Nobody would dispute that London has a great deal going for it. It’s a bustling metropolis filled with renowned landmarks, cultural offerings and countless trendy bars. Plus they even have night tubes now as well (but since 2008 drinking on the tube is now forbidden… spoil sports). There’s far more to the UK than just London though, and you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to cities to visit in 2017. Here are 10 cities that are but a short train ride from London.

Manchester

How to get there: 2h 10m train from London

Bucket List Must Dos:

  • Grab coffee and cake in Home Sweet Home
  • Go for a stroll along the Ancoats canal
  • Take a peek inside the stunning John Rylands Library
  • Sample some beers in Port Street Beer House
  • Try some delicious street food at GRUB food market
  • Play ping pong while you drink at Twenty Twenty Two
  • Take in an independent film in the wonderful HOME

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One of the North’s many vibrant and steadfastly independent cities, Manchester boasts a proud cultural heritage that it’s happy to share with all comers. A friendly and welcoming city, there’s something to enjoy regardless of what you are looking for from your visit. The city has museums such as the renowned Museum of Science and Industry, the Imperial War Museum North and of course the National Football Museum which is a must-visit for any fan of the beautiful game.

It also has countless gig venues great and small dotted about its city centre, the Palace Theatre and Opera House which regularly attracts the biggest West End shows, as well as every kind of eatery you can think of. When it comes to a night out on the town, the ever-expanding Northern Quarter is a particularly popular destination housing a maze of bars and club nights waiting to be discovered.

Liverpool

How to get there: 2h 15m train from London.

Bucket List Must Dos:

  • Grab a cup of tea and cake on the rooftop of Me Oh My
  • Head up The Anglican church for great views of the city
  • Eat international cuisine on Bold Street (we recommend Maray – book in advance!)
  • Get coffee in ‘The Titanic’ hotel looking out over Stanley Dock
  • Grab a pint at The Cavern, where The Beatles used to play.

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A great Northern rivalry plays out between Manchester and Liverpool, like two step-brothers forever locked in a battle for cool-points supremacy. Much like its rival, Liverpool is a city proud of its identity and proud of its cultural impact. There’s an almost overwhelming amount of museum choice in Liverpool and while the likes of the Museum of Liverpool, the Maritime Museum, Tate Liverpool and World Museum are well worth a visit, it wouldn’t really be a trip to Liverpool without taking in The Beatles Story while you’re there.

For dining and drinking, one of the most popular locations is the bustling Albert Dock; the former docklands were regenerated in the 1980s and have become a hit popular tourist destination ever since.

Durham

How to get there: 2hr 55m train from London

Bucket List Must Dos:

  • Take a walk through Crook Hall’s glorious gardens
  • Order a drink and take a trip back to the Victorian era at the Victoria Inn
  • Pay a visit to Dark Matter Café for all your comic book and gaming needs
  • Settle in to the Shakespeare Inn’s snug for a relaxing pint

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One of the UK’s most striking cities, Durham may not be as raucous as some of its Northern contemporaries, but it’s blessed with an abundance of eye-catching buildings. One of its most iconic locations is the grand Cathedral, which sits at the city’s centre and resides atop of the River Wear. If you’re arriving by train you are gifted with a jaw-dropping view of this upon arrival in the city. The cathedral and the castle in particular both make for fascinating visits.

If you get chance, a riverside walk is also a great way to see the city’s sites, or alternatively you can take one of the popular riverboat cruises. By night, stroll along the cobbled streets and find a wide array of quintessentially British pubs like the Market Tavern and Fighting Cocks, or if you prefer something a little different, there’s the self-explanatorily named Whisky River.

Bath

How to get there: 1hr 30m train from London

Bucket List Must Dos:

  • Check out a movie and sup a hot chocolate at The Little Theatre
  • Sample some cake (vegan if you like) at Mokoko coffee shop
  • Enjoy the views during a stroll around Alexandra Park
  • Try out some exotic booze at The Canary Gin Bar
  • Grab a bite to eat in the historic Sally Lunn’s eating house

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Much like Durham, Bath offers a great chance to witness classic architecture and buildings, as well as plenty of livelier options if required. The city is renowned for its grand Georgian terraces such as the Royal Crescent, and everywhere you turn it’s steeped in history.

There are the legendary Roman baths, the medieval era Abbey and the ever-popular Jane Austen centre. The beloved author resided in the city for several years and the Jane Austen Centre will be a must-visit for any literary buffs. In May and June the city also has its own fringe festival with over 200 events showcased from across the world, from theatre and comedy to circus artists and kids workshops. A perfect excuse to hop on a train and stay for a couple of nights.

York

How to get there: 1hr 55m train from London

Bucket List Must Dos:

  • Enjoy a cocktail in the quirky surroundings of Evil Eye
  • Listen to some jazz in Rook and Gaskill
  • Take a break in Betty’s Tea Rooms
  • Sample the best tipples in town on a Beer Tasting Tour
  • Discover the scrumptious joys of York’s Chocolate Story

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York is a history buff’s dream come true. Its fourteenth century walls make for a unique walking opportunity and its cathedral, York Minster, is the largest gothic building in the UK. The city itself is lined with an array of quaint cobbled streets that ooze olde English charm. Perhaps the most famous of these is another fourteenth century attraction known as The Shambles which is a striking little street filled with shops and restaurants and lined with overhanging timber-framed buildings on either side.

The National Railway Museum is also a much loved local attraction, but we totally understand if that isn’t quite your thing; fret not as the city is also filled with wonderful old pubs and inns like the Roman Bath and the Blue Bell, which more than cater for your boozing needs.

Edinburgh

How to get there: 4hr 21m train from London

Bucket List Must Dos:

  • Access the hidden speakeasy in Panda & Sons for a special cocktail
  • See some comedy at The Stand comedy club
  • Take a wander through the 18th Century vaults under the South Bridge arches
  • Watch a film from a sofa in the Dominion Cinema
  • Explore the caves of Gilmerton Cove
  • Check out the unique contents of the Surgeons’ Hall Museums

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Scotland’s capital has long been known as a beautiful and lively city to visit and whatever the weather it’s one of those places that never disappoints. There are plenty of local landmarks to soak up, from the ancient castle that dominates the city’s skyline, to the National Museum of Scotland and the stunning views from Arthur’s Seat, the main peak in the mountains that tower over the city.

2017 also marks the 70th anniversary of the Edinburgh International Festival and as a result the 12 major festivals that take place in the city will be coming together for a celebratory year. Expect even more music, film, art, theatre and comedy than ever before.

Cardiff

How to get there: 2hr train from London

Bucket List Must Dos:

  • Dine in a converted chapel courtesy of Chapel 1877
  • Check out a band at Gwdihw
  • Enjoy award winning food at Bully’s restaurant
  • Take in the Doctor Who experience at Cardiff Bay
  • Enjoy a bike ride out to Castell Coch

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From one Celtic capital to another, Wales’ capital Cardiff shares a great deal in common with its Scottish brethren, offering an impressive castle, a rich cultural history and also a thriving nightlife. One area that deserves investigating is the rejuvenated Cardiff Bay waterfront development. The Bay is filled with shops restaurants and attractions.

The city is also blessed with some beautiful green areas including Bute Park, a riverside garden perfect for a relaxing walk. The city comes alive at night time though, and you’ll really be spoiled for choice for places to drink with the likes of St Mary Street and Greyfriars Road always proving incredibly popular, as well as the Castle Quarter which is home to a variety of bars to suit any taste.

Brighton

How to get there: 1hr train from London

Bucket List Must Dos:

  • Sample the local Fish and Chips on the beach
  • Pay a visit to the Duke of York’s cinema and perhaps one of its popular all-night marathons
  • Check out some live comedy at the Komedia
  • Try one of the many burgers on offer at Grubbs burger bar
  • Go on a ghost hunt at the Old Police Cells Museum
  • Enjoy afternoon tea at the eccentric Tea Cosy

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Brighton feels like a particularly unique city experience as it possesses both the fun and frivolity of a classic English seaside town and also the nightlife of a vibrant and energetic city. By day you can unwind on the pristine pebble beach, eat fish and chips on the pier and enjoy some of the gloriously tacky beachside attractions.

By night meanwhile, the livelier side of Brighton’s personality comes to the fore and it is a city awash with comedy, theatre, live music and drinking establishments. If you can visit the city between the 5th May and 4th June 2017, you’ll get to experience the city’s beloved Fringe Festival, the largest arts festival in England.

Cambridge

How to get there: 50m train from London

Bucket List Must Dos:

  • Devour some Chelsea Buns at Fitzbillie’s
  • Go punting on the River Cam – pick up strawberries & Prosecco before you go!
  • Visit a college (or three) and delight at the architecture of the student digs
  • Grab a pot of tea and a ginormous scone at The Orchard
  • Go for a walk at Grantchester meadows and then nosy round the village’s quirky streets

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Cambridge is another beautiful riverside city blessed with a rich cultural heritage. Cambridge University’s assorted colleges are all filled with stunning buildings ranging from the gothic King’s College Chapel to Trinity College’s historic Wren Library where you can find the original A. A. Milne’s manuscript of Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner (admission is free but opening times and numbers are limited).

As a renowned university town there’s a vibrant bar scene to enjoy, and in the summer especially the River Cam is the perfect spot to stroll along and enjoy a few drinks. You can also complete the full Cambridge experience by taking in a spot of punting on the river. Combine with aforementioned drinking at your own risk. If you’re a music fan, the renowned Cambridge Folk Festival runs every year in July and boasts an impressive array of artists.

Oxford

How to get there: 1hr train from London

Bucket List Must Dos:

  • Enjoy a burger in the Sci-Fi surroundings of Atomic Burger
  • Take a stroll around Port Meadow
  • Check out Oxford’s first board game café Thirsty Meeples
  • Pick out some vintage clothing from the racks of Unicorn
  • Slurp a milkshake from Moo-Moos in the covered market

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Much like its university rival Cambridge, Oxford is filled with gorgeous buildings, a river prime for punting and maintains a wonderful balance between the quaint and the modern. Of the many university buildings, Christ Church College is one well worth a visit; its impressive architecture has been used in Harry Potter movies, The Golden Compass adaptation, and Brideshead Revisited.

Other highlights that deserve to be included on any tour include the stunning Bodleian Library, the Pitt Rivers Museum with its large archaeological and anthropological collections and the extensive Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archelogy. The City itself is filled with cobbled streets and stone walls, independent cafes and old English pubs. Literary fans may want to check out The Eagle and Child pub, a welcoming little hostelry that CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien both used to frequent.

Pin for later:

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So… which awesome UK city will you be visiting next?
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Written by Rob Keeling. Rob is a freelance writer based in Manchester. He writes about movies, TV and beyond for a variety of publications. Find him on Twitter @R_Keeling.


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