UK city breaks for eager sightseers

An occasional change of scenery is always good for the soul, and fortunately, you don't have to leave the country to enjoy a quick escape that's packed with as much culture and entertainment as you want. Read on for the best city breaks in Britain, whether you're looking for an action-packed weekend or a quieter retreat for lots of R & R.

Bright lights, big cities for the true-blue urbanite

Sightseeing opportunities are rife in the largest UK cities, all of which offer history, art and culture in hefty doses. City-centre holiday lettings put you close to the top tourist spots and provide self-catering facilities for greater convenience.

A city break in London will never let you down

With so much to experience in this enormous, multicultural city, it's difficult to decide where to start. Westminster's world-famous landmarks are the perfect starting point for first-time visitors, while shopaholics can make a beeline for Oxford Street. Those looking to veer off the touristy track can branch out into London's varied neighbourhoods, from posh Chelsea to gritty, arty Shoreditch. Come nightfall, catch a gig or head to one of London's traditional pubs and trendy cocktail bars.

Manchester is for football fans and curry connoisseurs

Manchester, nicknamed the Capital of the North, has something to delight every visitor, whether it's top-flight footy at Old Trafford, museums telling of the city's rich industrial past or a vibrant, welcoming atmosphere in The Village, one of the oldest and most popular gay communities in Europe. Families will enjoy the interactive Museum of Science and Industry amidst Castlefield's 18th-century canals, while foodies should hurry down to the Curry Mile along Wilmslow Road.

Explore the diverse neighbourhoods of Edinburgh

Much of your sightseeing in Edinburgh will be in the medieval Old Town, home to the imposing Edinburgh Castle and the National Museum of Scotland, while there's plenty of shopping opportunities in the Georgian New Town and in Stockbridge's second-hand shops. Navigating the sloping cobbled streets is no easy feat for your feet, so sit awhile in the Princes Street Gardens, a strip of parkland bisecting the city, or duck into one of the numerous restaurants serving all kinds of cuisines.

Go for Glasgow if you want impressive art and architecture

Scotland's biggest city is a stunning treasure trove of Victorian and Edwardian architecture, and there are more than enough museums and galleries to keep you busy. If you've time for just one stop, make it the grandiose Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Glasgow's art and music scene is something to write home about, but if you're not one for gigs and theatrical shows, head for one of the vibrant pubs, where you're bound to strike up a lively conversation with a local.

UK city breaks for a more relaxed pace

If it's a chilled-out city break you're after, how about going on a spa holiday in Bath or heading to Oxford and breathing in its intellectual air? In these smaller cities, you can bed down in holiday rentals set back from the city centre for guaranteed peace and quiet, while still enjoying close proximity to local attractions.

Bristol is an urban escape with a cosy small-town vibe

Bristol is a city that feels big and intimate at the same time. It's got more than enough shops, restaurants and museums to appeal to urbanites – there's a sprawling shopping quarter, a vibrant harbourfront and a quaint old town – but there's also plenty of nature nearby. Two of this South West England destination's iconic landmarks are Brunel's masterpieces: the 249-foot-high Clifton Suspension Bridge over the Avon Gorge, and the 19th-century SS Great Britain, now restored and converted into a museum ship.

Ooh and ahh at Oxford's hallowed halls

Oxford University's 38 colleges are found all over this southeast England city's medieval core – some of the most-visited attractions in town, such as the Bodleian Library and the Ashmolean Museum, are parts of the institution. There's more to Oxford than the university, of course, and you'll find plenty of long-standing pubs, beloved bookshops and awe-inspiring architecture. Joining a walking tour is highly recommended, as is trying your hand at punting in the summer.

Soak your cares away in beautiful Bath

South West England's beloved spa town has been attracting visitors for centuries. The remarkably well-preserved Roman baths are the highlight of this World Heritage Site, but if you're hankering for a dip in spring-fed pools, head for the popular Thermae Bath Spa instead. Make sure you've got time to wander the streets and see the wealth of 18th-century Georgian architecture. There's also a buzzing culinary scene for when you're feeling peckish.