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Top underrated things to do in 7 UK cities

We’ve all heard of the famous sights in cities like London, Bristol and Cardiff. But there are plenty of lesser-known gems that might just become your new favourite things to do. From hidey-hole theatres to hidden-gem food markets and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it bars, we’ve picked out our favourite underrated attractions in seven of our favourite UK cities. Take a look and see if you can decide where to go first…

Sip a jar of home-made Moonshine at Billy Bootleggers, Newcastle

Newcastle’s not short of amazing music venues. But if you fancy going off the beaten track a bit, put Billy Bootleggers on your list. Billed as an Americanish dive bar, this place has only recently moved from its former basement location – so it’s still one of Newcastle’s less shouted-about gems. It’s now over in Ouseburn, and still serving up the same quirky mix of blues, open mic nights and home-made moonshine. Frozen apple pie flavour, no less.

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Eat your way around the world at Seven Dials Market, London

A couple of minutes’ walk from the famous sights of Covent Garden gets you to Seven Dials Market, an unsung gem for foodies. This huge food court is spread across two levels, and it rolls out the A-Z of places to eat. Upstairs, Cucumber Alley serves up a collection of desserts from wheelcakes to waffles, while Banana Warehouse is where you’ll find the main event. Head down the sweeping open staircase and pick up anything from a supersized slice of pizza to a pair of fluffy bao buns, then find yourself a seat at the communal tables. There’s a big bar, live music, and a real buzz. Oh, and a giant banana.

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Step into a hidden theatre at Smoke & Mirrors, Bristol

Bristol’s theatre district buzzes with big-name venues, but if you’re looking for something a bit more intimate, Smoke & Mirrors has your back. This magic-themed pub serves real ales and ciders out front, and hides a secret speakeasy-style theatre out back. Step through the curtain at the back of the pub and take a seat to watch top magicians, comedy acts and burlesque shows. There’s something on six nights a week, but it’s worth booking ahead – there are only 40-odd seats, after all.

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Go star-gazing at the National Space Centre, Leicester

OK, so Leicester’s National Space Centre isn’t exactly a hidden gem – it’s one of the top things to do in the city. But it’s often mistaken as a great day out for kids and families, when it’s actually got lots to offer adults, too. There’s a long list of special events like Space Lates, for example, which runs once a month. It’s a series of late-night talks with guest speakers and hands-on workshops, plus a chance to explore the galleries after-hours and go star-gazing in the planetarium minus the crowds.

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Sip a drink at The Lost Caves, Nottingham

While there’s plenty to do above-ground in Nottingham, it’s also worth venturing underground. The city is home to the UK's largest network of caves, with more than 800 hidden beneath the streets. You can explore the biggest section accessible to the public at The City of Caves, which you can get to from the bottom of the steps at the back of Nottingham Contemporary. It’s also worth putting The Lost Caves bar on your radar if you fancy a drink with a difference. Hidden in a grotto deep beneath the Mercure Nottingham City Centre George Hotel, this bar-in-a-cave is notoriously hard to find.

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Hunt for bargains at Jacobs Antiques, Cardiff

Step away from Cardiff’s high street shops and you’ll find an altogether different form of retail therapy at Jacobs Antiques, not far from Cardiff Central Station. This indie indoor market is a treasure trove of vintage finds including clothes, collectibles and bric a brac spread over three glorious floors. Factor in a café and an art gallery and you can easily spend a day mooching without breaking the budget. Don’t miss the rooftop garden, which has some of the best city views around.

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Watch a puppet show at Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre, Glasgow

When it comes to theatres, Glasgow lines up plenty of biggies including the King’s Theatre, Pavilion Theatre and Theatre Royal to name just a few. But for every headline venue there’s a smaller, lesser-known gem – and Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre is definitely one of those. Part museum, part theatre, this quirky venue on Trongate is the brainchild of a sculptor-mechanic and theatre director. As a result it’s full of moving sculptures made from all sorts of everyday bits and bobs. You can see them on display before watching them in action, and it’s guaranteed to be the most weird and wonderful puppet show you’ll ever see.

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