Travel

4 Of The Coolest Cities To Visit In The U.K

By Morgan Reardon
28th Mar 2022

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No matter the season, it’s always a good time to plan a vacay in the U.K. In the summer, there’s music festivals aplenty, beer gardens overflowing with good vibes and don’t even get us started on the postcard perfect villages awash with greenery. Come in winter and there’s Christmas markets, cosy fireplaces and making like you’re in a Harry Potter flick—it’s seriously dreamy.

With international travel finally back on the agenda for us travel-starved jetsetters, we’ve teamed up with Qatar Airways to curate the ultimate travel itineraries so you can spend less time planning what to do and more time living the good life on holidays. 

Take note, these are four of the coolest cities you need to visit in the U.K

London

Let’s kick it off with one of the world’s most dynamic cities, London. The bustling metropolis is a cultural mash up of achingly cool neighbourhoods, famous food markets, incredible museums and a vibing bar scene. Start your visit off with an eating tour of Borough Market. The aromas alone will alert you to its location next to London Bridge with stalls slinging everything from fresh oysters and flaky pastries to pulled pork rolls and dumplings. Padella—an Italian restaurant perched on the edge of the market—is a total institution. You can’t book, so line up early to secure a plate of their Cacio e Pepe. Just a 15 minute stroll away you’ll find the lesser known, but equally amazing Maltby Street Market. Filled with gin bars, food trucks and stalls under an old railway line in Bermondsey, you can gorge on street food from Venezuela, Ethiopia, Mexico and Spain. In the PM head to Dinerama in Shoreditch where an old car yard has been transformed into a neon, food-filled oasis with live music.  

London is also home to an incredible array of art and museums. You simply have to tick off a visit to the Tate Modern, the V&A and the Natural History Museum during your stay. Despite being a capital city, it’s also home to loads of greenery. Get lost in the magical Kew Gardens, the Barbican Conservatory and Richmond Park (where you can spot baby deer). And top it all off with a boozy picnic atop Primrose Hill for beautiful views of the city skyline. Finally, you simply must check out some of London’s best and most quirky bars. We love Frank’s Cafe (a rooftop bar on a multi-storey car park in Peckman);  Ladies & Gentlemen (a cocktail bar housed in a disused underground public bathroom) and TT Liquor, a ​​ bottle shop and bar set inside a former police station in Shoreditch. If after reading this London is well and truly calling, you can select from a wealth of direct flights with Qatar Airways via Doha, flying into both Heathrow and Gatwick airports.

Manchester 

One Qatar Airways flight away (with a stopover in Doha) and you'll find yourself in a city rich with music, architectural history, epic nightlife and a thriving independent art scene— Manchester. First things first, make tracks to Manchester’s coolest neighbourhood, Ancoats. The area itself dates back to 1212 and is filled with charming red brick cottages, canals and arguably the city’s best food scene. At one point the area was known as Little Italy, and the cuisine is honoured all these years later with incredible spots like Rudy’s Neapolitan Pizza and Sugo Pasta Kitchen—pro tip: order the orecchiette with smoky peppers and stracciatella. And you simply must book a table at Mana, Manchester’s first Michelin-starred restaurant since 1977. While you’re wandering the streets of this cool hood, check out the vibrant artwork covering the laneways—including Cutting Room Square where you’ll find giant photos by artist Dan Dubowitz showing the area’s unique past. 

Another thing this city absolutely aces? Craft beer. Get your fix at Piccadilly Tap, Port Street Beer House, Seven Bro7ther’s Beerhouse, and Smithfield Market Tavern. If you want to keep the good vibes flowing (you do), it would be a total waste to visit Manchester and not check out their nightlight scene. For luscious libations and tiki bar feels, head to Lola Lo. If you like a side of cabaret and fire-breathing with your cocktails, Impossible is for you. And finally,  for secret gardens and water features, there’s nothing quite like a night out at the uber cool Bijou Club

Home to many talented creatives, get your shop on at the award-winning Manchester Craft and Design Centre. Packed with over 30 independent designers, you can purchase one of a kind pieces or get creative yourself with the centre holding regular classes on everything from  watercolour painting to jewellery making. While you’re on a shopping roll, music buffs will love Manchester’s array of record stores. Our faves include: Eastern Bloc, Kingbee Records and Vinyl Exchange. 

Edinburgh 

Remember when we mentioned Harry Potter vibes aplenty in the U.K? Well, how about vacaying in the very city where the books were written? That’s right, this magical city, filled with winding roads, centuries old buildings and it’s very own castle is absolutely calling your name. Kick off your holiday with a bit of brisk exercise (trust us, it’s worth it) as you climb Arthur’s Seat. An extinct volcano that sits 251m above sea level, you’ll score gorge views of this stunning city in lush surroundings. For more greenery, be wowed at Jupiter Artland, 120 acres of dreamy woodland set on the grounds of 19th century Bonnington House. It’s filled with art installations, lakes and hidden surprises. 

After all that exercise you’ve absolutely earned a meal and pint at one of Edinburgh’s many old world pubs. Think: traditional spots with cosy couches and roaring fireplaces to modern taprooms serving the finest whisky and craft beer. Our must-dos include the Salt Horse and their 400 bottles beers; Hector’s for a drool-worthy roast with all the trimmings; Sandy Bell’s for excellent live music and Bennet’s Bar for a wee dram of local whisky. But our best tip? Just get lost in the streets of Old Town and you’ll be hard pressed not to find a gem on your travels. And of course you can’t come to Edinburg and not visit the Castle. A truly iconic building (and yes, it will remind you of Hogwarts), it sits proudly atop another of Edingburg’s extinct volcanoes. Absolutely opt for the self-guided tour—there’s so many epic stories to learn. Finally, the city is renowned for its incredible festivals. There’s the Edinburgh International Film Festival in June and for bulk lols you’ll want to check out Fringe, a world famous comedy and arts festival that takes over the city in August. The Christmas markets here are pure magic and you can’t go past Hogmanay, Scotland’s New Year Eve celebration is a true bucket list experience. Need some extra convincing? You can make the journey to Edinburgh with one simple direct flight with Qatar Airways via Doha, Qatar.

Brighton 

You might not guess it, but the U.K is home to an achingly cool beachside city—Brighton. Just an hour’s train ride from London, this epic spot feels like a world away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Here it’s all about vintage shops, cute cafes, vibrant buildings and a globally renowned LGBTQI+ scene. As soon as you arrive in the city, head immediately to it’s most famous icon, the Brighton Palace Pier. Stretching over 500 metres out to sea, it’s been entertaining locals and visitors alike since it opened in 1899. Looking like something straight out of a movie set, this colourful scene will unleash your inner child. There’s food trucks slinging fairy floss, ice-creams and fish and chips, a neon-soaked arcade and at the very end—an amusement park. A rollercoaster that juts out over the edge of the water (it’s a terrifying but totally exhilarating experience), is surrounded by bumper cars and a haunted house. 

Next take a stroll along the seaside, checking out the colourful beach huts that line the water’s edge. Follow it into town and you’ll stumble upon The Lanes, Brighton’s art district. Oozing character, the pastel-hued 16th century buildings create a maze of passageways leading to vintage stores, independent book shops, restaurants and pubs. Try Moshimo, Plateau and Terre à Terre for a tasty lunch and tipple. Return to the seaside as the sun sets and head to the rooftop terrace at Rockwater. Trust us, there’s no better spot to sip a cocktail in Brighton. In the PM, it’s time to soak up the city’s incredible live music scene. Discover new talent at The Hope and Ruin, Patterns and Green Door Store. For bigger name acts check out CHALK, Concorde 2 and the Brighton Dome

Looks like when it comes to cool cities, the U.K has them in bucket loads. If you're itching to get amongst all that the United Kingdom has to offer head to Qatar Airways to start planning your trip, with direct flights into London, Manchester and Edinburgh, with a stopover in Doha. 

Editor’s note: This article is sponsored by Qatar Airways and proudly endorsed by Urban List. To find out more about who we work with and why read our editorial policy here.

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