Short holidays are all the rage, so check out these top cities for the best in culture, history, food and city walks, all of them just along the tracks on the GWR network. Book in advance to take advantage of the best ticket prices.
Gone are the days when a getaway meant a week’s worth of rest and relaxation. ‘Bite-sized breaks’ are this year’s top travel trend and they’re revolutionising the way we spend our weekends.
Experience all the fun and culture of a traditional holiday in a two-day time frame, and wash fewer socks and undies on your return home – result! Whether you’re looking to while away a weekend listening to live music or eating great food, these UK cities are a must visit for a bite-sized treat.
Famous for its rugby and castles, Cardiff is the largest city in Wales, offering visitors plenty of fun activities to fill a bite-sized break. With so much to see and do, what better way to experience this vibrant city than on foot?
Things to do
The adventure begins the moment you reach Cardiff Central station, with a self-guided tour through the city centre towards Cardiff Bay, which offers a cracking lake, an abundance of waterfront shops and bars, and some super views across the Bristol Channel towards Somerset.
With a map app to hand you’ll be able to take the lead and head towards Cardiff Bay at your own pace, enjoying a 2.6-mile walk to get there. Be sure to go via Westgate Street so you can see the Principality Stadium en route.
Those keen to keep to the city centre and see the area’s main landmark, Cardiff Castle, should stroll towards St Mary Street, continuing on to High Street and then left on to Castle Street. Enjoy an afternoon here before exploring beautiful Bute Park just outside the grounds, and wander along nearby North Road, where you’ll discover some of the city’s most impressive buildings, including Cardiff University, Cardiff Crown Court, the South African War Memorial, Cardiff City Hall and National Museum Cardiff.
Where to eat
All that walking is bound to work up an appetite and Madame Fromage in the Castle Quarter Arcades is a gem of a place to visit for a bite to eat – if you like cheese, that is. With more than 150 different cheeses to get the taste buds tingling, this gorgeous deli also serves as a restaurant with an ever-changing seasonal menu of heavenly food, including cheesy classics such as Welsh rarebit, croque monsieur and baked Camembert.
The historic Roman baths and the city’s one-of-a-kind Thermae Bath Spa attract tourists by the trainload. But away from the big landmarks, Bath’s cultural scene is making waves with fresh musical talent, art and comedy for all to enjoy.
Things to do
When it comes to celebrating the arts, Bath is often the first to ‘pop the cork’, playing host to many fantastic festivals throughout the year including Bath Comedy Festival (March and April), the Bath Festival (for music and literature, hosted in May), the Jane Austen Festival (September) and Bath Mozartfest (November).
Even if you’re not planning your trip around one of the city’s major annual events, there are plenty of great spaces to experience Bath’s cultural attractions, including live music venue The Bell Inn. This historic pub on Walcot Street showcases live music acts three times a week, featuring everything from jazz and blues to folk and funk.
Their selection of real ales is pretty good too, so it’s no wonder they were awarded the CAMRA Bath & Borders Pub of the Year in 2014.
Those looking for a laugh should head to Komedia on Westgate Street, which has experienced rip-roaring success since opening its doors in 2008. Many big names in comedy and music have taken to the stage here, with new acts made to feel just as welcome.
Where to eat
For a romantic dinner by candlelight, Sotto Sotto is the perfect place to reserve a table. Located in an underground cellar with exposed stone walls and curved ceilings, this lovely restaurant serves delightful Italian food with an assortment of delicious starters, pasta dishes and speciality mains. We recommend the linguine con gamberi (linguine tossed with prawns, sun-dried tomatoes, anchovies, black olives, capers, garlic and oil).
With its world-famous university, unrivalled architecture and trusted dictionary, Oxford is a big hit with history buffs, who are sure to enjoy the impressive sights of one of Europe’s oldest cities.
Things to do
Plan a trip to the Oxford Botanic Garden and Arboretum for a moment of mindfulness. As the oldest botanic garden in the UK (founded in 1621), visitors will discover a wealth of fascinating history and flora. Explore the glasshouses or head to the beautiful literary woodland outside.
Speaking of literature, the Bodleian Library on Radcliffe Square is the second largest library in Britain (the British Library is the largest) and one of the oldest in Europe.
Forming part of the University of Oxford, the Bodleian was established in 1602 and, together with its sister libraries, houses a collection of more than 13 million printed items.
Guided tours are available (Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday), the longest of which lasts 90 minutes and grants access to must-see historic rooms including the 15th-century Divinity School, Convocation House, the Upper Reading Room, the Radcliffe Camera and Duke Humfrey’s Library.
The Pitt Rivers Museum is also part of the University of Oxford. It holds archaeological and ethnographic objects from all over the world, with more than 600,000 items in its mitts.
Visitors to the museum can walk among the many rows of glass cabinets filled with interesting artefacts from across the globe.
Where to eat
Step into The Eagle and Child pub for some casual, hearty grub including delicious traditional pies, or such classics as fish and chips with mushy peas. Full of character, this unique pub has been around since 1650 and claims to have served literary greats such as JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis.
Cobbled streets and passageways make Truro one of Cornwall’s prettiest places. Independent boutiques adorn the idyllic high street, and with an abundance of bistros, brasseries and restaurants serving delectable dishes using locally sourced produce, it’s a must-visit for foodies.
Things to do
Every Wednesday and Saturday from 9am–4pm the Truro Farmers Market rolls into town at Lemon Quay in the city centre. The Saturday market is particularly impressive, with crowds of Truro residents and tourists perusing the stalls for a tasty snack, or ingredients for
a slap-up dinner.
From fresh vegetables and fruit to breads, pastries, pies, flowers and much, much more on sale, half the fun here comes from simply soaking up the welcoming atmosphere and experiencing the friendly hustle and bustle that the market offers.
Half a mile away on Newham Road is Skinner’s Brewery, a family-run business that’s been brewing award-winning ale and bitters since 1997. You can book to go on the Skinner’s Brewery tour and watch all the behind-the-scenes action before taking part in some beer tasting in the tap room. The tour and tasting lasts for 1.5 hours, and at just £9.50 a ticket, offers real bang for your buck.
Where to eat
Hooked! Restaurant & Bar in Tabernacle Street is a must-visit for seafood fans. With an open-plan kitchen and restaurant area, diners can watch as their food is prepared and cooked.
Enjoy tapas with friends or mouth-watering mains, including the bouillabaisse and shellfish platter. You could even go the whole hog and pre-order the fruits de mer, as long as you give the restaurant 24 hours’ notice. Table reservations are also advised.