The UK’s Best Cities for Culture Vultures
UK cities are renowned for their rich culture and heritage, from historic landmarks and ancient architecture, top-drawer museums and art galleries, to world-class theatres, music concerts and cuisine. These urban hubs are packed with exciting things to see and do and attract visitors in their droves every day, but have you ever thought about how our cities used to look? With many dating as far back as Roman times, the bustling metropolises we see today are a far cry from what they used to be. Luckily, many have retained some of their original character and today offer a unique fusion of old and new, as can be seen in this ‘then and now’ tool SunLife recently produced. . Here’s our pick of the UK’s best cities for culture vultures.
Named the European Capital of Culture in 2008, this compact but charismatic city continues to offer a diverse range of attractions and events. Notable landmarks include the two striking cathedrals and the UNESCO World Heritage waterfront, which is home to Tate Liverpool, the Open Eye Gallery and the Merseyside Maritime Museum. The city also hosts a number of festivals and exhibitions throughout the year, including the Terracotta Army, which is on display at the World Museum until October 2018.
Just a short walk outside of the city centre is the leafy and elegant Georgian Quarter, which stands as a reminder of the city’s former wealth. Also worth a visit is the nearby Baltic Triangle district, known for its street art, markets, independent shops and quirky bars.
History-buffs won’t want to miss the architectural delights and historical heritage offered by Norwich. Largely untouched by the Industrial Revolution, this East Anglican city has managed to preserve its old-world charm, with cobbled streets, city walls and a medieval marketplace, not forgetting the imposing Norman Cathedral and hilltop castle built by William the Conqueror.
It’s not all history though. Norwich also has a thriving arts and music scene, as well as boutique shops, independent cafés and lively nightlife. It was named as England’s first UNESCO City of Literature in 2012 and hosts numerous literary events and festivals every year. The city’s prowess in the arts can be seen in places like the Forum, which houses the state-of-the-art Norfolk & Norwich Millennium Library. The University of East Anglia also boasts an impressive alumni of renowned poets, novelists and critics.
York’s major appeal is its complementary blend of traditional and contemporary culture. Between medieval city walls and a 13th century castle, you’ll find an impressive selection of shops, cafés, museums and art galleries. Popular places of interest include the National Railway Museum, York Dungeon and the Yorkshire Museum and Gardens. The city also hosts numerous crowd-drawing events and attractions, including the pop-up Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre, which is open throughout the summer.
For a unique way to explore the city, the Selfie Trail provides an online map, which takes you to all the best photo spots including the Ouse Bridge, JORVIK Viking Centre, York Art Gallery, the city’s oldest street and more.
With its cutting-edge arts and entertainment venues, coupled with diverse food and drink offerings, it’s easy to understand why Belfast is becoming an increasingly popular weekend destination. Northern Ireland’s capital is divided into several cultural quarters, including the popular Cathedral Quarter, which is known for its live music, theatres, bars and restaurants. Steeped in maritime history, the Titanic Quarter offers visitors the chance to explore the shipyards and docks, to learn about the legacy of the doomed RMS Titanic in the Titanic Belfast Museum. Open-air concerts and various events are occasionally held in the historic slipways too.
Aside from its main attractions, dig a little deeper into the city and you’ll discover cobbled Victorian streets, food markets, artisan shops and old pubs tucked away around every corner. In terms of nightlife, there’s a famous underground club scene and some of Ireland’s best bars and culinary offerings are dotted around the city.
It wouldn’t be right if our list of the UK’s most cultural cities didn’t mention London. England’s capital has an unparalleled variety of historical attractions, arts and entertainment, from the West End theatres to World Heritage Sites such as the Tower of London. The city is also home to countless museums and galleries, many of which are free to enter. The Natural History Museum and the British Museum are always popular with tourists, while art-lovers are spoilt for choice with the Tate Modern, Tate Britain and the National Gallery. Other must-see sites include Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster.
If you’ve already ticked-off the main tourist spots and want to discover something new, trendy neighbourhoods such as Shoreditch, Hackney and Peckham always have something interesting going on, whether it’s a quirky photography exhibition or a vintage antiques market.
With such a diverse range of sights and experiences, even the most discerning culture vulture won’t be disappointed with what these fantastic cities have to offer.