Who says every holiday or mini-break needs to take you overseas? The UK is a varied nation filled with beautiful, interesting, and dynamic cities to visit without ever having to set foot on a plane. Whether you're looking for a romantic getaway, a solo adventure, or a spontaneous weekend away, we've picked out the best city breaks the UK has to offer. The UK is full of great attractions and fantastic cities - and the best bit is you can easily travel around by hopping on a train.
Discover the UK's best city breaks in 2023 with CrossCountry, and remember to book an Advance ticket for great savings!
The city of quintessential English charm, Cambridge is a place of history and character. It’s one of the oldest universities in the world, whose alumni includes Stephen Hawking, Stephen Fry and David Attenborough. The university’s historic architecture is a big draw with many visitors spending time admiring the university and its surroundings. The city is also home to many green spaces and parks, as well as museums, art galleries, cafés and bars.
What to do in Cambridge
- Hire a punt and float down the River Cam
Climb the tower at King’s College Chapel for a birds-eye view
- Lose yourself in a maze of lush foliage at the Botanic Gardens
- Let Cambridge students show you around on a University Tour
- Browse the Fitzwilliam Museum for famous art and antiques
Where to eat in Cambridge
- Check out the seasonal menu at The Punter’s Pub
- Head to Smokeworks for some of the best BBQ food in Britain
- Visit Fitzbillies for their famous Chelsea buns
If you want to explore Cambridge and all it has to offer, you’ll want to stay longer than a day! So, make sure you book a great value hotel in Cambridge before you arrive.
CrossCountry Train station: Cambridge train station
Edinburgh is one of the most gorgeous cities not only in the UK, but in the whole of Europe. Draped across a series of rocky hills overlooking the sea, Scotland’s capital is as beautiful as it is buzzing. With loads of attractions, shops, bars and restaurants to choose from, you might be tempted to spend a little more than you first thought. But fear not, there’s plenty of free stuff to do in Edinburgh too.
What to do in Edinburgh
- Explore the nooks and crannies of the Royal Mile and Grassmarket
- Admire Britain’s oldest crown jewels at Edinburgh Castle
- Take in the city’s skyline by climbing Arthur’s Seat
- Book a whisky tour or take part in a literary-themed pub crawl
- Appreciate the art at the Scottish National Gallery
Where to eat in Edinburgh
- Eat a swanky dinner at Restaurant Martin Wishart
- Grab authentic Thai street food at Ting Thai Caravan
- Enjoy traditional Scottish fare at gastro pub The Scran & Scallie
Spending the weekend? Make sure you find a great value hotel in Edinburgh.
CrossCountry Station: Edinburgh Waverley train station
Newcastle, Tyne and Wear
Newcastle might be famed for its thumping nightlife, but this energetic city is so much more than that. Boasting historic monuments, cultural attractions, trendy restaurants and secret bars, it’s easy to see why the city is one of the UK’s best city break destinations.
What to do in Newcastle
- Visit the city’s iconic landmark, the Angel of the North
- Browse the cafés and boutiques in Jesmond, Newcastle’s trendiest suburb
- Take a guided tour through the Victoria Tunnel
- Look around Grainger Market
- Learn something new at the Life Science Centre
Where to eat in Newcastle
- Enjoy bistro-style food at Café 21
- Try the medieval banquet at Blackfriars Restaurant & Banquet Hall
- Pick your favourite restaurant in China Town
Enjoy all Newcastle has to offer by staying the night. Make sure you book a great value hotel in Newcastle before you arrive.
CrossCountry Station: Newcastle train station
York, North Yorkshire
You will discover history at every turn on the winding cobbled streets of York. At the city’s heart lies the awe-inspiring York Minster, one of the most beautiful Gothic cathedrals in the world. York’s history is sewn through every brick and beam, yet its modern attractions keep it up-to-date, pleasing visitors all year round.
What to do in York
- Marvel at York Minster’s stunning architecture
- Wander through one of Britain’s most picturesque streets – The Shambles
- Discover the city’s history at York Dungeon
- Tour some of the city’s attractions with a walk in York
- See a show at the Grand Opera House
Where to eat in York
- Enjoy afternoon tea at The Grand
- Book a table at Ambiente for tasty, authentic tapas
- Browse Shambles Market for spectacular street food
CrossCountry Station: York train station
You don’t need to board a plane to get to the seaside - Bournemouth is a brilliant seaside town, full of culture, entertainment and a 7-mile beach. Whether you want to chill out or party, Bournemouth has something for you. Its hip hideaways, great restaurants, tempting water sports and fantastic shopping make it one of the best UK city breaks.
What to do in Bournemouth
- Hit the arcade on Bournemouth Pier
- Take a coastal walk from Bournemouth Pier to Sandbanks Beach
- Ride Freida’s Teabus, for stunning views and a three-tier afternoon tea
- Admire the art and the house it resides in at The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum
- Stroll through Bournemouth’s well-kept gardens
Where to eat in Bournemouth
- Enjoy 180-degree views of Bournemouth’s beautiful coastline at Aruba Restaurant and Bar
- Chill out at one of Bournemouth’s hipster hangouts, Bournemouth Pizza Co
- You can’t be near the beach and not eat fresh seafood, get the best of it at The Crab
If you want to explore Bournemouth and all it has to offer, you’ll want to stay longer than a day! So, make sure you book a great value hotel in Bournemouth before you arrive.
CrossCountry Station: Bournemouth train station
Combining rich maritime heritage with a modern, hip vibe, Bristol is a great choice for a UK city break. Straddling the River Avon, Bristol is fiercely independent and offers its visitors a wealth of activities. From discovering the Georgian history of the Old City, to dining at Michelin starred restaurants and visiting brilliant bars, you won’t get bored in Bristol.
What to do in Bristol
- Walk over the Clifton Suspension Bridge
- All aboard the museum ship, SS Great Britain
- Explore the hipster hub of Stokes Croft
- Climb to the top of the Cabot Tower for views over Bristol and the harbour
- Join a Banksy art tour
Where to eat in Bristol
- Book a table at The Ox for quality steak at bargain prices
- Grab some street food at St Nicholas Market
- For Bristol’s finest seafood dishes, head to Palomar Fishhouse
CrossCountry Station: Bristol Temple Meads train station
If you're planning a trip to one of the best city breaks in the UK, don't forget to book an Advance ticket via our website or our CrossCountry app. You can also find information on how to get cheaper train tickets via our special offers page. If you need more information, you can contact us here.
The UK is bursting with fun activities. Whether you're visiting one of the best places to find fossils in the UK, the most famous landmarks in the UK, or the best indoor ski slopes in the UK, you can always travel by train. CrossCountry has services running up and down the country to ensure you can get to the places you need to be.
Written by Seb