Six Underrated UK Cities We’re Visiting in 2021 (Plus Where to Stay and Eat)

Keen to get your staycation fix sans the crowds? We're spotlighting the UK's most underrated cities, where you'll find culture, creativity and locavore cuisine aplenty.

There's no escaping the staycation stampede that's on the UK's horizon. As everyone and their dog heads to The Highlands or the Cornish coastline, we're sidestepping the crowds and calling upon these often-overlooked UK cities. Armed with an appetite for culture - oh how we've missed aimless museum wandering - locavore cuisine and a fierce, creative spirit, these are the alternative British cities worth visiting in 2021.

Crowd-free and culturally saturated: six UK cities to travel to in 2021



Ticked off Edinburgh and Glasgow? Shimmy up to Scotland's third-largest city for its granite-hewn architecture - long hailed as the most beautiful in Europe - city surfing and an eclectic creative scene fuelled by vibrant street art and "Made in Aberdeen" collectives such as Look Inside.

Orient yourself with a stroll through the city where brutalist tower blocks rub shoulders with neo-gothic spires, juxtaposing stone columns and Victorian domes. Nip into the (recently refurbished) Aberdeen Art Gallery, before refuelling at Foodstory Café, a centrally located vegan café. Make tracks towards Footdee - affectionately nicknamed Fittie by locals - a teeny tiny fishing quarter filled with 'grammable cottages and onwards to the dunes of Balmedie. It'll take you about three hours. Circle back (or catch the bus) to treat yourself to a scoop of Aberdeenshire ice cream at Mackies 19.2. Classics flavours line the menu as do a few more adventurous options; Brussels sprouts and haggis paired with marmalade pop up seasonally. Call us vanilla but the, eh, vanilla is our go-to scoop. This best-of-both-worlds bothy doubles up as the gateway to Aberdeenshire's natural playground - Cairngorms National Park and Scotland's northern sandy swatches are all within an easy reach



We're pressing pause on recording (and re-recording failed TikTok dances) and heading to 2021's City of Culture to soak up the creative arts IRL. Finally. We're itching to get out and support the sectors that've been decimated of late. A city built on resilience and determination, Coventry has a prepared-for-all-eventualities calendar of cultural celebrations that sees the Turner Prize landing at The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum in September, floating libraries ringing bells every time a book is taken, poetry decorating pavements, dance parties ringing out across front lawns and picnics devoured on pavements across the city. Between nipping from one culture-soaked event to another, head to family-run Bean & Leaf for an expertly brewed cup of Joe or pass by Esmie's for platefuls of Caribbean food crafted from recipes passed down through generations. The city is slightly lacklustre in its hotel offering; we're opting to stay in this self-catering penthouse with our pals instead.

Derry/ Londonderry

Northern Ireland

A haven for historians and food-focused travellers alike, Derry/ Londonderry has continued to blossom since its stint as the UK's City of Culture back in 2013. First-time visitors should start with a stroll of the city's 17th-century walks to get your bearings. Next, visit the Bogside murals that have become a beacon for civil rights before crossing over to The Museum of Free Derry, where you'll find an in-depth exploration of the city's turbulent history during The Troubles. The museum is more than just a fact-finding exercise; it's been an integral part of the city's healing process. Dig deeper and embark on a Free Derry Bogside Tour led by family members of the victims of Bloody Sunday. You'll receive a highly emotive and personal account. Worked up an appetite? For proper home-cooked fare, make reservations at Soda & Starch to slurp on bowls of thick chowder and just-baked Guinness bread. Seeking something lighter? Cross the river to Pyke 'N' Pommes which graduated from a pop-up food stall in a disused car park to a shipping container and double-decker bus combo that dishes out the best tacos in town. You can't visit Derry/ Londonderry without attempting the notorious Waterloo Street bar crawl - trust us, it's good craic. You'll start at the top of Butcher's Gate and finish up down by the river, dipping in and out of each of the sing-song pubs that line the route. Stagger back to Art House - its location is convenient and antique-meets-Great-Aunt-Pam kitsch decor makes for a homely stay.



Salisbury is undergoing something of a revolution led by a legion of young and energetic business owners who are breathing a new life into a city that has long rested on its historical claims to fame. Sure Salisbury Cathedral is worth a visit to peer at intact pieces of the Magna Carta, but it shouldn't be your sole checkpoint. Stop by Fisherton Mill for indie studios, workshops, galleries and exhibitions showcasing local artists. Artistic appetite satisfied, scurry towards Nole where you'll find plump sourdough pizzas laden with avant-garde toppings - think wild boar drizzled in garlic mayo, or the vegan Jerusalem artichoke and hazelnut. Afterwards, take your nightcaps at Kludo & Inc. cocktail bar where expert mixologists whip up everything from crisp negronis to spins on the classics, while an Ibiza-meets-Mykonos soundtrack is spun by resident DJs in the background. Sleep it off at The Chapter House, a listed building packed with period features that once entertained Tudor monarchs.



British musicians have waxed lyrical about Sheffield's ability to reinvent itself for years and it looks like the rest of us are finally catching on. Kelham Island - if we're being technical, it's not an island at all but a man-made goit constructed to power water wheels in the 19th century - is the former industrial city's coolest quarter. Here you'll find a slew of independent businesses all singing from the same locavore hymn sheet. Make a beeline for Jöro. It's housed in a shipping container with a farm-fresh menu that's rumoured to be on its way to a Michelin star. Taste-test your way through Cutlery Works, the largest food hall in the north, and finish off feasting at Church: Temple of Fun for a platter of its finger-licking-good avocado wings. Eschew the identikit chain hotels that clog the city centre and opt to stay in a static houseboat anchored on Victoria Quays instead.



Forgo trips to Brighton or Southend-on-Sea in favour of visiting this Welsh seafront city that's packed with spadefuls of nostalgia. Sitting gloriously on the 8km sweep of Swansea Bay, it's in the midst of a cultural rebirth similar to the one Cardiff underwent a few years ago. Amble along the wild, windy beaches. Be sure to pack your cagoule - Swansea proudly holds the badge for the wettest city in the UK - for vinegar-soaked fish and chips before a scoop of creamy gelato courtesy of Joe's secret family recipe. Snack on cockles and laverbread from Carol Watts at Swansea Indoor Market and stock up on Welsh cakes from the Little Valley Bakery - they double up as perfect snacking fodder should you wish to tackle one of the Brecon Beacon hiking trails, just a 50-minute drive away. Nip down the coast to Mumbles, a quaint fishing village, or take a dip at Blue Pool Bay in Gower, where overhanging rock ledges double up as a natural diving board. Dry off at these beachfront digs.

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21 UK Destinations to Visit in 2021 (Plus, Where to Stay)