The best cities to visit in the UK for fans of history and beautiful architecture

Perfect for a cheeky getaway!
  • We earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article.

  • When it comes to the best of British destinations, look no further than these historic city hotspots for your next trip.

    Here’s why these stunning and ancient UK cities are the perfect choice for a weekend away…

    Best cities to visit in UK

    If you like culture, history, beautiful architecure and meandering cobbled streets then try one of these historic cities for your next minibreak.

    Winchester

    Nestled on the edge of the picturesque South Downs National Park and known for its beautiful medieval cathedral, as well as it’s 17th century Morley Library, the historic city of Winchester has long been linked to Arthurian legend. Though this legendary king is not the only monarch whose presence is felt in this ancient city. Visitors can trace the footsteps of King Alfred the Great, the first king to bring together the disparate Saxon kingdoms as a unified England.

    You can walk from Alfred’s statue in the Broadway to his last known resting place beneath Hyde Abbey Garden. This walk is divided into three loops, allowing for walkers of all abilities to choose the path that works best for them. 2020 also marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of celebrated naturalist Gilbert White.

    A full programme of exhibitions and events celebrating his research will be happening throughout the year. You can see the upcoming events here.

    Canterbury

    Designated a World Heritage Site for its historical significance and ancient buildings, this southeastern city is the perfect blend of stunning architecture and modern convenience. Explore the city’s majestic Cathedral – once a site of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages, and the site of the assassination of Thomas Becket.

    This stunning landmark, incorporating Gothic as well as Romanesque design, and the events connecting this event also acted as the frame for Geoffrey Chaucer’s legendary The Canterbury Tales.

    The Roman-built wall is a wonderful reflection of the city’s rich history, as are the ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey and Canterbury Castle – one of the three original Royal castles of Kent, built not long after the Norman Conquest. For those interested in the cities’ more modern additions, the Marlowe Theatre, named for writer and contemporary of Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, is well worth a visit.

    Edinburgh

    Scotland’s capital is one of the foremost historic cities in the UK, with the spectacular walls and turrets of Edinburgh Castle overlooking the modern city nestled below. With castle tours available daily, you can also walk the sloping cobbled streets and King’s Mile with its range of independent shops, offering everything from tartan scarves to authentic Scottish whisky.

    Keep an eye out for the statue of Greyfriars Bobby, commemorating the Skye Terrier who is remembered for allegedly spending the rest of his life loyally waiting by his beloved master John Gray’s grave when the nightwatchman passed away in 19th century.

    And for those who fancy more than a light stretch of the legs, why not venture into Holyrood Park and climb to the summit of Arthur’s Seat. Here you can take in the amazing views of the Medieval Old Town and Georgian New Town alike.

    Durham

    The stunning skyline of Durham features not one, but two historic landmarks in the form of Durham Castle and the cathedral, which both date back to the Norman Conquest. The Durham Castle Museum provides daily tours that really get to the heart of the history and recreate the past in fascinating detail. The city’s historic streets also lead past the medieval Crook Hall and its impressive gardens, perfect as the spring flowers begin to come into bloom.

    And why not take a scenic walk along the banks of the River Wear and check out a few of the boutiques and craft shops near the cathedral?

    The Victorian Durham Market Hall also offers the opportunity for visitors to discover many independent traders as well. Plus, whether you want to go all out, or relax in a cosy pub or café, there are delicious culinary options a plenty in this historic city.

    Bath

    Boasting the world-famous Roman Baths, this historic city is the perfect weekend getaway for visitors hoping to soak up Bath’s unique heritage in more ways than one. Visitors can pay a visit to the Thermae Bath Spa and bathe in the UK’s only natural thermal waters, as well as taking in the impressive panoramic views from the rooftop pool.

    The Holburne Museum and 18th century Prior Park Landscape Gardens, created by Capability Brown himself, are all within easy walking distance of the city centre. Bath also plays host to over 150 award-winning restaurants and gastro pubs, utilising the very best in local ingredients.

    And for those who fancy bringing back a unique gift to commemorate their weekend away, ensure you allow some time to take full advantage of the boutiques, independent and high street shops on the bustling cobbled highstreet.

    York

    A walk round York’s impressive city walls is a journey back in time and a must-do experience for any visitor. From the broad ramparts, there’s a unique perspective on the soaring towers of York Minister, the tranquil river Ouse, and the jumble of ancient houses and streets. The first defensive walls were built to encircle the Roman town of Jorvik, with stone ramparts appearing in the 3rd Century.

    The stonework has been repaired and enhanced many times over the years. Though by Georgian times the walls were in a poor state of repair. Today three substantial sections of wall totalling 3.4km curve round the city centre and feature 45 towers and five main gateways. Last lowered in 1953 to celebrate the Queen’s coronation, the portcullis is still in place on Monk Bar.

    And look out for St George’s Churchyard, the last resting place of Dick Turpin, who was executed in 1739. Access to the walls is free, but why not take one of the daily guided tours with York Walk?

    Did we miss a historic city you love in our guide to the best cities to visit in UK? Let us know on Facebook or email.

    Latest Stories

    NAV BUG FIX