Already done the likes of London, Edinburgh and Manchester for a UK city break? Looking for an alternative path that’s a little less well-trodden?
Whether you’re organising a UK weekend break or planning a 2017 staycation, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve found five alternatives to your standard city break destinations – from tiny places you didn’t know existed, to huge cities you won’t want to miss this year.
So, take a look and plan a city break with a difference. But do it quick, before the rest of the world cottons on…
If you love the quirkiness of London, but fancy visiting somewhere new, try Bristolas an alternative. It’s just been voted number one in The Sunday Times Best Places to Live Guide for 2017. They called it ‘a small city that feels like a big city, handily placed for seaside and scenery, but hardly cut off from the rest of the country’. And they’re not wrong.
Bristol is small enough to visit in a weekend, but packed with so much to see that you’ll definitely want to come back. There’s Brunel’s SS Great Britain, the vast Bristol Cathedral and plenty of Sherlock filming locations to tick off. And with enclaves like upmarket Clifton and quirky Stokes Croft – not to mention the UK’s longest stretch of indie shops and some of Banksy’s finest works – it nails the big-city feel like a pro.
This little-known destination may be Scotland’s smallest city, but that’s precisely its charm. Stirlingis so often left in the shadow of its bigger city sisters that it’s comparatively peaceful. So, you won’t be battling your way through crowds or queuing for hours to tick off the sights.
And there are just enough of them to feel like you’ve properly seen the place in a weekend. Visit Stirling Castle – so big it’s likely to feature in most of your photos – and The National Wallace Monument, for a start. But save some time to wander the pretty cobbled streets and shop in the quaint Stirling Arcade, too.
With it being just over an hour’s drive from Edinburgh, Stirling also makes a great stop-off if you’re in town for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The world’s biggest arts festival runs from 4 to 28 August, and celebrates its 70th year in 2017. This would definitely be a good one to visit, then.
2017 is a mammoth year for Hull. The Yorkshire city has been named The UK City of Culture 2017, which means now is most definitely the time to visit. Expect a string of re-opened galleries – like the Ferens Gallery, for one – and more free art installations, exhibitions and special events than ever before.
Art aside, BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend comes to Hull’s Burton Constable Hall in May, bringing with it Katy Perry and Kings of Leon, not to mention thousands of festival-goers. And the city’s long-standing sights remain attractions in themselves, whatever time of year you visit. Spend an afternoon wandering through Hull’s Old Town and pay a visit to Holy Trinity Church and you’ll soon get the picture.
You may be surprised to see this one on the list, not least because it’s a town rather than a city. But we’re going to let semantics slide for the sake of one epic festival that takes place in Newquay. Ladies and gentlemen, we bring you Boardmasters, which might just be the coolest music-and-surf hybrid we’ve come across to date.
Head to Newquay’s Fistral Beach and Watergate Bay areas this August for pro surf, skate and BMX competitions as well as beach bars and loads of live music. For 2017 the line-up includes everyone from Two Door Cinema Club and Gorgon City on Friday and Saturday, to Alt-J, DJ Shadow and Armand Van Helden on Sunday.
The festival aside, Newquay is a great place to visit any time of the year if you’re looking for the ultimate laid-back destination. And less than an hour’s drive down the coast you’ve got St Ives, where the re-opening of Tate St Ives is the biggest news of 2017.
OK, so we said we weren’t going to go for the obvious ones. But you can’t talk about alternative city breaks without mentioning London – a place that’s packed with so many vastly different areas it’s like a whole bunch of cities rolled in to one.
For something different to the usual tourist attractions, try the city’s East End. Book on to an aptly-named Alternative London tour and you can see the bits that didn’t make it into the guidebook.
It’s not all urban grime and hipster cafés, though. One area that doesn’t get nearly as much attention these days, but remains a great place to visit, is the Queen Elizabeth Olympic park. Later this year it’ll host two huge athletics events: The IAAF and IPC 2017 World Championships in August, and the epic track cycling race, Six Day London, in October. Sports fans would be mad to miss them.