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The UK is home to many great cities, each with its own distinctive character but all boasting excellent shopping, dining, entertainment and culture. From Edinburgh’s famed Royal Mile and Cardiff Castle to London’s elegant Covent Garden, Birmingham’s canal network and Manchester’s hip Northern Quarter, each city has plenty to enjoy. Of course, you can also look forward to wonderful hotels and plenty of spa luxury on your next UK city break.
To bring you some inspiration for memorable weekend breaks, we’ve explored five of the UK’s finest cities and, just for fun, graded their dining, shopping, entertainment and tourist attractions, as well as highlighting some fab spas and spa hotels. So, let’s get started with our look at the best UK locations for a combined spa and city break.
The UK’s capital is a great place to start! Whatever you like to do on a city break, you can find it here. Whether you’re a culture vulture, night owl, foodie, theatre buff or a shopaholic, you’ll be spoilt for choice. The city is also home to lots of iconic sights, such as Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey. One of the main advantages of the city is the ease of travel. With several airports and mainline train stations, plus the Eurostar, getting here from the UK and overseas is simple. Getting around is also a cinch, with buses, taxis, the London Underground, ferries and the Docklands Light Railway.
When it comes to entertainment, London has you covered. Head to the West End for great theatre, or to neighbouring Leicester Square for the latest Hollywood movies. You can also find great spots for live music of all genres and comedy, as well as buzzing nightclubs and late-night cabarets. The capital is home to lots of world-renowned venues, such as the Royal Albert Hall, Royal Opera House, the O2 in Greenwich, National Film Theatre and Wembley. You can also find intimate out-of-the-way venues, one-off shows and talks, and all kinds of surprising and provocative performances. In short, there’s always plenty going on!
London is a foodie’s paradise, with international cuisines reflecting the city’s multicultural vibe. You can find everything from freshly-cooked street food to Michelin-star fine dining, fry-ups to intimate hideaways. Many of London’s most loved restaurants can be found a little way out from the city centre. For example, Andy's Greek Taverna just off Camden High Street and Bonoo Indian Tapas on Finchley Road are both worth the trip, according to reviewers. For a pre- or post-show drink in central London, you might like to try The Wine Place Covent Garden.
London is a true shopping destination. Oxford Street, Bond Street and High Street Kensington are probably the most well-known retail areas, featuring high-end designer stores and familiar favourites. Don’t forget to swing by Harrods to check out the window displays. London also has some impressive malls, such as Westfield in Shepherd’s Bush and Canary Wharf in the Docklands. If you prefer to do a little bargain hunting and uncover some interesting buys, head to vibrant Camden Market.
Where to start? London is bursting with iconic sights and places of interest that could easily fill a year of weekends away! For example, there is Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the British Museum and Madame Tussauds. You can also take in the lofty views from the London Eye wheel or The Shard’s viewing platform. Explore lovely open spaces, such as Regents Park and Hyde Park, and enjoy the bustle of Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square. There are many diverse neighbourhoods to discover and interesting galleries and museums in which to spend a diverting few hours.
Located on the edge of Kensington Gardens, steps from the shops and a few minutes’ walk from the Royal Albert Hall, Natural History Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum, the 5-star Baglioni Hotel London boasts a fantastic location. The luxury spa hotel is also an easy walk from Harrods and Holland Park. When you want to explore further, there is a choice of nearby Underground stations, including High Street Kensington. The hotel exudes Italian hospitality, with chic guestrooms and suites, fine dining, and a luxurious spa. Book now.
We feature a wide range of spa hotels across the city and wider Greater London area. Here is a brief selection:
NYX Hotel London Holborn by Leonardo Hotels: Providing a welcome oasis of calm amid the hustle and bustle, this elegant spa hotel is a fantastic choice for a luxury break in the heart of the city. You can easily walk to the British Museum and Covent Garden, while Holborn Underground station is five minutes away. Book now.
Rena Spa at Leonardo Royal Hotel London St Paul's: More spa luxury awaits at this superb city hotel. Set on a quiet street between the Thames and St Paul’s Cathedral, this property is ideally located for sightseeing, while offering a sanctuary of relaxation. Book now.
The May Fair, A Radisson Collection Hotel: This upscale luxury spa hotel boasts a prime location in upmarket Mayfair, with Hyde Park, Green Park and Piccadilly Circus on your doorstep. When you’re ready to relax, the pampering spa is waiting to welcome you. Book now.
You can browse our full range of London spas and spa hotels here.
Overall city rating: 5
England’s second largest city, Birmingham in the West Midlands has a rich history and a contemporary feel. Famous for its canal network which stretches across 35 miles (who needs Venice!), you can enjoy a varied city break in Birmingham. Discover the bustling city centre and head out to soak up the renowned nightlife, with endless clubs, bars and venues open into the early hours. You can travel here easily from across the UK via Birmingham New Street station, while domestic and international flights arrive at and depart from Birmingham Airport. The West Midlands Metro trams are a convenient way to get around the city.
Birmingham is known for its buzzing nightlife, much of it centred on Broad Street, which is where you’ll find PRYZM Birmingham, a club with four huge rooms of music. The Jewellery Quarter is also a popular destination for independent bars and live music, including the Jam House, which features an eclectic programme of music styles and big names. If you prefer a more low-key evening out, there are plenty of theatres and performance spaces, such as Birmingham Symphony Hall and The Crescent Theatre. Film buffs should book a seat at The Electric Cinema, the UK’s oldest working cinema. The Mailbox is your destination for a classy cocktail or two.
Birmingham is especially synonymous with Indian cuisine, and there are lots of fine examples throughout the city, some of which have been frequented by celebrities passing through. As jumped on by the media, Tom Cruise loved the chicken tikka at Asha's on Newhall Street so much that he ordered a second serving. Of course, you can find cuisines from many other countries and regions here, too. Popular choices include Perios, a Tex-Mex restaurant on Brindley Place, and @pizza Grand Central, which you can find within New Street Station.
For retail therapy, Birmingham is hard to beat. You can explore the attractive arcades, such as Great Western Arcade, with their independent shops, or head to the huge Bullring & Grand Central mall for high street names. If high-end luxury is what you’re seeking, the Mailbox Birmingham should be your first port of call. If you love jewellery, not surprisingly, the Jewellery Quarter is a must-visit, while there’s always some interesting finds at the Bull Ring Indoor Market.
You can easily fill a day or two sightseeing in Birmingham. Check out the exhibits at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (reopening in 2022) or Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum, while music fans will love seeing the signed album covers at St Pauls Gallery. Pay a visit to St. Philip's Cathedral to appreciate its Georgian baroque architecture and impressive stained glass. There are also all those miles of canal towpaths to explore, while the Library of Birmingham is a wonderful contemporary space with superb collections, exhibits and an outdoor terrace with city views.
Located close to the station and next to the upmarket Mailbox shopping and dining destination, Malmaison Birmingham offers a calming and chic sanctuary for some welcome spa luxury. Whether you’re planning a night on the town, recovering from the night before, or simply want to add a few hours of downtime to your Birmingham stay, you can enjoy a pampering treatment or two and take advantage of the facilities that include a Jacuzzi, sauna, steam room and relaxation room. There is also an on-site gym, as well as a classy bar and brasserie. If you want to add on an overnight stay, there are 193 well-appointed rooms and suites. Book now.
We feature a wide range of spa hotels in and around Birmingham. Here is a brief selection:
Park Regis Birmingham: Indulge in a well-deserved spa day just steps away from the action on Broad Street at this modern hotel. At the upmarket Shakina Urban Dry Spa, you can choose from a range of treatments, and then relax at the superb 1565 Restaurant and Bar. Book now.
Birmingham Marriott Hotel: Unwind in style at this stylish spa hotel, which also enjoys a prime position near Broad Street. Enjoy luxurious treatments and facilities that include a heated indoor swimming pool, gym, and Jacuzzi. You can then adjourn to the casual Brew Bar Lounge for a drink or to dine. Book now.
Bannatyne Brindley Place: Boasting a great central location, this member of the popular Bannatyne family of health clubs is a great choice for some ‘on the go’ pampering and active relaxation. Enjoy a cardio session in the gym, swim in the awesome 21-metre pool, and indulge in a soothing spa treatment. Book now.
You can browse our full range of Birmingham spas and spa hotels here.
Overall rating: 4.5
Manchester is a popular city in the north-west that has been called England’s second city (Birmingham may disagree!). Home to two universities, plus a hub for business and the arts, the city has a buzzing, contemporary vibe, while also celebrating its industrial heritage. Manchester is known for its vibrant nightlife and its inclusivity, while offering great shopping and dining. Be sure to check out the eateries at Corn Exchange Manchester and catch one of the many events, festivals and exhibitions the city regularly hosts. Manchester is a convenient destination for a UK short break, with three main train stations – Piccadilly, Oxford Road and Victoria – and an international airport. Get around easily on foot or via the Metrolink trams.
Whatever you enjoy, there’s always lots going on in Manchester. For a lively night out, head for the Northern Quarter, the Gay Village or to the student hangout of Oxford Road for bars, comedy and live music. You can also enjoy the cocktail bars at stylish Spinningfields. Theatre fans can check out the Manchester Opera House or Royal Exchange. For concerts, the AO Arena features many big-name acts. HOME is also a great venue, with live performances and a cinema.
Manchester’s diversity extends to its food scene, with lots of pubs, restaurants and take-away options to suit all tastes and budgets. So, it’s the perfect place to discover something new. Popular choices include Platzki, a welcoming Polish restaurant on Deansgate, and Teppanyaki Chinatown on George Street, which serves up authentic Japanese dishes. If you’re looking for something a little different (and have the budget), mana on Blossom Street offers inventive British fare.
You can shop till you drop in Manchester. All your high street favourites are here, plus boutiques and independent stores. Head to the Arndale Centre for great indoor shopping or to adjacent Market Street. If you’re seeking high-end retail, New Cathedral Street is home to Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and Burberry, among others. Other popular shopping areas include King Street and Spinningfields, while the Jewellery Quarter is your destination for all things sparkly. The city also features an impressive Christmas market.
If you love culture, heritage or sport, you’ll love Manchester! You can visit Manchester Museum, Manchester Art Gallery, and the Museum of Science and Industry. The John Rylands Library is also worth a visit, if only to appreciate the stunning Victorian Gothic architecture. For sports-lovers, there’s the National Football Museum to explore, while Manchester United has a museum showcasing the club’s history and offers tours of Old Trafford stadium.
A true Manchester landmark with a rich history, The Midland is a luxury hotel located close to Oxford Road and Piccadilly train stations, making it both a convenient base for your break and another of the city’s wonderful tourist attractions. The Rena Spa at The Midland Hotel is very much in keeping with the rest of the venue, offering pampering spa treatments and facilities that include a relaxation pool, Jacuzzi, alder-wood sauna featuring a Himalayan salt block wall, and a salt-infused aromatherapy steam room. The whole hotel exudes class and charm. Enjoy a drink at The Midland Bar, adjourn to the dedicated Tea Room at The Midland for a refined afternoon tea, and dine in the 4 AA-rosetted The French restaurant. Book now.
We feature a wide range of spa hotels in and around Manchester. Here is a brief selection:
Macdonald Manchester Hotel & Spa: Close to Manchester Piccadilly train station, this impressive spa hotel is a great choice for an overnight stay or pampering spa day. Offering a convenient base for sightseeing, the spa provides a calming retreat for some welcome downtime. Book now.
Bannatyne Manchester Quay Street: An ideal location for a relaxing spa day during your Manchester stay, this popular Bannatyne venue enjoys a central location close to all the city’s attractions. Facilities include a state-of-the-art gym and 20-metre swimming pool. Book now.
Pace Health Club and Nu Spa: This is another fine choice for some spa day pampering on your Manchester escape, especially if you’re planning a couples getaway. Located close to Manchester Victoria station, this spa and health club offers extensive facilities and pampering treatments. Book now.
You can browse our full range of Manchester spas and spa hotels here.
Overall rating: 4.5
Scotland’s characterful capital offers a blend of the historic and the contemporary, making it a great choice for your next UK city break. You can explore the medieval Old Town and elegant Georgian New Town, while the city is famed for its live entertainment and diverse cuisine. Whatever time of year you choose to visit, the city looks picture perfect, offering stunning views from Holyrood Park and Edinburgh Castle. There are also some great golf courses in the area, plus Portobello Beach and the port community of Leith to discover. Travel here easily from across the country, with regular trains into Edinburgh Waverley station and flights to and from Edinburgh Airport.
Edinburgh is renowned for its vibrant nightlife, with lots of clubs, pubs and entertainment venues. Grassmarket, Candlemaker Row and Victoria Street are the places to head if a lively night out is what you’re looking for. There are also plenty of comedy clubs and live music venues, such as Monkey Barrel Comedy on Blair Street. Theatre and film buffs are also well catered for, with the Festival Theatre, Saint Stephen's Theatre and Cameo Picturehouse among many great venues. Of course, if you’re in town during August’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Edinburgh International Festival, there is even more to enjoy across the city.
You can celebrate food from around the world in Edinburgh, but it’s also a city that’s proud to show off its local cuisine. So, make sure you don’t miss out on some classic authentically prepared Scottish dishes. For example, locals love Makars Gourmet Mash Bar, a relaxed eatery on Bank Street that celebrates traditional Scottish fare (including mashed potatoes!). You can also head to the French Crêperie Le Petit Café on Morrison Street, which will satisfy the sweetest tooth, while another fine choice is The Pakora Bar on Hanover Street, a laid-back Indian café.
As you might expect, here you can find a mix of high street stores and independent boutiques. The areas around George Street and Princes Street are great for some retail therapy. Opened in 2021, St James Quarter is also a popular destination for shopping. For high-end retail or some aspirational window shopping, Multrees Walk features such names as Harvey Nichols and Louis Vuitton. For independent stores, check out the West End, Grassmarket and Victoria Street. If you’re in town on a Sunday, head to Stockbridge Market for artisan foods.
Where to start? Edinburgh has so many diverse areas and historical sights, one city break here may not be enough. As we mentioned, 11th century Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Park are must-see attractions. We’d also recommend a stroll along the Royal Mile in the Old Town, which is the city’s most famous street. If you would like to celebrate one of Scotland’s finest exports, pay a visit to The Scotch Whisky Experience, which offers tours and exhibits (plus over-18s can enjoy a dram). For more culture and heritage, head to the Scottish National Gallery or National Museum of Scotland. The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a wonderful outdoor space to explore, as is the traditional resort of Portobello Beach, which is about 30 minutes by bus from Waverley station.
Macdonald Holyrood Hotel is a smart and modern spa hotel located in a fantastic position close to Edinburgh Waverley station, Holyrood Park and the Royal Mile. Edinburgh Castle is also a short walk away, as are great shops, restaurants and nightlife. When you’ve finished exploring for the day, you can relax in style in one of the well-appointed guest rooms, the stylish bar and restaurant, or the superb spa. Take a leisurely swim or indulge in a pampering treatment or two. You’ll leave refreshed and ready to start exploring the city all over again. Book now.
We feature a wide range of spa hotels in and around Edinburgh. Here is a brief selection:
Spa at Charlotte Square: Enjoy a well-deserved chic spa day in Edinburgh at this lovely luxury spa centrally located in a stunning Georgian building, close to Princes Street Gardens and within reach of Edinburgh’s attractions and plenty of great eateries. Book now.
Radisson Blu Hotel Edinburgh: Set in the centre of Edinburgh’s Old Town, right on the Royal Mile, and within an easy stroll of Edinburgh Waverley, this excellent hotel is a fine base for city spa days. When your pampering session has ended, you can continue to relax in one of the two on-site restaurants. Book now.
Bannatyne Edinburgh: Add a touch of downtime to your city stay at this popular health club and spa, which features great facilities and relaxing treatments. Conveniently located in the city centre, this property is a great choice for locals and visitors alike. Book now.
You can browse our full range of Edinburgh spas and spa hotels here.
Overall rating: 5
The Welsh capital is a compact city that lends itself to an exciting UK short escape. Set around Cardiff Bay, the city has a proud history and plenty to enjoy, from the Victorian and Edwardian shopping arcades to the splendour of Cardiff Castle. Here, you can also enjoy diverse cuisine, great nightlife and entertainment, and some lovely open spaces. Cardiff is about an hour, either by road or rail, across the River Severn from Bristol, with direct trains from London Paddington and elsewhere into and out of Cardiff Central Station.
Cardiff has a buzzing nightlife, with the bars and clubs on St Mary Street the main destination for those seeking a lively (even raucous) night out. You can also head to Mill Lane for great eateries and cocktail bars. There are several multiplex cinemas in the city centre, plus some great live entertainment venues. For example, you could take in a show at the Wales Millennium Centre, which stages a wide variety of theatre, ballet, opera and music shows. If live sport’s more your thing, check out what’s going on at Cardiff Arms Park, home to the Cardiff Blues rugby union team.
Cardiff certainly packs a lot of great food and drink into its compact city centre, so you can discover something new or enjoy some familiar favourites. For example, with its rum bar, Latin American cuisine and lively ambience, Revolución de Cuba Cardiff on The Friary promises a fun evening out. Pasture Cardiff is a stylish steakhouse located on High Street, while Café Citta is an intimate eatery on Church Street that serves up hearty home-made Italian fare.
If you’re looking to bag a bargain or do a little window shopping, Cardiff has plenty to offer. For an upmarket retail experience, visit the boutiques in the Victorian and Edwardian arcades, including the Royal Arcade, which dates back to 1858. There are also all your high street favourites, many of which can be found in bustling Queens Arcade. If you’re here at the weekend or on a Wednesday, Cardiff Indoor Flea Market is a great place to browse antiques, vintage clothing and collectibles.
There are lots of cultural highlights and tourist attractions to explore in Cardiff and you can pack most of them into your city break. One must-see attraction is Cardiff Castle, which sits on the edge of lovely Bute Park, with its Victorian Gardens. The city also boasts a bustling dock area that frames Cardiff Bay, which includes a nature reserve and waterfront park, as well as a white water rafting centre. You can also pass an interesting afternoon at the National Museum Cardiff. For more culture, head to St. Fagans National Museum of History.
Well-located close to all the city centre attractions, the Mercure Cardiff Holland House Hotel and Spa is a great option for your next spa break to Cardiff. From here, you can explore the National Museum and Cardiff Castle, while there are plenty of shops, bars and eateries within easy walking distance. The hotel features comfortable rooms and on-site amenities that include a relaxed bar and restaurant, while the spa is a calming sanctuary with a swimming pool, thermal suite and luxurious treatments. Book now.
We feature a range of spa hotels in and around Cardiff. Here is a selection:
Park Plaza Hotel: Another excellent choice in the city centre, close to Cooper’s Field and Cardiff Castle, this smart hotel provides a great base for sightseeing and relaxation. You’ll find great on-site facilities and amenities, including a chic health club and spa. Book now.
Bannatyne Cardiff: Just north of Cardiff city centre is this member of the popular Bannatyne family of health clubs. With free parking and within easy walking distance of a train station, this is a convenient location for some spa pampering and active relaxation. Book now.
You can browse our full range of Cardiff area spas and spa hotels here.
Overall rating: 4
SpaSeekers’ verdict: By our count, we have a tie between London and Edinburgh as the best locations for spa and city breaks in the UK. But hopefully, this guide has shown that the UK has some great cities and spas, which are all waiting to welcome you on your next getaway.