/ Travel & Leisure

What are the best UK cities for short breaks?

Are you making plans for this or the next bank holiday weekend? One of the UK town or cities voted best in our Which? Travel survey might be worth investigating…

We asked readers to rate the food, accommodation and sights at destinations across the nation, and, drumroll please: your favourite city, as voted in our most recent survey was… Edinburgh, garnering an overall city score of 91%.

Edinburgh vs Glasgow

Perhaps this is controversial, but I’m a little surprised that it beat Glasgow (which trailed its Scottish rival with a score of 82%). Yes, Edinburgh is charming, but it’s also expensive and it’s very, well, English.

While Edinburgh may host the world’s largest arts festival (the Edinburgh Fringe) in August each year, something Glasgow can’t quite rival (Glasgow has its own Southside Fringe in May), outside of that heady, theatrical season, Glasgow has a year-round buzz that Edinburgh just can’t seem to muster.

Glasgow has a vibrant foodie scene (try any number of great restaurants and bars on Argyle Street in Finnieston); its own share of beautiful buildings: Royal Exchange Square, Kelvingrove Art Gallery or the stunning Harry Potter-esque Glasgow University; and an underground train network to rival London’s. So Glasgow, for me, is the clear winner.

Oxford vs Cambridge

Another surprising outcome for me was the battle of two university cities: Oxford and Cambridge. Oxford garnered a city score of 84%, making it best medium UK city in our survey, while Cambridge floundered (comparably) a few oar lengths behind with a score of 78%. Perhaps more Which? members are Oxford alumni?

Admittedly, Cambridge’s city centre is a little less compact, but it more than makes up for it with gorgeous green spaces. Plus, there’s the tranquil pleasure of punting (or being punted!) down the Cam past Clare College and Trinity College, and under the Bridge of Sighs, before having a well-earned riverside drink at The Anchor pub.

Best small city

If size matters to you (and by that I mean if small’s what you’re looking for in a city break), then plump for the city voted best in our small category: Wells.

England’s smallest city is very walkable, with a historic core that’s hardly a mile wide and full of treasures such as England’s first Gothic cathedral or one of Britain’s only intact residential medieval streets.

But there’s a whole host of cities to check out (51 in total), so to plan your next weekend break see the full results of our survey.

If you’re wondering where your favourite city or town is and why you didn’t get to vote, it’s because you aren’t on our reader panel. Have your say in next year’s survey, as well as voting in our world and European city surveys, by signing up here.

Do you agree with the survey results? Is Edinburgh too ‘English’ for you? And where’s the better punting had: Oxford or Cambridge?


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Doesn’t it still have Celtic and Rangers to maintain its “character”? Do Hearts and Hibs provide similar entertainment? I’ve often thought how sport is such a nice way to bring people together, particular the kicking variety. 🙂

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I prefer the countryside to cities for many reasons, one because I prefer peace and quiet. For me, cities are best visited in the winter months.

Me too.

As Duncan said, York should be on the list and Chester also. That’s got the best city walls covered then.

Punting on the Cam was OK when I was there as a student – I never tried it any of my visits to the other place, so I can’t really comment on that comparison.

That said, I think you’d want more than just the availability of punt hire before choosing a city break destination. I note also that punt hire is also popular at Stratford-upon-Avon.

Of course, for those of us who aren’t already London based, London can be a great city break destination.

I am an enthusiast of park & ride schemes and York is well served, with six starting points. Can anyone recommend any other cities that have good park & ride services?

I think Oxford also qualifies there…


Thanks Sam. Cities would be nicer places without the streets being packed with cars and the air quality suffers because of them. I am an asthmatic and in the days before low sulphur petrol and diesel my visits were short. Everyone is affected by nitrogen oxide pollution and much of that comes from vehicles.

I think the answer is to move towards allowing only electric cars in London and anywhere that suffers from very poor air quality. As you say, there are other factors, including burning solid fuel and gas central heating.

Cities for me are noisy polluted and smelly places for foreign visitors or places to go for essential appointments as a last resort.

I can tolerate a small country town on occasion but parking there is often difficult and expensive so I don’t visit them very often. I am fortunate in living in a beautiful country village with access to river walks and most essential amenities.

I was born and raised on the outskirts of a big city and still recall memories as a small child of gazing out through a window, dreaming and wishing I could escape from there to greener pastures, which I now finally enjoy after a life of much travelling from pillar to post with 4 small children in tow.

When I was young I lived in a small village and it was a short walk to the golf course and a little forward to reach the beach. I have a small bag of the sand. Nowadays, sandy beaches are full of people – like cities and towns.

Until recently I lived close to a river and regularly walked the banks, deserted apart from the odd jogger and dog walker. My insurance company has rewarded me with a significant reduction in premium because I’m no longer in a flood risk area. I miss my evening walks. 🙁

I am a few miles from a small town that is quite popular with tourists but is not overrun with cars and there is free parking for three hours not far from the centre. There is now a cycle path into town but cyclists and motorists frequently need to give way to cows that have no road sense at all. I am not missing living five miles from a city centre and nowhere safe to cycle.

Don’t go either to Edinburgh or to Glasgow, visit both, because they are so different from each other.

There’s a twelve mile walk that cuts across Edinburgh along the Water of Leith that’s well worth a shot, for those in search of a different city break experience.

I sometimes visit cities for a particular purpose, often to meet up with friends. I was planning to visit a museum in Edinburgh to see an 1806 fire pump that I used to play with when I was young. It’s actually small but as a kid it seemed huge. I like visiting museums when they are quiet and staff have the time to discuss the exhibits. I’ve only been to Glasgow a couple of times in my life but look forward to exploring the city.

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It did when I tried it, duncan.

A lot has changed since a friend from Ayrshire gave me a one day tour of Glasgow, Duncan. I remember we visited the art gallery but did not have time to look at museums. There is so much to see. My souvenir is a temporary membership of the Mitchell Library, which I visited to check my email. I have a friend who lives in Glasgow who used to post on Convo, and he might take me round the city some time.

My very first day trip to London at about 12 years of age with my parents and two younger siblings was supposed to be a treat, but we somehow managed to become separated after boarding a tube train when my father suddenly decided we were on the wrong train and he ending up on the platform with the doors closing behind him, leaving the rest of us moving off to lord knows where and myself having to pacify my mother who was close to hysterics, much to the amusement of accompanying passengers 🙂