14 of the best underrated UK city breaks to take this summer

Written by Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s junior digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.

Check out more of what the UK has to offer with this guide to the best underrated city breaks to take this year.

When it comes to UK city breaks, there are some cities which get recommended time and time again. It’s no secret that the shining lights of London, Manchester, Bristol, Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff are worth a trip – but what if you want to visit somewhere a little less popular?

Luckily, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are home to a wealth of underrated cities just waiting to be explored. And with holidays abroad off the cards for many of us this summer, now could be the perfect time to explore what the UK has to offer.

So, which of these cities should you have at the top of your UK travel bucket list? 

To find out more about the places worth visiting, we asked women from across the country to share their recommendations for the best underrated UK city breaks to take this summer. Check out what they had to say below.

  • Portsmouth

    Underrated UK city breaks: Portsmouth.

    “I visited Portsmouth for a long weekend last summer and I was surprised that it felt like a real seaside holiday! We swam in the sea and it was super clear and so relaxing (even on cold days) and the pier is so lovely to wander around. It’s also really close to Brighton via train if you fancy two seaside breaks in one!” 

    Must-see: “A trip up the Spinnaker Tower allows for views across Portsmouth and out to the sea, where you can spot the Isle Of Wight on a clear day.”

    Recommended by Alice Porter

  • Hereford

    Underrated UK city breaks: Hereford.

    “We spent a 3-day weekend in Hereford in June and loved how vibrant it was. There are streets devoted to independent shops and restaurants that give the city real character. Only a 10-minute drive out of the centre and you reach rolling green countryside complete with farm shops and country pubs. The cathedral is beautiful, and right now has an exhibition showing the Mappa Mundi and Chained Library, as well as hosting the touring Knife Angel. Or if you’re driving, Goodrich Castle is only 30 minutes away.”

    Must-see:  “The city has a number of hidden gems, especially for East Asian cuisine. Try Simply Thai Kitchen or Fujisan for authentic Thai or Japanese.”

    Recommended by Alissa Burn

  • Canterbury

    Underrated UK city breaks: Canterbury.

    “Canterbury has something for everyone, whether you fancy visiting the stunning cathedral, taking a lazy trip down the canal on one of the Westgate Punts or doing some designer and boutique shopping.”

    Must-see: “We love nothing better than a delicious Mexican meal at Cafe des Amis followed by a show at the Marlowe Theatre.”

    Recommended by Dee Primett

  • Leeds

    Underrated UK city breaks: Leeds.

    “Leeds has so much heart and soul, and that’s what I love about it. It has something for everyone, whether that’s food, culture, or music. I’ve attended some of the greatest gigs of my life in Leeds, and the music venues are my favourite aspect of the city – when it opens up again, Brudenell Social Club is an excellent spot for up-and-coming indie bands. And the pints are great, too!” 

    Must-see: “Definitely visit If on Call Lane for brunch. Their pulled pork sourdough is amazing!”

    Recommended by Eleanor Noyce

  • Norwich

    Underrated UK city breaks: Norwich.

    “We were told to visit Norwich as part of a trip around Norfolk and we weren’t disappointed! It’s a lovely city with quirky independent shops and bars lining cobbled streets. As dog-owners we were really pleased with how many bars and cafes were dog-friendly. We enjoyed lunch at an indie bar called Franks, sipping their local beer and gin before strolling around The Lanes – the main shopping area in Norwich. The food market is also a must-visit with lines of street food vendors, coffee stalls and bakeries.”

    Must-see: “I’d recommend buying the delicious bread from Bread Source and trying the brownies from And Eat It!”

    Recommended by Emily Wood

  • Derry

    Underrated UK city breaks: Derry.

    “I love visiting Derry city! The people are so friendly and they definitely are known for their warm hospitality and welcoming nature. I enjoy going for a walk around the famous Derry walls, learning all about the history of the siege of Derry and taking some photographs with the iconic Guildhall in the background.”

    Must-see: “Once I’ve worked up an appetite I love stopping for a spot of afternoon tea in the gorgeous Bishop’s Gate Hotel just within the city walls.”

    Recommended by Eileen Donaghey

  • Glasgow

    Underrated UK city breaks: Glasgow.

    “Glasgow is one of my favourite cities, thanks to its friendly locals, amazing shopping, gorgeous architecture, plethora of buzzing bars and restaurants and vibrant arts scene (even big chain hotels like the Radisson Red have made a point of teaming up with local artists). As such, it’s beautiful all year round, and there’s always plenty to do, from wandering around the Burrell Collection and Pollok House, to partaking in a wee dram at the experiential Drygate Brewery. That being said, I’d particularly advise visiting around Christmas – if you time your visit just right, you’ll get to see over 8,000 Santas roaming the streets in Glasgow’s world-famous Santa Dash! What’s not to love?”

    Must-see: “The Botany Bar and Restaurant is a must-visit. It’s right by the botanical gardens and serves up botanical cocktails in a beautiful greenhouse.”

    Recommended by Kayleigh Dray

  • St Davids

    Underrated UK city breaks: St Davids.

    “St Davids was once the capital city of Wales despite being the smallest city in the UK. This seems odd, but once you see St Davids in all its glory, you understand why it was once the reigning place of Wales; its cathedral is vast and steeped in Celtic history and yet the town is quaint and full of Celtic charm.”

    Must-see: “Make sure to try St David’s Kitchen where all ingredients used are fresh and locally sourced, including the amazing seafood. They have also started making their own gin which is infused with locally sourced, hand-picked seaweed to make an incredibly fresh tipple. You can try it at the restaurant and can even purchase a bottle of it while you’re there! If you want something sweeter, make sure you stop by Chapel Chocolates to try homemade Welsh treats. It’s tucked away in The Pebbles, just 150 metres from the cathedral.”

    Recommended by Maddie Davies

  • Derby

    Underrated UK city breaks: Derby.

    “Derby is a much-underrated city. It’s easily accessible both by car and public transport, making it a perfect destination for meeting up with friends and family as restrictions ease and things start opening up. The Cathedral Quarter is full of beautiful architecture and independent shops, and at weekends the Bustler Street Food Market comes alive with the very best street food vendors, a good selection of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options and a great atmosphere from live DJs. You can also be in the most stunning scenery of the Peak District in less than an hour.”

    Must-see: “For great brunches and amazing coffee, check out BEAR (on Irongate or the Derbion mall) or the champagne breakfast at Seven at Pride Park.”

    Recommended by Molly Scott

  • Leicester

    Underrated UK city breaks: Leicester.

    “As well as tons of independent coffee shops and boutiques, Leicester is home to three fabulous museums – the Leicester Museum and Art Gallery, Newarke Houses, and the King Richard III Visitor Centre which is built right on top of the old car park where his body was found. They’re all packed with local history and stories so make sure you visit at least one of them on a trip to the city.”

    Must-see: “My favourite thing about Leicester is Charnwood Forest, which is a huge area of beautiful woodland and parks that wraps around the city. There are hours of walks to explore in the woods, in Bradgate Park where Lady Jane Grey lived, and Beacon Hill where you can find scenic trails around craggy rocks and amazing views out over the north of the county.”

    Recommended by Ruth Sedar

  • Exeter

    Underrated UK city breaks: Exeter.

    “From the range of independent shops on Fore Street to the beautiful cathedral and picturesque quay, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in Exeter. Its Devon location also makes it the perfect spot to try a delicious afternoon tea – the scones they serve at Eat On The Green (an adorable little café/restaurant on the edge of the Cathedral green) are some of the best I’ve tried anywhere. Plus, the beach’s being a stone’s throw away in Exmouth doesn’t hurt, either.”

    Must-see: “No Guts No Glory is my favourite boutique shop in Exeter. Not only does it offer a range of houseplants and products from independent brands, but the atmosphere of the shop itself is incredibly relaxing.”

    Recommended by Lauren Geall 

  • Stirling

    Underrated UK city breaks: Stirling.

    “Stirling is the perfect place to visit if you love local history, nestled right in between Glasgow and Edinburgh. Stirling Castle has Instagram-worthy views over the surrounding landscape, The Old Town is brimming with stunning historic buildings and architecture, and the nearby Wallace Monument – a tribute to William Wallace (of Braveheart fame!) – is also worth the climb. I’d recommend a walk along to the Cup and Saucer for an alternative view of the Castle perched on its outcrop, too.”

    Must-see: “I always love popping into Made In Stirling on King Street to browse its selection of beautiful locally-made prints, ceramics, and artworks – great if you want a little memento from your trip.”

    Recommended by Alexis Forsyth

  • St Albans

    Underrated UK city breaks: St Albans.

    “I love St Albans because it’s just the right balance of urban and nature. You’ve got fantastic shops and restaurants in the town centre, and every week the traditional street market pops up where you can sample all sorts of dishes from the various food stalls. Just moments away is the beautiful greenery of Verulamium Park, where you can visit the swans on the huge lake as well as the Roman ruins.”

    Must-see: “My favourite place is Cha & Nasta, a cafe that specialises in Bengali street food –their vanilla cha is divine!”

    Recommended by Mariel

  • Dundee

    Underrated UK city breaks: Dundee.

    “Dundee is a great option for a city break this summer – not only is it only about an hour from Edinburgh by car, but you can easily arrange transport via train, bus, or even fly in if you’re heading in from farther afield. It’s a city that is absolutely filled with culture – from the V&A Dundee which celebrates great design, to the stunning McManus Galleries, which has to be one of Scotland’s grandest buildings. And most of the city can be accessed on foot, too, so it’s easy to spend a day just wandering around.”

    Must-see: “One of my favourite stops in Dundee is J.A. Braithwaite Ltd – a coffee and tea shop which has been serving the city for over 150 years. When you visit you feel like you’re stepping back in time thanks to its preserved Victorian interiors.”

    Recommended by Lauren Dall

Images: Getty

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