brown concrete building under blue sky during daytime

Exploring Smaller Cities in Great Britain

If you’re planning a trip to Great Britain, London should certainly be on your list of places to spend time. But don’t overlook the smaller cities in England, Scotland and Wales when putting together your itinerary. They have their own history and charm.

Whether your idea of exploring history is visiting castles or shopping for vintage clothing you can do both in Cardiff, the capital and biggest city in Wales. Cardiff Castle, built atop a Roman fort, dates from the 11th century. Be sure to check out the opulent living quarters added in the 19th century. Cardiff’s historic shopping arcades date from the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and they’re filled with independent boutiques, restaurants and cafes. Jacobs Market is the place to find antiques, collectibles and all kinds of vintage items.

A visit to Liverpool, in northern England, is a must for fans of The Beatles. On a bus tour, you’ll see many of the places associated with the band and their best-known songs, like Penny Lane and Strawberry Field. You can also tour The Beatles Story museum to learn how four lads from Liverpool rose from humble beginnings to become part of rock ‘n’ roll history. The Royal Albert Dock is home to shops, restaurants and attractions, including the Maritime Museum, where you can explore Liverpool’s seafaring heritage.

Glasgow, a port city on the River Clyde in Scotland, is known for its vibrant arts scene, with more than 20 museums and galleries. You can follow the city’s walking trails to discover street art and outdoor sculptures, explore its waterways on a paddleboard or rent a bike to go cycling along miles of pathways. “Style Mile” is packed with indie boutiques and vintage shops. Another great way to see Glasgow is on a walking tour where you can take a deep dive into local music, architecture and food.

Colorful, bohemian Brighton is a popular English seaside resort that’s home to the Royal Pavilion, built as a retreat for King George IV and completed in 1823. The Palace Pier, opened in 1899, is home to amusement park rides and restaurants, as well as deck chairs where you can sit back and enjoy the sea. A newer landmark is the British Airways i360 tower that will give you a panoramic view of the coast and surrounding countryside. Brighton also has a thriving LGBTQ community, with a lively café, bar and club scene.

Bristol is a university city in the southwest of England that straddles the River Avon. It’s known for an independent spirit and alternative vibe. If you don’t mind heights, you can walk across the city’s best-known landmark, the Clifton Suspension Bridge that spans the Avon Gorge. Other attractions include the 180-year-old SS Great Britain, a steamship that was once the world’s largest passenger ship. You can take a walking tour of Bristol’s street art, made famous by the elusive Banksy.