As with many other countries, much of England is overlooked in favour of its capital city. London, with its beautiful green spaces, rich cultural history, designer shops and delicious food, is the world’s most popular tourist destination.
However, there is far more to England than its capital city: from Brighton to Newcastle to Cambridge to Birmingham, let’s discuss the best 8 cities in England that are NOT London.
Located in the West Midlands i.e the strange, grey area between North and South England, Birmingham was named one of the world’s top 10 cities in 2014, even beating London. But what makes this city such an attractive location?
Could it be its rich multiculturalism? 42% of the population identify as a non-white minority groups meaning that the city is bursting with diversity. Not to mention, delicious street food, whether you’re after Brazillian, Lebanese, Chinese or Hungarian, Birmingham has you covered.
Beyond the food, Birmingham is a city steeped in history. By the 18th century, it had become the European hotspot for producers of buckles, buttons and small boxes. It also has a rich music history with Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Duran Duran all starting there.
And if you want to get away from it all, take a boat trip along one of Birmingham’s many canals or drive out to the Lickey Hall’s Country Park.
Often regarded as “the gay capital of the UK,” Brighton has always been well-known for its loving acceptance of those who don’t feel they belong anywhere else. Found on England’s South Coast, Brighton has been a popular seaside destination since the 1700s.
But other than its openness and gorgeous beaches, just what makes Brighton so popular? Maybe it’s because of its reputation as England’s coolest city. With its many bars and pubs, many of which are along the seaside, it’s a great place to enjoy a drink on a hot summer’s day.
It is also bursting with vegan and veggie restaurants, antique stores and parades. But, most importantly, it is a city with a slower pace of life, where people can feel free to be themselves.
Although, Bristol is set right in England’s ‘West Country,’ there is much more to this city than farmers and tractors. In 2017, it was voted one of the top 10 cities to live in the world, again, beating London.
Bristolians are regarded as being some of the friendliest people within England and Bristol is absolutely bursting with green spaces. This isn’t surprising as it was awarded the 2015 European Green capital award. Perhaps this was because the level of pollution was 1/16th of that which you can find in London.
If you’re in the mood for a trendy bar or a quirky market, then head on down to the Harbourside, where you can drink or shop in a gorgeous location. Or why not go cycling, rowing or yachting? On a sunny day, visit the Clifton Suspension Bridge and gaze in wonder at the awesome view.
And if you’re in a curious mood, then the Harbourside boasts an aquarium, science museum and the world’s first ocean liner. But if you’re more of an artistic disposition, then don’t fear, Bristol is well-known for its street art – it’s where Banksy got his start after all.
Bristol is a truly unique city with new cafes and restaurants and the longest stretch of independent shops in the UK. So, if you want to be a shopping pioneer, then Bristol is your city.
One half of the famous Oxbridge, a.k.a Oxford and Cambridge, two of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the UK, Cambridge is deeply historical. Set 53 miles North-East of London, Cambridge is a simply splendid city.
With the gorgeous River Cam flowing through it, Cambridge is incredibly scenic. One of the best ways of seeing the city is through a punting tour. And there is just so much to see in Cambridge.
Cambridge boasts over 30 University colleges, so if you want learn more about the university or just admire the rich heritage and splendid architecture, then book yourself onto a walking tour of the city. Corpus Christi, Christ’s College and the Round Church should definitely be on your list.
And if you find yourself thirsty or hungry after all that walking, Fitzbillies is a great café for a spot of afternoon tea. Local favourites are the Chelsea buns. Or if you want to sample one of the local tipples then the riverside pub, the Plough, is the best place to do just that.
Help! Twist and Shout. Hey Jude. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Helter-Skelter. If you know these songs, then you’re already familiar with the world’s most famous rock ‘n’ roll band. That’s right! The Beatles started life in the North-Western city of Liverpool.
And if you’re looking for some Beatles’ related attractions, then you have tours, museums and even the Cavern Club – where the Beatles first performed back in 1961.
But there is far more to this great city than the Beatles. Liverpool boasts the Baltic Triangle, home to artisan bakeries, underground club nights and trendy bars. Liverpool also has a rich history having once been a massive centre of England’s shipbuilding industry.
Lastly, scousers (Liverpuddlians) are some of the friendliest people you’ll meet. I remember when I was in Liverpool looking around universities and I had countless people help me with directions, without being asked. How nice can you get?
As I went to university in this North-Eastern city, I would be doing it a serious disservice if I didn’t mention it here. I lived and studied here for three years and I loved every second of it. I know I’ve been saying this for every city, but, Geordies (Newcastle folk) are by far the friendliest in the UK.
There is a big community spirit probably because of its strong involvement in the coal-mining industry. However, there is far more to Geordie history than this. It began life as a Roman fort on Hadrian’s Wall and has also been a big player in the wool and shipbuilding industries. Many industrial advancements, such as the steam turbine, were born in Newcastle.
Newcastle also has a well-earnt reputation as a party town. As well as having pubs galore, some of my favourites being the Hancock, the Charles Grey and the Five Swans, there are clubs and bars for every occasion imaginable.
Do you want to listen to the cheesiest of 90’s pop? Then head on down to Flares. Want some fancy cocktails? Revolution is your bar. Have a hankering to ride on a mechanical bull? SamJacks is where you need to go.
And if you’re a fan of the beach, then Newcastle is only 8 miles away from the sea. North and South Shields, Tynemouth, which was named the best regional place to live for its seaside charm, and Whitley Bay are all great for a day out at beach.
Have you heard of Robin Hood? That fellow in green tights who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor? Well, Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men all called Nottingham their home. And if you want to learn more about this folk hero, then the Robin Hood experience is where you need to go.
But there is far more to Nottingham than Robin Hood. It is home to the oldest pub in England: Ye Olde trip to Jerusalem. This fascinating pub sits at the foot of Nottingham Castle and has hosted royalty with Richard the Lionheart drinking there in 1189.
Nottingham also has a thriving music scene with Jake Bugg, London Grammar and Indiana all getting their starts here. And if you’re a rock fan, then Nottingham has you covered with the great venue: Rock City.
And if you’re looking for something to do then you won’t be looking far, as Nottingham is a hotspot of activity. There’s the gorgeous Wollaton Park perfect for a picnic and being chased by deer or you can run in and out of the fountains in Market Square. Or on a nice summer’s day, what could be nicer than a glass of wine by the lovely River Trent.
And if you want to have a night to remember, visit the historical Goose Fair – a travelling funfair which has been running for 700 years. Wow…is there anything this East-Midland city doesn’t have?
Last, but certainly not least, we have the magnificent city of York. Located in Yorkshire and the Humber, between the North-East and East Midlands, it is a fantastic alternative to London. Why? It has gorgeous scenery, a fascinating history and a chocolate café a.k.a heaven on earth.
York was named the best place to live in Britain by the Times. Maybe this was because of its romantic beauty or its neoclassical buildings or maybe because it is a city where old meets new. York was founded by the Romans way back in 71 AD and 600 years later, York Cathedral was built. This magnificent building still exists now and while you need to pay to enter, it is well worth the ticket price.
However, York also boasts the fastest internet speeds in Britain, with it having a reputation as the country’s first “gigabit” city. It’s also a hotspot when it comes to the best food. The Polish restaurant Barbakan is a winner for those who love to try something new, while you will never be looking far for a healthy place to eat.
The above-mentioned chocolate cafe is obviously an exception to this, but everybody needs to treat themselves once in a while. And there is no better treat than a chocolate café. You can have hot chocolate, chocolate cakes, afternoon chocolate and there’s even a chocolate supper club.
And I think it’s best I leave it there. Do you need a better reason to go to York other than having a chocolate supper?
So remember next time you’re planning a trip to England, there are eight different cities you can go to, which are not London. Of course, this isn’t a definitive list and there are plenty of other great cities, but it’s always important to remember that there is more to a country than its capital city. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some train tickets to book.