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.

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
. 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

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



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
, 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
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



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
– 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.

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