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Just west of London, Reading offers redbrick Victorian buildings, medieval ruins, a thriving university, and pretty waterside walks along the Thames River. Its student community and annual rock-music blowout—the Reading Festival—add an offbeat edge.
Londoners have been traveing to Brighton for beach getaways ever since the railway arrived here in 1841. The pebbled beach, Brighton Pier's amusement arcade and the Royal Pavilion are the main sights, but you'll also find hundreds of pubs and clubs catering to an energetic crowd.
In the "city of dreaming spires", academia takes centre stage. Gaze out at Oxford's world-famous colleges from the top of St Mary's Church tower before heading into the city's pedestrian-friendly streets. The University's Botanic Garden and Ashmolean Museum are Britain's oldest. Follow your nose to the Covered Market for the makings of a picnic to enjoy on a punt or in the University Parks. Mix the historic and modern with visits to the 12th- century village church of Iffley and trendy Cowley's ethnic shops and music venues.
The geographical heart of England, Birmingham began life as a sixth- century Anglo-Saxon village. Today, much of this city of over a million dates back to post-WWII redevelopment in the 1950s and 60s. Cutting edge museums and galleries, innovative theatres and excellent shopping have contributed to Birmingham's appeal as a weekend break destination. Don't miss the Balti Triangle, home to the Pakistani food in the UK, the hopping bars and cafes of Gas Street Basin, or the National Sea Life Centre.
Famed for its football team and music scene, which has produced the likes of The Smiths and Oasis, this centre for sports and the arts is a down-to-earth and friendly city. The so-called Capital of the North has overcome industrial decline, bombing (in WWII and by the IRA) to become a confident and cosmopolitan city of well over two million. It is well served by a bus and light rail network. Top attractions include the Lowry art complex, arcade Affleck's Palace and Canal Street gay village.
Liverpool's fortunes have historically been tied to shipping. But imports and exports like sugar, spice and tobacco pale in comparison with Liverpool's most famous export of all — The Beatles. Relive the hysteria at The Beatles Story Experience, and check out Paul's childhood home, but also leave time for exploring Liverpool Cathedral and the Walker Art Gallery.
Amsterdam is truly a biker’s city, although pedaling along the labyrinthine streets can get a little chaotic. Stick to walking and you won’t be disappointed. The gentle canals make a perfect backdrop for exploring the Jordaan and Rembrandtplein square. Pop into the Red Light District if you must—if only so you can say you’ve been there. The Anne Frank House is one of the most moving experiences a traveller can have, and the Van Gogh Museum boasts a sensational collection of works.
This popular resort town is located just a mile from Windermere Lake, the largest lake in England and alleged home to more than one peculiar sea creature. If we've scared you out of skiing, boating and fishing in Windermere Lake, there's always horseback riding and golf. Or you can explore the lake from the safety of a ferryboat, which regularly takes passengers from Hawkshead to Bowness.
Cumbria's valleys and fells (as the low mountains are known) are home to idyllic villages, high moorlands and picturesque lakes. Literary buffs will enjoy Wordsworth's Dove Cottage (go in March to see daffodils), and if you've got kids in tow, visit The World of Beatrix Potter. Or just enjoy a leisurely drive through beautiful scenery.
Edinburgh is Scotland’s capital city, renowned for its heritage, culture and festivals.
Take a long walk around the centre to explore the World Heritage Sites of the Old Town and New Town, as well as all the area’s museums and galleries. Then stop for a delicious meal made from fresh Scottish produce before heading out to take in one of Edinburgh’s many events — including the famous summer festivals of culture, or the Winter Festivals of music, light and ceilidhs.