As we emerge from months of lockdown and the itchy feet to get back to travelling, many of us are still apprehensive about taking the leap to another country or just outright confused about where we’re allowed to go. So put the Barcelona trip on ice, say ciao for now, Rome and indulge in some of England’s fine cities (no, for once we’re not looking at you, London) to get your travel fix.
From the foodie hub of the north to the seaside city that just about has it all, here’s where we’re going to be spending our summer.
We’re coining Bristol as a ‘Little London’ thanks to its wealth of cool bars, its established art scene, modern boutiques and great restaurants – check out the recently opened Woky Ko, from MasterChef finalist Larkin Cen – there’s even a Harvey Nichols if you really need your shopping fix outside of London.
For a banging roast or the best steak in the city head to The Ox on Corn Street or take a street art tour that starts off with one of Bristol’s most famous modern art exports, Banksy and his Well-Hung Lover, painted on a former sexual health clinic on Park Street – how very Banksy.
If you’d rather relax than traipse the streets, there’s the charming Bristol Lido that’s been given a modern makeover (it actually dates back to 1849). They don’t just offer a cooling dip from the city’s summer heat, but a restaurant, unusual ice cream selection, sauna, steam and spa.
Where to stay: Book into the gorgeous Bristol Harbour Hotel to bed down in the grand surroundings of an old banking building in the city’s historic centre. The punchy interiors are an Instagrammer’s dream, from the print clashing bar (which serves up some of the city’s best cocktails FYI) to the jewel-toned bedrooms, some of which come with free-standing baths.
To add to the luxury, there’s even a spa and pool onsite to rest and recuperate after a day of street art spotting, shopping and exploring.
Any other year and Cambridge would be rammed with tourists who want to live out their boat-race-Oxbridge-hoity-toity-chino-wearing fantasies, but make the most of the travel breather and head to Cambridge in 2020 for a far more lowkey trip.
There’s obviously the stunning university buildings and grounds to get geeky about, the outstanding architecture, and the river for punting jaunts and Pimm’s on the bank. In short, 2020 is the perfect time to indulge in all the uber touristy things you’d deem embarrassingly naff before and actually enjoy them.
Food-wise, if you’re into your Michelin stars book in at Midsummer House for picturesque views of the river and fine-dining French fare or sink into one of the old, charming pubs (you can’t really go wrong with Cambridge pubs) that dot the city. For something a little different, Hidden Rooms do cracking cocktails set against live music.
Where to stay: The relatively new University Arms is without a doubt the chicest hotel in the city thanks to its John Simpson-designed breathtaking architecture and Martin Brudnizki-styled interiors.
The £80m transformation of the one-time coaching inn has been a key investment in an attempt to make Cambridge cool, and now boast 73 bedrooms, a serious amount of marble, stunning rooms and to die for bathrooms.
Brudnizki’s work can often teeter on the edge of OTT but this place is nothing but sheer elegance.
The £80m transformation of the Cambridge Arms has been a key investment in an attempt to make Cambridge cool, and now boast 73 bedrooms, a serious amount of marble, stunning rooms and to die for bathrooms. It will have you leaving you with a suitcase full of interiors ideas for your own home.
Brighton & Hove
Whether you’re looking for a big night out, a seaside escape or a shopping trip minus the big names, Brighton and Hove has it all.
Take a stroll down the famous Lanes with its rainbow-hued boutiques, cute cafes and multi-coloured bunting overhead, or stop off at the pier for a hint of nostalgia, fish and chips in paper cones, a go on the helter skelter and a photo opp under that famous ‘Brighton Pier’ sign.
Drinks-wise, the city has endless options for a night-out or lazy Sunday afternoon in the pub. We rate the Hope & Ruin – a hipster boozer with great live music in the venue upstairs and The Pond for the best bao in Brighton.
Talking of food, there’s also Kindling, a relatively new restaurant with a menu centred around the three main elements – land, sea and fire. The team are sustainably conscious and their sharing Sunday roasts are worth a booking alone.
And if you’ve not visited the city before, don’t leave without a trip to the The Royal Pavilion, also known as the Brighton Pavilion – a Grade I former royal residence that dates back over 200 years. Unlike other British royal residences it doesn’t look very British at all, instead it’s like a mini Taj Mahal plonked in the middle of Brighton and was the work of architect John Nash under the guidance and eclectic taste of George IV.
Where to stay: This one is an absolute no brainer: book into the Artist Residence on Regency Square. The 24-room hotel holds art at its centre, showcasing quirky original pieces against the stunning views of Brighton seafront and the iconic West Pier. One of the best things about Artist Residence (they also have hotels in London, Cornwall and Bristol (coming soon)) is that they’re not eye wateringly expensive and have rooms to suit a range of budgets – but if you can, book one of the rooms that has the gorgeous iron-framed beds. Bliss.
The northwest city offers so much more than just The Beatles fodder (although that’s a pretty big pull too), as Liverpool is bursting with culture. Start with the museums; from the Tate Liverpool to the Maritime Museum, the World Museum and the Museum of Liverpool, there’s plenty to soak up and learn whatever your interests.
If music is your bag however, take a trip to Matthew Street where you’ll find the iconic Cavern Club where the famous four used to play. But lesser known Seel Street and Concert Square provide equally good nights out for live music and drinks. Plus, this year Liverpool has been named as the UNESCO City of Music so there will be plenty of things taking place once social distancing measures are a little more relaxed.
Another reason to visit is that the architecture is simply stunning – you’ll be wanting to look up everywhere you go as grand buildings sweep down on the maritime docks. The Royal Liver Building being the grandfather of it all – you can’t miss the imposing, Grade I listed building located at the Pier Head.
For food, hit up Röski, headed up by Anton Piotrowski, a former winner of MasterChef: The Professionals, where the dishes are almost too pretty to eat, and the menu celebrates the best of British produce.
For something more casual, head to Duke Street Market for Insta-worthy street food dishes from around the globe, from the Spanish and Iberian-inspired Pilgrim to hangover-curing brunch options in the main court.
Where to stay: There’s so much going on in the city there’s little room for downtime, but it’s always nice to bed down somewhere chic.
The Hope Street Hotel is just that – think exposed brick work, low lighting and Egyptian cotton covered beds. It’s location is ideal for a short break, sitting right in the heart of Liverpool’s Georgian neighbourhood. It’s own neighbours are some of the coolest and most cultural in the city, from the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall to the Everyman Theatre and two magnificent cathedrals that bookend Hope Street itself.
Manchester has had a real foodie makeover in the past few years, from the painfully hip street food halls and bars of the Northern Quarter to gaining its first Michelin star in 40 years just last year.
Manchester’s exclusion from the list was absolutely ridiculous as the city has so much to offer by way of culinary delights. But it was Mana, headed up by ex-Noma chef Simon Martin, that has propelled it into a bonafide foodie haven. The concept restaurant holds seasonality and local product at its heart and boasts satisfyingly, clean-lined mid-century interiors. In short: if you’re visiting the city, a table here is a must.
For casual dining and sticky-floored bars, the Northern Quarter should be top of your list. Crawl the bars of the area for live music, beers and posh fast food and head to the gorgeously grand Victorian food hall, the Mackie Mayor to cure the hangover the next day with seriously good brunch options and artisan coffee.
Ancoats is really where it’s at for all things food and drink (also home to Mana) – check out Erst, Rudy’s Sugo, SEVEN BRO7HERS, Cask, we could go on. Drift between the them and take in the stunning industrial buildings that feel plucked from another time. It’s also home to the Hallé Orchestra if you’re on the lookout for a culture fix.
Talking of which, it’s no secret that music is at the centre of the city, you can feel it in its bones as you walk the streets and frequent the pubs and clubs. From the Stone Roses to Oasis, The Smiths to Joy Division, there are references to Manchester’s rich musical offerings everywhere. Join one of Show Me Manchester‘s Walking Tours and indulge in some Morrissey-style melancholy at the South Manchester Cemetery. It’s here that The Smith’s frontman sang about the cemetery’s gates and also where you can see the graves of Matt Busby and Tony Wilson.
If walking tours are your thing, journalist Jonathan Scofield leads some culturally diverse and interesting ones that tread some of the city’s most iconic places of interest, such as the Twisted Wheel, the original Northern Soul club.
London may be the capital but Manchester is without a doubt the UK’s capital of cool.
Where to stay: The newly reopened (it opened just this year before COVID hit) Hotel Brooklyn, which celebrates all things Noo Yawk, from the steaks to the stoops, the rooftop bars to the beer.
The rooms are simple and chic with NY-inspired touches, from concrete walls to floor to ceiling glass windows and exposed brick. And positioned just behind Manchester’s famous gay quarter, there’ll be plenty of restaurants, bars and bustle nearby to keep guests entertained.