucer for an alternative view of the Castle perched on its outcrop, too.”
Must-see: “I always love popping into Made In Stirling on King Street to browse its selection of beautiful locally-made prints, ceramics, and artworks – great if you want a little memento from your trip.”
Recommended by Alexis Forsyth
“I love St Albans because it’s just the right balance of urban and nature. You’ve got fantastic shops and restaurants in the town centre, and every week the traditional street market pops up where you can sample all sorts of dishes from the various food stalls. Just moments away is the beautiful greenery of Verulamium Park, where you can visit the swans on the huge lake as well as the Roman ruins.”
Must-see: “My favourite place is Cha & Nasta, a cafe that specialises in Bengali street food – their vanilla cha is divine!”
Recommended by Mariel
“Dundee is a great option for a city break this summer – not only is it only about an hour from Edinburgh by car, but you can easily arrange transport via train, bus, or even fly in if you’re heading in from farther afield. It’s a city that is absolutely filled with culture – from the V&A Dundee which celebrates great design, to the stunning McManus Galleries, which has to be one of Scotland’s grandest buildings. And most of the city can be accessed on foot, too, so it’s easy to spend a day just wandering around.”
Must-see: “One of my favourite stops in Dundee is J.A. Braithwaite Ltd – a coffee and tea shop which has been serving the city for over 150 years. When you visit you feel like you’re stepping back in time thanks to its preserved Victorian interiors.”
Recommended by Lauren Dall
This article was originally published in June 2021 and has since been updated throughout.