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Cool Britannia: The Trendiest Cities to Visit by Train

We’ve picked out 8 top cities with trendy neighbourhoods, emerging creative scenes and fun hangouts where you can chill with friends, family and sweethearts for a day out to remember, a weekend getaway or a longer escape

All these amazing cities are easy to reach by train, too, so, grab your Railcard and get ready to explore cool Britannia.

1. Brighton  

The bohemian city of Brighton has long been considered the best in class for city coolness and it’s easy to see why. Think the independent shops, vegan cafes and contemporary galleries of The Lanes. Think the iconic Royal Pavilion(external link, opens in a new tab). And think the nostalgic fairground fun that awaits at Brighton Palace Pier(external link, opens in a new tab).  

Brighton also has Britain’s biggest LGBTQ+ scene, with queer-friendly venues centred around St James’ Street and a food and drink scene that includes hip establishments like the brewery Brighton Bier(external link, opens in a new tab) and the pizzeria Fatto o Mano(external link, opens in a new tab)

Nearest station: Brighton 

2. Dundee  

In recent years, Dundee has transformed itself into one of Britain’s coolest cities, a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the likes of UNESCO, which designated it a City of Design in 2014 (still the only city in Britain to have this accolade). 

For a taste of all things hip, pop into Jute Cafe Bar(external link, opens in a new tab), a creative hangout within the Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre(external link, opens in a new tab). The V&A Dundee(external link, opens in a new tab) is also well worth a visit. Then head to the suburb Broughty Ferry, where a beach, a castle and independent shops await. Finally, catch a show at the city’s cherished Dundee Rep(external link, opens in a new tab) theatre. 

Nearest station: Dundee 

3. Manchester 

Edgy, exciting and fashion-forward, Manchester’s industrial neighbourhoods have been getting quite bougie in recent years. The regeneration of the Ancoats district has attracted cool bars, theatres and restaurants, while the Northern Quarter remains home to creative businesses, eclectic shops and chic cafes serving up artisanal coffees.  

Get a taste of Manchester’s food history on a Scranchester food tour(external link, opens in a new tab), and explore the city’s music scene at The Deaf Institute(external link, opens in a new tab) and Warehouse Project(external link, opens in a new tab). Meanwhile, Oldham Street, in the Northern Quarter, is packed with thrift shops and vintage markets, with Blue Rinse(external link, opens in a new tab) an emporium of second-hand clobber.  

Nearest Station: Manchester Piccadilly 

4. Cardiff 

With Cardiff Castle(external link, opens in a new tab) in the centre, a rejuvenated waterfront on the fringes and a thriving live music scene throughout, Cardiff gets the mix of old and new culture just right. Plus, you may spot a Tardis and film crew on a Dr Who walking tour(external link, opens in a new tab) of the city, so yeah, it’s pretty cool. 

One of the best aspects of Cardiff is its 7 arcades(external link, opens in a new tab) – hence the nickname City of Arcades – which have been transformed into mini-little destinations in their own right. We’re talking independent shops, eateries and more set in Victorian and Edwardian spaces. 

Nearest station: Cardiff Central 

 

5. London 

Multicultural, historic and relentlessly reinventive, London has long been a mecca for the latest happenings in fashion, music, culture and food. But what really makes the capital uniquely cool is the distinct charms and vibes of its many boroughs. 

This includes Camden Town, a hotspot for quirky fashion, cool cafes and stalls in the market selling unusual collectables. It includes Soho, the place to be for wining and dining and London’s LGBTQ+ nightlife. And it includes nearby Southbank, which is home to the Tate Modern(external link, opens in a new tab) and the Southbank Centre(external link, opens in a new tab) for art lovers.  

Nearest stations: London Bridge, London Charing Cross, London Waterloo 

 

6. Bristol 

Thanks to its famous music and street art scene, amazing festivals like the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, and its cycle-friendly centre – it was named Britain’s first-ever Cycling City back in 2008 – Bristol just keeps on racking up the cool points. 

Head to St Nicholas Market(external link, opens in a new tab), a grand indoor market filled with independent stalls, pop in to the harbourside’s Watershed(external link, opens in a new tab) to see an art-house film, and visit Arnolfini(external link, opens in a new tab) for modern art exhibitions. You’ll also find Bristol’s best alternative shops, pubs and delicious Pieminister Pies(external link, opens in a new tab) in Stokes Croft (keep your eyes peeled for Banksy’s Mild Mild West mural here, too). 

Nearest station: Bristol Temple Meads 

7. Newcastle 

With character-filled neighbourhoods, an exciting food scene and the dynamic rejuvenation of the Quayside, Newcastle is as trendy as it is fun (after all, no one lets a bit of weather stand in the way of a good night out!). 

Join the culture vultures on a walking tour of the city and hang out at the Quayside, home to restaurants, theatres and, across the river, the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art(external link, opens in a new tab). Hop on the metro to the suburb of Jesmond for a bustling neighbourhood filled with cool cafes, boutique shops and classy restaurants like Peace and Loaf(external link, opens in a new tab).  

Nearest Station: Newcastle 

 

8. Glasgow 

With its contrast of dramatic gothic architecture and friendly neighbourhoods, Glasgow is impossible to leave off this list. Explore the city’s trendy East End and Finnieston areas, with independent brasseries like Kelvingrove Cafe(external link, opens in a new tab) breathing new life into Glasgow’s oldest buildings.  

Take a behind-the-scenes tour of Drygate Brewery(external link, opens in a new tab) in the East End then enjoy music and comedy nights with a craft ale or two. Art fans should definitely check out the Gallery of Modern Art(external link, opens in a new tab) and say hello to the Duke of Wellington outside who’s always sporting a traffic cone hat. 

Nearest station: Glasgow Central 

Plan Your Journey

Get 1/3 off train fares with a Railcard

Fantastic savings are always on trend, so ride the train to Britain’s coolest cities with a Railcard and get 1/3 off your train ticket plus discounts on popular attractions.