The best UK cities and towns for a staycation named by Which? – York and Cambridge get top ratings… Aberdeen, Ipswich and Hastings are ranked bottom

  • In a survey, Which? Travel asked respondents to rate 56 cities and towns across eight categories
  • York is the number one big city, Cambridge the highest-ranking medium city, and Wells is the top small city 
  • The top-rated destinations offer travellers ‘vibrant food scenes, historic backstreets and cultural wonders’

The best cities and towns in the UK for a weekend staycation break or day trip have been ranked by Which?, with York the number one big city, Cambridge the highest-ranking medium-sized city, and Wells first in the small city ranking.

At the other end of the table, Aberdeen is the worst-ranked big city, Ipswich is last in the medium-sized city ranking, and Hastings is bottom in the small cities and towns list. 

The results come from a survey in which respondents were asked to rate 56 cities and towns across eight categories – hotel prices, food and drink, accommodation, cultural sights, shopping, ease of getting around, lack of crowds and value for money. Which? Travel says that the top-rated destinations offer ‘vibrant food scenes, historic backstreets and cultural wonders’.

The best cities and towns in the UK for a weekend staycation break or day trip have been ranked by Which?, with York named the number one big city to visit. Above is The Shambles, a famously enchanting street in the city

Cambridge has been revealed as the highest-ranking medium-sized city in the survey. Which? Travel recommends punting along the city’s River Cam (above) to take in views of the ‘university colleges that overlook its willow-fringed banks’

Wells – a city full of ‘medieval nooks and crannies’ – is first in the small city ranking. Pictured is the city’s famous Vicar’s Close

In the ‘large cities and towns’ ranking in the study – a survey of more than 3,600 people – York receives an overall score of 86 per cent, earning five stars for its cultural sights and food and drink offering. Which? Travel says: ‘York has always pulled in the punters with its unbeatable mix of historical and cultural attractions. These have now been matched by excellent food and drink options and great independent shops.’

It’s trailed by second-place Belfast (85 per cent) – which earns top marks for food and drink, and its lack of crowds. In joint third place, it’s Edinburgh – a city that boasts ‘lively street life, many tasty food and drink options (rated five stars in the survey) and excellent galleries’ – and Liverpool (both 83 per cent), where recent ‘regeneration’ has helped to ‘boost its ranking in the survey’.

The rest of the top five comprises fourth-place Newcastle (80 per cent) and Glasgow and London, which are tied in fifth place with scores of 78 per cent.

Aberdeen (21st), the lowest-ranked big city, scores 59 per cent overall, receiving just two stars for food and drink, shopping, ease of getting around and value for money. However, Which? Travel defends the Scottish destination, saying: ‘Aberdeen is a handsome city of grand granite buildings at the heart of 150 miles (241km) of glorious coastline. It has a world-class art gallery, a thriving street art scene and it’s well located for sampling a variety of local food.’

Belfast, which is second in the big city ranking, earns top marks for food and drink, and its lack of crowds. Above is the city’s Titanic Belfast museum 

Aberdeen (pictured), the lowest-ranked big city, scores just 59 per cent overall. It earns just two stars for ‘food and drink’ and ‘shopping’ and ‘value for money’

Southampton similarly performs poorly, finishing second from bottom in 20th place with a score of 61 per cent.

Moving on to the ‘medium cities and towns’ ranking, gold medal winner Cambridge has a score of 81 per cent. Which? Travel recommends punting along the city’s River Cam to take in views of the ‘university colleges that overlook its willow-fringed banks’. It says: ‘Nosing around the 30 colleges and their immaculately kept gardens is one of Cambridge’s big selling points, helping it to earn four stars for attractions.’

Canterbury – where the medieval streets create a ‘feeling of time travel’, according to Which? Travel – ties in second place with Winchester (both 78 per cent).

The results come from a survey in which respondents were asked to rate 56 cities and towns across eight categories

Canterbury – where the medieval streets create a ‘feeling of time travel’, according to Which? Travel – ties for second place in the medium-sized city ranking 

Winchester is joint second in the medium-sized city ranking. Pictured is imposing Winchester Cathedral 

Oxford, Chester and Harrogate tie in third place with a score of 77 per cent, followed by Worcester (fourth, 74 per cent). Fifth place is also a tie – Chichester, Dundee and Norwich each score 73 per cent.

Second last in the ranking, meanwhile, is Gloucester (14th, 56 per cent).

While Ipswich (15th) is the lowest-ranked medium-sized city with a score of 54 per cent, Which? Travel notes that the city has a bright future. It says: ‘The centre of Ipswich might feel a little forlorn, but the waterfront is undergoing massive regeneration following government funding. Watch it soar up the rankings in future.’

Ipswich, pictured above, is the lowest-ranked medium-sized city with a score of 54 per cent

Finally, in the ‘small cities and towns’ category, first-place Wells has a score of 88 per cent. ‘If ever there was a perfect little cathedral city, Wells is it,’ says Which? Travel. It adds: ‘Wells attracts fewer visitors than the big cathedral cities, so it scored five stars for lack of crowds. It all gives you the space as well as the time to explore its medieval nooks and crannies.’

In second place it’s the Welsh city of St Davids (86 per cent), which holds the title of the smallest city in the UK – it ‘feels more like a village than a city… with pubs, restaurants, galleries, and gift shops clustered around a sweet little square,’ according to Which? Travel.

It’s chased by Bath (third, 84 per cent), St Andrews (fourth, 83 per cent), and Ely (fifth, 80 per cent).

Royal Tunbridge Wells (19th) finishes second last with an overall score of 60 per cent, while last-place Hastings (20th) has a score of 57 per cent, with the town earning just two stars for food and drink, ease of getting around and value for money.

In second place in the small cities and towns list it’s the Welsh city of St Davids (86 per cent), which holds the title of the smallest city in the UK

Hastings – bottom in the small city and town ranking – has a score of 57 per cent. It fails to score above three stars in any of the survey categories

Commenting on the survey’s findings, Guy Hobbs, Editor of Which? Travel, tells MailOnline Travel: ‘While the UK’s stunning coastal and countryside destinations have stolen much of the glory during the recent “staycation” boom, our research shows just how much the UK’s towns and cities have to offer those searching for the perfect long weekend away.

‘With a world-class array of cultural and heritage sites, buzzing nightlife and culinary options to suit every budget, you’re sure to find somewhere to tempt you on Which?’s list of the best towns and cities for 2022.’

Which? Travel adds: ‘What [travellers] continue to appreciate is a medieval cathedral with cobbled lanes, plenty of history, independent shops and somewhere agreeable to have a cup of tea and a slice of cake. That’s not the entire story, however: grittier cities have shot up the rankings – Belfast in particular has become a favoured destination for foodies and culture aficionados.

‘Similarly, Newcastle and Liverpool scored highly for their mix of entertainment, good food and lively street life. Cities with fewer crowds, such as Harrogate, Ely and Wells, also ranked well – proving that sometimes you can get away from it all, or at least some of it, on an urban break.

For more information, visit www.which.co.uk/l/travel.

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