4 of the coolest cities to visit in the UK

Whatever the season it’s always a good time to plan a holiday in the UK In the summer there are plenty of music festivals, breweries brimming with good vibes and don’t even get us started on the perfect villages of postcards awash with greenery. Come in winter and there are Christmas markets, cozy fireplaces and pretending you’re in a Harry Potter movie – it’s truly dreamy.

With international travel finally back on the agenda for us travel-hungry jet-setters, we’ve partnered with Qatar Airways to organize the ultimate travel itineraries so you can spend less time planning what to do and more time living the good life while on vacation.

Take note, these are four of the coolest cities you must visit in the UK

London

Let’s start with one of the fastest growing cities in the world, London. The bustling metropolis is a cultural mix of terribly cool neighborhoods, famous food markets, incredible museums and a bustling bar scene. Begin your visit with a food tour of Borough Market. The aromas alone will alert you to its location next to London Bridge with stalls selling 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 real institution. You can’t reserve, so line up early to get a plate of their Cacio e Pepe. Just a 15 minute walk away is the lesser known but equally stunning 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 a former car park has been transformed into a neon-filled, food-filled oasis with live music.

London is also home to an incredible variety of art and museums. Just tick off a visit to the Tate Modern, V&A and Natural History Museum during your stay. Despite being a capital, it is also home to a lot of greenery. Lose yourself in magical Kew Gardens, the Barbican Conservatory and Richmond Park (where you might spot baby deer). And top it all off with a boozy picnic atop Primrose Hill for great views over the city skyline. Finally, you simply have to discover some of the best and most original bars in London. We like Frank’s Cafe (a rooftop bar in 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 housed in a former police station in Shoreditch. If after reading this London does indeed call you, you can choose from a host of direct flights with Qatar Airways via Doha, serving Heathrow and Gatwick airports.

Manchester

One Qatar Airways flight away (with a stopover in Doha) and you’ll find yourself in a city rich in music, architectural history, epic nightlife and a thriving independent arts scene: Manchester. First, head to Manchester’s coolest neighborhood, Ancoats. The area itself dates back to 1212 and is full of charming red-brick houses, canals and arguably the best food scene in town. At one time the area was known as Little Italy, and the cuisine is honored all these years later with amazing places like Rudy’s Neapolitan Pizza and Sugo Pasta Kitchen – pro tip: order the orecchiette with smoked peppers and stracciatella. And all you have to do is book a table at Mana, Manchester’s first Michelin-starred restaurant since 1977. As you wander the streets of this cool neighborhood, check out the vibrant artwork that covers the alleyways, including the Cutting Room Square where you’ll find giant photos by artist Dan Dubowitz showing the area’s unique past.

Another thing this city absolutely has? Craft beer. Get your fix on Piccadilly Tap, Port Street Beer House, Seven Brother’s Beerhouse and Smithfield Market Tavern. If you want to keep the good vibes going (you do), it would be a total waste to visit Manchester and not check out their nightlife scene. For luscious libations and tiki bar sensations, head to Lola Lo. If you like a cabaret and fire-breathing side to your cocktails, Impossible is for you. And finally, for the secret gardens and the water points, there’s nothing like an evening at the ultra-cool Bijou Club.

Home to many talented creatives, set up shop at the award-winning Manchester Craft and Design Centre. With over 30 freelance designers, you can shop for unique pieces or get creative with the center offering regular classes on everything from watercolor painting to jewelry making. While you’re shopping, music lovers will love Manchester’s array of record stores. Our favorites include: Eastern Bloc, Kingbee Records and Vinyl Exchange.

Edinburgh

Remember when we mentioned Harry Potter vibes galore in the UK? Well, how about going on vacation to the very city where the books were written? That’s right, this magical town, filled with winding roads, centuries-old buildings and its very own castle is absolutely calling your name. Start your vacation off with some exercise (trust us, it’s worth it) by climbing Arthur’s Seat. An extinct volcano that sits 251m above sea level, you’ll enjoy breathtaking views of the gorges of this stunning city in lush surroundings. For more greenery, indulge in Jupiter Artland, 120 acres of dreamy woodland on the grounds of 19th-century Bonnington House. It’s filled with art installations, lakes, and hidden surprises.

After all that exercise, you’ve well earned a meal and a pint in one of Edinburgh’s many old-world pubs. Think: traditional spots with comfy couches and roaring fireplaces to modern taprooms serving the best whiskey and craft beer. Our must-haves include the Salt Horse and its 400 bottles of beer; Hector’s for a drool-worthy roast with all the trimmings; Sandy Bell’s for great live music and Bennet’s Bar for a small glass of local whisky. But our best advice? Just get lost in the streets of the old town and you’ll be hard pressed not to find a gem on your travels. And of course, you can’t come to Edinburgh without visiting the castle. A truly iconic building (and yes, it will remind you of Hogwarts), it sits proudly atop another of Edingburg’s extinct volcanoes. Definitely go for the self-guided tour – there are so many epic stories to learn. Finally, the city is famous for its incredible festivals. There’s the Edinburgh International Film Festival in June and for the loose lols you’ll want to check out Fringe, a world-renowned 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, celebrating the New Year in Scotland is a real bucket list experience. Need a little more convincing? You can make the trip to Edinburgh with a simple direct flight with Qatar Airways via Doha, Qatar.

Brighton

You might not guess it, but the UK is home to one extremely cool beach town: Brighton. Just an hour by train from London, this epic location feels like a world away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Here it’s all about vintage shops, cute cafes, bustling buildings and a world-renowned LGBTQI+ scene. As soon as you arrive in the city, immediately head to its most famous icon, the Brighton Palace Pier. Stretching more than 500 meters out to sea, it has been entertaining locals and visitors alike since it opened in 1899. Looking like something straight out of a movie set, this colorful scene will set your child’s soul free. There are food trucks offering fairy floss, ice cream and fish and chips, a neon-soaked arcade and at the very end, an amusement park. A roller coaster that towers over the water’s edge (it’s a terrifying but totally exhilarating experience), is surrounded by bumper cars and a haunted house.

Then, stroll along the waterfront and see the colorful beach huts that line the water’s edge. Follow it around town and you’ll come across The Lanes, Brighton’s artsy quarter. Characterful, the pastel-hued 16th-century buildings create a maze of passageways leading to vintage shops, independent bookshops, restaurants and pubs. To try Moshimo, Plateau and Terre à Terre for a tasty lunch and a drink. Return to the seaside as the sun sets and head to the rooftop terrace at Rockwater. Trust us, there’s no better place to sip a cocktail in Brighton. In the afternoon, 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 the biggest names, check out CHALK, Concorde 2 and the Brighton Dome.

Seems like when it comes to cool cities, the UK has plenty of buckets. If you can’t wait to see all the UK has to offer, head to Qatar Airways to start planning your trip, with direct flights to 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 learn more about who we work with and why, read our editorial policy here.

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