10 best coastal cities to visit for a metropolitan break, look no further than the exciting cities around the coast of the British Isles, packed with cool buildings, cultural happenings and smart places to stay.

Words: Alex Reece

1. FOR HIPSTER HANGOUTS: Liverpool, Merseyside

One of the most exciting developments in Liverpool of late is the Baltic Triangle – a former industrial zone now resurgent as a hub for tech and creative ventures. At the epicentre of this is Camp and Furnace (campandfurnace.com), serving up street food against a rough-luxe backdrop of log fires and reclaimed furnishings. Liverpool One is, of course, a shopper’s paradise leading down to the waterfront and Albert Dock. Head in the opposite direction for the soul-soaring neoclassical architecture of William Brown Street. 
HANG OUT AT… Camp and Furnace or 92 Degrees coffee shop (92degrees.coffee).
STAY AT… The Titanic Hotel, part of the redeveloped Stanley Dock (from £85 per double room, titanichotelliverpool.com); visitliverpool.com.
Photo: Marketing Liverpool

2. FOR TITANIC ATTRACTIONS: Belfast, Northern Ireland

Belfast has grown into an award-winning tourist destination, with Michelin-starred restaurants and great places to stay. The Titanic Quarter is home to Titanic Belfast – the world’s largest visitor attraction dedicated to the ship. Also nearby is Titanic Studios, where Game of Thrones is filmed, and coach tours cater for fans. Book a trip to coincide with the International Arts Festival (belfastinternationalartsfestival.com).
HANG OUT AT… The Crown Bar (nationaltrust.org.uk) and OX restaurant (oxbelfast.com).
STAY AT… Ten Square Hotel (from £110 for double B&B, tensquare.co.uk); ireland.com.
Photo: Chris Hill/Tourism Ireland

3. FOR MOUNTAINS & SEA: Bangor, Gwynedd

The university city of Bangor began life in the 6th century as a monastic settlement and makes a scenic base for an outdoorsy break, with easy access to rugged Snowdonia – plus the world’s fastest zipwire at Bethesda. Among its new attractions are museum/gallery Storiel (storiel.cymru), and the theatre and arts centre Pontio (pontio.co.uk).
HANG OUT AT… Roka Coffee House (facebook.com/rokacoffeehouse) for well-priced afternoon teas and homemade cake.
STAY AT… Swyn y Gwynt cottage, which sleeps four (from around £325 per week, greatescapeswales.co.uk); visitsnowdonia.info.

4. FOR MUSIC & OYSTERS: Galway, Ireland

This cosmopolitan city on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way boasts numerous festivals during the year, such as the International Oyster Festival in autumn (galwayoysterfestival.com). Regardless of when you visit, if you head to the medieval laneways of the Latin Quarter, you’ll find trad music sessions in the pubs and bars. For ancient sites and otherworldly beauty, sail across to the Gaelic-speaking Aran Islands (40 minutes by ferry from the harbour), or stroll along the unspoilt beaches on Galway Bay.
HANG OUT AT… Tigh Neachtain’s pub – Guinness, whiskey and live bands (tighneachtain.com).
STAY AT… g Hotel & Spa, with interiors designed by Galway-born milliner Philip Treacy (from around €150 for a double room, theghotel.ie); ireland.com.

5. FOR ARTS & INNOVATION: Dundee, Tayside

The V&A Museum of Design Dundee, which opened in 2018 in an £80m building on the waterfront, and has cemented this city’s reputation as a burgeoning centre for arts and innovation. It also has the McManus Galleries and Dundee Contemporary Arts, a centre for cutting-edge exhibitions and film, while on the docks there are historic vessels to explore. Climb up Dundee Law, an extinct volcano, for views of the Tay, or stroll on the sand at Broughty Ferry.
HANG OUT AT… The Parlour Café is a popular local haunt (facebook.com/parlourpeoplex).
STAY AT… Boutique hotel Taypark House (from £100 for double B&B, tayparkhouse.co.uk); visitscotland.com.
Photo: Visit Scotland/Kenny Lam

6. FOR A HIGHLANDS TASTER: Inverness, Inverness-shire

Inverness – a short drive from Loch Ness – has much to offer besides the famous lake monster. The city is encircled by mountains, and seals can be spotted in the River Ness, which flows into the Beauly Firth. The Eden Court Theatre (eden-court.co.uk) is the biggest arts centre in Scotland, while close at hand for great day trips are Brodie Castle, the Glen Ord Whisky Distillery and the Culloden Battlefield.
HANG OUT AT… Hootananny Ceilidh Bar, for live traditional music (hootanannyinverness.co.uk).
STAY AT… The Rocpool Reserve Hotel & Chez Roux Restaurant (from £250 for double B&B, rocpool.com); visitscotland.com.
Photo: Visit Scotland/Paul Tomkins

7. FOR A 360-DEGREE VIEW: Brighton & Hove, East Sussex

If you needed another reason to visit this vibrant city with its old-school pier, Royal Pavilion and eclectic shops, the British Airways i360 viewing tower offers panoramic views of the coast (britishairwaysi360.com). 
HANG OUT AT… Have coffee at Pelicano in the North Laine area (pelicanohouse.com).
STAY AT… Boutique Hotel Una (from £50 for a small double, hotel-una.co.uk); visitbrighton.com.

8. FOR ANGELS & INSECTS: St Davids, Pembrokeshire

The UK’s smallest city (of around 1,600 people) was home to the patron saint of Wales in the 4th century, and the cathedral was a major pilgrim destination in the Middle Ages. Today visitors are also drawn by the surf scene and good places to eat, including Britain’s first restaurant to serve insects: Grub Kitchen (grubkitchen.co.uk). The free Oriel y Parc gallery is in an award-winning eco-building (pembrokeshirecoast.org.uk).
HANG OUT AT… Blas Restaurant at Twr y Felin Hotel for fine dining. 
STAY AT… Luxury art hotel Twr y Felin (from £170 for double B&B, twryfelinhotel.com); visitpembrokeshire.com.

9. FOR CELEBRITY CHEFS: Plymouth, Devon

Big-name chefs such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (rivercottage.net/canteens/plymouth), the Tanner Brothers (barbicankitchen.com) and Mitch Tonks (therockfish.co.uk) have turned Plymouth into a foodie hotspot. Between meals, soak up the maritime heritage by visiting the Mayflower Steps, the departure point for the Pilgrim Fathers in 1620. Or tour Plymouth Gin’s Black Friars Distillery (plymouthdistillery.com).
HANG OUT AT… The Refectory Bar for cocktails (plymouthdistillery.com/refectory-bar).
STAY AT… Sea Breezes guesthouse has a coastal vibe (from £90pn, visitplymouth.co.uk)

To see more of our coastal guides, click here or pick up a copy of the magazine.

To see more of our coastal guides, click here or pick up a copy of the magazine.