Believe it or not, one of the coolest things about London can be checking out its neighboring cities. Within easy striking distance of the capital city are numerous possibilities for short breaks, from cathedral cities with loads of charm to iconic sights that will have you reaching for the camera. Here’s our pick of the top places to visit for a weekend away.
To the North – Cambridge
Cambridge is quite staggeringly beautiful — the River Cam meandering through green fields along the back of the colleges, 13th- and 14th-century buildings rising up from the cobbled streets. The city is not merely home to the university, it is the university, and the pavements are filled with cycling students in billowing gowns from morning until night.
Don’t miss the late Gothic Kings College, with its stunning chapel, and a leisurely punt on the Cam, with a local student tour guide telling tall stories as you go.
Stay at The Varsity Hotel & Spa for boutique chic in the heart of the city and truly gorgeous views from the roof terrace.
To the South – Brighton
Bohemian and buzzing, Brighton is Britain’s party town and is often called the country’s gay capitol. Arts and culture are alive and kicking in this charming Georgian seaside community, and you’re sure to have a fun time out whatever night of the week you’re in town.
Don’t miss the Lanes for boutique shopping and one-off cafés, and be sure to stroll the Pier for sea vistas and the rush of the arcades and fairground rides.
Stay at Hotel Pelirocco, which styles itself as England’s most rock ‘n’ roll hotel — think Rockabilly and Rough Trade record covers.
To the East – Canterbury
Wonderfully historic, Canterbury is a city of culture, with Roman ruins sitting alongside Christian grandeur and a Norman castle reached by winding cobbled streets. The city is also a student town, which lends the place a lively edge. But this is a destination for the laid-back at heart, with less formal attractions than some, but bags more character than others.
Don’t miss the Cathedral, the mother church of the Church of England and home to the Archbishop, and the wonderful West Gate — a medieval city gate from where, it is alleged, it remains legal to shoot a Frenchman in the back with an arrow.
Stay at the Falstaff, a traditional 15th-century coaching inn just behind the West Gate.
To the West – Salisbury
An unsung city break destination, Salisbury is overshadowed by one, significant nearby attraction — Stonehenge. But far from just a base for visiting England’s most famous monument, Salisbury is all Constable views and pleasant streets, an antidote to the high-rises of so many other English cities.
Don’t miss Stonehenge (it simply has to be done) and a climb up the Cathedral’s piercing spire, the country’s second tallest, for superb views of the surrounding bucolic countryside.
Stay at the Mercure Salisbury White Hart Hotel for 17th-century grandeur and a delicious afternoon tea.
Photos Courtesy of Rup Jones, Marilyn Jane, The Falstaff Hotel and The Varsity Hotel