Discover our top historic cities for your next UK break

Whether you want to explore architectural sites, discover ancient cultures or simply stroll around somewhere new, take a look at our top historic cities and get inspired!

Choose your city

The UK's historic cities are perfect for creating your own adventure. Uncover the history that makes them so unique; explore the heritage sites, or discover the local culture. From steaming natural baths and stunning museums to Roman amphitheatres and grand cathedrals, take a look at our list of top historic cities and experience a city break with a difference.

Top 13 historic cities in the UK

Bath

Bath

Bath features some the best architectural sights in the UK and is home to the famous Roman Baths, a spa that’s story stretches across the ages. Whether you want to follow in the footsteps of Jane Austen, view the iconic Georgian landmarks - The Royal Crescent and The Circus, get lost in 18th century wildlife haven of Prior Park Landscape Garden, or wander across Pulteney Bridge and visit one of boutique cafes built within, Bath is the perfect place to experience a journey through time.

Where to stay
Cambridge

Cambridge

With its natural fen landscape, spectacular architecture from churches to courtyards, and the beautiful River Cam flowing through its centre, Cambridge is ideal for soaking up some culture. Visit the Fitzwilliam Museum, housing a multitude of artefacts from around the world and across time, wander down the charming lanes placed around the historic market place, or explore the 15th century King’s College Chapel with its awe-inspiring stained glass windows. Then, have a guided tour by your very own chauffeur as you’re punted down the river.

Where to stay
Canterbury

Canterbury

Canterbury has a real cosmopolitan vibe that’s steeped in thousands of years of history for you to discover! Visit the must-see towering Canterbury Cathedral, the ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey and the quaint St Martins Church that form the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Or simply stroll along the magical medieval streets, visiting the farmers markets for a taste of the local cuisine. Plus, discover hidden gems whilst floating down the river on a historic boat tour.

Where to stay
Carlisle

Carlisle

Currently the largest city in England, Carlisle has a fascinating history. The main place to explore is the Historic Quarter. A must-see attraction is the 900-year-old cathedral and medieval castle, where you can explore the turbulent history of the labyrinths and dungeons. Then, head to Hadrian’s Wall and imagine yourself as a Roman soldier standing on the edge of an empire…

Where to stay
Chester

Chester

Chester is full of historic treasures awaiting your discovery. Walk through the most complete city walls in Britain and step into 2,000 years of exciting history. Explore Britain’s largest Roman Amphitheatre and immerse yourself in the lives of the local Romans. Just imagine the sound from the 7,000 strong crowd, the sight of the gladiators battling it out and the smell from the merchant’s food! Looking for medieval history? Head over to the 1,000 year old cathedral, which features an amazing collection of medieval carvings.

Where to stay
Durham

Durham

With one of the most beautiful skylines in the UK, Durham is a picturesque heritage city with an enticing array of landmarks, museums and much more. Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Durham Castle and Durham Cathedral, and discover Anglo-Saxon artefacts, distinctive Norman architecture, and take a trip back in time to discover what it was like to live as a 14th century monk. From here, you can wander along the scenic riverbanks and visit Crook Hall and its stunning gardens.

Where to stay
Lancaster

Lancaster

Whether you’re strolling along the winding paths of the canal or soaking up the heritage of the city’s castle and museum, Lancaster has ancient stores awaiting discovery. Visit Lancaster Castle and experience its stark cells and corridors as you learn the grisly history of justice. Finish your tour by exploring the site of famous trials throughout time, including the Lancashire Witches trail from 1612! Or cruise along the canal and see The Lune Aquaduct, one of the “Seven Wonders of the Waterways”.

Where to stay
Lincoln

Lincoln

With over a thousand years of history, Lincoln is a must-visit UK city. Dominating the city skyline since 1092, the gothic Lincoln Cathedral is a piece of English heritage that’s filled with hidden secrets, epic architecture, and (if you’re brave enough) stunning views of Lincolnshire from its roof. From the roof, you’ll also see Lincoln Castle, home to the 1215 Magna Carta and the 1217 Charter of the Forest, offering a unique chance to view both documents together.

Where to stay
Norwich

Norwich

With a rich history and a legacy of heritage treasures, Norwich is a city of stories. Unearth over 900 years of history at the magnificent Roman cathedral, wander the cobbled streets of Elm Hill and stop off for a coffee in this picturesque area of Norwich, or explore the eclectic range of museums and art galleries; view the stunning collection of fine art and natural history at Norwich Castle or get lost in the labyrinth of inter-linked rooms in the delightful stood-in-time Strangers’ Hall, which dates back to 1320! Then, head to the Grade II English Heritage Plantation Garden, offering an idyllic escape from the city’s hustle and bustle.

Where to stay
Oxford

Oxford

Oxford is a city bursting with history, stunning architecture and culture. Tour the famous University of Oxford colleges, climb the Saxon St George Tower at Oxford Castle or explore the amazing range of museums, whether it’s the spectacle of the Natural History Museum or the Ashmolean Museum’s collection of art and archaeology, there’s sure to be something to take your interest. Alternatively, tuck yourself away in the Bodleian Libraries, the 400 year old Gothic home to more than 12 million items. Just imagine having to search for the right book by candlelight!

Where to stay
Salisbury

Salisbury

With the market being a weekly occurrence for almost 800 years, Salisbury is steeped in tradition. Towering over the city is Salisbury Cathedral, which hides a past of secrecy, scandal and folklore. Discover the best preserved Magna Carta, or make your way up the narrow staircase to the foot of the spire, 225 feet above ground. Why not walk the medieval streets towards The Salisbury Museum, explore the National Trust’s Mompresson House, or discover the other things to do around the city.

Where to stay
Stratford-upon-Avon

Stratford-upon-Avon

Stratford-upon-Avon is one of the most stunning and historic destinations to visit. There’s so much to do in this countryside haven; walk in the footsteps of William Shakespeare as you explore his home ‘New Place’, and find out about his incredible rise to become one of England’s most famous playwrights. Or head over to the Royal Shakespeare Company and see a performance in the distinctive Swan Theatre. The River Avon meanders through the heart of this destination, and is perfect for a relaxing boat trip or gondola ride.

Where to stay
York

York

York has over 30 outstanding museums, galleries and tours, plus a world-class gastro scene. From the labyrinth of alleyways to the city’s lively café culture, you’re never too far from something to do or see. With a secret history full of conflict and trouble, York Minster is a must-visit attraction. View the stunning gothic architecture or witness spectacular views of the city from the Central Tower. Then, go on a journey through Viking-Age streets at the Jorvik Viking Centre, featuring state-of-the-art galleries and a Viking Ride.

Where to stay
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A selection of these images were sourced from Visit England / Visit Britain Images